At one time in Hollywood, he was the “it” guy for action movies. He also was called upon for comedy and drama. He was tangible and believable. He was chiseled of granite and could kick some serious tail.
He was Wesley Snipes, and still is one of the most underrated stars of his generation.
What began in Wildcats (Trumaine), Major League (Willie Mays Hayes), and the iconic White Men Can’t Jump (Sidney Deane), became Passenger 57 (John Cutter), Demolition Man (Simon Phoenix), and the irrefutable genius of New Jack City (Nino Brown). When folk wanted to test is acting chops, Snipes does Sugar Hill (Roemello), Mo Better Blues (Shadow Henderson), and later in his career Brooklyn’s Finest (Caz).
Dude could do it all. And then in 1998, an idea came to him that was too irresistible to refuse. The movie was Blade. And with it, came the keys to the kingdom we now know as CBMs and the opportunity for superheroes to look different and not wear capes.
That flick still holds up! And while many of today’s comic book movie fans forget, Snipes is who we have to thank for any multiverse and hero of color. Anywhere.
Oh, and the movie — a comic book movie — was rated R. In 1998! (You’re welcome, Logan and Deadpool.)
Blade was a blood moon eclipse ahead of its time, only no one was wise enough to see why. It took the heart of a graphic novel series and hit CTRL + C to paste it in film.
At the time of this writing, the trendsetting daywalker turns 20 in movie years. THR did a brilliant write-up on Snipes to commemorate the platinum anniversary. In the details, some of us discover some pet project of Snipes that was turned down and led to the filming of Blade.
Today, we call that movie Black Panther.
“I think Black Panther spoke to me because he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans, African history and the great kingdoms of Africa,” Snipes tells THR. “It had cultural significance, social significance. It was something that the black community and the white community hadn’t seen before.”
Incidentally, while Chadwick Boseman’s demeanor, accent, and persona was majestic as T’Challa, his battle scenes could have been completely done by Snipes himself. You see, all those fighting scenes in some of the aforementioned movies, as well the Expendables or Art of War are all Snipes.
He’s a 5th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and a 2nd degree black belt in Hapkido.
And as someone who has studied Kempo for 20 years, I can tell you dude is the truth! He has studied many lines, disciplines, and schools of thought. (Yeah, I’m man-crushing a little.)
So, why not make Snipes the king of Wakanda? Easy. Folk weren’t ready.
“Black Panther is an iconic character who much of the world was unfamiliar with and the communities that I grew up in would love,” Snipes says. “Look, from the days of William Marshall playing Blacula in the 1970s black flicks and the fervor you found inside the black and Hispanic communities, it never crossed my mind that the audience wouldn’t be down with it.”
With Stan Lee’s blessing (“He was supportive of the Black Panther project at the time.”), Snipes was ready.
But right off the bat, there was an issue. The initial struggle, as Snipes explains, was explaining to the uninitiated that he was trying to make a movie about the comic book superhero Black Panther, not the 1960s civil rights revolutionaries. “They think you want to come out with a black beret and clothing and then there’s a movie,” he says, sounding exhausted.
The fascinating story goes on to mention Marvel secrets like Boyz N’ the Hood director John Singleton wanting to make T’Challa a civil rights advocate in the 1960s, having the king in tights, or the reminder of how Marvel was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Of course, Black Panther wasn’t made but Marvel still wanted Snipes. Enter into the fray, the vampire slayer.
Marvel wasn’t trying to sell merch or even cater to kids. They needed a hit that people would return to the theaters to see. The major domos at Marvel, including Stan Lee, understood staying true to the comic was the only way to bring this anti-hero to light.
And for a $45M budget, the movie made $70 million nationwide and has grossed more than $131 million globally. Again, a film that was even classified as ‘horror’. That made all that money.
(To think, someone in film production thought Blade should have been white?!)
It was this movie that allowed Logan to be so grim, so real. It was this movie that permitted Deadpool to become the Merc with a salty mouth. It was this movie that showed motion picture executives there was a small gold mine to be minted in comic books.
And it was that man who did it all. So, would you watch Blade 4? Snipes would.
“I am very much open to all of the possibilities,” Snipes says. “If Blade 4 comes along, that is a conversation we can have. And there are other characters in the Marvel universe that, if they want to invite me to play around with, I am with that too. I think the fans have a hunger for me to revision the Blade character, so that could limit where they could place me as another character in that universe.”
Remember all those films and all that talent? He’s still got it. Hopefully Marvel — or DC — will let him do it. You know, for old-time’s sake and for a new generation of all nerds.
And the random martial arts student too.