Raekwon on Why RZA Turned Down Leonardo DiCaprio-Produced Wu-Tang Clan Biopic

According to Raekwon, he and RZA didn't see eye to eye at the time about which format—TV or film—would be the best for telling the group's story.

Raekwon performs in front of fans.

Image via Getty/Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Raekwon performs in front of fans.

Raekwon reflects on his push for a Leonardo DiCaprio-backed biopic about the Wu-Tang Clan in his new book, revealing that it was RZA who ultimately wasn’t supportive of the would-be project.

“RZA had been talking about a Wu-Tang movie ever since he got involved in Hollywood,” Raekwon said in a Rolling Stone-shared excerpt from his and Anthony Bozza’s From Staircase to Stage. For Rae, a boost in inspiration and a vision for the group’s cinematic ambition came with the success of director F. Gary Gray’s N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton. At the time, per Raekwon, the Chef and RZA were in disagreement over whether a film or a series made more sense for telling the Wu story. 

RZA, meanwhile, had “allegedly received a production offer” amounting to $10 million. After RZA insisted this wasn’t enough to get the ball rolling, Raekwon says he argued that it could have been a solid starting point. From there, it was agreed that Rae would try to land a higher value deal using his own industry connections.

“First thing I did was call my brother Q-Tip, who told me he’d get me in touch with Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a real close friend of his and a big Wu fan,” Raekwon wrote. This call spurred a meeting with Rae, Tip, and DiCaprio (as well as his then-girlfriend) at what the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx artist described as an “old mafioso-looking pizza spot” in Brooklyn. 

The meeting went well, with the Oscar-winner’s production company execs reaching out afterward to take it “to the next level.” The goal, according to Raekwon, was to craft an “even bigger” film than Straight Outta Compton. After RZA was informed of the deal, he agreed to take a meeting with the top execs at DiCaprio’s company. At this meeting, the company revealed it was prepared to bring “pretty much everything” to the table in terms of getting the project off the ground.

While RZA, in Raekwon’s opinion, wasn’t “comfortable” during this meeting, a subsequent one-on-one after the execs left had him convinced all was well. Another meeting was arranged with the intention of formally closing the deal, though RZA had an “entirely different” energy when showing up. 

“He barely said anything and seemed to be going through the motions, nothing more,” Raekwon said. “I could tell he wasn’t going to agree to do it, and my instincts told me why: my guess is that he was already in bed with a production company, deep into developing the scripted series for TV, even though none of us had signed off on it.”

After the meeting, Raekwon recalled, he was angry but “didn’t spaz” on RZA. Still, he said he was hurt by his friend and collaborator having entered the meeting knowing he would never close the deal. “This bullshit hurt my feelings because it proved to me that he’d already counted me out before I began,” he said.

Raekwon’s 320-page From Staircase to Stage: The Story of Raekwon and the Wu-Tang Clan is out now. To read more, head here.

Meanwhile, Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga series—co-created by RZA and Alex Tse—was confirmed last month to have been renewed for a third and final season. The second season wrapped back in October with the Mario Van Peebles-directed episode “As High as Wu-Tang Gets,” which opened with a depiction of the shoot for the “Protect Ya Neck” video.

Surrounding the series’ premiere in 2019, Complex’s Lei Takanashi spoke with costume designer Marci Rodgers about curating the show’s array of vintage ‘90s pieces. Revisit that piece here.

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