Roman Polanski suspected Bruce Lee of murdering Sharon Tate and he was even investigated

Roman Polanski suspected Bruce Lee of murdering Sharon Tate and he was even investigated
Bruce Lee (Source : Getty Images)

The teaser trailer for director Quentin Tarantino's ninth feature film, 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' had a very interesting scene in it where Brad Pitt's character of Cliff Booth, who plays the stunt double of Leonardo DiCaprio's character of Rick Dalton, got his ass handed to him by Bruce Lee, played in the film by Mike Moh. There is also a very brief cut of Moh and actor Emile Hirsch, who plays celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, having a sparring session. So why is Lee in the trailer for a whole of 15 seconds?

The world-famous martial artist got an interesting start in Hollywood and it's all thanks to Jay Sebring, a celebrity hairstylist who was basically considered the Bruce Lee of the hairstyling world. His association with Sebring led to an even more interesting story.

Jay Sebring, hairdresser to the stars, and developer of men's hair care products (Source: Bettmann/Getty Images)


Lee had been demonstrating his skills at the International Karate Championships in Long Beach in 1964. Sebring was the man who introduced Lee to Bill Dozier, a film and television producer, who ended up casting the martial artist as Kato in 'The Green Hornet'. This was the first Hollywood role that set Lee on the path to becoming one of the most well-known martial arts actors in the business.

Sebring had a chain of successful salons at the time as well as multitudes of A-list friends. It so happened that Joe Hyams, a journalist and lifelong martial artist, introduced Sebring to starlet Sharon Tate and the couple instantly fell in love. Tate eventually moved on to marrying Polish actor and director Roman Polanski but not before having a brief relationship with Steve McQueen. Actress Margot Robbie portrays Tate in Tarantino's new film.

Lee was introduced to Tate and Polanski through Sebring and while training the starlet for a film. The martial artist had not yet made his hit films like 'Enter The Dragon' and was stuck with the sidekick role in 'The Green Hornet' as well as choreographing fight scenes for Hollywood films. He was, at the time, trying to get a lead role in a major motion picture but these were generally reserved for white actors. In the summer of 1968, Lee was being paid $11,000 by the producers of the film 'The Wrecking Crew' to teach Tate and other actresses how to fight.


American film actress Sharon Tate (1943 - 1969) at her London wedding with Polish actor and director Roman Polanski. Sharon was murdered by followers of Charles Manson, when heavily pregnant with Roman's baby (Source: Keystone/Getty Images)


Tate and Polanski were already married at the time. Matthew Polly, author of “Bruce Lee: A Life", wrote that Tate invited Lee to dinner one night allegedly telling her husband: "The two of you will get along like a house on fire". True to her word, Polanski and Lee were soon good friends and the director was one of the martial artist's regular clients for martial arts class. The pair became so close that Polanski even invited Lee to his ski chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, once to train. It was there that Lee bought the infamous yellow suit that he wore in the fight with Kareem Abdul Jabbar in "Game of Death".

Then, on August 9, 1969, members of the Manson Family arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, and went on a killing spree. The victims were, Tate (who was pregnant at the time), Sebring, Polanski’s best friend Wojciech Frykowski, Frykowski’s heiress girlfriend Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent, a friend of the property’s caretaker.


The motive was determined as maniacal and that Manson was just intent on becoming a bigger star than The Beatles. The crazed killer was said to have felt snubbed by record producer Terry Melcher, who had rented out the property that Tate and Polanski were living in at the time. Manson did not know that Melcher had moved out of the home. 

Actor and martial artist Bruce Lee poses for a Warner Bros publicity still for the film 'Enter the Dragon' in 1973 in Hong Kong. (Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The Manson Family left a pair of glasses at the residence to confuse the detectives and the authorities wasted valuable time by looking for a drug connection in the murders and they also interrogated Polanski, who was out of the country at the time of the murders. 

A devastated Polanski was determined to figure out who committed the murders by himself and suspected that it was done by someone who was close to both him and Tate. The director bought a kit to show the presence of blood, dressed up in all-black and roamed the streets of LA swabbing his friends' luxury cars for any signs of blood.


Lee was also suspected by Polanski because he lived close to the couple and he also lost a pair of glasses sometime before the murders. Polanski was never able to find a match. It is still unclear how much of the murders the film will show.

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