Interview: Kyana Gordon
High Snobiety had the chance to speak with RZA about his latest effort, The Man With The Iron Fists, which has been garnering serious buzz among longtime Wu-Tang and Kung fu fans alike. He wrote, directed and stars in the film – an epic tale of a blacksmith who assembles a group of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero who all descend on one fabled village in China for a winner-takes-all battle for a fortune in gold. We had the chance to talk to RZA about his directorial debut, the connection between hip-hop and martial arts, and hear how it all came together.
High Snobiety: So you’ve been a Kung fu fan forever. How do you think martial arts became so entrenched in hip hop?
RZA: Mhmmm. I’ve got my kung-fu sifu right there. Meet Shi Yan Ming, a real actual Shaolin monk from the Shaolin temple in China (right in front of your face). Grew up there for 20 years, then came to America.
Physicality has always been important in urban culture. Break dancers took their cues from martial arts movies. It’s appeared over and over again. Some say it’s because these movies were sent to the Grindhouse theaters, and those theaters were in black neighborhoods, so it ended up being one of our choices.
We’d get two movies for the price of one, and would end up falling in love with these films. I’m happy that I learned about it at such a young age, and I’m really happy to be giving back with this movie.
HS: So this film is a dream come true in a sense?
RZA: Oh definitely. This film is definitely a dream come true. I’m really happy that a vision from a kid’s mind came to reality like this. We talked about it for years – we envisioned it. And we made it come to life. I’m proud of the results of it as well. It’s a very fun movie, and it’s going to be great to see it on the big screen [laughs].
There’s a lot of other people that have put their blood and sweat into it. Cung Le, Dave Bautista, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. The producers and the studio, putting all that money into the marketing efforts for it.
HS: From the perspective of being a director, how did it feel being behind the camera?
RZA: It was real gratifying. I prepared for this, though. I studied and prepared for it. I was very comfortable and confident in what I was doing. I went for it. I had a good team of people around me as well, which is important for anything you do as they say to ensure your success.
HS: What do you love most about the film?
RZA: I love the underlying philosophy summed up best by a quote from the film. It comes from the Bible: “In the beginning, we taught man by the word, but when the word failed, we were forced to teach through action.’ That’s martial arts. Bruce Lee talked about the art of fighting without fighting. If you can’t, however, talk your way out of a fight, you now have to act. Sometimes it takes action to show people what the right way to go is.
HS: You mentioned you were preparing for this for a long time – did that mean becoming a student of Quentin Tarantino?
RZA: Yeah that was my college right there. He mentored me, and he’s graduated me. I would love to go back and do more with the teacher, I would love to. He gave me an assignment recently, and that was to write a song for Django, which I’m in the process of doing right now.
Also being an actor being in front of the camera. I got in front of Ridley Scott’s camera and saw him use multi-vision in making his films. I discovered what multi-vision was. He could do it with about 18 cameras, but I could least have about 6 cameras, That is something he bought to my attention. When I was doing my film there were things I was doing that were influenced by him. I worked with Ridley for about 6 weeks, so I had a chance to kick it with him, talk to him and pick his brain. That wisdom he gave me in that time period also came to help me when I was directing.
Every movie I did was with a unique director. Judd Apatow, Paul Haggis, Todd Phillips – each had a special style. I always pay attention to what they’re doing as well as being an actor. I cut off the acting and I go back to the student.
HS: How did the score and soundtrack come together for The Man With The Iron Fist?
RZA: So the score was done over a period of eight months with me and my buddy Howard Drossin. Writing to this movie, constantly tweaking it, moving it, and cutting it. That’s a meticulous job.
Then, the soundtrack came about because we took some of the music from the score and turned it into song form. There are some songs on the soundtrack that are in the movie because it was written for the movie. For instance, “The Baddest Man Alive” with The Black Keys is on the movie onscreen, or the Wiz Khalifa, “I Go Hard” is in the movie onscreen. We got a song from an old John Wu movie called “The Killer”.
Also I showed Kanye West a scene, he got the idea of what I wanted and came back with a great song for me.
You’ll notice some Stax soul that was the only idea that was there in the beginning of my filmmaking process. I always wanted to be able to have the Stax soul sound as some kind of backdrop to some scenes in my movie.
Highsnobiety Giveaway: We’re also holding a giveaway for the Man With The Iron Fists poster by artist Jeff Stevens, as seen above. Overall there are 5 of these posters available for 5 winners.
1 poster goes to the ‘Grand Prize’ winner with some other MWTIF swag including a bandana, shirt, beanie and cufflinks. 4 runners up will receive the poster only.
In addition, these posters will be available via a limited “tear away” outdoor series release on the street level in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia prior to the film’s November 2 release.
For the biggest fans, Get on Down has also created a limited edition, hand-pulled silkscreen edition of “The Man With The Iron Fists” vinyl LPs that you can see below: