EXCLUSIVE: Universal is making a deal to finance and distribute The Man With The Iron Fists, a stylized martial arts film that will mark the feature directorial debut of RZA, the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder who has written the screenplay with Eli Roth. RZA will play the title character, a blacksmith who forges weapons for the inhabitants of a village in feudal China. They are forced to defend themselves, and before you know it, everybody is kung fu fighting.
Roth will produce with Strike Entertainment’s Marc Abraham and Eric Newman. RZA will also produce the soundtrack. The film shoots in September in Hong Kong at a budget under $20 million.
Roth, the Hostel helmer who made an acting splash playing the Bear Jew in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, doesn’t know if he will bring his baseball bat and play a part in this film, but said that Iron Fists was forged under the creative godfathering of Tarantino and has the stylized period vibe present in Kill Bill.
“It started with a trip RZA and I took with Quentin to Iceland in 2005,” Roth said. “We flew back, ended up snowed in in Boston, staying at my parents’ house in Newton. Turned out that my dad and RZA grew up in Brooklyn and went to the same Brownsville junior high school and swam in the same public pool. He hooked me on his dream of directing and reinventing the Kung Fu movie genre. It reminded me of my love of horror. RZA went to the set of Kill Bill, and got a master directing course from Quentin. Nothing was happening with the script, and I formed this company, Arcade, with Eric Newman, that made Last Exorcism, a film that comes out in August through Lionsgate. We were looking for projects and I suggested RZA’s script. I wrote the latest draft with him. While I was away shooting Inglourious Basterds, RZA went to China to shoot test footage on his own, with all the choreography. It was very visual and I think he will bring to life a script that mixes kung fu with a spaghetti Western mindset and a hip hop influence.
“RZA has imagined every tribe, every fighting style, every costume,” Roth said. “He knows kung fu like I know horror.”