The Wu-Tang Clan main man turned director/actor talks smoking blunts, no-hands pissing, supporting the Rabbitohs, rap operas and his new martial arts flick, The Man with the Iron Fists
ey, RZA! How’s tricks?
Great, buddy! How ’bout you?
We watched your new movie The Man with the Iron Fists with a couple of mates over some beers. It’s a lotta fun.
Hell, that’s the way to go see it, man! Appreciate that.
What’s a dumb question you’ve had about making it?
[Laughs] Ah, man. I don’t know if I had that yet — I just leave it up to the person who wanna axe it. One guy axed me why the f**k I had Cantonese braised ribs in the motherf**ker, and another axed me who I think the prettiest babe in the movie was. They axe me, I answer. I don’t give a f**k.
As homage to old martial arts films, have you considered you’ve created a new genre: Kung Wu?
Kung Wu? [Laughs] Hell, man, that’s funny. I like that! You can call it that if you wanna. Let’s go wid that.
Some snooty critics have been a bit unkind...
Yeah, I ain’t happy with that. I mean, it’s gonna be a cult classic with the fans of the genre, but I went and saw all the other films out right now… and when you pay $12, kid? I know I deliver your $12 worth. A lot
of these other guys cheated you on your money. It’s a movie. When you go to an amusement park, you wanna ride the roller coaster. You might wanna watch a play… but you mostly go there for the rides. Nothin’ egotistic about it, but my film goes well at the cinema.
So RZA hasn’t made a FZA, then?
[Laughs] I definitely agree with that, man! It’s a kick-ass action movie. And as far as the business side o’ things, for a first-time director in this big Hollywood circle, my movie made its money back. That’s a good thing, baby! The Blacksmith is in the black! [Laughs]
You spent seven years pulling this thing off… and you did it. Do you feel much relief?
Yeah, I have a new purpose. I was sober a lot while doin’ it. And I can see myself rollin’ up some fat blunts a lot lately, so I’m lookin’ forward to gettin’ back to bringin’ this sort of art to the world. It’s healthy. I gotta great mind and I’d hate to see it go to waste.
So if you make a new movie, you’ll lay off the pot?
Yeah, yeah. That right. Keep me focused. The only thing that’d keep me away from makin’ films was if the world needed me to help out, and be a scientist or a spiritual guide and bring wisdom to the world. ’Cos, y’know, I studied those things. I’d be useful. In science or spirituality. But as long as people be runnin’ ’round havin’ fun, let me make some movies for you.
Did you really turn back a role in Les RZArables?
[Laughs] Oh shit, that be funny, right? Imagine me singin’ opera? [Starts warbling in an off-key soprano] It be like, “Cut!” I mean, Russell Crowe — he like to sing. I like to rap. I’d be like... [starts rapping] “Yo, check it out. I’m in Les Miserables, I’m gonna rock your club. Gonna take it to the cloud and show you how. You get dirty from the French, you know I got stench, motherf**ker...” Anyway, you get the idea… [Laughs]
Those big cast-iron prosthetics your character wears look fearsome, but how practical are they?
Well, I think The Blacksmith be good at openin’ beer cans. Or holdin’ a blunt. But I think when he’s takin’ a piss, he might have to go no-hands. [Laughs]
Or get one of those hot Chinese concubines from the movie to maybe help out in that regard?
Hey, nothin’ wrong wid that, right? [Laughs] And let me say this to you, with those big iron arms, imagine if I gotta scratch my ass? Or imagine if I had to finger-f**k a girl with ’em? Okay, cut… [Laughs]
You realise with arms like that, RZA, you’re now more heavy metal than you are gangsta rap?
Oh shit, y’know what? I got a lotta guitars in my house so now I can finally put those mother**kers to use!
Russell Crowe steals the show in the movie. How did you talk him into it? Seems like a bit of a risk...
I hope that what he’d say is that I was tryin’ to give him a chance to have fun durin’ a movie. I’ve been to Sydney, and I seen the work he do with the Rabbitohs. A couple of years ago, their record was shitty, but Russell believes in things and keeps things goin’.
So I said to him, “Hey, I’ll give you a job where you can f**kin’ have fun for a few weeks. F**k it, let’s go have fun...” And he did, man. He had a great time.
You’ve been a big fan of Rusty since you became good mates on American Gangster’s set, right?
I’m his number-one, baby. A Beautiful Mind? I musta watched that movie 20 times before I even met this guy. Hey, he’s incredible. But when I met him, he’s a fun guy! He a cool dude, a real man. It’s hard to meet real men in this f**kin’ business but he’s one of ’em.
One thing about Aussies is that they do anything for their mates — is that why you knew Rusty would come through for you and agree to star?
Yeah, I think that had a lot to do wid it. Like I say, he a real man. He trusted me. It goes a long way. And if that’s part of the Australian culture, hey, how many of you guys over there?
As an honourable Rabbitoh, perhaps you should migrate out here, RZA?
Hey, well… I love America. It’s my motherland and I reprezent it to the fullest, but… if you were to drop me off and leave me in Australia, I’ll be okay! I love it. You guys got a great country. It ain’t foreign to me. Everybody speak English, you got all the pretty women, and also, for me, ’cos I’m from New York… it feel like you’re five years behind, and I like that. It’s like you got a big city but without all the f**kin’ shittiness.
There’s a full-on scene where Russell is getting down ’n’ dirty with three Chinese hookers… Are you to blame for why his wife left him, RZA?
Ah, hell no! [Laughs] She didn’t watch the movie! I don’t know what happened there. She such a sweet girl, too. I’ve been to their house a coupla times and had dinner wid ’em, and they such a beautiful family. It sad, man. But it happens to anybody. I would hope that fate could turn the cards back around for ’em, ’cos listen, I don’t care how much money you got, or fame you got... ain’t nothin’ without family. Russell? He love family. I once came out to Australia, my wife and my son, and we stayed wid ’em. And we have totally different upbringings ’n’ shit, from different sides of the world, but we love our children and our wives — and I seen this in this guy. So yeah, with him and Danielle, that was a shock to me. But look, I’m on my second wife, so it does happen. [Laughs]
Did you send him a nice message?
Nah, man. I went and visited him in New York and we had a real nice talk. I been through this shit before, so I said to him, “Some people think a caterpillar is gonna stay a caterpillar. They don’t know it’s gonna turn into a butterfly. You gotta be patient wid that shit, aight? And if some people gonna leave you while you’re a caterpillar, you’re gonna be takin’ them to the sky and they won’t be able to catch you.”
Profound, RZA. Old Rusty certainly did pack on the pounds lately to play Noah, maybe that’s it?
Oh, I can’t wait to see that movie. The funny thing, Russell’s shootin’ it in New York and then Hurricane Sandy come. I’m like, “Yo, Russell, you think this is somethin’ to do wid your movie, man?” [Laughs]
You have an encyclopaedic knowledge of martial arts movies — hence The Man With The Iron Fists — but you’re also a big fan of chess. Does that mean you plan to make a pawn movie one day?
[Laughs] Yeah, sure. We’ll call it The Queen’s Gambit.
Have you ever scored with a queen?
[Laughs] Definitely, of course. My wife is a queen.
How often do you bang your bishop?
I don’t. But nor do I let my bishop bang me, yo!
What do the other Wu-Tang guys think of the film?
I gotta call from GZA about two days ago. He said he was so proud of me. He said, “The movie’s great, man. But what makes it even greater is we used to go and smoke weed in theatres and watch these movies, or go to video stores and rip the tapes, but now we f**kin’ got one that our own brother made!” GZA was the first to make me feel joy at what I’d done. Hearin’ it from Quentin Tarantino did the same thing, man. It’s unfathomable. Unimaginable. Magical, in a way. Knowin’ what we came from, all the opposition against us. Growin’ up in America, people say, “If you’re black, you either be dead or in jail by age 25.” But that didn’t happen to us. I just wish Ol’ Dirty was here to see it.
Did Lucy Liu and Rusty give you feedback, too?
Yeah. Lucy call me and say, “Bobby Diggs, you’re one smart mother**ker. It’s f**kin’ amazing. You poured magic outta your ass!” And Russell said it was, ”One level beyond genius. You did a great f**kin’ job. This movie is a classic, and I’m proud to be a part of it.” That was all the confirmation I needed, man, ’cos in my urban community over here, Russell Crowe be the coolest mother**ker in the whole damn world.
The Man with the Iron Fists is in cinemas now