A celebration of traditional martial arts film combined with modern influences, The Man with the Iron Fists is long developed brainchild of hip-hop legend RZA. The New York-born artist serves as both director and co-writer on the project while staring as The Blacksmith, one of several warriors drawn into battle in Jungle Village. Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and mixed martial artist David Bautista accompany the RZA in a cast full of heavy hitters.
Before he became The Man with the Iron Fists, Robert Diggs, aka the RZA, made his name as the producer and abbot of hip-hop’s pioneering Wu-Tang Clan. RZA’s work with Wu-Tang reflected many of the same influences that would eventually be incorporated into Man With The Iron Fists, utilizing samples from the same martial arts films he watched as a child at Staten Island’s St. George Theater.
“As I started becoming more of a hip-hop deejay rapper, the sounds and the spirituality of the movies started affecting me more. When I came up with Wu-Tang Clan in 1993, it was the martial arts films and genre that gave me this idea of how to express myself,” RZA explained. “The brotherhood they showed, the loyalty, the spirituality—as well as the swordplay and the kung fu ass-kicking—all that went along with how we felt good as emcees and producers, and I made albums to reflect that.”
RZA’s transition into film was a long, deliberate process, having taken on a diverse number of roles both in-front of the camera and behind the scenes. While scoring Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 in 2003 RZA developed a relationship with Tarintino, and began studying film alongside the Inglorious Basterds director.
“I studied with Quentin for years; we watched many films together, films that I would have never known on my own,” RZA said of the experience. “When I felt I was ready, I took those six years of studying and went to Quentin and said, ‘I think I’m ready.’ And he said, ‘Bobby, I think you are ready, too.’”
Enlisting the help of fellow Tarintino-collaborator Eli Roth, RZA began development of The Man with the Iron Fists. The two worked over the script for years, finally getting earning the green light from Strike Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures. Strike Entertainment Producer Marc Abraham’s described what drew him to the project.
“What’s genuine and beautiful about the history, the provenance of the movie is that here was this kid who escaped into movies who is now making the one he’s dreamed about. This story is something that’s been gestating within him forever.”
With the blessing of his producers, RZA returned to China along with Tarintino, who reminded him of how far he had come. “Remember when you were in Beijing, taking notes for Kill Bill? Look at it, we’re back in China, years later, and the student has become the master.”
The Man with the Iron Fists marks RZA’s directorial debut and opens nationwide on November 2, 2012. Accompanying the film is a soundtrack of the same name, featuring music by the Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye West, The Black Keys, Wiz Khalifa and more.