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The (Lost) Fretts on Film Interview: The RZA

November 5, 2012

My interview with The RZA, the Wu Tang Clan rapper-turned-cowriter-director-star of the new martial-arts movie The Man with the Iron Fists, was supposed to have run in The New York Daily News by now. Hurricane Sandy had other plans for it. I’m hoping it’ll still appear in print, but in the meantime, here are some choice outtakes from our chat.

How did you develop the film? A buddy of mine, Stephen Belafonte, saw one of my videos, ‘Tragedy,’ and he told me, ‘You should do a whole movie like that. You’re the only guy who can pull that shit off.’ And I said to myself, ‘Why not?’ So I went for it. I just started imagining the characters—it started off as 15 pages, then I wrote a 90-page script, not a screenplay because I didn’t know how to write a screenplay. And it wasn’t until Eli Roth came on, and I told him the story and then he read it and said, ‘It sounds better when you pitch it,’ because some of the writing wasn’t as detailed as it could be. Then he helped me flush it out and we went from 90 pages to 130 pages, took us over a year and change, and we got it to that perfect level. We went to Quentin Tarantino, the Godfather, and he gave us the blessings, and we went into Universal with the script in our hand, and they said, ‘Okay, let’s go for it.’

How did you get Russell Crowe to do this movie? I met him on American Gangster, and we became buddies and spent some time together. Then we made The Next Three Days—I hit him with a stick in that movie—and during that period, I had a lot of down time, and I would talk to him about the movie and he listened and wasn’t 100% sure about this. Of course, I should have took into consideration that I’m not asking any actor, I’m asking one of the best actors in the world. But that didn’t strike me yet. It struck me after he said yes. I guess I sort of forgot how much I am a fan and admirer of his because we had become buddies. But A Beautiful Mind—I mean, I must have watched that movie 20 times. The reason why is because a buddy of mine, Ghostface Killa, saw it first and said, ‘I saw this movie, I think you should see it. The character reminds me of you sometimes.’ I was like, ‘Reminds you of me?’ But what he meant is he was deep into mathematics and deep into science, but at the same time was struggling with life. And I have a clumsiness with myself. I just fell in love with Russell Crowe as an actor, and anything he made, I was in the theaters. And now, here I am with a chance to work with him in my film.

There are some surface similarities between this and Kill Bill. Did that give Lucy Liu any pause about potentially getting pigeonholed? No, she had her little things to protect herself from the pigeon hole. It seemed like we weren’t going to get her. We were already filming other scenes, and all I know is there were 20 girls on the board to choose from and I kept putting Lucy back on the top—that’s Madame Blossom. And she came around to do it. We talked on the phone, we emailed, I assured her. She told me certain things to help build the character—the speech about women and power is written by her, but edited by me. And I’m not too shy to say that.

You came out the same weekend as Denzel Washington’s new movie, Flight—and you also did American Gangster with him. How does it feel to be going head-to-head against him? That’s dangerous. I love him, my family loves him. But the movies are so different! I can’t see myself competing against Denzel. Denzel’s the grand master at this. And I’m not a novice. I’m an intermediate. One more thing about Denzel—Friday night and Saturday night, you see my movie. I’m the weekend. During the week, you go and sit down and you watch the movies where you absorb the drama. I’m the popcorn and grab your girl and have fun Friday and Saturdays! Sunday—okay, calm down…

Were you ROTFL at RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists? Rap with me!


From → Interviews, Posts

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