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Director Chris Marrs Piliero on RZA/Black Keys "Baddest Man Alive"

Does anyone remember the big-budget soundtrack video? Aside from the occasional Twilight or Hunger Games tie-in, they've largely gone the way of soundtrack albums, made somewhat irrelvant by the post-iTunes "why buy compilations when you can buy singles" marketplace.

The interesting thing about soundtrack videos was they'd usually have a top-notch director, a generous budget, and then they would saddle it with a requirement that a certain percentage of it had to be film footage. The simple way out was just to intersperse movie clips with band performance, but there are other ways to work that footage into a narrative.

Director Chris Marrs Piliero places the movie action on a TV in an Asian restaurant, leaving enough room for for some equally bad ass action sequences in "The Baddest Man Alive."

Chris Marrs Pilero, director: We were dealing with a tight schedule for the Keys and RZA so initially the intention was to have the video be heavy on movie footage with a small concept spaced throughout. Everyone involved throughout the process was awesome and vocalized their trust in my edit and basically said to do whatever I felt was best and appropriate. Since I was able to capture a full narrative, it felt weird to cut to the footage beyond the shots of it on the TV sets so I submitted it and spoke with RZA on the phone about it and he was on the same page and everyone else agreed.

The Baddest Man Alive
 

Videostatic: The old man almost steals the video. Almost.

Chris: George Cheng is amazing. He's definitely a contender for stealing the video. His delivery is perfect

VS: That last line kills it. Was he an actor? Or is there an interesting backstory?

Chris: He is an actor, but there is an interesting backstory to that final scene. It almost didn't happen. Originally I had written in a possible cameo from Russell Crowe at the end, but that wasn't able to happen. So I was on the phone with my brother Don brainstorming ideas to try to think of an alternative and that's what we came up with. It worked out well, actually, it worked out even better because George's delivery on all of his lines are awesome.

VS: George is a star, here.

Chris: Yup. I also love how RZA calls him George in the video.

VS: Was that just spontaneous?

Chris: Kind of. I was saying George's name so much that RZA and Dan and Patrick started using his name too, so RZA just naturally said it in his first take and I liked it so I had him continue doing so.

VS: RZA is also great in this video.

Chris: His smile when he uses the waitress's shirt as a napkin is perfect.  RZA was awesome... So were the Keys. Dan and Patrick showed up ready to dive right in and nailed it. They delivered some amazing facial expressions in this sucker. I love the intensity in Dan's face when he grabs RZA, and in Patrick's when he chucks the chopsticks... ha... so good.

VS: Was RZA specific on the tone he wanted here? We're used to the Black Keys being comedic, but RZA is usually perceived as being more serious (unfairly, perhaps).

Chris: There was no brief, but he wanted it to be fun and comedic. We just got on the phone and talked it out. He wanted to slap one of the guys with a fish and I wanted a dude's arm to be ripped off for no apparent reason. It was really cool brainstorming with the Wu-Tang leader. We got along swimmingly. That's a phrase that isn't used enough... RZA and I got along quite swimmingly. Good times.

Tommy Labuda The Black Keys & RZA
"Baddest Man Alive" (Soul Temple/Universal)

Chris Marrs Piliero, director | Andrew Lerios, producer | Marrs Attacks, production co | Labuda Management, rep | Nicholas Wiesnet, DP

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