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RZA Talks ‘Brick Mansions,’ Paul Walker and ‘The Last Dragon’ Remake

April 25, 2014
RZA 2

A drug kingpin must rock a gold glock

Whether it’s trying his hand at directing and screenwriting like he did last year with the action movie The Man with the Iron Fists, remaking a martial arts film like The Last Dragon, which some consider a classic, or hashing out internal conflict with fellow Wu-Tang Clan members to get a new album out by this summer, hip-hop performer/producer and actor RZA is ready for any and all challenges. In his new film Brick Mansions, a remake of the 2004 French action movie District 13, RZA plays Tremaine Alexander, a drug kingpin who kidnaps the girlfriend of an ex-con (David Belle) who inhabits the same dystopian Detroit housing project he does. Along with an angry, Parkour-trained boyfriend, Tremaine is also sought out by a cop (Paul Walker, in his final full film performance) looking to avenge his father’s death.

Paul Walker (1973-2013): ‘Fast & Furious’ Star Dies in Car Crash 

During an interview with the Current, RZA talked about how Parkour reminds him of the street culture he grew up around in New York City, working side by side with the late Paul Walker and why he thinks remaking a martial arts film like The Last Dragon is giving the consumer what they want.

What was it like watching Parkour co-founder David Belle doing his thing on the set of Brick Mansions? It must’ve looked unreal to see what he is able to do with his body.

Oh, yeah, he’s got it down pat. [David] has mastered that craft. It was cool watching him do his own stunts on the set. For me, coming from hip-hop, break dancing was something I knew coming from the streets of New York. Kids would get cardboard boxes and spin on their heads. Parkour, to me, is like modern break dancing for the French.

So, do you think we should start considering break dancing a form of martial arts now?

Yeah, it’s street culture. [Break dancing] can be considered a martial art now. It’s a training tactic. It’s funny to think about how things were started by people in the neighborhood just using their environment to entertain and push themselves. I guess the first guy that did it was probably hanging on the roof thinking, “I wonder if I could jump and make it to the other roof” and went for it. (Laughs) It’s not an easy sport. To me, it’s about conquering your fears and having faith in what you can do as a person. Those guys are really brave. There’s something really hip-hop about it.

Were you tempted to at least try one Parkour move to see if you could do it?

Well, I wasn’t like, “Hey, let me jump through that window!” (Laughs) I was cool. My character didn’t have to do a lot of jumping. He had his golden gun. It was kind of cool to avoid some of those crazy stunts. As an actor you find yourself trying things you normally wouldn’t do and accomplish some of your fears. If [Parkour] was something that was part of my character, then I would’ve engaged. But I was very, very comfortable and happy to leave the Parkour to David and his crew this time.

Do you enjoy playing the antagonist as much as you do the hero like you were in your last film The Man with the Iron Fists?

Yeah, I think getting a chance to play the character Tremaine Alexander was good for me. When I first started out in hip-hop during the early Wu-Tang days, I was always about bringing the ruckus. Over the years, I think I’ve become very humble as a person. As an actor, you put on different pants and different shoes and go out there and portray different personalities. That’s what Tremaine was for me. It was a chance for me to get a little more rugged and capture that energy on the screen. It felt good to let that energy out.

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