Diana (Adani) lee inosanto is a highly accomplished martial artist
Diana Lee Inosanto is the daughter of martial arts legend, Dan and his wife Sue Inosanto. She is also known as the goddaughter of global icon, the late Bruce Lee (hence, Diana Lee). As an American actress, director, writer, martial artist, stuntwoman, and children's book author, Diana paved a way in the Hollywood ecosystem that is unique, modern, and inclusive.
In 1974, one year after the death of her godfather (Bruce Lee), Diana's father established a martial arts school, named the Filipino Kali Academy of Torrance, California with his partner, Richard Bustillo - a man that would become Diana's second godfather. Growing up in the academy she was exposed to a mix of Asian & European weaponry and empty hand systems, and Filipino Martial Arts (also known as Escrima, Arnis, Kali ) all grounded in the philosophy of (Jun Fan) Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do. Over the years Diana's fierce commitment to the study of martial arts brought her to Western boxing, Thai Boxing (Muay Thai), Indonesian Silat, French Savate, Shoot Wrestling, European Swordplay and Wu Shu.
Diana was also a fight and stunt choreographer for several stage productions. This would pave a road for years to come with Diana becoming a "Sensei to the Stars," preparing the who's who in Hollywood for their action roles. Stars like Melissa McCarthy (Spy), Rosa Salazar (Alita:Battle Angel), Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer), Katherine McNamara (Shadowhunters) and Aaron Eckhart & Socratis Otto (I, Frankenstein) were some of the performers under her tutelage.
Throughout her professional career in Hollywood, when it came to acting and directing, Diana discovered that the Hollywood system was not particularly inclusive. As a young mother of a son with Autism, the road was not easy. In time Diana met her future husband, Ron Balicki, a former deputy sheriff and renowned martial artist turned stuntman, action coordinator & choreographer in Hollywood. Throughout their years together, they formed MARS Action Group and would teach martial arts across the country and internationally.
After being spotted demonstrating a fight scene with Ron Balicki, the producers of the movie 'Barb Wire' asked her to take on a role originally cast for a man. The scene, featuring New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison (known internationally for portraying Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II and Episode III) gave Diana her first break as a stuntwoman. Diana straight away became the martial arts double for actress Sarah Michelle Gellar for the presentation to pitch Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a TV Show, directed by Joss Whedon. This would be the beginning of Diana's years as a stuntwoman in Hollywood where she found tremendous success working on popular films and TV shows.
Taking inspiration from notable indie filmmakers she got to know over time, Diana decided to seize control to create her own film project. Making the most of her stunt work, Inosanto learned about the filming process by watching and absorbing while on set the craft from such A-list directors, like Ang Lee, John Woo, Barry Sonnenfeld, and Chris Columbus. By 2010, Inosanto's first Indie film, The Sensei, a film she wrote, directed, and starred, would be one of the earliest digitally released films distributed on Netflix and I-Tunes. Filmed on a tiny budget, The Sensei took place in the 1980's and tells the story of a gay teenager, bullied in a rural town during the height of the AIDS epidemic. The film would go on to win awards and accolades at film festivals like the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival where she had her world premiere at the DGA, New York's Newfest, San Francisco's Frameline, Hoboken International Film Festival, Philadelphia Asian American Film Fest, Germany's Verzaubert Film Festival and LA Femme International Film Fest to name a few. The film, supported by the Matthew Shepard Foundation, earned Diana the Asian American Justice Center, 2011 American Courage Award, presented at the time by Tom Perez (DNC Chairman, who was at that time Assistant Attorney General for Civil rights) in Washington, D.C., where several members of Congress and humanitarian activists were present. Shortly thereafter, Diana became the first woman to receive the Maverick Award at the AOF International Film Festival.
In later years, she would also participate as an activist for several causes, including the recent participation in the nationwide Wash-the-Hate PSA, a campaign that would address the growing hate incidents against Asian Americans since the outbreak of Covid-19. She was asked to speak with other prominent Asian Americans in the film and fashion industry, speaking in front of a virtual panel for NIKE 's employees worldwide. In 2016, during President Obama's administration, Diana was also a guest at the White House joining Asian American leaders and Influencers for the Filipino History Month, championing the Congressional Gold Medal Bill for WWII Filipino American Veterans.
As a woman of many interests, Diana has now released a children's book, teaming up with her adult Autistic son, an illustrator, S.G Inosanto and telling their story in The Curious Mind of Sebastian-an amusing tale about Diana as a young mom, curiously trying to understand the mysteries of Autism through her four-year-old son's quirky behavior. Sebastian's inability to verbally express his love led Inosanto on an incredible journey to find out that love will always find a way to speak.
In 2018, Diana joined Oscar winning producer, Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan) and Matt Jackson (Molly's Game) in developing the story on her father Dan Inosanto's work creating a secret training program for the 1977 Dallas Cowboys that helped them to win Super Bowl XII.
Diana feels that her personal philosophy of life is best expressed by Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut: "Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations."
Jeet Kune Do, Filipino arts of Kali, Escrima, Panantukan, Silat, Western boxing, kick boxing and Wing Chun | 1980-02-09
Film Career Actress | 2000-06-07
Film career Stunt Woman | 2001-04-03
Diana Lee Inosanto | Director