“I have a great deal of fun playing Blade. The lifestyle of it, the controlled rebelliousness, is wonderful to me. And it's therapeutic, too. A role like this lets you vent.” Wesley Snipes
African-American actor and producer Wesley Snipes is perhaps best known for his role as the eponymous vampire hunter in the movie Blade (1998), and its continuations in 2000 and in 2004. Initially making an impression as a thug in the Scorsese-directed video for Michael Jackson’s Bad (1987), Snipes gained even more recognition for his brilliant performance of the fierce drug lord antagonist Nino Brown in Mario Van Peebles’ New Jack City (1991), for which he picked up a NAACP Image Award. A versatile actor, Snipes also received acclaim for his bright dramatic portrayal of untrustworthy husband Carlyle in One Night Stand (1997). Due to his outstanding performance, Snipes was awarded the Best Actor Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival.
Snipes was also well-remembered for playing various roles in films such as the comedy Major League (1989), Abel Ferrara’s King of New York (1990), the drama Mo’ Better Blues (1990), Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever (1991), the drama The Waterdance (1992), the hit White Men Can’t Jump (1992), the box office action smash hit Passenger 57 (1992), Rising Sun (1993), Demolition Man (1993, with Sly Stallone), To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), and the drama The Fan (1996, opposite Robert De Niro), among others. Fans can also catch him in the recent and upcoming The Art of War (2000), Liberty Stands Still (2002), ZigZag (2002), Unstoppable (2004), Chaos (2005), Razor's Edge (2006) and The Hard Corps (2006). Snipes will also add Chasing the Dragon and Hard Luck to his acting resume.
On the small screen, Snipes drew praise after having a guest starring role in “Vietnam War Story: An Old Ghost Walks the Earth” (1988), where he took home a 1989 Cable ACE Award. His later role of George Du Vaul in the TV movie America's Dream (1996) garnered the actor a second NAACP Image Award in 1997.
Off screen, Snipes was named one of John Willis’ Screen World “12 Promising New Actors of 1990” and was one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1991. Recently, Snipes was arrested at the Johannesburg International Airport for allegedly trying to pass through the airport with a forged South African passport. But he was later permitted to return home because he had a valid U.S. passport. Unfortunately, as a result of the incident, the South African authorities reduced his immigration status to disagreeable. In 2004, Snipes drew headlines for being the subject of a paternity suit by an Indiana woman named Lanise Pettis. Pettis revealed that she and Snipes had sex in a Chicago crack house in 2000 and that Snipes had fathered a child with her. Snipes, however, denied the allegations. In 2003, he was also publicly accused by R&B singer Christopher Williams of abusing actress Halle Berry during the early 1990s. Williams stated, “The stuff they wrote about (me) and Halle was totally false. They said something like I busted her eardrum, and I’m tired of it. I never said it (before) but I’m so tired of people thinking I’m the guy (who did it). Wesley Snipes busted her eardrum, not me.”
Martial Arts Admirer
Childhood and Family:
Born in Orlando, Florida, on July 31, 1962, Wesley Snipes grew up on the streets of the South Bronx in New York City.
Unaffected by his rough background, Wesley realized acting was his dream at a very young age. Young Wesley began pursuing his calling by attending the prestigious High School for the Performing Arts, but he was soon forced to throw away his dreams due to his parents’ separation. He, with his mom Marian, relocated back to his home town before he could graduate from high school. Wesley attended and graduated from Jones High School in Orlando, Florida. While in Florida, he appeared in local diner theaters and regional productions. Wesley furthered studied at the State University of New York at Purchase and earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts’ degree in 1985.
“I don't understand the mandate of being together forever. The idea that you should do that is wrong. It makes us slaves to a societal mandate. You can still love, but it doesn't mean you have to be tethered to the flesh.” Wesley Snipes on marriage
Wesley once tied the knot with a woman named April in 1985, but they divorced in 1990. Wesley and April share one child, a son named Jelani Asar Snipes (born in 1988). After the breakup, Snipes began a new relationship with Korea-born artist Nakyung “Nikki” Park, with whom he has two children, a son born in 2000 and a daughter named Iset (born in July 2001). The couple eventually married in March 2003. Wesley welcomed his fourth child, a son born in 2004, with his wife Nikki.
A longtime martial arts enthusiast, Snipes is a 5th Degree Black Belt and practices Brazilian martial arts called Capoeira. His hobbies include martial arts, motorcycles and web surfing.
New Jack City
Orlando native Wesley Snipes decided theater was his true calling as a child. He took drama lessons and was one of the proud pupils of an elite acting academy in New York. Unfortunately, his dreams of the musical theater washed out before they could blossom. He had to move back to Orlando following the divorce of his parents. After graduating from a high school in Orlando, Snipes developed his mounting love for acting by co-founding a street theater troupe named Struttin’ Street Stuff. He also performed in a production of “The Wiz” with Theatre on the Park, Dinner Theatre in Orlando, as well as in the East Harlem production of “The Me Nobody Knows.” Upon receiving a Bachelors of Fine Arts’ degree, Snipes landed some modeling gigs for such products as Coca-Cola and Levi's 501 jeans while searching for stage work. In 1985, he made his Broadway debut in the Vietnam drama “The Boys of Winter” (1985). Spotted by an agent while joining an acting competition, Snipes soon got his first film role in the football flick Wildcats (1986, starring Goldie Hawn).
After his debut performance, Snipes appeared in the 1986 Streets of Gold and the 1987 Critical Condition, but it was a performance in Michael Jackson’s extremely popular video Bad (1987) that delivered a first break for the aspiring actor. Snipes’ talent also wooed critics when he guest starred in “Vietnam War Story” in the episode of “An Old Ghost Walks the Earth” (1988), for which he nabbed a Cable Ace for Actor in a Dramatic Series. This was followed by his notable appearance in the baseball comedy Major League (1989) and Abel Ferrara’s King of New York (1990). Snipes also received his first regular role in the short-lived cop series H.E.L.P (1990).
Catching the eye of director Spike Lee due to his vigorous performance in the 1987 video Bad, Snipes had a chance to work with him in Lee’s drama/musical Mo’ Better Blues (1990), which put Snipes on top billing opposite the director himself and Denzel Washington. However, it was 1991 that marked Snipes’ groundbreaking year because of his memorable performances in two films. He was first perfectly cast as merciless drug lord Nino Brown in Mario Van Peebles’ New Jack City (1991), in which he garnered a NAACP Image for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture. Snipes next played Flipper Purify, the middleclass architect who was romantically involved with a white woman in Lee’s Jungle Fever (1991). The victory of New Jack City and Jungle Fever subsequently made him a star.
Foremost roles kept on coming in the following years. Snipes played paraplegic Raymond Hill in the modest drama The Waterdance (1992) and scored a blockbuster smash with Ron Shelton’s White Men Can’t Jump (1992), alongside Wildcat costar Woody Harelson. Venturing to the action genre, Snipes received offers to star as John Cutter in the big budget film Passenger 57 (1992). The film became a hit. Snipes then portrayed trustworthy federal agent Jimmy Mercer in Boiling Point (1993), costarred with Sean Connery in the big screen adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel Rising Sun (1993), starred as futuristic villain Simon Phoenix, opposite Sylvester Stallone, in Demolition Man (1993), played Roemello Skuggs in the hauntingly somber movie Sugar Hill (1994) and was cast as a US Marshall on the trail of a team of renegade stunt skydivers in the action opus Drop Zone (1994).
In the mid 1990s, Snipes also tried his hand as a voice actor. He lent his voice for the animated TV series “Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child” in 1995 before returning to the action vein with To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), opposite Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo. Snipes rejoined Harrelson for the 1995 Money Train and made a cameo as a smooth-talking married man who attempts to pick up Angela Bassett in a bar in the popular female bonding drama Waiting to Exhale (1995).
In 1996, Snipes returned to television to star as George Du Vaul in the made-for-TV movie America's Dream. His brilliant acting again handed him a NAACP Image for Best Actor in a TV Movie/Series. The same year, Snipes could also be seen as baseball player Bobby Rayburn, beleaguered by the neurotic Robert De Niro, in The Fan (1996) and as DC detective Harlan Regis in Murder at 1600 (1996).
Snipes again attracted the attention of the public when he displayed his dramatic skills in One Night Stand (1997), where he was cast as adulterous husband Max Carlyle, alongside Nastassja Kinski. His bravura acting won praise as well as a Venice Film Festival for the Best Actor Volpi Cup.
After appearing as Tommy Lee Jones’s quarry in U.S Marshalls (1998), Snipes starred as a superhero hunting and slaughtering evil vampires in Blade (1998). Also in 1998, Snipes executive produced and narrated the documentary “John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk” (1996), and served as one of the producers and stars in Maya Angelou’s directorial debut Down in the Delta. He also made his network TV debut as an executive producer and actor in the ABC sci-fi movie Futuresport (1998). Moreover, Snipes produced Che-Kirk Wong’s The Big Hit (1998), starring Mark Walhlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips.
In the new millennium, Snipes produced and starred in the thriller The Art of War (2000) before returning to the small screen with the role of Franklin Swift in the TV film Disappearing Acts (2000). After a two-year absence, Snipes put Liberty Stands Still (2002), ZigZag (2002) and the forgettable Undisputed (2002) under his belt. The same year, he returned for the sequel Blade II (2002). The film again became a box office hit and earned critical raves. Two years later, Snipes was back to the Blade franchise in Blade: Trinity (2004), costarring Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel.
Still powerful and lithe in his 40s, Snipes will soon costar opposite Jason Statham and Ryan Phillippe in Tony Giglio’s action Chaos (2005). He is also set to play the lead of Sonni Griffith in the sci-fi thriller Razor's Edge (2006) and join Jean-Claude Van Damme in director/writer Sheldon Lettich The Hard Corps (2006), in which he will portray an ex-World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Additionally, Snipes announced that he would be working with Ken Watanabe and Shu Qi for the upcoming project Chasing The Dragon, and rejoin director Mario Van Peebles for the forthcoming Hard Luck, which also stars Cybill Shepherd.
- Venice Film Festival: Volpi Cup, Best Actor, One Night Stand, 1997
- NAACP Image: Best Actor (TV Movie/Series), “America's Dream,” 1997
- NAACP Image: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture, New Jack City, 1991
- Cable ACE: Actor in a Dramatic Series, “Vietnam War Story: An Old Ghost Walks the Earth,” 1989