(The Root) — Wu-Tang Clan's leader and primary beat-maker, RZA, is no stranger to kung fu flicks and ancient Eastern mythology. An admitted obsessive about the film genre, he incorporated samples of music and dialogue from Hong Kong movies into the group's sound. He mined his interests further when he scored Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, films that showcased each director's homage to martial arts movies.
Now it's RZA turn. With The Man With the Iron Fists (opening Nov. 2), the hip-hop vet makes his big-budget directorial debut, putting his hip-hop stamp on this movie's expertly staged fight scenes, slick visuals and killer soundtrack. But he couldn't let Russell Crowe (who plays Jack Knife, a mysterious and hot-tempered foreigner) and Lucy Liu (Madam Blossom, a sexy, savvy brothel owner) have all the fun while he toiled behind the camera. RZA is also the film's co-writer (with Eli Roth) and its leading man.
He plays Blacksmith, a diligent metalworker who suffers when he finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle between two factions, each of whom is claiming rights to a shipment of gold. By film's end, he devises a scheme to turn the table on his enemies.
When The Root caught up with him recently in New York, he mentioned how the film, which is presented by his de facto mentor Tarantino, represents a "dream come true." In the video below, RZA explains how being a rap producer sharpened his filmmaking skills, how Tarantino inspired his vision and how he managed to pull off the remarkably entertaining, high-flying battle sequences. (Props to fight choreographer Corey Yuen.)
"When I made the film, going through the process you don't realize you're in the dream," RZA told The Root. "But when I saw the trailer … and it got a date, I was like, man, this is a completion of a cipher."
Brett Johnson is an associate editor at The Root.