What the Hell Happened to Wesley Snipes?

Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes

At the top of his career, Wesley Snipes was an A-list action star who could also cross-over into comedy and drama as he saw fit.  Few actors can claim the kind of cross-genre success Snipes enjoyed.  But all that ended amid very public legal entanglements that ultimately landed Snipes in jail with a three-year sentence for failing to file tax returns.

If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this: No matter what anyone else tells you, you still need to file your taxes.


Wesley Snipes – Wildcats – 1986

Snipes made his screen debut opposite future co-star Woody Harrelson in the 1986 Goldie Hawn football comedy, Wildcats.  Amazingly, Wildcats was also Harrelson’s big screen debut.  Years later, the two would reunite as box office stars for two more films.  But here, they were both unkowns.

Wildcats is your typical Goldie Hawn comedy following the formula that was successful with Private Benjamin to lesser results.  Instead of the army, Wildacts finds plucky Hawn as the unlikely coach of an inner city high school football team.

Snipes and Harrelson became friends while filming Wildcats:

Most of the cats in Wildcats were black. Woody was only supposed to be in the movie early on, but Goldie liked him and he ended up with more and more scenes. We thought it was white favoritism. One of the football players, a Muslim from the Nation in Chicago, would whip on Woody every day. Woody couldn’t take it and came to me, “Look, man, what is all this black shit? Why’s he saying I’m the Devil? Do you think I’m the Devil?” We ended up with a friendship from that.

No one expects a movie like Wildcats to be good.  And it wasn’t.  It was the kind of bland, harmless comedy Hawn was known for in those days.  As Roger Ebert noted in his review:

Wildcats is clearly an attempt by Hawn to repeat a formula that was wonderfully successful in Private Benjamin: Wide-eyed Goldie copes with the real world. It was less successful in Protocol, and now it’s worn out altogether.

Wildcats opened in fourth place at the box office behind The Delta Force proving that even with the assistance of Snipes and Harrelson, Hawn was no match for Chuck Norris.

snipes - streets of gold

Wesley Snipes – Streets of Gold – 1986

Later that year, Snipes followed up Wildcats with another sports movie.

Klaus Maria Brandauer starred as a Russian immigrant who was denied the opportunity to join the Soviet national boxing team because he was Jewish.  When he comes to the US, he ends up coaching boxers played by Snipes and Adrian Pasdar.

At the time of the movie’s release, Brandauer was the star.  But later video releases would emphasize Snipes’ supporting role.

Critics complained that Streets of Gold was overly formulaic.  Roger Ebert lamented that the movie ultimately fell into the Rocky trap:

Streets of Gold is a movie that begins with a story that’s genuinely interesting. But then it gradually loses confidence and starts to depend on clichés, and by the last 20 minutes it’s on automatic pilot. Too bad, because this could have been a good one.

The boxing drama opened in ninth place at the box office behind Stand By Me which had been in theaters for 15 weeks by that point.  It barely edged out Top Gun which had been playing for more than six months!

Wesley Snipes - Miami Vice - 1986

Wesley Snipes – Miami Vice – 1986

Meanwhile (yes, we are still in 1986!) Snipes was also paying his dues on TV.  Most notably, he played a pimp on the 80’s TV sensation, Miami Vice.  Bill Paxton also appeared in the episode as a cop who falls in love with one of Snipes’ working girls.

Around this time, Snipes was also in consideration for the role of Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Proving that sometimes things work out for the best, the role ultimately went to LeVar Burton.

Wesley Snipes - 501 Blues Commercial - 1986

Wesley Snipes – 501 Blues Commercial – 1986

In 1986, we all had a bad case of the blues – the 501 blues that is!  Snipes had contracted a worse case than most.  His love of Levi’s blue jeans had him dancing down the street and losing his hat in this 1986 commercial.

Next: Bad and Major League


Posted on August 4, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 121 Comments.

  1. 10 Actors Who Just Stopped Trying

    Wesley Snipes

    Though he was always willing to put at least the minimum amount of effort into filming his fight scenes, Wesley Snipes had delegated less than 4 percent of his energy into making his body say and do things that resemble a human being capable of presenting naturalistic emotions.

    If Patton Oswalt is to be believed (and when is he not?), Wesley Snipes could not have given fewer s–ts on the set of Blade: Trinity, basically scowling his way to an easy paycheck and making the rest of the cast and crew miserable by refusing to take simple cues from the director.

    Snipes’ reason for cashing in his acting chips apparently stems from his giant ego, which might actually win a kickboxing match with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s at this point.

    He’s only made a couple of films since Blade: Trinity that weren’t direct-to-video martial arts-a-thons, and one of them was the gleefully self-referential Expendables 3, where Snipes’ only job was to show up and play himself (tax evasion and all). Hopefully his respectable, bit performance in the 2015 Spike Lee joint Chi-Raq is a sign of things to come, but it’s just as likely a single, last-ditch effort to prove to himself that he’s capable of trying again.


  2. Wesley Snipes

    I’ve been on a Snipes kick of late, and journeying through his glorious 90’s run has reminded me of how wonderful a movie star he was before the big fall off. NEW JACK CITY. JUNGLE FEVER. WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP. PASSENGER 57. SUGAR HILL. BOILING POINT. ONE NIGHT STAND. THE FAN. UNDISPUTED. There’s surprising variation. And he oozes cool, to the point of almost being a Black Steve McQueen.

    Even in something like DROP ZONE, he’s kind of awesome.

    I haven’t gotten around to BLADE / BLADE II yet, but I’ve always LOVED the second film.

    If I had to single out a favorite film, it’s Walter Hill’s UNDISPUTED. I really dig how Snipes allows Rhames to bring the bombast, and how he does his version of the classic stoic (70’s) Action Hero. His Monroe “Undisputed” Hutchens is a classic Hill protagonist, somewhere between Bronson in HARD TIMES and The Driver. Again, super cool.

    Another, I’m excited and really curious about revisiting is U.S. MARSHALS.

    So what are your favorites?

    <this whole kick started by catching opening of EXPENDABLES 3 on EPIX. The rescue of Snipes/his reveal was amazing; everything I’d wanted the movies to be>


  3. 10 Actors Hollywood Forgot About


    Going to prison for three years certainly isn’t good if you’re trying to stay fresh in moviegoers minds, and Wesley Snipes was no exception to this rule. Despite being one of the first on-screen superheroes in three Blade films and having quietly iconic roles in Demolition Man and Major League, if you asked anyone born after 1990 who Wesley Snipes is they’d have a hard time telling you.

    Though Snipes is now out of prison and back to making films – he was in The Expendables 3 and Chi-Raq – it doesn’t look like he’s set to gain any new ground in Hollywood anytime soon. Though we’d love to see a career resurgence that puts Snipes in the category of age 50+ action stars, he’d better start booking gigs soon if he wants to get back to the level of star-power that he once had.


  4. 15 Movie Stars Who Peaked in the ’90s


    Wesley Snipes has had a tough stretch in recent years. Tax evasion, jail time, and a lawsuit have left him a tabloid fixture, while direct-to-DVD flicks like The Contractor (2007) and Game of Death (2010) haven’t exactly made fans forget the drama — a far cry from the days where he was pulling in multiple hits a year. Long before he became the poster-boy for tax fraud, the slick Snipes was actually one of the most consistently working dudes in the business.

    Benefiting from past exposure, Snipes hit the big time in the 90s, as leading roles in New Jack City (1991), Jungle Fever (1991), and White Men Can’t Jump (1992) made him a household name. With conviction you could bench-press and a range that encompassed comedy, drama, and action, the Florida native churned out one commercial serving after another, including but not limited to Passenger 57 (1992), Murder at 1600 (1997), and Blade (1998). Snipes’ resume is too large to cover in a single post, so we’ll just call him the unfettered King of Quantity. That’s a lot of tax paperwork. Just saying.


  5. Wesley Snipes May Be Coming Back In A Big Way, Here’s What We Know

    There was once a time when Wesley Snipes was one of the biggest action stars in Hollywood. As the man behind the Blade trilogy, the actor played his part in helping to build the comic book focused box office that we live in today. Since then, however, the actor has flown under the radar, in large part due to being taken out of the game due to a minor misunderstanding with the IRS. Since then, the actor has been looking for a comeback and now he hopes he’s found it by inking a multi-picture deal between his own production company and another haven of action, the WWE. Today the movie arm of the sports entertainment brand, WWE Studios announced via press release that they’ve entered into a deal


  6. Nostalgia Critic: Blade (1998)

    It’s the overlooked classic that made comic book movies cool again, but does it hold up as well as it did back then?


  7. Infamous Sphere: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar! (1995)


  8. Spike Lee’s Hilariously Outdated Jungle Fever, 25 Years Later


  9. whats ironic about jungle fever is wesley snipes character was a successful guy while his brother played by sam jackson was considered a loser now tables are turned in real life sam l jackson in reality is having successful career while wesley career is in the dumps (not as bad as gators though lol) .


  10. More recently, Joe Rogan (a.k.a. “Jew Rogaine” — of UFC and Fear Factor fame) spoke of a an MMA fight that Snipe’s management tried to line up between the two. Apparently Snipes has some martial arts background (ka-rah-tay, or some such) and the bout was to be scheduled around the time of his tax evasion trials.
    (NB: Snipes needed the dough to try settle with the IRS.)

    Rogan took the proposition seriously and was had even trained for a couple of months in preparation for the ‘exhibition’. But then said that the IRS were too keen on making an example of Snipes — thus, a 4×4 cell, rather than an octagonal shaped arena, was to be the once-time action star’s fate.

    Frankly, having read his rise and fall, I’m left with the sense that Snipes was an arrogant tosser with ingrained race issues, who burnt as many of his bridges as he could The ‘trailer / post-it pad / Blade III’ story is a hilarious confirmation that the guy indeed had psychological issues.


  11. Wesley Snipes on not working w. Denzel since ‘Mo’ Betta,’ a ‘New Jack City’ sequel + more

    Wesley Snipes stopped by Sway’s Universe a couple of days ago to talk about his new book Talon of God primarily, but dropped a few other interesting tidbits during the 25-minute conversation, including what could’ve been a New Jack City sequel. Specifically, the actor shared that he was approached to make a follow-up to the 1991 film “a couple of times,” to reprise his role as Nino Brown, but he turned it down each time because, as he said to Sway, he didn’t want to “glamorize… the drug dealer.” He then added that he actually had “major problems” with the character from the very beginning, and initially turned down the role when he was approached for the first film because “that wasn’t where my head was at… I didn’t feel that was where our people needed to be at… we had enough images of us being drug dealers and degenerates and un-humanly, and I didn’t want to contribute to that.”

    So what changed his mind? He continued, “But when I thought of the performance aspect of it, the character, then I’m looking at, hmm… Scarface was dope. And then I thought, hmm, maybe we can make this work.”

    But he clearly wasn’t interested in revisiting the character a second time. One can only imagine how much more money he might have turned down (assuming he was offered more for a potential sequel, which is typical). But I think it’s great when a performer chooses principle over profit. It seems so rare in this industry.

    Snipes also talked about really wanting to work with Denzel Washington again; the two led Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues in 1990, and haven’t been seen on screen together again since then. Snipes says he’s actually approached Washington a number of times about them making another film together, but, according to Wesley, Denzel apparently hasn’t been interested for whatever reason.

    When Sway pressed Snipes on why they’ve only made one film together, comparing them to Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, the actor replied: “Ask D. on that one,” with a smile on his face, obviously suggesting that Sway ask Denzel that question.

    “Man I’ve come to D. so many times… when was the last time you’ve heard D. say, ‘Hey Wes come and do a movie with me.’ He hasn’t said that. I’ve stepped to him many times boy That’s my man, but D. wassup? You working with Ryan Reynolds, come on!”, he said with a laugh.

    But Snipes says he’s ready, which is quite obvious, putting it all in Washington’s lap. Will they ever work together again? We can only hope. And now that Snipes has essentially throw down the gauntlet, let’s see if word gets back to Denzel and he accepts the challenge. I think fans want to see them on screen together again.

    The conversation eventually came back to what Snipes really wanted to talk about, his new book, Talon of God. On that front, he shared that the novel makes up for the failure that was the 3rd Blade movie. And when Sway asked whether the book will be adapted for the big screen, Snipes replied, “Yeah. By the grace of the most high.”

    Emphasizing the cinematic nature of the world and characters fleshed out in the novel, Snipes clearly intends for a Talon of God movie. Much has to happen to make it so – notably finding the necessary financial backing, given how ambitious the story seems to be (I have yet to read the novel, but I will, and will share my thoughts on it afterward).

    It’s been a long time since his launch as an action movie star with Passenger 57 in 1992, a period of years when Snipes’ career seemed primed for flight; and while he’s done a number of smaller pictures since his release from prison in 2013, as well as a bit part in The Expendables 3, the actor is due for a proper big screen return. Sadly, unless there’s something brewing that we don’t already know about, he doesn’t appear to be in very much demand at the studio level, with no new high profile projects announced since The Expendables 3. He’s repeatedly said that he’d love to return as Blade, should Marvel bring the character back, or any other superhero that he’d be well-suited to play. But I think a return as Blade is highly unlikely for him. Marvel chief Kevin Feige did reveal last month that we certainly haven’t seen the last of Blade, but he didn’t share specifics. Whenever the character is rebooted, I’d assume that Marvel will start fresh, and a younger actor will very likely be cast to play the part.

    Watch the conversation with Sway in both videos below:


  12. Actor replacements that totally ruined the movie

    Wesley Snipes to Omar Epps (Major League)

    Variety summed up the sequel to the 1989 baseball comedy perfectly when they said that the actor who benefited most from it was Wesley Snipes, the man who rejected the opportunity to reprise the role of Willie Mays Hayes in 1994’s Major League II. Snipes had become a movie star in his own right by this point, with critically acclaimed appearances in White Men Can’t Jump and Demolition Man pricing him out of the second outing. With the Cleveland Indians down a man, the filmmakers turned to Omar Epps.

    Director David S. Ward had worked with Epps on The Program the previous year, another sports movie, this time following the exploits of a college football team. The big difference between the two films was that The Program wasn’t meant to be funny. Epps didn’t have a background in comedy (before The Program, his only major role was opposite Tupac Shakur in gangland thriller Juice) and it showed in his timing. Even those that didn’t think the film was all that bad admitted that “Omar Epps taking over for Wesley Snipes was a complete bomb of a decision. Bad all around.”


  13. Wesley Snipes Says He Stole Prince’s Role in Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ Video

    In an interview on Conan this Wednesday (Aug. 9), Wesley Snipes revealed that he beat out Prince for a role in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” short-film.

    “Me and Prince were auditioning together, and I blew Prince out of the water,” Snipes explained. “Michael had told Prince that he had the role, and then he met me.”

    Prince, on the other hand, did not seem to recall it going down the same way. In a 1997 interview with VH1 the icon stated, “The first line in that song is, ‘your butt is mine’ so I was saying, ‘Who gon’ sing that to whom? Because you sure ain’t singing it to me, and I sure ain’t singing it to you.’ So right there we got a problem.”

    The 18-minute visual that gave Snipes his big break was directed by Martin Scorsese and details a story of members of an inner-city gang. Snipes told Conan his theory of why he scored the role: “[Jackson] really thought I was in a gang — he didn’t know that I was a trained thespian.” He goes on to joke, “At the time, the great Michael hadn’t spent very much time in the ‘hood.'”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: