RZA: 'Wheels Are in Motion' on ODB Biopic

"I just saw a 12-minute teaser ... shot about a year ago and it felt pretty fucking cool," Wu-Tang Clan producer says

Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA says the "wheels are in motion" for a long-rumored Ol' Dirty Bastard biopic Credit: Getty (2)

For years, rumors of a biopic based on the life on unpredictable Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard have been circulating through Hollywood. Now, a movie penned by the rapper's cousin dating back to 2011 may finally see the light of day.

"I think it's a great idea, and there has been talk about it. There are a few wheels in motion with one done by our first cousin Rayshawn; he was the young guy there watching everything that happened," RZA tells Rolling Stone. "Him and ODB's wife have been talking and he has a pretty interesting script. I just saw a 12-minute teaser that he shot about a year ago and it felt pretty fucking cool. I watched it and was like, 'Wow, you may have something here.' He has the best thing that I've seen so far."

Rayshawn originally asked RZA to direct the film, but the producer says he's ambivalent about being heavily involved in the project.

"I wouldn't mind not doing it and I wouldn't mind doing it," he admits. "From the age of six, me and [ODB] used to push shopping carts around grocery stores and try to get nickels. There are very few people who know the real him as much as me. So it would be something that I would be honored to do, but there's a lot of moving parts to it. If those moving parts don't go in sync with me, I'll still be on it just to see it happen, talk to whoever's doing it and give them my interviews or whatever they need to help make this story as great as possible." 

The Wu-Tang producer and The Man With the Iron Fists director is currently prepping two new directorial projects: the hip-hop drama Coco, set for release later this year with Common, Jill Scott and Azealia Banks, and Breakout, an action-thriller about a father who concocts a scheme to break his falsely accused son out of prison.

After years of false ODB film starts, RZA says the massive success of N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton makes it a better landscape for other hip-hop-themed films.

"Straight Outta Compton showed that hip-hop is a marketplace in cinema," says the producer. "I always believed that the art we was creating was audio-visual, and it was headed towards visual-audio. And that's why you see me in this world — my own heart drove me here — and I'm glad that a movie like that breaks out and does such numbers that it's almost undeniable. It showed that with the proper team and marketing, many of us out here who grew up on this music would love to see the inside makings of those stories."

Details on the ODB biopic, including production schedule and casting, have yet to be revealed (Eddie Griffin and Tracy Morgan were reportedly both in the running to play the rapper, though neither men are currently attached to the project). For RZA, a film on his cousin and Wu-Tang groupmate would cement a legacy cut short when the rapper died in 2004 of a drug-induced heart attack.

"An apple tree just grows up as a tree first," RZA says. "If you cut it down, it's just wood. But if it continues to grow, it produces fruit, and then it grows even more and that fruit will fall off the tree and produce more trees. But somebody like ODB, Pac or Biggie were strong trees that were cut down early, so we didn't get a chance to see the full blossom of what they would've done."