The rapper, producer and actor will be working from a screenplay by John Milius, the writer and director of 1982 fantasy epic Conan the Barbarian (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is also known for his work on Apocalypse Now and Dirty Harry. Milius, a colourful Hollywood character who was the inspiration for John Goodman's unhinged Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski, has been trying to get the project off the ground for several years and was at one point lined up to direct.
Khan's empire lasted a century and a half and eventually covered nearly a quarter of the Earth. His Mongol armies were responsible for the massacre of as many as 40 million people, and his name remains a byword for brutality and terror. Milius's screenplay reportedly tells the story from the point of view of the emperor's son and grandson. The film is due to shoot in China next year.
RZA, who rose to fame in the 90s as the leader of hip-hop outfit Wu-Tang Clan, has moved into film-making via score writing and acting. The Man with the Iron Fists, on which he also makes his screenwriting debut (working with co-writer Eli Roth), is a martial arts film set in 19th-century China. RZA also stars, along with Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Byron Mann, Rick Yune, David Bautista, and Jamie Chung. The movie is due in cinemas in the US this weekend and arrives in the UK on 7 December.
As well as the long-gestating Genghis Khan epic, RZA is also tipped to direct action thriller No Man's Land, described as influenced by cult 1979 film The Warriors. The screenplay by Trey Ellis and David Klass takes place over one night and centres on a man who steals a powerful criminal's diamond that "proves to be far more valuable than initially thought".
The story of Khan was notably brought to the big screen in the critically acclaimed Mongol: The Rise to power of Genghis Khan in 2007. Another version is the 1956 Dick Powell epic The Conqueror, starring a famously miscast John Wayne as the warrior chieftain.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk