Raekwon released his new memoir From Staircase to Stage: The Story of Raekwon and Wu-Tang Clan on Tuesday (November 30). In an excerpt published by Rolling Stone, he explained that the success of N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton biopic inspired him to have Wu-Tang Clan’s story told on the big screen, but RZA had other plans.
“We had a great time, eating pizza, telling stories, laughing and shit,” he explained. “Then we started talking about the possibility of a Wu-Tang movie and I told Leo I’d love to see him play a role in it, anything he wanted to do. He talked about his production company and all the directors he thought might do a great job — and these were big names and people he’d worked with.
“He was super open to the idea, and after that meal, he had his production company executives reach out to me. We took it to the next level with them. They were very interested, so we got the ball rolling, talking real numbers, with the goal of an even bigger release than Straight Outta Compton.”
Raekwon couldn’t wait to “blow RZA’s mind” with the news that DiCaprio was ready to raise all the money for a movie — provided every Wu-Tang member was on board. RZA agreed to meet with executives, but Raekwon says he looked uncomfortable from the get-go.
“I’ve known the guy for years and seen him act all kinds of ways, and in that moment, I saw him playing a role,” he said. “He sat there, taking it in, watching to see how far I could get. At the end of the meeting, without emotion, he just said, ‘Okay, I’ll get back to you,’ and Leo’s people left. I sat there with my index finger to my temple, elbow on my armrest, leaning back in the chair, staring at him.”
Raekwon tried to explain to RZA how big of an opportunity he felt it was and thought they left the conversation on a positive note. They ended up setting up another meeting that could potentially close the deal, but he sensed RZA’s attitude had changed.
“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.”
RZA apparently argued a series would be a better way to tell their story, that it would be around longer and that streaming was the way to go rather than movie theaters. On the other hand, Raekwon had his heart set on a Leonardo DiCaprio-backed film.
“There ain’t no way Hollywood’s biggest talent going to sign up for a Wu-Tang TV show,” he told RZA. “But a major motion picture produced by Leo with a top-tier director? Yeah, that they might do. So stop frontin’.”
Raekwon admits he had tears in his eyes after leaving RZA that day, knowing that any potential deal was off the cards.
“This bullshit hurt my feelings because it proved to me that he’d already counted me out before I began,” he said. “He didn’t think I could bring that kind of power to the table, but I’d gotten them there, all ready to rock and roll. They were excited and connected, so with the snap of a finger they could have gotten the ball rolling for real.”