The RZA Explains Why Ridley Scott Is “One of the Greatest Brains” He Ever Saw Work

     August 31, 2020


As we discussed during his recent Collider Connected interview, The RZA has had the opportunity to learn from some mighty accomplished directors over the years, in particular Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch. But even with their influence, all three of The RZA’s films show off great range, ambition and personal style.

Cut Throat City focuses on four friends living in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. After Hurricane Katrina, their neighborhood is left in ruins and they’re not getting the help they need from FEMA. With no other options, they strike a deal with a local gangster that requires them to rob a casino. 

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Image via Well Go USA Entertainment

While talking about one especially impressive shot in the movie, The RZA spoke a bit about his process on set and how many takes he likes to get: 

“I have a number in my head. If it gets passed X amount of numbers, I know I’ve gotta move. I have an editor’s mind, so I can know that take one, four and two have the elements that I need and then I can just [go] in and say, ‘Let me get one pick-up.’”

Turns out, having that editor’s mind also affords The RZA the luxury to let his actors play and still find exactly what he needs in those more impromptu takes. Here’s an example of that happening on the set of Cut Throat City with Ethan Hawke and Terrence Howard:

“There’s a great scene with Terrence and Ethan that I had to try to define their relationship, and it wasn’t written. And we kept doing the scene, and the scene plays well, but I was like, ‘It doesn’t seem like you guys know each other.’ And so what I did, I just told the DP, ‘I’m gonna roll the camera. I wanna talk to them real quick.’ And I just told them, ‘Look, guys, why don’t you guys just tell each other your best joke!’ And they started going back and forth, and they kind of got open! After a while, it’s two jokes a piece and they were saying some f*cking funny shit. One joke was so funny that everybody laughed and they laughed, and the camera was rolling and it was like, okay, that is what I need for the intro of the scene because once you see that, you’re gonna realize these guys are friends.”

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Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

The RZA credits Tarantino and Jarmusch with this ability to edit in his mind while filming, but that’s not all. Ridley Scott also played a significant part in RZA acquiring the skill to see everything he’s getting on set:

“And I’ve got to tell you, one of the greatest brains I ever saw work is Ridley Scott. Ridley Scott has – he should coin this – he has multi-vision, okay? Not a lot of humans have this. He can see multiple things at the same time. And I witnessed him do it. I talked to him about it. He has it at level 10. He gave me a little bit of it. I’ve got it around level four.”

As you might be able to tell, The RZA is a filmmaker with a deep appreciation for the history of cinema, studying the work of other’s and also honing his own craft. I could have listened to him discuss this passion all day long, but I still feel mighty lucky to have had the opportunity to chat with him about his journey as a director for 45 minutes. For more stories about Tarantino, Jarmusch, and his experience making Cut Throat City, Love Beats Rhymes and The Man with the Iron Fists, click here to watch the full interview.

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