There’s not much that RZA, more formally known as Bobby Fitzgerald Diggs, can’t do. Starting out as the leader of the popular hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, he has since climbed his way up the ladder producing, acting and screenwriting. Now, he adds director to his resume. RZA finally showed his baby, “The Man with the Iron Fists,” to the world last week, but not before facing a few obstacles, including chronic loneliness and cultural discrepancies, along the way.
RZA said one of the hardest things about making the martial arts film was spending over 150 days in a foreign country without his family. “The different vibe was just a lonely situation really, not only not seeing any blacks in China, but not seeing no whites either,” he says. “My wife wasn’t able to come over because of the duties of home … so I was really lonely, everybody else’s wives came over, everybody had love … There was a week where Jamie Chung came in to be Lady Silk and I just started like looking at her like that was my woman [laughs].”
Although he’s no stranger to the industry, RZA said he faced many difficulties as a first-time director. “You’ve got to think, first of all even having the level of talent trust me and to have a mutual trust back and forth was a challenge because I’m not just playing with just any Joe Schmoe. [I’ve] got some of the best in the world coming to represent with me and you want to protect that,” he says.
Having watched all the kung fu classics throughout childhood and even naming his band after the film from the genre — “Shaolin and Wu Tang” — RZA said he made sure to include cues from his favorite martial arts flicks in his film. “It was very important to pay homage to those things that inspired [me], especially Bruce Lee. I consider Bruce Lee a minor prophet,” he says. “In the Koran it teaches us that we have major prophets and we have minor prophets, so Abraham, Moses and Jesus would be major. But then you have minor prophets that only live for small periods of time and inspire people in their own small ways. I feel Bruce Lee was like that … He brought martial arts films to the world stage. Billion dollar corporations were based on his vision.”
“The Man with the Iron Fists” has been a labor of love for RZA, as he worked on the film for years before bringing it to life. He said he was surprised at how much the film changed throughout the process. “They say movies are made three times and I heard it before I did it,” he says. “I understand what they mean.”