Russell Crowe Interview For ‘The Man With The Iron Fists’
Quentin Tarantino presents ‘The Man with the Iron Fists,’ an action-adventure inspired by kung-fu classics as interpreted by his longtime collaborators RZA and Eli Roth. Making his debut as a big-screen director and leading man, RZA – alongside a stellar international cast led by Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu – tells the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero in nineteenth-century China who must unite to destroy the clan traitor who would destroy them all. Since his arrival in China’s Jungle Village, the town’s blacksmith (RZA) has been forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans’ brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people. RZA, one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time and de-facto leader of Wu-Tang Clan (the legendary group that’s highly influenced by Asian culture and 70s martial arts flicks – hence the name), stars as the lead alongside Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Dave Bautista, Byron Mann, Daniel Wu and Pam Grier. ‘The Man with the Iron Fists’ opens on November 2nd in the US and December 7th in the UK.
You’ve been friends with RZA since you met during the filming of ‘American Gangster.’ Was this project something RZA had discussed with you, for you to play this roguish mercenary?
Russell Crowe: Bobby (RZA) and I did pretty much every working day together on ‘American Gangster’ and got to know each other well. We connected mainly through song lyrics. He’s basically talked about this project since I met him. And it’s one of those things where you have mates that have their dream gig – the thing that they’ve been thinking about for a long time. So, you go along with it, and you learn about it (laughs), but it’s not often that they actually end up doing it, you know (laughs)? So when it came closer and closer and it was looking more and more real, Bobby and I were coincidentally on the set of another movie, ‘The Next Three Days.’ So we talked about it again, it was getting more specific and we talked about the type of character he wanted – he’s obsessed with martial arts films from the 70s, and it was just not my thing (laughs). My knowledge of that begins and ends with Bruce Lee films really. But the key thing is that Bobby’s a really, really beautiful man. He’s a really nice guy, and we’ve got a really strong friendship. I kept saying to him, “Me being there changes the dynamic, it might be a bit odd in some instances,” but he calls me his big brother, and we always talk about artistic things together. He said I really needed to be there, so I’m here.
What was it like seeing him work as director?
Russell Crowe: He was on the sets for 50+ days, he had the respect of the crew throughout. When he talks, people would do what he says. He’s a quiet champion, but he’s definitely a champion. Bobby understood it more himself as he went on, day to day. You see him dealing with the cultural differences and language differences. He’s been cool, calm and collected. I was proud seeing him direct, he was great.
What were some of your jumping off points with this character? Also, did you dig deeper into the period of the 19th century that was used for the film’s backdrop, with the opium aspect of things?
Russell Crowe: This character has been a number of different people. There’s a combination of Prussian Calvary Officer, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry or the Outlaw Josey Wales. Then there’s the latter work of Orson Welles (laughs). But I wanted the character to be grounded in something, so I did a little bit of research on the Opium Wars. I was actually quite frankly disgusted with what I found. I’d no idea that the British Empire flooded China with opium in order to control the populace and get a better trade balance. So, that was a bit of a shock, and I brought that to his attention. We sort of used that with the character. Jack Knife has come to China as a soldier, and he’s become enraptured by the country. Part of that is due to the fact that he’s addicted to opium.
‘The Man with the Iron Fists’ mixes a number of genres, from martial arts to even the spaghetti western….?
Russell Crowe: Yeah. It is part kung fu movie, part fantasy movie – all of those things combined. And some aspects of it are very much spaghetti western. It’s a strange combination (laughs). It’s really about the emperor trying to spread the wealth. Now, unfortunately he’s in a situation where there’s a lot of warlords and sub-warlords and gangs and clans, all that sort of stuff, and they couldn’t really care less about the children or the general population. If there’s wealth to be spread around they want it to be coming to them.
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