ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

The RZA Interview

The RZA Interview

28 April 2014

The Wu-Tang Clansman on working with Tarantino and grabbing sushi with Bill Murray....

Your new film, Brick Mansions, was one of Paul Walker’s final projects. What was it like working with him?

He was great. It’s a small comfort that we can see him in films and look at his smile and his energy. I’m happy to be a person that broke bread with him. We both played guitar, we had that in common.

David Belle – one of the founders of parkour – is also in the film. Did he teach you any Spider-Man-esque techniques?

No. I wasn’t willing to learn. My character’s weapon is a gun. That cuts short all the kicking and jumping. David is an incredible athlete: he can do a one-leg flip from standing still. My eight-year-old son was inspired – now he’s trying to jump off the couch.

How do you pick your film projects?

I don’t have too many regrets, but mostly, I choose what’s right for me. The coolest thing for me is having my buddy [and fellow Wu-Tang member] Method Man, who started in the film industry earlier than me. He saw the trailer for Brick Mansions and said, “You’re getting better and better – you’re starting to have an actor’s glow.” He’s very critical, but hearing that was pretty cool.

Has Meth dissed any of your acting jobs?

He didn’t really dig me in Derailed. He said he didn’t think that my machismo showed enough. He dug me in American Gangster.

Do you watch his stuff?

Yeah. There was one film – My Baby’s Daddy – where I was like, “What the hell was that?!” But he was great in Soul Plane. I look forward to the day we do a movie together, to get that Wu energy on the screen. That would be crazy.

Can we ask about the new Wu-Tang album? You’re apparently producing just one copy, and it’ll be locked in a silver box inside a Moroccan vault…

I won’t comment right now, but it’s something special. This is the brainchild of me and my buddy Cilvaringz [producer Tarik Azzougarh], so the rest of the crew were not aware of the idea, but they’re supportive of it. I’m always meditating to come up with something new. Sometimes my crew love my ideas and sometimes they’re like “Man, what planet are you on?”

You’ve also started directing, as well as acting. Did your pal Quentin Tarantino offer any tips?

I was directly taught by Quentin. I’m not ashamed to say it. He’s the grandmaster, and one day he told me, “You’ve reached the level – you’re no longer a student.” After six years around him, he finally said I was ready to direct. I asked him on the third year, fourth year, fifth year, and he said, “No, not yet.” Then on the sixth year, he said, “Yeah, you’re ready.”

How did you guys get to know each other?

Similar likes: watching movies together, loving the same kind of music. He became one of my best friends. I was supposed to have a scene in Django Unchained, but a schedule conflict with [RZA’s directorial debut] The Man With The Iron Fists meant I couldn’t do it. I was so angry with myself, but Quentin told me, “When you direct a movie, you lose all your friends.” I spent 150 days in China, away from my family doing The Man With The Iron Fists. It was the toughest thing I’d ever done.

Is directing more stressful than acting?

I feel I’m a natural director. Being a producer all these years has prepared me. And I had a master actor in Russell Crowe and a very established and focused actor in Lucy Liu. They were both quoted [as saying] I have that magic. I shot it in China and we had 400 people that we had to translate my communications to. To me, a director is like the general of an army, and I think that I was able to rise to that occasion.

You and your Wu-Tang associate GZA starred in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee And Cigarettes alongside Bill Murray. What was he like?

What a funny dude, just a great man. He was cool, funny and informative. We went out for sushi one day, he told me, “No, you don’t hold your chopsticks like that!” He had just done Lost In Translation, so he had a total knowledge of all the proper ways of how to eat Japanese food. He was not shy to correct. He kept correcting me.

Last year was the 20th anniversary of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Did you realise at the time how influential that album would be?

To be honest with you, I did. I was trying to come out and destroy the whole hip-hop world. I wanted to beat everybody up, I wanted to let them know we were the best, Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F*ck Wit, Protect Ya Neck… I wanted to bring the f*cking ruckus. These are the titles of the songs and this is how I felt. I was more of a beefeater back then, I was very carnivorous. Now I’m a vegetarian, I’m calmer. I just watched that movie Divergent, and there was one line in it that I really related to. “While most people cower from fear, fear is what motivates her, pushes her further.” I feel the same way about doubt. When you doubt me, that’s when I’m going to show you.

Brick Mansions is at cinemas nationwide from 2 May