The RZA and Eli Roth Talk The Man with the Iron Fists, Sequel Potential, Russell Crowe and More
This Friday, November 2, Wu-Tang Clan leader and first-time feature filmmaker The RZA will be unleashing what is the culmination of his life-long love and fascination with kung-fu flicks, The Man with the Iron Fists.
RZA co-wrote the film with Eli Roth and stars as the titular hero who must don... well... two iron fists in order to keep the people of his village and a king's priceless treasure trove safe from various clans of thieves and killers. Also starring in The Man with the Iron Fists are Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, Dave Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Lee and Byron Mann with cameos by Pam Grier and Roth as well (Roth's cameo is a bit sneaky though).
During a recent press day for The Man with the Iron Fists, Dread Central caught up with both The RZA and Roth and heard more from the duo about the inspirations behind their screenplay, their experiences collaborating and so much more (including the intricacies of going to the bathroom with two iron fists).
Check out the highlights from the press conference with Roth and The RZA below, and look for more on The Man with the Iron Fists all this week!
Related Story: Official Image Gallery for The Man with the Iron Fists
Question: I know originally you had said you wanted to have Woo-Ping (Yuen) work on this, but it looks like you had to go in a different direction with Corey (Yuen). Can you talk about that and the fight choreography of this movie?
The RZA: I actually did ask Woo, but he had a tight schedule - a really tight schedule - so we went to Cory. He also had a tight schedule but was able to adjust it for us. And I'm glad Cory was able to come through for us; he really represented the flow of this story very well.
Eli Roth: Woo-Ping's daughter actually worked on the movie, though, so we had some family on set, but yeah, Cory was just great. He went above and beyond and felt inspired by the idea of topping himself with every fight in the movie. This movie wouldn't have been what it was without him.
Question: So, RZA, this a culmination of your entire career with this movie- do you see this as the end of an amazing journey or just the beginning of something else completely?
The RZA: If things go properly, it's just the beginning. It's a huge relief that it's coming out soon, for sure, and it feels kind of like giving birth to a child. I mean, I hate to compare something as precious as creating life with creating art, but that's the best analogy I can think of. So I do think a movie is an entity of its own that you want everyone to like- just like you want everyone to like your children - and I'm still so nervous because it still has to come out and everything. But personally, I feel fulfilled; it's not every day that you get to see a thought in your mind come to fruition.
This is a tough movie; it's not an American movie so it doesn't have those same sensibilities that audiences may be used to so it was nice to have this freedom to really do something artistic on my own terms.
Eli Roth: We've also talked about continuing this story, too; while we were shooting, we wanted to create the foundation for something that could continue on if we decided we wanted to in the future. Our focus now is this one, but if we do come back, it has to be more thoughtful than something like, 'Oh hey, it's the Man with the Iron Feet!' or something ridiculous like that.
But this was such great fun and a totally wonderful collaborative experience for me - for us, really - so it's definitely something we want to continue if we can. We spent a year on this script, working on the mythology; we know every weapon, every clan, this whole world and what's out there so that if people really like this and really respond to it, we can revisit it.
Question: Did being in Wu-Tang, managing all those different personalities, prepare you to direct then? How did you convince Russell Crowe to play the part of Jack Knife?
The RZA: Being in Wu-Tang Clan and dealing with all those strong personalities for so many years definitely prepared me to direct this; there were days when I'd get on set and things would be super crazy, but I don't think I ever lost my cool once.
And as far as Russell Crowe, I just talked with him about it for a long, long time, and I wasn't sure at first if he was going to do it or not. But he told me that he trusted me as an artist and I think that says something that you have this guy like Russell who's willing to trust this kid and his artistic vision so he just wants to support me. He comes with a validation of what I can do and I'm grateful he came on board. We found some kindred energy between us- like he's the new ODB.
Eli Roth: We called him Crowe-DB (laughs).
The RZA: Yes, Crowe-DB (laughs)- he was great.
Eli Roth: When we were writing the script, we thought his character Jack Knife had to be good; we just couldn't give him any old reason to go to China- this had to be perfect for him, or it wasn't going to work in the movie at all. I remember when we first got to China and I sat with Russell for like 24 hours straight talking about this character and how he fits into this universe. And that's when I realized how willing Russell was to go crazy in this world so I was like, 'All right, let's go (Marlon) Brando in Apocalypse (Now), let's go Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast- let's just do something so completely fucking nuts that no one else has done it before and something completely out of character for him.
I remember the first day of shooting and we're throwing tables at him while he's fighting guys with his crazy knife and all he could say is, 'Wow, this is not A Beautiful Mind at all,' but when he watched the playback and saw how badass it looked, then he just went for it.
It was also great that RZA created this environment where the whole movie was resting on his shoulders, too; we treated this more like the coming together of a super-group where you've got Cung Lee, who is this huge fighting star; Dave Bautista, who was this huge wrestling star; Eli Roth, who has done horror; RZA, who's a monster in the music industry and then Quentin (Tarantino), too, so I think when Russell saw all of that, he realized he was in good company surrounded by a really creative group of people. And I think this is one of Russell's 'most alive' performances since Romper Stomper.
He'd always be coming up with ideas, too- he'd call me every morning with ideas on what he wanted to do with Jack so it was kind of an adventure seeing what kind of crazy things Russell would come up with every day. One day he said to me, 'Is it okay if I say to Lucy (Liu) in this scene, “Let me put the baby's arm inside you”?' and I just looked at him and said, 'Yes, that's going to be the line that wins us the screenplay Oscar (laughs).'
Question: Eli, as an experienced filmmaker, what did you see in RZA that you knew he was ready to direct this?
Eli Roth: Well, it was actually what I saw in RZA during the flight to Iceland in 2006 that made it apparent he was ready to do this, right before Hostel came out. But he's just got it; he's got the passion, the creativity, the drive and the fresh ideas. I didn't need to watch anything else that he shot to know that he could direct this movie. I just knew it, in the same way that way back in the day, I just knew that I could direct Cabin Fever. There wasn't anything that was going to convince me any more than I was already convinced.
And he really put everything into this; he was so humble, so willing to learn and willing to put his own ego aside to make a great movie. I spent a year hitting him up with every question imaginable that he was going to be asked - by the production designers, the costumers, the weapons people- so we really made sure he was absolutely prepared for this before we even shot a single frame.
RZA has the passion, the commitment, and he's got the balls to tell the story he wants to tell and he's just willing to put himself out there, which is just great.
The RZA: What made me feel like I was ready for this was that I took the time to study movies for years and years. A boxer can't just jump in the ring, you have to practice. Like the old saying, 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall?' Practice, practice, practice. I watched so many movies while preparing for this shoot and bought a few 5D's and 7D's so I could keep practicing with shots and get to know every single lens. I learned about ISO's just so I could talk to my DP about how much light I wanted in each shot.
Every day on set, after working for 12 hours, then I would go and train with the fight choreographer; I was always working on set- around the clock. I really believe that with great input you get great output ,and I think Eli even witnessed just how determined and focused I was on delivering this project and letting it become the foundation for more movies on the silver screen.
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