The leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA, marks directorial debut today with the martial arts film “The Man with the Iron Fists.”  The Grammy-Award-winning artist stars alongside Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu in the film, which is set in 19th century China and follows RZA’s character, the Blacksmith, as he protects his village from rebel warriors. Pam Grier appears briefly in the film as the Blacksmith’s mother, Jane, who sacrifices her freedom for her son’s happiness.

“Some people gotta go to college to study, I was able to study with masters,” the 45-year-old from Brooklyn told theGrio about his six years of training under the wings of iconic director Quentin Tarantino. “There’s a rhythm to filmmaking, there’s a rhythm to scenes there’s a rhythm to dialogue. He [Tarantino] pointed those things out to me and he also related those same rhythms to my music.”

Lucy Liu, who stars as Madam Blossom in “Iron Fists,” has worked with Tarantino on past films, but says RZA’s freshman directorial effort was “phenomenal.” “I just love that he was so trusting, that he had brought us together as a cast, and he allowed us to do what we wanted to do.”

During the production of “The Man with the Iron Fists,” RZA had up to 700 people working for him at some points, and he says he met the challenge of being a leader head-on. “Every question had to be   answered by me. Nobody made one move without getting an agreement or decision from the director. It’s a job that never quits; it still hasn’t quit.”

RZA says this film is just the beginning of his quest to take on Hollywood; he plans to bring more films to theaters in the near future.

“I’m gonna make some good movies for us. I’m gonna continue to make entertainment. To me hip-hop has went from mix-tapes to movies now, especially with a guy like me ushering it.”

Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC