The “Big Boss”, Jon Benn, of Bruce Lee’s classic film, passes away at 83

  • December 9, 2018

Jon Benn,  the actor and entrepreneur who co-starred in the Bruce Lee directed Way of the Dragon, passed away this morning in Louisville, Kentucky.  He was 83 years old.

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(photo courtesy of timothyredel.com)

Benn was born in New York City in 1935 and would move around to nearly ten cities over the next 20-some years before he would enter the military nearing the Vietnam era, stationed in Monterey California.  He found himself in Hong Kong with his brother Rick in the late 60s where he would remain for several decades.  There he would make his claim to fame when in 1972 he ran into movie producer Raymond Chow at a cocktail party who asked Benn to be in a movie they were shooting in a couple weeks.  The film ended up being Bruce Lee’s directorial debut, Way of the Dragon where he would play the boss of the Italian mob.  The film also featured a young Chuck Norris.

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Flipping through Benn’s personal album of memories.

Benn would appear in almost 60 film projects in his life but only one other would close second to the notoriety of WayThe Clones of Bruce Lee.   This film gave Benn the chance to play a mad scientist who creates three Bruce Lee clones.  The film would become the tent pole of the genre known as Bruceploitation.  In his later years, Benn returned to Kentucky where his father Louis was a notable civil rights icon in the early 20th century.  It is there where he passed away with his brother Rick and other family members at his side.

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A marker in honor of Jon’s father in the Garden of Tranquility in Kentucky.  Jon and his siblings’ names are also engraved.
In November, Benn completed his final on camera interview with filmmaker and actor Michael Worth on an upcoming 2019 documentary and book.

Comments to the family can be left below.

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4 thoughts on “The “Big Boss”, Jon Benn, of Bruce Lee’s classic film, passes away at 83

  1. I want to convey my condolences to Jon’s family. I first met Jon just back in 2011 during one of his visa runs back to Hong Kong. I think it was around the time he had recently finished shooting his scenes for The Man with the Iron Fist and he was very much a strong and healthy person. I met him a couple of occasions since, again in HK, and we sat and chatted at various bars in Wanchai and without a doubt there would be a steady stream of well wishers who came by to say hello, knowing him from either film or from his time as a restaurateur in HK. He was an amazing person and I shall miss him. Rest in peace.

  2. I am a little bit confused. I was under the impression that he was living in Shanghai, China up until the time of his death.
    I thought that he was born in New York City, NY, raised in San Francisco, CA, but had lived in Hong Kong from the late 1960’s up until the early 2000’s? At some point, he lived in Mexico? I was wondering when did he move to Louisville, Kentucky? Did he decide to retire there? Were his parents & siblings originally from Kentucky? What was his cause of death?
    Was he having a hard time finding stable work in China? I am just a little but curious about Mr. Benn’s life.
    I have always wondered exactly what his work was while he was living in Shanghai?
    May God bless his soul….

    1. Hi Curtis,
      John Passed away in Kentucky which is where his family was from. He was born in New York and raised in Louisville Kentucky (his father was a prominent civil rights icon there) and traveled a lot for the military before going to Hong Kong with his brother Rick in the late 60s where Jon remained for many years before starting his Bruce Lee Cafe for a time. He was in Mexico for a time (did some extra work even in The Magnificent Seven) Then he spent his last couple years back in the states around his siblings. He contracted blood cancer which was what was the cause of his death.

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