RZA Interview

I interviewed the Abbot of the Wu-Tang Clan RZA who was doing press for his new movie.  An edited version of this was originally published in Extra.

Hip-hop producer, actor, and author RZA (aka Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) talked to Extra about his new film The Man with the Iron Fists, which he co-wrote, directed and stars in as a kung fu fighting blacksmith.

Casey Brazeal: Are you the man with the Iron Fists?

RZA: What, me personally? Well, I play The Blacksmith, a character who’s making weapons for everybody. Basically, without being the cause of death, he’s a source of death. And he knows better, but because he’s trying to help somebody else, he’s actually hurting others. Eventually, The Blacksmith gets forced into a position where he has to enter the violence himself.

But, there’s no one ‘Man with the Iron Fist.’ It’s a metaphor, so when you read the credits it says I play The Blacksmith.

CB:  How would you describe the story to someone who doesn’t know what to expect?

R: There are seven clans, a shipment of gold, and they all want to get their hands on it. That’s the driving thread of the film. You know, when money comes things get funny, kid.

CB: As an actor, it must be fun to write yourself a great role.

R: [Laughs] Well, I’m happy the producers wanted me to play this role. Originally, I wrote it with myself in mind, but it was a little different. Originally, The Blacksmith did not appear until late in the film. He was shrouded in mystery.

CB: You and Kanye West collaborated on a song called White Dress for this movie. How was that?

R: It’s for a beautiful scene with Lucy Liu. I took a bite off a scene I saw [director Quentin Tarantino] do in Kill Bill, when Lucy Liu first enters the House of Blue Leaves before the showdown with the Crazy 88. I gave her a shot like that in my movie. Except instead of coming into a restaurant with all these killers behind her, she’s coming into a bathhouse, full of beautiful girls.

So I showed Kanye the scene, and he was like, ‘Oh man, this is cool.’ Then I gave him the music and I said, ‘You can add to it if you want,’ because people love when me and him collaborate.

CB: Thinking about making a movie and all that collaboration, whether it’s with Kanye or the actors, do you feel like your background with the Wu Tang Clan prepared you for that?

R: I know it did. That totally prepared me.

Dave Bautista, Russell Crowe, those dudes are Wu Tang fans, and I would tell them the stories. I’ll give you an example. We were having a bad day, I mean, it looked like we were going to lose a day of shooting and I couldn’t afford that on our tight budget.

I was talking to Big Boy Russell and I said, ‘You know, I’ll never forget one day when Old Dirty Bastard and I were recording.

ODB came into that studio crazy late, and I was pissed off. But, he went right to the vocal booth and recorded the whole song in one take, and there’s a part in the song where he goes, [Sings] ‘Shame on a n**** who try to run game on a n****. Huh-cha-cha-cha-chop-POW!

Now, to me he messed up right there. [Laughs] And I said, ‘Yo, do that part over,’ and he’s like, ‘Nah, that’s phat.’ And he was out, and I was stuck with it. But … people love that part!

And after that story we went and shot in eight hours what should have taken us two days. Russell Crowe took ODB as someone to study for the character and he went crazy. You’ll see this scene where Russell Crowe’s character is introduced.  You’ll see his great performance and you’ll know what I’m talking about.