2012’s The Man With The Iron Fists marked the directorial debut for Wu-Tang Clan co-founder and beat maker extraordinaire The RZA, and due to the success of the first one, Universal put out a sequel to the action flick, which is available on DVD and Blu Ray on April 14.
The sequel focuses on Thaddeus (RZA), the titular blacksmith who has started a quest for inner peace since the events of the first film that bring him to a new village that is supposedly cursed by the spirit of the evil Lord Pi. Being a nomadic warrior, Thaddeus finds himself getting roped into battle once again. We got to talk to RZA about the creative process, his influences, and what it was like to wear those huge iron fists on set. Hit the jump below for more.
The movie very much comes across as a passion project. What exactly inspired the sequel and what was the creative process behind making it like?
RZA: The sequel was inspired by Thaddeus’ life and continuing to develop and expose him, in a way. When we first made the character, we had a whole life for this guy, but in part 1 he was stuck in Jungle Village and it became more of a backstory. In part 2, we skipped ahead in his life a few years; we pick up with Thaddeus after he’s seen so much bloodshed that he needs to find peace in his life. I wanted to use something that inspired me from an old movie called 36 Chambers where we saw that oppression existed in other parts of the world, and Thaddeus is a man who comes from a place where he was basically despised, and now he comes to a place where he becomes a hero.
I think what he learns in this film, at least with the philosophy part of it … is that sometimes, you need to serve somebody else in order to bring about your own justice, and I think him seeing the oppression of the miners and realizing what they’re going through and being drawn in to help, I think that’s something that was kinda needed, and while we discussed it during the writing process, we were talking about “How can we tell his story this time?,” and I think we came to the conclusion that yo, the story this time doesn’t need to be directly about him, but it needs to be about somebody else’s life that he affects. At the end of the film, Thaddeus says that “Where there is iron, there is rust,” but that’s only when the iron’s not being useful. And he decided to be useful … That’s something I would tell any young person. Be useful. Enjoy the struggle, but enjoy the joy, too! If people around you are laughing and you’re not, join in, baby!
Speaking of 36 Chambers, you’re well-known as a connoisseur of martial arts films. Are there any other films in particular other than Chambers that inspired TMWTIF2?
RZA: Martial art films have a tendency to have the villain appear as a hero first, or appear as a friend. I think in Five Deadly Venoms inspired me, man, because everyone was looking for the villain like “Who’s The Scoprion, Who’s The Scoprion?” and he was the police. He was the top policeman who was just sitting there with all the money, so that was a big help in helping me develop some of the characters. Like, Cary [Hiroyuki Tagawa] played Lord Pi, and of course we had our own thing where Lord Pi was this mystical type of guy with some esoteric energy sucking the chi out of women, like a vampire in some way, you know what I’m sayin’?
He’s sitting there in the wheelchair and talking nice to the kids, he helps our heroes, but he’s an evil man. They don’t have a monopoly on it, but I think early Asian films have always had these weird villains. In part 1, I used the idea from low-budget Asian films of the guy with white hair showing up out of nowhere. You’ll watch the whole movie, and all of a sudden it would be him that has the whole plan, and in part 1, Poison Dagger doesn’t come until the very end, and he’s the big villain of the movie all of a sudden. In this one, the twist is that the villain is always in your face, you know, as they say, “be careful of the pork stuck inside the bun,” you know what I mean?
It’s funny that you mention Cary, because he’s a legend and he’s amazing. Describe what it was like working with such a renowned cast like Cary, Dustin Nguyen, and others?
RZA: It was really fun, man. First off, I gotta say that for Cary, two of my best times on this film were from working with him. I’m a big fan of his work and I’ve seen many of his movies over and over growing up, and getting the chance to share the screen with him? It was cool. He’s a cool dude … On a day off, we all go to dinner, and Cary comes out of his hotel room, and he has on the real Japanese sandals, yo. The real ones! He’s just walkin’ around, chillin’, and he had a cool hat on and sh*t. When you live you live, and Cary is the kind of guy who’s lived and he’s got his sh*t together, bro. It was a great pleasure working with him.
And Dustin? Another great guy to work with. I really found a new friend … I think at the end of the film, you see Thaddeus and [Li Kung] shake hands, and that was actually on the last day of shooting for my character and I meant what I said to him when I said “Hopefully we’ll come together again.” I appreciated him as an actor and as a friend, he’s a focused dude and I just wish him the best because he had all the qualities of a noble man. He had all the qualities, he knew kung fu, he was just good for me to work with him and see that kind of personality exist in this guy after seeing him in 21 Jump Street and watching him as a fan.
You’re a musician through and through, so was there any particular influence you looked to for the music this time around?
RZA: We got a little more country with some of the sound template. Me and Howard Drossin have worked on about 4 or 5 movies together, so we got our own shorthand, we have it all pretty much mapped out. We even tried to get some Adrian Younge music up in there (laughs).
What was it like wearing the iron fists themselves? I realized that you were actually moving your fingers in there and I can imagine that it got very hot in there.
RZA: You right, yo. Hot is the word. My lower arms got skinny and sweaty in there, and it can be very uncomfortable. But I will say, as a character though, whenever I play … and if I take them off at lunch and then have to put them back on, because it takes 15 minutes to put them on properly sometimes…it turns me into that guy, yo. It does do that. Its funny because I’ll be standing there, and the cast and crew will come up to me and they like to make fun of me because they see me and I’m a normal guy and they’ll shout “Hey, Bobby! Hey, Bobby! Hey, Bobby!,” while I’m standing over here like “Yea. I’m the man, yo. I’ll knock you motherf—ers out.” (laughs) There’s a whole different personality that comes out. But regardless, they’re not very comfortable.
Bonus Features on Blu-ray and DVD include Deleted Scenes, Chi Warriors: The Making of Man With the Iron Fists 2 and feature commentary with director Roel Reiné and executive producer and star RZA.