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Fantastic 5: Interview w/ RZA of Wu-Tang Clan

In 1993, the world of hip-hop was invaded by a group of killer bees, better known as The Wu-Tang Clan. Listeners were stung by infectious beats and overwhelmed by the rap group as they took over the industry in their pursuit of the perfect honey-coated lyric. At the head of that swarm was Robert Diggs, aka The RZA, the producer pioneer who has now crossed over to the film industry as well. His directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fist, stars Russell Crowe and is set to come out in 2011.

Fantastic 5: Interview w/ RZA of Wu-Tang Clan

In 1993, the world of hip-hop was invaded by a group of killer bees, better known as The Wu-Tang Clan. Listeners were stung by infectious beats and overwhelmed by the rap group as they took over the industry in their pursuit of the perfect honey-coated lyric. At the head of that swarm was Robert Diggs, aka The RZA, the producer pioneer who has now crossed over to the film industry as well. His directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fist, stars Russell Crowe and is set to come out in 2011.

Influenced heavily by martial arts films (The group’s name comes from the film, Wu-Tang vs. Shaolin), The RZA was at the Paramount Theatre Saturday to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Yuen Woo-ping, the breathtaking choreographer who has directed The Drunker Master and done action choreography on such films as Kung Fu, Hustle, The Matrix, Fist of Legend, Kill Bill and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

We asked RZA 5 fantastic questions and he sliced them up with his liquid swords.

Fantastic Fest: Your music has been influenced by Yuen Woo-ping’s work. Can you explain how?

RZA: Definitely. The Wu-Tang Clan has been influenced by his movies, even from the work of his father, Yuen Siu-tien. His father played different characters. He played The Drunken Master and The Chef in movies. Names for our members like Raekwon, The Chef, that came directly from that. Ghostface Killah came from a martial arts movie. So it’s been a lot of influence that came to us. For me, it’s an honor to present Mr. Woo-ping with this award.

They called me up and asked if I would do it and I said, ‘I’m in pre-production of my movie but I’ve got weekends off.’ My assistant gets  a lot of credit because she made that happen. She knew this was something I would love to do. She turned down a lot of things this week. She made sure I was on that plane at 7 a.m. to be here. For me, it is a real honor and a pedestal of my life because a lot of us don’t get to see and enjoy what we like in our minds. We see movies and enjoy them but you have to go home and dream about it. For me, dreams are coming true and this is part of it.

FF: Well, he influenced you and you introduced his work to a completely different group that may not have been aware of him. So you’ve helped each other, right?

RZA: That’s what life is about. It’s yin and yang, actually. Asian philosophy is spread all over our country. The Wu-Tang Clan sold over four million records and a lot of people went back and got into the movies. It feels good how we both help each other. I’m proud of it.

FF: Your directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fist, will be out soon. Can you talk about it? Also, why did you choose Russell Crowe? He seems like a curious and fascinating choice for this type of film.

RZA: I got a chance to know him personally. There’s a lot of things people who watch his films don’t know about him or how enthused he is about martials arts, or even about Asian culture. I told him, ‘I’ve got a film I wrote that may get a greenlight and I’d like you to be a part of it,’ and he said, ‘If you can work it out, Bobby, then work it out.’ (Laughs.) I talked to some executives who saw my vision and they said, ‘Let’s work it out.’ So it’s so far, so good.

FF: Excellent. What’s a lesson that you’ve applied to your own personal discipline that you would offer to moviegoers?

RZA: I would say view things with an open mind. Sometimes we watch movies and we interpret a film differently than it was intended. We watch a scene and laugh at it when the director intended for it to be serious, because we have a blockade of what should be funny or serious in our own minds. When you come to a movie or any point in your life, step into it with an open mind.

The Tao Te Ching is a book written by Lao Tzu that speaks upon accepting things as the ocean accepts things. It’s like Bruce Lee said, ‘Be like water, my friend.’

FF: Great words. Well, thank you for coming to Fantastic Fest and we look forward to seeing you when your film comes out.

RZA: Thank you.

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