Liu explains her interest in joining the venture: “For some time, Bobby and I have been in each other’s lives without intersecting. He wrote Oren Ishii’s theme song for Kill Bill. But when he sent me Iron Fists and I read it, I saw how connected it was to so many of my favorite old Chinese movies. Bobby formulated his own ideas and compiled them into this completely entertaining amalgam, which I thought was fantastic. This was a gigantic project for him to take on, and I’m thoroughly impressed and proud of him.”
The actress found her director a welcome partner in fleshing out one of the film’s leads. In earlier drafts of the script, Madam Blossom is killed by one of Jungle Village’s street urchins. Liu requested that her key fight scene be much more elevated and therefore more fun for the audience as well. She recalls: “As Bobby and I spoke more about the role, I said, ‘If I’m going to participate in this and we’re going to make it what I think this movie’s going to be, then we need to have her fight…and I’m talking a full-on fight. If she’s running this brothel and managing these women, then we should emphasize Madam Blossom’s strength, especially against the backdrop of all these men from different animal clans. He was really open and excited about it, and when I got to the set in China, the fight director choreographed this elaborate fight sequence with Cung Le to help feature her power.”
RZA appreciated the give-and-take with his lead actress. He says: “When I talked about the character with Lucy, she was adamant about representing the power of female energy. I told her she could be assured that female energy would be represented in this film. If you notice, we have the big statue of the Buddha, but then we also have the big statue of the Guan, which is the female representation. We know that it takes yin and yang to come together, so the Black Widows are that yin and yang energy; they’re not here to play. They are as pretty and innocent as you want them to be, until it’s time to protect their own.”
What is it like working with Russell Crowe, who plays Jack Knife, in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS?
Russell is really committed to everything he does. Whether it’s a small or big part, fictional or not, he is 100% there. And I think that he really went underwater for this character. He kind of developed the character as he was there and I think the fluidity of the script helped him. He’s somebody that is incredibly fluid.The script allowed him to morph into the character and understand more as he wenton and just got deeper into it.
We talked about the actual idea of the Black Widow and what the Black Widow represents. How she is actually quite loyal and that there are so many things behind the actual idea that it’s based on. So we took the personality of the spider itself and incorporated it into the background of the character. Originally, the character of Madame Blossom didn’t have much depth to her. One of the orphans kills her and she didn’t have a fight scene. She was kind of a cold blooded character. And I think it was understandable because it’s such a male driven movie, with male driven energy. Then RZA and I had a conversation about the idea to change Madame Blossom’s character a little bit and he agreed with me. Having a backdrop of her starting up as one of the urchin orphans and then working her way to becoming the Madame Blossom/Black Widow was her way of coming back and having revenge on all these men that mistreated her when she was younger. So my character changed completely and it’s funny because her placement in the movie didn’t change, but her action and dialogue completely changed. She became a very powerful person through that back history we gave her.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You could be working a fictional or non-fictional character. It could be campy or not campy, who knows what, but it helps to have a history so there is some believability when you play that character. It just makes it a lot more secure, even for the audience. If they feel like they have that, there’s a base. Even if it’s completely off the ground, there needs to be something to give foundation to that character. It helps you when you know why you’re saying or doing something, even if the audience doesn’t know what it is. It just gives you something to work off of.
Were you able to cast all the actors that you wanted in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS ?
I was just saying to some people how it was Bobby’s (RZA) project, but he made it “our” project. I think everyone that participated in it, including Russell, knows that RZA made it an “our” thing. He never made it as “this is what I’m thinking, this is what I want and you have to do it.” He allowed us to bring what he thought we were going to bring, which was something different and special and unique to the characters. In between takes, a lot of directors come in and nitpick, and Bobby (RZA) didn’t do that. He let you do your thing. If there was something that he wanted you to highlight, he would say, “Can we highlight this point because it has something to do with the plot.” From an artist’s perspective, he’s communicating what he thinks you need, but he doesn’t give you different greens. He’s like this is your palette can you make sure you use it any way you want. Normally, I think that directors feel the need to come up and tweak you every time, which can sometimes be an annoyance. And first time directors generally do that because they’re so concerned about not getting it right. RZA didn’t do that.
Originally, Russell and I never had a scene together. It was such a shame. Then that changed.We did have a scene together. It was brief but it was potent.
Released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp., “The Man With The Iron Fists” opens in theaters nationwide on January 30.