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RZA, a 'disciple of Tarantino,' trades hip-hop for acting

January 6, 2010 |  4:14 pm


In a recent Los Angeles Times story, the RZA, sonic architect of the hardcore rap collective Wu-Tang Clan and now the filmmaker behind the martial arts movie “The Man With the Iron First,” described how a cadre of top-flight directors have been helping him make the artistic switch. It’s an eclectic list that includes John Woo, Jim Jarmusch, Eli Roth and, most significantly, Quentin Tarantino. As the superstar producer said, “Tarantino is my teacher. I'm a disciple of Tarantino."

In a conversation with 24 Frames, the hip-hop legend also detailed his recent efforts in front of the camera. The artist has built a respectable filmography with small roles in high-profile studio movies such as Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” and Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster.”

But to hear the epochal beatmaker tell it, he got serious about carving out a niche in moviedom only after then-Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein handed RZA a small but crucial role as an ex-con in the Clive Owen-Jennifer Anniston thriller “Derailed,” which shot in London.


The pampered on-set experience proved to be quite unlike any creative process that RZA had taken part in, one that got the self-professed former Staten Island drug dealer thinking about changing his focus. “It was actually like a drug, being on that movie,” RZA recalled. “Because normally, I’m the person that has to worry about everybody. I gotta sit in the studio, I gotta make the beat, I gotta hope everybody shows up. I gotta worry about so many things. Now everybody worried about me.”

He continued: “You got a [production assistant] who’s bringing me Red Bull and Lays [potato chips] at the snap of a finger. I’m in a nice flat in London. They fly my sons in first class,” adding, “I’m hanging out with Clive who’s a gentleman, a cool ...” – here he uses a certain 12-letter curse word he intended as a compliment. “We’re going to horse races. He’s teaching me things about London culture. And it was a weight off my shoulders. I was like, ‘I could get used to this kind of treatment!'”

In the past 12 months, RZA completed performances in three new films: Todd Phillips’ road trip comedy “Due Date,” the Jude Law sci-fi thriller “Repo Men” and Paul Haggis’ crime drama “The Next Three Days,” which reunited RZA with his “American Gangster co-star Russell Crowe. “I went on that one for the fun of it,” said RZA, smiling at the thought. “Me and Russell agreed that we will see each other in many different cities and have a beer together in many different cities. Wherever we can have a beer at, that’s our buddy [stuff].”

-- Chris Lee

Photos of RZA: Top by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

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