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RZA Compares ‘The Man With the Iron Fists’ to ’36 Chambers’

Man With The Iron Fists
Man With The Iron Fists movie poster.

JET magazine’s Senior Editor, Kyra Kyles chats with the RZA about his directorial debut, Man With the Iron Fists.
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Bong, bong, Wu-Tang affiliates, associates and aficionados.

It’s almost time to clan up and check out the RZA’s directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fists.  The martial arts flick, which pays homage to greats including Iron Monkey and Shogun Assassin, hits movie theaters on Friday, Nov. 2.

Though I planned to support the project anyway because of my deep love for all things Wu, I was even more motivated after talking one on one with none other than the RZArector himself, who also stars in this work alongside action heavyweights including Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Pam Grier and Cung Le.

The super producer and rapper who brought us Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers), arguably one of the greatest rap compilations ever made, claims that this latest work– which he co-wrote with Eli Roth– is the film equivalent of that album.

Classic album: You know what it is…

He also spoke on what inspired him during the writing process, whether he took on his own stunts and how he feels waiting for “Iron Fists” to hit the big screen.

But let’s not belabor the point.

Check out the word from Bobby Digital himself in this Q&A straight outta Shaolin.  Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!  (And if you haven’t, check out my review of the film’s soundtrack.)

 KK: Did you listen to any particular type of music while you were writing this?

RZA: Yeah, all old soul music.  Barry Whites, Isaac Hayes and some classical.  I’m glad you asked me that because I love writing to music.  It keeps the flow going and brain cells firing.

KK: You do a lot of fighting as The Blacksmith, and I see a lot of tables and blades flying from the previews. Did you or anyone else get seriously hurt?

RZA: Well, there were a few accidents.  People hurt their arms and legs, but that’s to be expected.  People crashing through tables and falling off buildings and what not.  David Bautista did get a little hurt.  Nothing was too serious.  Me though, I did hurt my arms and fingers in one stunt.  I was supposed to chop through a brick, but the team, they didn’t break it enough and the hands, by design, are heavy so that hurt a lot.

KK: Did you do a lot of stunts yourself?

RZA: Oh yeah, I had to get up on the wire.  One time, my stunt double got injured so I had to do something for him.

KK: Damn, you were the stunt double for your stunt double?

RZA: Ha ha, yeah.  Something like that.  We had to keep things moving.

KK: How are you feeling right now with the movie so close to opening? Are you one of those writers and directors who will ignore the critics altogether and skip reading the reviews?

RZA: I’m super nervous, man.  I’m a director of course but I’ve got an executive mind.  I sweat the small details.  I feel like Mr. Spacely trying to handle everything and making sure everybody do their job.  I’ve got a great team of people.  I made this thing with the idea of entertaining an audience.  I didn’t make it with the idea of winning an Oscar.  I made a movie to entertain, a big-bucket-of-popcorn type of movie.  Some movies are good on cable, on an airplane or a hotel room.  But this is for a movie theater.  I care what critics think because they are my audience too, but critics should remember they are speaking from a viewer’s point of view. I believe that Kill Bill is one of the best movies in this genre and this is in that vein.  It’s not that same type of dialogue, but the action is on that level.

KK: You mention Kill Bill, now how do you see this film stacking up among the new and old-school kung fu classics? I’m a huuuuuuge fan of that genre, so I’ll be looking at “Iron Fists” through that lens….

RZA: It’ll stack up. And as fan of those movies that have shaped the Wu Tang so much, I made sure to have those elements.  But I’m an American with an American sensibility, so I made sure to add things they overlook.  I am a fan of their culture, and I pay homage…But you see a mix: Western culture, American culture and British and the African American or Black man’s culture.  All these cultures are part of the music and I’m bringing that to this film.  You’ll notice I incorporate Chinese opera and the dancing they do.  But I also incorporated Western touches.  I put in stuff from France and from China, you know, people are well traveled. You’ll definitely see some history from our perspective.  And I’m also proud of the way women are represented.  When you first start watching, you won’t see it until this big moment and you’ll go:  “Wait a minute…he loves women, he respects women….”

KK: Let’s say someone breaks into your film library and they destroy every kung fu film you have, but they spare you one. What would it be?

RZA: [laughs] Now, that I got the “Iron Fists,” it’d be that.

KK: Well, that’s still up on the big screen at this point.  We’re talking your personal, classic collection right now.

RZA: Oh, okay. That’s difficult, but the one I’d have to keep is 36th Chamber. That’s the one I have to keep. It’s got so much meaning and energy.

KK: Speaking of 36th Chamber, which shaped the debut album you and Wu presented to the world…. How does this experience compare with when you produced the first Wu-Tang album?

RZA: Well, I feel this is like a first album.  I’ve done it just as well as that first album. Wu Tang is a marker for me in my life. I’m ready for the next marker.  I’m comparing this to Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers). I feel like I nailed it.  This will be a game changer like the album.

KK: Wait a second, now.  That is one of the best albums, period.  You are raising the bar super high…

RZA: No, no… I’ll tell any of my fans, this is like the new 36 Chambers… You remember in 36 Chambers when we said, yo, this kid got shot in the head and is laying there like a little newborn baby?

KK: Of course…

RZA: Or the torture scene..

KK: Yep, of course.  M.E.T.H.O.D. Man.

RZA. Right, well, be prepared for some torture.  We got that in the movie. And the feelings too. You’ll feel how “Cream” made you feel.  Like “Can It Be All  So Simple.”

KK: You better stop.  I will go into that theater and steal that movie right off the reel.  

RZA: You might want to do that!

KK: Let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about what’s next for the Wu, musically.  I read an article where you said that you allowed your actors to collaborate in the making of this film, but later, you say that if you were to produce another Wu-Tang Clan album you want full creative control.  What is the difference? Why can’t the Wu members shape the album like your actors shaped Iron Fist?

RZA:  Let me explain that.  Oh no, I didn’t mean they had no say, but a captain of the ship is the captain. He has to take advice.  You listen to Mr. Spock, Sulu and the guy who controls the engine. “Captain, we can’t do it, it’s gonna blow.” But I’ve got to be the one to say sometimes, no, push it.  The captain takes a risk.  I listen to my actors, and I like to be around good people that smart.  I listen to smart people, and I weigh their opinions and judge it.  If it makes sense, I say do it. If we get back in the studio and they got an idea, I’m a weigh it.  If you’re right, you’re right. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong.  But I’m making the veto…. I’ve gotta be able to make those decisions.

KK: So you’ve conquered kung fu. What genre do you want to explore next?
RZA:  I’m a big film buff. I’m writing another screenplay.  Actually, I’m writing two at same time.  My mind fucking won’t sit still.  One  of the screenplays is based on science and genetics.  So, I’m just writing and we’ll see which one appeases the studio and the executives.