RZA: My 'Iron Fists' Inspirations
Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon
(As told to Karen Valby) ''I want The Man with the Iron Fists to be considered along any of my old favorite martial arts movies like Five Deadly Venoms and 36 Chambers. I loved those movies, but an American mainstream audience might not love them as much as me. So I got to think of what movies worked for America that was big? Probably the best martial arts movie made in Hollywood is Enter the Dragon. The second best is probably Kill Bill. Those are big American blockbuster movies made with a true Hollywood sensibility.''
Syd Field's Screenplay
''Quentin [Tarantino] was the first person who told me to write, you nahmean? There's a book that I read after that called Screenplay by Syd Field. There's a line in it that says, 'Writing is your own responsibility.' So I like to say that now. How many times do we talk about we going to do something but we don't sit down and do it? Nobody forces you. It's something you have to take upon yourself to activate. We all have courage to try. Nobody has a monopoly on courage.''
''I love his filming style of using long shots of a character who's just walking or driving and in deep thought. If you look at Ghost Dog, there's a scene of the mafia guy in the bathroom singing a Flavor Flav song. This Italian guy, old school, and he's rapping Flavor Flav! And the camera stays on him the whole verse. A director can trust the magnetism of a good actor will keep the audience's eyes glued.''
''I took a style like Jim Jarmusch and mixed it with a John Woo style. Like, 'Okay, yeah, he's having a deep thought right now, but John Woo would have something blow up on the scene right now in the middle of all this s---.' So I added those elements of creativity that I picked up from those great directors. Adding their energy with my own rhythm, a little RZA flavor, bong bong.''
''I got to see Quentin's use of power on set. He may push you right before you snap, but then he brings the healing ointment, which is appreciation and gratitude. About five weeks in my crew was getting very fatigued. In China everybody gets two weeks to go home at New Year's, but we only had two days off. So what should I do to boost morale? [Co-writer] Eli Roth told me that, in the middle of Inglourious Basterds, when everybody was tired as s---, Quentin had a big dinner and he showed a rough three-minute edit of what they were shooting. So I said, 'Well, let's do it!' We had everyone, down to transportation, my crew was about 400 people, and we invited their family too. We had food, wine, drink, entertainment, pretty girls on stage dancing, music, fireworks. After everybody ate we showed them about three minutes of what we were working on and it was so beautiful and they all cheered and clapped and hugged me, and they came back Monday ready to work again. Quentin set that example for me to follow.''
''He is such a master. When you see the film there's a scene we wrote a certain way, and it reads good in the script: 'He walks into the brothel. He orders a glass of cognac. Three girls will swarm you, and, when three girls swarm you, Lucy Liu's character will say, ''Ladies, the gentleman just arrived, please let him choose for himself.''' Well when Russell walks in, he says, 'I want a bottle of that liquor. Three of your finest. And a room with a view.' So then when the ladies came up to him, he goes, 'I'll take you,' and kisses her right in the mouth, aight? Blew the whole set up! Then he goes to the other girl and he smells her and says, 'No, not you.' And the producer by the monitor said, 'Wait a minute, did he f---ing just sniff her? This guy is a f---ing genius.' What made him do that? Where'd he get the instinct from? It's not on the page. And that's because he's a great actor.''
''It might surprise people that he's one of my favorites. But he is the master of suspense.''
''I watched The Last Emperor thinking it was a kung fu movie. I just see Asians, and I want to watch the whole movie. Subconsciously the grand scale of it was something that stuck with me. We set a scene up at the Governor's Palace at the Forbidden City. Eli Roth was there that day and he said to me, 'Listen I think Bertolucci has inspired you because this f---ing shot looks like it's right out of The Last Emperor. This is not your average kung fu shot. You f---ing are going for a large scale.' Yeah, that's right, I love wide shots. I love something wide where you can then break it down tight.''
''I'm a big fan of John Ford. The train robbery or the John Wayne movies. His shots are big. He shoots big, wide shots. And he's able to capture landscape like that.''
''The clans in my movie all had animal styles, and I needed animal costumes for them. Like the wolf clan, it's written into the script that they have wolf heads on their faces. First time the costume guys came back with the wolf costumes, I said, 'Not the Three Little Pigs wolf motherf---er, I need the killer wolf aight?' I wanted something that looked kind of savage, like if you think of Braveheart or The Beastmaster. That movie stuck in my head — that image of a guy who had to cover himself up with this kind of animal skin.''
''My costume designer and I went through a lot of modern fashion, whether it was Prada, Gucci, or Zhang Ziyi, to see if there was something that would inspire us. And then my daughter, she draws animation. She was 15 when we started. She sent over about 20 of her drawings, and the Gemini Killers' outfit is basically one of her drawings. She inspired a whole costume for us! So I pulled from different wells for the costumes, and I think we came up with something really modern and unique.''
Tina Turner meets Rod Stewart
''In the old kung fu movies everyone has the long braid, you nahmean? But I have clans in the movie with animal styles, and I wanted their hair to resemble their clans. The character Silver Lion's hair is inspired by Rod Stewart mixed with Tina Turner. For the hyenas, I was like, 'Look, we going to have mohawks on them. That's modern.'''
Check our EW's Inside Movies for more from RZA on his journey from rapper to film director.