RZA is both a hip hop artist and a martial arts aficionado. You can tell that the man is very passionate about kung-fu and has a respect for it in the way he speaks. We had the opportunity to attend the press day for The Man with the Iron Fists in Los Angeles. There RZA along with producer Eli Roth talked about making The Man with the Iron Fists, what was it like to finally make it, convincing Russell Crowe to join the cast, and the inspirations behind this movie. Hit the jump to read the interview.
MovieViral: I know you two have been working on The Man With The Iron Fists for a long time. How does this all feel? Is it the end of something amazing or the beginning of something amazing for you?
RZA: If things go properly it will be the beginning. It’s like giving birth to a child because a movie is an entity of its own, and when it’s done you want everybody to like it like you want everybody to like your children. I’m still nervous because I got to wait for the public to see it and absorb it, and hopefully it will have commercial success. But personally I’m fulfilled because it’s not every day that you have a thought in your mind come to fruition, and it’s not every day you get a lot of good people supporting an idea that’s totally artistic. Bringing something like this genre to the American screen is a great thing for me.
Eli Roth: We also talked about continuing the story while we were shooting it. We really wanted to write the foundation of something that could continue if we decided to. It was such a great fun, creative collaboration and obviously it depends on how the public likes it, but it is something we’d love to continue.
How hard was it to convince Russell Crowe to play an alcoholic soldier who has his way with women in the brothel, and how was it directing the actors as compared to doing rap music?
RZA: I do think that being a part of Wu-Tang Clan and having such strong personalities in my life unknowingly prepared me for the job of director. When things got out of hand on set, I don’t think I ever once lost my cool.
As far as Russell Crowe joining us, I talked to him about it for a long time. He said that he trusts me as an artist and I think that’s the most driving force that convinced him to come on board. He sees a young man that has a lot of artistic vision and he appreciates it, and he’d like the world to appreciate it as well. He comes with a validation of what I can do.
Eli Roth: When we were writing the script, we thought we really needed to give Russell’s character of Jack Knife a reason to go to China. When he first got to the set and RZA was busy directing the movie, I sat with Russell for 24 hours in a hotel room and we talked about the character. I then realized how willing Russell Crowe was to go crazy, and we’re like alright let’s do Marlon Brando in The Missouri Breaks, let’s do Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, let’s do something that’s so completely f**king nuts that no one else could have done it. Compared to what you’re used to seeing him in, this seems completely out of character for him. I think he gave one of the most fun, alive performances he’s ever given since Romper Stomper.
Which martial arts movies inspired your artistic vision for this film?
RZA: There are so many martial arts films I’ve seen over the years that could’ve laid down the foundation for this one. The ones I was most inspired by were The Five Deadly Venoms, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin which Gordon Liu starred in and so many others.
But the main thing was to make sure that, knowing martial arts movies have their pros and cons, I try to stick with the pros. I tried to make sure that this film would be made with an American sensibility, and most of these movies are made from an Asian sensibility. I was trying to figure if I could be able to what Quentin Tarantino did with Kill Bill because he gave us a modern day martial arts film that’s a movie. My first cut was four hours…
Eli Roth: But that’s natural because he shot a million feet of film. The first cut being four hours is reflective of him and me adding stuff and adding stuff, and when you cut it all together it was four hours.
RZA: That’s one of the good things of having Eli on this journey with me because he said that was natural, and I didn’t know that was natural.
Eli Roth: We also talked about musicals and relating it to music. In musical theatre if you have a song it has to advance the plot, and if you have one that doesn’t then it gets dropped. That’s how we looked at our fights; we said these aren’t musical numbers but we’ve got to learn something at the end of this fight, and this fight has to have a purpose. We can’t just have gratuitous martial arts going on or the movie’s going to get boring.
Eli, what was it that you saw in RZA that made you believe he could direct a movie?
Eli Roth: It’s what I saw in RZA when we took this plane flight from Iceland back in January 2006. He’s someone who has it, they’ve got the vision and the creativity and the passion and the fresh ideas. I didn’t need to watch anything else he shot to know he could direct a movie, I just knew it. But what I love about RZA is that he was so humble and was so willing to learn, and he really took the time to learn. It was great experience and a very hard shoot especially for a first time director.
RZA: I took the time to study movie making. A boxer can’t just jump in the ring; you’ve got to practice and practice and practice. It’s like when some says “how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” I learned about all the lenses on the cameras just so I could talk to my DP about how much lighting I needed.
Eli was a witness of me being very determined and very focused in delivering this project first, but also letting this be the foundation of me bringing more movies to the silver screen.
The Man With The Iron Fists opens on November 2.