Profile: Diana Lee Inosanto

Posted in Profiles by - March 19, 2018
Profile: Diana Lee Inosanto

Date of birth: May 29, 1966 (Torrance, California, US)

Other names: Diana Lee; D. Lee Inosanto

Occupation: Actor, stunt performer, fight choreographer, martial arts instructor, producer.

Style: Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Eskrima, Silat, boxing, kickboxing, Wing Chun.

Biography: Diana Lee Inosanto was born in Torrance, California, and raised in Carson. Diana’s mother is Sue Ann Reveal and her father is the Filipino-American martial arts expert Dan Inosanto, who was a close friend of Bruce Lee. The two were such close friends that Dan Inosanto named his daughter, Diana Lee, after him. Bruce Lee was also Diana’s first godfather. Dan Inosanto trained and studied the martial arts with Bruce Lee and was one of only a few qualified Jeet Kune Do instructors.

When Bruce Lee died in 1973, the Inosanto family moved to Harbor City, California, where she attended Narbonne High School. Her father opened his first martial arts school, the Filipino Kali Academy, in Harbor City with Diana’s second godfather, Richard Bustillo. This is when Diana started to learn a number of different martial arts styles, including Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Eskrima, Silat, boxing, kickboxing and Wing Chun. In 2009, Diana was named Woman of the Year by Black Belt magazine.

Inspired by her aunt – the actress Lilia Inosanto – Diana started to study acting with the Broadway coach and author, Michael Shurtleff. Her first acting performance was in the TV series, Moonlighting, in 1987. In the 1990s, Diana moved into the film industry as an actor and stunt performer. Her film credits as a stunt performer include Barb Wire (1996), Face/Off (1997), Blade (1998), and Wild Wild West (1999). She has also worked on TV shows including Walker, Texas Ranger, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ER, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Diana has also worked as a fight choreographer on films including Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) and Sinners and Saints (2010). She was Melissa McCarthy’s martial arts trainer for the film, Spy (2015), and trained Aaron Eckhart for the film I, Frankenstein (2014).

In 2008, Diana Lee Inosanto made her directorial debut on the independent film, The Sensei. She also wrote, produced and starred in the film, the first from her own production company, Zen Mountain LLC. The film won awards at international film festivals including LA Femme International Film Fest, Hoboken International Film Festival, Philadelphia Asian American Film Fest, San Francisco’s Frameline, Germany’s Verzaubert Film Festival and New York’s Newfest. Because of the film’s strong humanitarian message, Diana was awarded the 2011 American Courage Award in Washington, D.C. by the Asian American Justice Centre.

Diana continues to be active in the California theatre scene as a member of the Asian American theatre group, Lodestone Theater Ensemble. In 2008, she worked as a fight choreographer with East West Players on the world premiere of the Dan Kwong play, Be Like Water.

In 1995, Diana married the martial artist, producer, stunt performer and former Deputy Sheriff, Ron Balicki, who had trained with her father. She has two children.

Speech! On teaching the martial arts: “The way my father will talk about it is it is important to evolve… and also try and understand what is best for you as an individual… It was about removing any restrictions and getting out of these hardline styles and forms.” In conversation with Kung Fu Movie Guide, 2018.

Click here to listen to KFMG Podcast S03 Episode 25 with Diana Lee Inosanto.

Filmography (as actor/stunt performer/stunt coordinator/action director): 1987 Moonlighting (TV); 1994 Touched by an Angel (TV); 1995 JAG (TV); 1996 Barb Wire; 1997 Spy Game (TV); Face/Off; Team Knight Rider (TV); Red Corner; The Roseanne Show (TV); Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV); 1998 The Patriot; Blade; Walker, Texas Ranger (TV); 1999 The Last Man on Planet Earth; Wild Wild West; Mystery Men; MADtv (TV); 2000 I Spike (TV); Life Streams; 2001 Black Scorpion (TV); 2002 Fists of Cheese; The Time Machine; 2003 Hulk; 10-8: Officers on Duty (TV); 2004 Resident Evil: Apocalypse; 2005 Star Trek: Enterprise (TV); Rent; The Prodigy; The Vault; 2006 ER (TV); The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift; Bones (TV); 2008 The Sensei (+ dir, pro, scr.); 2009 Leverage (TV); The Wanda Sykes Show (TV); 2010 Sinners and Saints; 2012 God Rewards the Fearless (TV); 2013 Someone I Used to Know; 2014 Banshee (TV); Drakken (short); Hope: The Last Paladin (TV); 2015 Spy; 2016 Lucifer (TV); The Last Tour; Kirkby Buckets (TV); 2018 Alita: Battle Angel.

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