BEIJING (AP) – China’s national broadcaster has started filming a 40-part series on Bruce Lee, part of an apparent bid to promote Chinese culture in the run-up to next year’s Beijing Summer Olympics.

China Central Television started shooting “The Legend of Bruce Lee” over the weekend in Shunde in Guangdong province in southern China, Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday.

Shunde is the ancestral home of the martial arts icon, who was born in San Francisco in 1940.

Xinhua said the $6.4 million production will also be filmed in Hong Kong and the United States, where Lee studied and launched his acting career.

Chen Guokun, who plays Lee, said he has mixed feelings about playing the role.

“I’m nervous and also excited, but I will do my best,” Chen, who is also known as Chan Kwok-kwan, was quoted as saying.

Chen, best known for his role in the action comedy “Kung Fu Hustle,” said Lee has been his role model since he was a child, and that he has practiced kung fu for many years.

Lee died in 1973 at age 32 from swelling of the brain. His action films include “Fists of Fury” and “Enter the Dragon.”

The TV series is due to be aired in 2008, the year Beijing hosts the Olympic Games.

The Chinese government also views John Woo’s upcoming historical epic “The Battle of Red Cliff” as a showcase of Chinese history and wants it released before the Olympics, Woo’s business partner has said.

“The Battle of Red Cliff” is based on a war of the same name in 208 A.D. that determined the geography of the Three Kingdoms period, when China had three separate rulers. It stars Chow Yun-fat, Taiwanese-Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro and Taiwanese model Lin Chi-ling.

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