Revisiting the Reviled – Wesley Snipes Loses His Mind and His Livelihood On the Set of ‘Blade: Trinity’

GameStop, Inc.
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This is a man who loves his work.

After years in exile prison, Wesley Snipes is in a movie that is opening in theaters. In the 4 years since he last appeared onscreen, Snipes has worked exclusively in straight-to-video action flicks. The Expendables 3 is his first theatrical release since 2010’s Brooklyn’s Finest, which itself came nearly 6 years after his previous theatrical release, 2004’s Blade: Trinity. Snipes starred in all 3 Blade films. The first two installments are among the highest grossing films of his career. Never considered a great actor, Snipes still fit the role of Blade perfectly with his sparse dialogue and cold demeanor. Based on the Marvel Comics character created by Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman, the first film, simply titled Blade, is a founding document of modern superhero cinema. The sequel, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, was an improvement upon the first installment, and helped establish Del Toro as a legitimate blockbuster director in America. The writer of the first two films, David S. Goyer, was promoted to director for the third installment, the aforementioned Blade: Trinity.

A successful screenwriter on a number of comic book properties, Goyer was in for a rude awakening on the set of Blade: Trinity. His first major production as a director, Goyer initially intended for the film’s story to be inspired by Richard Matheson’s story I Am Legend (a story much better than the Will Smith film), with Blade being the last human alive on Earth. The executives at New Line, however, thought this storyline too bleak. They wanted Blade vs. Dracula, so Goyer wrote it. The clash with the studio was minor when compared to Goyer’s interactions with Snipes.

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In an interview with The AV Club a few years back, comedian Patton Oswalt, who has a minor role in the film, was brutally honest about the difficulties that Snipes brought with him on set. Refusing to break character, Snipes demanded to be called Blade by everyone. He would only communicate with Goyer through handwritten Post-It Notes, always signed, “Blade.” Snipes would remain locked in his trailer, the odor of marijuana smoke following whenever he would exit to shoot his scenes. But only close ups, all longer shots involving Blade were of Snipes’ stand-in. After attempting to provoke a physical altercation with Goyer, Snipes approached the writer-director and suggested to him that he quit the film. While the finished film left all involved unsatisfied, none was more displeased than Snipes. He sued Goyer and the studio, claiming that as a producer he was willfully excluded from meetings concerning casting and story. The case was settled out of court. Hearing about his antics on set, it’s amazing to think that people wouldn’t actively seek out collaboration with Wesley Snipes.

The erratic behavior of its star helps explains some of the film’s awkward tics. For example, the numerous scenes where Snipes only appears in a cutaway while other characters talk. But Wesley Snipes losing his mind doesn’t take Goyer off the hook for the film’s choppy action and generally uncompelling story. That story revolves around the vampire nation resurrecting the original vampire, Dracula (Dominic Purcell), who is called Drake here possibly for copyright reasons. The vampires have also conspired to frame Blade (Snipes) for murder, bringing the heat down on the vampire killer. After a raid on his compound results in the death of his partner, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), Blade joins forces with another vampire-killing force, The Nightstalkers, featuring Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) and Whistler’s daughter, Abigail (Jessica Biel). Meanwhile, the vampires and Drake are attempting to bring about the end of humanity. A big battle set to techno music ensues.

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It’s a real shame how the excellent cast assembled for the film are wasted on this half-baked affair. Indie queen of the ‘90s, Parker Posey, plays her role with all the comic flourish it requires, but she alone stands out. In one of his first major film roles, Ryan Reynolds was already doing the same shtick that he does to this day. A prolific comedic actor, John Michael Higgins is perfectly cast as a lawyer in league with the vampires, however, his talents are never given the proper outlet. His character is quickly killed by Dominic Purcell’s Dracula. Purcell gives the kind of performance that would hint at his future as a leading man in Uwe Boll films like Assault on Wall Street. The other notable character actors given minor roles or dreadful material include the previously mentioned Oswalt, Natasha Lyonne, and James Remar.

Love him or hate him, David S. Goyer will be writing big comic book movies for the foreseeable future. With a story credit on each of Christopher Nolan’s installments in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Goyer is slated to write Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the Justice League movie. On top of his screenwriting, he’s directed other smaller films and TV shows. He occasionally appears on podcasts, where he gets the point of She-Hulk wrong and incites a much deserved backlash.

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“So, what if Dracula turns into a giant beast that’s the same color as a baboon’s ass?” “I like it!”

On the other hand, Goyer’s rival, Wesley Snipes, hasn’t had anything resembling success lately. Having recently completed a 3-year stint in prison for tax avoision (I don’t say evasion, I say avoision), Snipes, for unknown reasons, has decided to wallow the rest of his days away in the action genre. Even before his conflict with Goyer and conviction in court, Snipes was doing almost exclusively action. The once likeable comedic stylings from Major League and White Men Can’t Jump have long been abandoned for badasses, as sparse with words as they are with emotions. It’s like he was done with the genre for good after his 1995 drag comedy, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Blade: Trinity even lacks the subtle comic moments from Snipes that are sprinkled through the first two films. All of the comic relief is from Reynold’s Hannibal King.

Whether or not Snipes’ issues with the taxman and his erratic behavior on set were the result of deeper personal issues or an ego run amok, we’ll never know for sure. On the surface, it looks like Snipes lost himself right up his own asshole. It seems as if Snipes burned a lot of bridges along the way before hitting rock bottom, and no matter how good he is in the new Expendables, he won’t be actively sought after. En route to rock bottom, Snipes dragged his most famous role and director down with him. Blade: Trinity is a soulless movie with an amazing backstory.

 

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