Gene LeBell, Famed Stuntman, Martial Artist And Bruce Lee’s Teacher Dies At 89

Gene LeBell, a famend stuntman who skilled Bruce Lee and impressed the likes of Quentin Tarantino, died in his sleep Tuesday morning at his residence in Sherman Oaks, California, in accordance with The Hollywood Reporter.

He was recognized by many because the “Godfather of Grappling,” and influenced fighters around the globe. LeBell was 89 years outdated.

“It is with a heavy heart that we recognize our past member and friend, Mr. Gene LeBell, has passed on. There’s way too much to say to even begin to scratch the surface of the career and life Gene lived,” wrote the Stuntman’s Affiliation of Movement Footage in an announcement to Selection.

“His talent in his field was known worldwide and those that got to know him knew he had a heart that matched that talent,” the group’s assertion added. “I won’t say rest easy… because we just don’t see that happening with Gene. So may you rest in power, Gene.”

LeBell established himself as a martial artist lengthy earlier than he moved to Hollywood. He received the Novice Athletic Union Nationwide Judo Championships in 1954 and 1955 when he was 22, in accordance with Black Belt Journal. LeBell later mentored world-class athletes and silver display screen legends.

As a stuntman, LeBell reportedly endured a punch from John Wayne for the 1952 movie “Big Jim McLain” and a kick within the face from Elvis Presley for “Blue Hawaii” in 1961. He taught fighters like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Chuck Norris, and Ronda Rousey the right way to grapple — and repeatedly skilled Bruce Lee.

LeBell (proper) referees the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki battle on June 26, 1976.

LeBell recalled in his 2005 autobiography, “The Godfather of Grappling” assembly Lee on the set of “The Green Hornet” TV collection. Stunt coordinator Bennie Dobbins begged LeBell to humble Lee, who allegedly beat up on his stuntmen all through the present’s manufacturing.

LeBell recalled throwing Lee over his shoulder and operating round set as Lee screamed, “Put me down or I’ll kill you.” The pair grew to become mates, and LeBell taught Lee judo and wrestling strikes, lots of which Lee utilized in his films, “The Way of The Dragon” and “Enter the Dragon.”

“He was the best martial artist of his time,” LeBell recalled in Black Belt Journal. “Bruce and I had a bond with the martial arts, and we would get together frequently. We worked out about 10 to 12 times at his place in Los Angeles’ Chinatown and at my place.”

Tarantino, whose portrayal of an overconfident Lee by actor Mike Moh in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” spurred backlash drew closely from LeBell when he crafted Brad Pitt’s character within the movie as stuntman Cliff Sales space, as LeBell had skilled in Japan and studied judo years earlier than Lee grew to become a grasp.

LeBell, who spent a lot of his later years overseeing the Nationwide Wrestling Alliance in Los Angeles, was even charged with homicide when non-public investigator Robert Duke Corridor was killed in 1976. He was acquitted and continued performing stunts for the massive and small display screen, alike.

From TV reveals like “Mission: Impossible,” “Batman,” and “Reno 911!” to films together with, “The Towering Inferno,” “RoboCop,” “Total Recall” and “Independence Day,” LeBell was a go-to stunt coordinator for many years.

LeBell, who additionally authored greater than 12 books on martial arts that concurrently chronicled his storied profession, is survived by his spouse Eleanor, kids Monica and David, stepchildren Danny and Stacy, and grandchildren Daniel, Tyler and Nicholas.