*Yes, he can lyrically slice and dice through his own rock-hard beats as a producer/rapper, but can pull a performance from an actor with the same efficiency?


What exactly made Rza of the Wu Tang Clan think he had the “chops” to direct a cast of seasoned veterans  – including an Academy Award winner – in a Kung Fu film that he also co-wrote?

“Having that level of talent trust me and us to have a mutual trust back and forth was a challenge,” admits the MC, who makes his directing debut with the Nov. 2 opening of “The Man with the Iron Fists,” co-starring Oscar winner and three-time nominee Russell Crowe.

“I’m not just playing with any old Joe Schmos,” Rza continues. “I got some of the best in the world coming to represent with me and you wanna protect that. You wanna protect that and make sure that everybody really feels comfortable that they’re not being made to be a buffoon or a joke.”

Rza directs Russell Crowe (L) in “The Man with the Iron Fists”

Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, Jamie Chung and Pam Grier also star in the action flick, which features Rza as The Blacksmith and follows his attempts to defend himself and his fellow villagers against a crew of assassins in feudal China. The humble Blacksmith takes them on with assistance from Zen Yi (Yune), the son of a warlord who sets out to avenge his father’s assassination;  and blade enthusiast Jack Knife (Crowe), a character inspired by late Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

“Russell is a master actor, there’s no question about that,” Rza told us during recent interviews for the film in Los Angeles. “But this particular character is fiction. [Crowe] went and did some research for the times and to find out how the British were and things of that nature. But ODB was the case study for the character. And you know how nasty Ol’ Dirty was.

“[ODB] was, I would say, the soul of Jack Knife, but Russell is a master actor. And whether he’s adding his ideas, or whether we’re giving him something to do spontaneous, he just syncs right in.”

Below, Rza, born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, explains how he as a first-time director was able to gain the trust of his experienced actors.