Kim Tai Chung (Tang Lung) 김태정
Born: 5th June, 1957 in Pusan, South Korea
Died: 27th August, 2011 in Seoul, South Korea
Sometimes Credited as:
唐龍, Tong Lung, Kim Tae-Jeong, Kim Tai-Jong
Born on the 5th of June, 1957 in Pusan, South Korea. A practitioner of Taekwondo and a fan of Bruce Lee’s since watching his idol on-screen in Fist of Fury, Kim Tai-Chung began his career in the film industry when the Golden Harvest studio’s began a search to find a replacement for Bruce Lee to complete Game of Death, a film that he had began to film before his untimely death in 1973.
Production was put onto hiatus for several years, with thousand’s of martial artists and actors auditioning for the role. Tai-Chung became obsessed with trying to capture Bruce Lee’s every movement down to the finest detail and in September 1977 was invited to the Golden Harvest studios to audition for the role in Game of Death. The role eventually went to him, and two other actors to complete the film.
When talking to Hong Kong’s The Star newspaper, Golden Harvest’s Russell Cawthorne told reporters “We spotted Kim in Korea during location scouting for the film there” and continued by saying “He looks like Bruce in a way and we brought him all the way from Korea for the screen test.”
Hong Kong action legend Sammo Hung was hired as the fight choreographer and managed to capture the best out of Tai-Chung in the films best non-Bruce Lee fight scenes that included the locker room fight with Bob Wall and the greenhouse fight scene with Casanova Wong.
With the financial success of Game of Death, Golden Harvest knew that there was still plenty of money to be made in the Bruce Lee name. A second film went into production that once again promoted Bruce Lee as the leading star.
Filmed on location across Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea, Tower of Death was directed by Ng See-Yuen. He was promised a lot of unseen footage of Bruce Lee from Golden Harvest but when production began, he was only presented with a few sequences of unused footage and outtakes from Enter The Dragon.
Although released internationally as a sequel to Game of Death, the film has very little relation to it’s predecessor and once again Kim Tai-Chung was hired to double for Bruce Lee and also play a role as his characters brother. With the lack of a substantial new footage, a decision was made to kill off Bruce Lee’s character early in the film, leaving Kim Tai-Chung to shine in his best roles.
Golden Harvest gave Tai-Chung the pseudonym Tang Lung, in reference to the character Bruce Lee portrayed in his movie, The Way of the Dragon. It was rumoured that Golden Harvest had planned subsequent “Tang Lung” movies with Kim Tai-Chung as the lead but this was never to be, possibly due to the increasing distaste for the ‘Bruceploitation’ genre.
Several years in the making, Tower of Death was finally released in 1981 and Tai-Chung returned to his native Korea to film two movies. The first being Miss, Please Be Patient, a contemporary action comedy that was heavily influenced by Hong Kong cinema that co-starred a popular Korean actress of the time, Jeong Yun-hui. It was years later chosen to be screened at the 12th Puchon international Fantastic Film Festival which was attended by Kim Tai-Chung in a rare public appearance. The film was followed by Jackie and Bruce to the Rescue, a step back into the ‘Bruceploitation’ genre that not only tried to cash-in Bruce Lee but also featured a Jackie Chan clone.
It was a further five years before Tai-Chung made his next film appearance when Tower of Death director Ng See-Yuen began production on his movie, No Retreat, No Surrender. Helmed by Corey Yuen and telling the story of a young 17 year old Bruce Lee fanatic who moves to Seattle and is taught by the ghost of Bruce Lee, Tai-Chung was the obvious choice for the director to once again portray Bruce Lee.
When interviewed for ‘The Clones of Bruce Lee’ website, No Retreat, No Surrender leading star Kurt McKinney fondly recollects his time working with Tai-Chung; “We had a great time together. The Bruce Lee stuff was really magical. He did a great job with the Character. He didn’t speak English and I knew just enough Korean to count to ten. We communicated through an interpreter and through gestures. All his dialogue was spoken in Korean and mine in English. They would tell me he will be saying this which means this. So we communicated even though we spoke different languages in the scene”.
Since his role in No Retreat, No Surrender, Kim Tai-Chung moved away from the screen and concentrated his time on other projects, reportedly studying film making in America for several years.
After years in obscurity in 2008 he was invited as a guest speaker at the 12th Puchon international Fantastic Film Festival and followed it up with several interviews with the Korean media. He later announced plans of returning to the screen in a project he had long been planning, Yakuza, an action-gangster movie that would use the best talent from Japan for authenticity, and the talents Hong Kong and Korea for action choreography, coupled with Hollywood’s influence of film making.
The project was sadly never to see fruition as on August 27th, 2011, Kim Tai-Chung was admitted to hospital with stomach pains and sadly passed away after suffering a haemorrhage. The funeral was attended by co-stars and fellow Korean action legends, Hwang Jang Lee and Casanova Wong. It was a sad day for the world of Bruceploitation cinema and he will be missed and always remembered.
Copyright © Lee Holmes, 2019.