BSO Interview: RZA Talks Brick Mansions, Paul Walker & Athletes as Rappers
In a dystopian Detroit, abandoned brick mansions left from better times now house only the most dangerous criminals. Unable to control the crime, the police constructed a colossal containment wall around this area to protect the rest of the city. Undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker) is determined to bring his father’s killer, Tremaine (RZA) to justice and every day is a battle against corruption. For Lino (David Belle), every day is a fight to live an honest life. Their paths never should have crossed, but when Tremaine kidnaps Lino’s girlfriend, Damien reluctantly accepts the help of the fearless ex-convict, and together they must stop a sinister plot to devastate the entire city. With stylized action featuring thrilling Parkour stunts (David Belle is the co-founder of this physical training discipline), Brick Mansions puts an entertaining twist on the action genre.
Robert Littal had an opportunity to speak to the legendary RZA about Brick Mansions, Paul Walker, WU-Tang Clan and Athletes trying to be rappers.
RL: How did you become involved in the project and tell us a little bit about your character Tremaine Alexander.
RZA: About two years ago I was sent the screenplay and was really interested in the character Tremaine. Tremaine is a ghetto warlord who controls the drugs in Detroit. Paul Walker’s character Damien has a vendetta against against my character because I killed his father. Then you have David Bell’s character Lino who is like a Ghetto Robin Hood who took 20 kilos from Tremaine. So, you have these three unique individuals bringing a unique dynamic to the movie.
RL: How similar is the movie to your own upbringing in New York?
RZA: We saw this activity all the time in Brooklyn and Staten Island. This one particular drug lord Dusty had a positive and negative influence on me. He was a drug lord, but for us who didn’t have fathers or male role models he was like a hero to us. He use to look out for us, give us clothes, money and jobs.
He would bring these dope rap shows to the hood. He brought Rakim and KRS1 to our neighborhood and that was like our Super Bowl. He was a bad guy, but we looked up to him and he taught us how to be entrepreneurs. My character Tremaine is a smart guy and even though he is ruthless. I think when you watch Tremaine throughout the movie at some points you will see him as a good guy and other times a bad guy. I thought about Dusty often while doing the role and really used those memories from my youth to help flesh out Tremaine.
RL: Tell us about your experience with Paul Walker?
RZA: He was a good man, I didn’t know him long, but we became immediate friends. He was good father and I had a whole lot of respect for him. He had one of those smiles, that you couldn’t help but smile yourself when you were around him. He wasn’t a fake hollywood guy, he was real all the time. The smile and warmth was real. He was a great loss to us, but you will enjoy his work in this movie, he was a phenomenal actor.
RL: Wu-Tang was ahead of the game when it came to branding, but did you ever think you would find yourself acting and directing when WU first started to blow up?
RZA: Early on I didn’t think I would be an actor. I became the Abbot of the WU because the other brothers saw it in me to be the leader. Harvey Weinstein got me into the movie business he thought I was a natural, he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I thought Method Man was going to be the Wu-Tang guy making films for the next 20 years, so I was surprised someone thought I had natural talent. You look at me now and I am directing films and have all of these acting projects. It is funny how life works, some things are plans and some things just happen.
RL: A lot of times rappers are typecasted in movie roles, but you are versatile, why do you think that is?
RZA: When I was making alter egos like Bobby Digital and other personas it really set me up for my acting. I dial into all those alter egos. Whatever the role, I feel like I have an alter ego for it and just have to pull it out of me.
RL: The saying goes all ballers want to be rappers and all rappers want to be ballers, what are your thoughts on that?
RZA: I knew I didn’t have the physical coordination to do sports. But, there are direct correlations between entertainers and athletes. They way we are wired are the same, the competition, drive, natural gifts, desire to be great and I can go on and on. But, here is the difference an athlete can have some nice lyrics, but just like I can’t go to NBA because I have a nice jumper, athletes can’t be on the level of Jay Z, Nas, Raekwon, RZA and etc because they don’t devote their life to it. Someone like Ghostface been perfecting his craft since he was in crib, so it is silly to think someone who just does it as a hobby could be on an elite rapper level.
RL: Wu-Tang is recording new music, but there will be only 1 copy, tell us how you came up with that idea.
RZA: The concept of music being works of art is something that I has talked and thought about for years. But, it was a student of mine that came up with the idea of the one record. I was thinking about the artistic nature of music, but my student was the teacher in this case. He was the one who pointed out that real artwork is only valuable if it isn’t duplicated. There is only one Mona Lisa, only one Michaelangelo David you know? So, what happens if you just made one disc of music to be passed around the world like King Tut’s tomb? It’s a masterpiece.
RL: When people leave the theatre after watching Brick Mansions how well they feel?
RZA: They are going to be entertained. It is also going to be an emotional roller coaster especially since this was the final film Paul completely fully. There are some oooh and ahhh moments for sure, but more than anything else they will be entertained.
Brick Mansions opens in Theatres April 25th, watch the trailer below.