Wesley Snipes was once one of the most marketable stars in the film industry, noted for his charisma and his legitimate martial arts background. Utilizing both talents to striking effect in the original Blade Trilogy, Snipes helped pave the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to come.
But the star’s fall from grace was swift, with his career hitting roadblock after roadblock as accusations mounted that the actor was a nightmare to work with. On top of that, 2004’s Blade Trinty was poorly received compared to its forebears. It is also the least successful at the box office and essentially ended the franchise for nearly 20 years, with Mahershala Ali now finally set to step into the title role next year.
According to accounts, Snipes was distant during the making of Blade: Trinity and seemingly uninterested in the film, with fellow actors saying that he both refused to communicate and stayed in his trailer throughout filming, sending out post-it notes to director David S. Goyer. Back in 2012, comedian Patton Oswalt — who played the Nightstalkers’ weapons guru Hedges — revealed that Snipes “wouldn’t come out of his trailer, and he would smoke weed all day.”
However, anyone who thought that Snipes might have been consequently mellow is in for a shock. Writer Chris Parry, who was on the set of the film for an article he was writing for Spin Magazine, said that Snipes treated other members of the cast and crew as “idiots,” including Jessica Biel (Abigail Whistler), who he purportedly called “that girl”; and Ryan Reynolds (Hannibal King). About Reynolds, Snipes would allegedly say, “tell that cracker to get out of my eyeline,” and “tell that cracker to get his lines right.”
The most serious incident came when he reportedly tried to strangle Goyer. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter for a career retrospective interview, the director finally addressed some of the rumors surrounding Snipes’ behavior on set, neither confirming nor denying the claims that he was strangled. Goyer would only say that his friendship with Snipes is long over. He still remains friends with Patton Oswalt, who made the initial allegations.
Let’s just say I have tremendous respect for Wesley as an actor. He used to be a friend. We’re not friends anymore. I am friends with Patton, and I worked with Patton since, so … I don’t think anyone involved in that film had a good experience on that film; certainly, I didn’t. I don’t think anybody involved with that film is happy with the results. It was a very tortured production.
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For his part, Wesley Snipes has long denied most about the rumors of his on-set behavior and has previously also denied the allegation that he strangled Goyer. “If I had tried to strangle David Goyer, you probably wouldn’t be talking to me now,” he said. “A black guy with muscles strangling the director of a movie is going to jail, I guarantee you.”
Snipes added that the accusations of violence against him amounted to “microaggressions” and “part of the challenges that we as African Americans face here in America.”
The presumption that one white guy can make a statement and that statement stands as true! Why would people believe his version is true? Because they are predisposed to believing the black guy is always the problem. And all it takes is one person, Mr. Oswalt, who I really don’t know. I can barely remember him on the set, but it’s fascinating that his statement alone was enough to make people go: ‘Yeah, you know Snipes has got a problem.’
In 2005, Snipes filed a lawsuit against New Line Cinema and the filmmakers, seeing $5 million for contract violations. He alleged that the director, script, and supporting cast were all chosen against his consent and that Goyer had not only made racist remarks toward him but refused to punish a crew member who was seen wearing a racist t-shirt. Meanwhile, New Line was accused of only hiring white crew members.
The lawsuit was eventually settled, but Snipes’ career has been in near limbo ever since. His 2008 sentence for failing to file federal income tax returns came alongside a string of poorly received performances. Despite claims that he might return to the Blade franchise back in 2015 and other parts in films such as The Expendables 3, Chi-Raq, and Coming 2 America, his career never bounced back to the heights it achieved in the 1990s.