12:22pm PT by Rebecca Ford
RZA on Casting His Directorial Debut, 'Man With the Iron Fists' (Video)
The characters in RZA’s directorial debut, Man With the Iron Fists, may seem superhuman with their deadly weapons and phenomenal martial arts skills, but the man who was really doing more than humanly possible would be the director himself.
Grammy-winning music producer RZA, who also fronts the hip hop group the Wu Tang Clan, not only directed the Kung Fu film, but wrote the story, co-wrote the screenplay, starred in the film, produced the score and created the soundtrack.
Not bad for a first time director.
Helping him along the way was Eli Roth, who co-wrote the screenplay with RZA.
“RZA had such a clear world in his head,” Roth told The Hollywood Reporter. “But not everything was completely thought through to the level of detail that we knew we’d need to make the movie really work.”
The story, set in 19th Century China, follows a blacksmith (RZA) who creates complicated weapons for the fierce warriors who inhabit Jungle City. When a gang called the Lion Clan kills their leader, the man’s son, Zen Yi (Rick Yune), comes forward to avenge his father’s death.
RZA, who thought up the story for the film, spent several years working on the script with Roth.
“We went through every character, their life history, what are their weapons, what were their previous fights,” says Roth, who also produced the film. “[RZA] has such a wild imagination that we came up with all sorts of stuff.”
The film, which stars Russell Crowe as an opium-addicted soldier who goes to a brothel house to find a little pleasure and Lucy Liu as the madam of the brothel, features complicated fight scenes and an extreme attention to detail.
RZA tells THR that he had Crowe in mind for the part of Jack Knife since he started writing the script. He also had Yune pegged for the role of the hero from the beginning.
While Yune has often played villains, such as in Die Another Day, RZA says a very particular interaction with Yune made him sure that he could handle the role of a hero.
“I met him in a confrontational moment years prior, but he had a smile at the end of the confrontation, and when I saw his smile, I saw that he had a warm spot,” says RZA.
However, the one casting that almost didn’t happen was for the director himself. RZA admits to THR that while the part of the blacksmith had been written for himself, he almost didn’t take on the role.
“And me as the blacksmith, was something that we wrote, but towards the end, I was having doubts because of the workload,” he tells THR.
RZA says his producers “never had one bit of doubt” that he could handle working in front of and behind the camera.
“They said, ‘No, no. You are the blacksmith,’ and we went for it,” he says.
With Man With the Iron Fists hitting theaters on Friday, Nov. 2, RZA has already solidified his next film projects. He’ll direct John Milius’ epic biopic Genghis Khan and also has boarded the action thriller No Man’s Land, centering on a man who steals a powerful criminal's diamond.
Email: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford