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MMA Fighter Cung Le Talks Working with RZA

The Man With the Iron Fists is out on DVD this week.




How did you get involved in the project?
RZA invited me to come down to his music studio to talk about the film. I’d never met him before, I hadn’t read the script yet, and really all I knew was the title and that it was a martial arts movie. As soon as we met he told me he’d love for me to play Bronze Lion and just broke down the character and the story. Before I left he said, "Let’s have a handshake," you know, to confirm that I’m part of the project. I shook his hand and committed myself right then and there, before talking to my agent or reading the script.

No regrets, right?
No, not at all! I checked out his IMDB before the meeting so I knew he had worked on films before and I’ve always been a Wu-Tang Clan fan. Then when I got on set I learned that Quentin Tarantino had been mentoring RZA for six years, so I was like, let’s go!

As a pro MMA fighter, is it hard to hold back during fight scenes with actors?
I started out in traditional martial arts, so I think I have great control when it comes to striking. I mean, when I spar with my sparring partners I can’t hit them too hard, otherwise I’d be out of partners!

Was there anyone in particular you were hoping to square off against in the film?
Well I was supposed to fight Russell Crowe, but when he got on set RZA came up to me and said, “Brother Cung, I have good news and I have bad news.” The bad news was that Russell only had 10 work days, which wasn’t enough time to learn the fight choreography. The good news was I’d be fighting Lucy Liu instead, which I was totally fine with!

She looks like a real badass in the movie.
She’s amazing. In one scene she was supposed to clear this big wooden chair but she crashed right into. Everyone was like, "Oh my God, are you OK? Should we bring in the stunt person?” And she was just like, “No, l can clear this chair. Let’s do it again.” So lots of respect to her.

Any other memorable on-screen fights?
Actually one of the best sequences I’ve had was in Fighting, a film I did a few years ago with Channing Tatum. In one scene he was supposed to finish me with a rear end choke and I told him, look, just flex, don’t sink you forearms into my throat. But I guess in the moment he really started to do that. My natural reaction is to tap out, but I’m like, no, I can’t do that in a movie! Next thing I know it was darkness and I suddenly woke up like, where am I?

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