Rick Yune Talks The X-Blade in The Man with the Iron Fists, in theaters this Friday, November 2nd
The Wu Tang Clan's RZA makes his directorial debut and takes a lead role in the kung fu epic The Man with the Iron Fists, which is a direct throwback to the hard-kicking action flicks of the 70s and 80s. In the film, RZA joins forces with two fighters played by Russell Crowe and Rick Yune to protect a treasure of gold sought by the lethal combatants of a number of clans hungry for wealth and lots of blood.
We recently caught up with Rick Yune to find out more about his character Zen Yi, The X-Balde. Here is our conversation.
Who are you playing in this movie?
Rick Yune: They call my character the X-Blade. Essentially, he is the son of a warlord. He has been given the task of transporting gold through the roughest town in futile China. That gold is threatened. Myself, RZA's character (The Blacksmith), and Russell Crowe's character (Jackknife) come together, and we have to save the town, and save the day. It is so many different things all at once. If I were to step back and say one thing, its that RZA made the Kung Fu Avengers.
So you are one of the good guys?
Rick Yune: Yes! He is up in the mountains, and he is getting married. Then he gets called back because his father gets killed. This guy has to save the day.
So we never see you fighting Russell or RZA on screen?
Rick Yune: No. In fact, a lot of the movie deals with just Russell Crowe and I, fighting the bad guys. The script changed. Initially, Russell's character was supposed to be the bad guy, but there were some adjustments that happened. I don't want to give anything away, but this is for the better. Ultimately, the characters that appeal most to people nowadays are the guys that are more like Han Solo than Luke Skywalker, if you know what I mean.
How was this experience of working with RZA as a director a little different than anybody else you've worked with?
Rick Yune: First of all, the guy is extremely talented, creatively. His genius comes from bringing the best out of people. I have never seen anything like it. He has this amazing quality to be able to empathize with anybody. Whether it be age, culture, background, or race. Here is a guy from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island that has never directed a film, ever. The first time he does direct a film, he has to do it in a country where no one has ever seen a black man before. Most of the people there hadn't seen a black person before. He was in charge of a 600 crew over there. It was amazing. Everyone banded together and rose to the cause. It wasn't one of these shoots where everything was supposed to go their own way. But for whatever reason, every single thing worked out. I think it is because he has the confidence, and the trust in these people that are around him, to see things through.
What was your reaction to the trailers and footage when you first saw it?
Rick Yune: You have to think about this. RZA was one of the pioneers of a five billion dollar industry. Right? He helped create hip-hop. He brought together a group of guys that couldn't be more different from each other, and created a movement. That is what he is doing here, with Iron Fists. This is essentially a group of buddies that come together, and create a new wave in this type of genre.
Can you talk about your fighting style in the film?
Rick Yune: Yes. Essentially, there is a different essence to everyone in the story. They have to bring their own essence to their own character that they are playing. Ultimately, I have to bring myself to the elements of who X-Blade is, and how he fought. The way he was able to overcome the challenges he faced. It was a challenging shoot in the fact that there were no rehearsals. I was working with the number one stunt team in all of China. The guys that worked on The Matrix. And The Transporter series. Hundreds of films. They invented that whole Chinese opera with Jackie Chan. So, that was amazing. When you are surrounded by the best, your game kicks up as well. So, it was challenging and amazing. We saw it through.
When you have RZA on set, who is a walking encyclopedia of Kung Fu movies, and you are in the midst of shooting, are there moments when you pull back and say, "That has been done, let's change it up!" Or, "Here's a chance to pay homage to one of the great fights that people may have forgotten about."
Rick Yune: I don't think we ever tried to bite off anybody's movies. That was to be avoided. We wanted to bring a whole new style to this. That was our style. Obviously, you can't reinvent the wheel. But with everything that was going on, the different elements, and the guys we had working on the movie, the focus was to make this our own. To bring something new to the audience. Which I think we did.
How much of an influence did Quentin Tarantino have on the film?
Rick Yune: Quentin Tarantino and RZA have been friends for years. He helped RZA build a foundation, and expand on the foundation that he already had. RZA was working with Quentin Tarantino on Kill Bill, in terms of the music. But he was also on set a lot, studying and understanding the different elements, and how to make a film like this. Ultimately, RZA brought his own style to it. That's the style that helped launch hip-hop. Its also the style that you will see launch this new genre.
Does RZA bring music onto the set while you guys are fighting?
Rick Yune: You know, that is an interesting question. We created a vibe before we starting shooting. There was only a few of us from the states. Because we all had the same connection with RZA, we tried to put our differences aside and see things through his eyes. We all took into consideration, as well, that this was his first shot. Everyone put their own needs and desires to the wayside, to make sure he got what he needed. When you have a good group of people coming together like that, it's a vibe, and it has nothing to do with the external.
Are you guys planning a trilogy with these films?
Rick Yune: Yes. It is pretty exciting where it leaves off. There is going to be a continuation of it. RZA and I are going to be working on some different films as well. As you may have heard coming out of Comic-Con, there is a company being built with Reginald Hudlin, and he is also working with Quentin Tarantino on Django Unchained. It's pretty exciting when a new group of filmmakers come together and form an alliance. To be a part of that is something that is a dream come true.
Do you feel this first movie is a stand alone movie?
Rick Yune: It should be considered as both. Because there is gong to be a continuation. Its being decided now on whether to leave a hint as to what that continuation will be at the end of the film.
In terms of the other movies you are working on with RZA, are you guys staying within the kung fu genre?
Rick Yune: We're open. It's really based on the characters and stories. The action is ancillary. For myself, I can go to a movie and see all the great action in the world. But if I don't connect with the characters, I am not drawn into the whole experience. So, we are looking to find good characters and good stories.