Wesley Snipes

  1. Jon Chardiet, Beat Street, 1984.    “I tried too hard at auditions. Here’s this piece about cats from the ‘hood and I’m enunciating my lines like a Shakesperean actor.” Producer Harry Belafonte told him: “That’s enough. Go back to school!”
  2. Mario Van Peebles, Rappin’, 1985.   “Nine times they saw me and they still gave it to Mario. But the film only lasted two days!”
  3. Reginald VelJohnson, Die Hard, 1987.  During auditions for Sergeant Powell, Snipes was seen just before the ten-years-older  VelJohnson.  ”I heard what he did and said: I’ll do it diffefrntly. I told them: “I’ll be the best Al Powell you’ve ever seen.”  And he has 113 screen credits to prove it
  4. Bill Nunn, Do The Right Thing, 1989.   Snipes left fora bigger film – Major League.Auteur Spike Lee never held it against him, welcoming him back for Mo’ Better Blues. “Wesley really stood up to Denzel [Washington] and that’s what we needed… this competition between the two.” Lee then wrote Jungle Fever – just for Snipes.
  5. Denzel Washington, Mo ‘Better Blues, 1990.    Snipes was Bleek, the trumpet ace, for all of 30 minutes… “Spike called me at my grandmother’s house in Miami. ‘I want you to play Bleek.’I thought it was set -up. I said: “What about Denzel?’ ‘Good question! I’ll call you back.’ Half-hour later: ‘I want you to play Shadow’.”
  6. Ice T, New Jack City, 1990.   During auditons, Snipes made it clear he wanted to play the tough-nut cop Scotty Appleton.   No, no, no, said director Mario (son of Melvin) Van Peebles and co-scenarist Barry Michael Cooper, you are our coke king, Nino Brown. “We wrote him for you!”  
  7. Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
  8. Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993.  When Paramoutn fell out of love with the Die Hard on a Bus thriller, Fox (the home of Die Hard) grabbed the rights and beucause of their successful White Men Can’t Jump, the hero was handed to Snipes and the nutjob villain to Woody Harelson.  They preferred the similar but less triumphant  Money Train.    
  9. Omar Epps, Major League II, 1994.     “The dream team is back!” screamed the posters. All but one, Snipes was otherwise engaged and the future ER and House MD medic took his place in the Cleveland Indiansbaseball squad.
  10. Sylvester Stallone, Assassins, 1995.    Or Day of Reckoning when Snipes was setas the ageing hit-man stalked by the new killer intown: Johnny Depp. Then, Mel Gibson got it but passed it to director Richard Donner. He was very keen- if he could land Sean Connery or Arnold Schwarzenegger as the aged one.

  11. Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
  12. Michael Jai White, Spawn, 1996. All the obvious heavyweights – Snipes, Cuba Gooding Jr, Will Smith, Tony CandymanTodd, Denzel Washington and Tarantino favourites Samuel L Jackson, Ving Rhames – were seen for the movies’ first black superhero. (The later filmed Black Panther was born first, in a 1966 comic – 26 years before Spawn).  Plus the usual rappers LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur. And the inevitable unknown: Allen Payne, from New Jack City (with Snipes).  Not easy, said White, to win audience sympathy for “the most tragic character I’ve encountered,” a government assassin back from hell. Hence, Spawn 2and Spawn 3: The Ultimate Battle never battled.
  13. Shaquille O’Neal, Steel, 1996.    Having the basketball star as DC’s superhero was a problem for director Kenneth Johnson. He could not locate a stuntman of the same height – 216 cm – meaning Shaq had to risk doing all his own stunts… with the 1996 Olympics just weeks away.  Warner Bros refused Johnson’s first choice because  – sure you want to hear this? –  “Shaq will sell more toys and merchandise.”
  14. Denzel Washingtion, The Hurricane,1998.     “Hate got me in here. But love’s gonna bust me out.”  New Jersey boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter on being framed for three murders  and  losing  19 years of his life because of racism, corruption, said critic Roger Ebert, “and – perhaps most wounding – indifference.” Samuel L Jackson and Wesley Snipes battled for the role, but no one could hope to match the power of Washington – one of his finest achievements. In their next battle, Snipes and Washington both lost Hotel Rwanda,  2004, to Don Cheadle. 
  15. Samuel L Jackson, Shaft, 2000.      Shafted!   Who should re-tread the ’70s cop?  Director John Singleton wanted Don Cheadle. Producer Scott Rudin  insisted on an A star. Like Snipes or Will Smith. .  But Sam won – with the original Shaft,  Richard Roundtree, as his uncle. “The scenario was terrible,” said Snipes. “An insult to Afro-Americans and to the icon that is Shaft, himself.” And he added that the film would have made far more money if he had been Shaft – as proved by his Blade movies.
  16. Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda,2004.       Irish film-maker Terry George always wanted Donto be Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved a thousand-plus Tutsis refugees from the Hutu militia. Money-bags preferred the safety of Mekhi Phifer, Will Smith, Wesley Snipes and, above all, Denzel Washington. Terry got his way and Don his Oscar nod.
  17. Antonio Banderas, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever, 2002.       For the Game Boy Advance game, the reluctant FBI-DIA duo was once due for Snipes-Jet Li, then Vin Diesel and Sly.  Finally, a Stallone role went, for the first time to a woman. (Lucy Liu). Hadda happen! Didn’t save it from being one of the all-time champion flops – diabolical reviews and making a mere 30% of its budget back. What else when the director signed himself… Kaos!
  18. Sticky Fingaz, Blade The Series, TV, 2006.     The cinema-Blade refused (obviously) the tele-Blade – and without him, The Series died within a dozen episodes.
  19. Derek Luke, Miracle of St Anna, 2007.     Preparing from his income tax trial, Snipes withdrew from Spike Lee’s film about  the all-black 92nd Infantry Division, trapped near a small Tuscan village in WWII.   By 2010, Snipes was  Bureau of Prisons inmate No. 43355-018 at the McKean Federal Correctional Institution with a  three-year sentence in 2010 for tax evasion.
  20. Terry Crews, The Expendables, 2009.      Wes could not accept Sylvester Stallone’s invite being restricted to the US due to tax fraud charges.  They had co-starred in Demolition Man, 2003. Sly rewrote it for Forest Whitaker who wasn’t free, either. Enter:  ex-San Diego Charger Terry Crews,  the fourth black choice for Hale Caesar (owch!).  Sly didn’t forget Wes. Once out of jail for his 1999-2007 tax evasion, Snipes became Doc in Expendables 3And when asked why he’d been in jail,  Snipes’ character told the truth. Tax evasion.   

  21. Chadwick Boseman, Get On Up, 2013.   Some talk of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixoteobsession  as being history’s most cursed film. Others –  like Spike Lee and producer Brian Glazer, Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment partner – vote for the biopic of The Godfather of Soul …James Brown! Glazer kicked off the project in the 1990s. (Quixotedated back to 1988). And went through four Mister Dynamites – Chris Brown, Usher and Spike’s choices Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes – plus numerous musical rights hassles, before Mick Jagger joined the ten producers and Spike was succeeded by Tate Taylor and  most of his cast from The Helpcast. Plus his 42 star, Boseman, who  spent two months  honing singing and dancing  like The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz. Spike was going to use Brown’s voice, but this is no longer the warts-and-all script Brown had worked on with Glazer, Spike & Co. But, like Boseman, it is outstanding. Incidentally, Murphy had always voted Snipes (absent in jail for tax evasion):  “He turned into the action dude, but Wesley has all the talent… James Brown isn’t just singing and splits, you gotta be able to act, you gotta get chased in a car in a crack haze and shot at. Wesley could pull that off, you need to be an actor.”

  22. Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther, 2017.   Spider-Man turned  up in the third Cap Am movie as a teaser  for his welcome-back-home-to-Marvel reboot. Idem for T’Challa/Black Panther in  Captain America: Civil War, 2015,  before this ground-breaking solo flight.  The finalists included four Brits: Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Algrim/Kurse in Thor: The Dark World), John Boyega (Finn in the 21st Century Star Wars), Noel Clarke (from Star Trek Into Darkness), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Mordo in Doctor Strange)…  Benin’s Djimon Hounsou (Korath in Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel)… four Americans: Boseman (best known for his James Brown in Get On Up, 2013), Chad L Coleman (from The Wire and Arrow), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon in films and TV) and Wesley Snipes, from way back in 1990, when the title was muddled with the 60s’ black activists. In fact, the comic came out two months before the group in 1965. Finally, Snipes was too old and supported Boseman’s take “1,000%.” Grossing $1bn, the actual Black Panther  film was #1 in the US for five weeks, until dethroned by Pacific Rim: Uprising starring… Boyega!


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  22