Nationality: American. Born: Orlando, Florida, 31 July 1962; grew up in the South Bronx. Education: Attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York; State University of New York at
Films as Actor:
Wildcats (Ritchie) (as Trumaine); Streets of Gold (Roth) (as Roland Jenkins)
Critical Condition (Apted) (as ambulance driver)
Vietnam War Story 2 (Morris, Sholder, Uno—for TV)
Major League (Ward) (as Willie Mays Hayes)
King of New York (Ferrara) (as Thomas Flannigan); Mo' Better Blues (Spike Lee) (as Shadow Henderson)
New Jack City (Van Peebles) (as Nino Brown); Jungle Fever (Spike Lee) (as Flipper Purify)
White Men Can't Jump (Shelton) (as Sidney Deane); The Waterdance (Jimenez, Steinberg) (as Raymond Hill); Passenger 57 (Hooks) (as John Cutter)
Boiling Point (James B. Harris) (as Jimmy); Rising Sun (Kaufman) (as Web Smith); Demolition Man (Brambilla) (as Simon Phoenix); Harlem ( Sugar Hill ) (Ichaso) (as Roemello Skuggs)
Drop Zone (Badham) (as Pete Nessip)
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (Kidron) (as Noxeema Jackson); Money Train (Ruben) (as John); Waiting to Exhale (Whitaker) (as James, uncredited)
The Fan (Tony Scott) (as Bobby Rayburn); Clive Anderson All Talk (as himself); America's Dream (Barclay, Duke, Sullivan—for TV) (as George Du Val); John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk (Bourne) (doc) (as Narrator)
One Night Stand (Figgis) (as Max Carlyle); Murder at 1600 (Little) (as Detective Harlan Regis)
Down in the Delta (Angelou) (as Will Sinclair) (+ pr); Blade (Norrington) (as Blade/Eric) (+ pr, chor); U.S. Marshals (Baird) (as Mark Sheridan); Futuresport (Dickerson—for TV) (as Obike Fixx) (+ pr)
Blade 2 (del Toro) (as Blade); The Art of War (Duguay)
By SNIPES: articles—
"New Face: Wesley Snipes: How an Actor Turned into a Jazzman," interview with Stephen Holden, in New York Times , 24 August 1990.
Interview with Paul D. Colford, in Newsday (Melville, New York), 23 October 1990.
"Hollywood's Hottest New Star Talks about His Divorce, His Days on the Streets and Why He Doesn't Have Jungle Fever ," interview with Laura B. Randolph, in Ebony (Chicago), September 1991.
"Stars Recall Their Encounters with Racism," interview with Clarence Waldron, in Jet (Chicago), 7 December 1992.
Interview in Playboy (Chicago), October 1993.
"The Wisdom of Wesley," interview with Lawrence Grobel, in Movieline (Los Angeles), August 1998.
On SNIPES: books—
Zwocker, Ray, Who's Hot: Wesley Snipes , New York, 1993.
On SNIPES: articles—
Rohter, L., "The Star of New Jack City Is Building on Its Success," in New York Times , 27 March 1991.
Washington, Elsie B., "That's My Baby," in Essence (New York), May 1991.
Seidenberg, Robert, "Splashy Movies, Unsung Stars," in American Film (Hollywood), June 1991.
Rugoff, R., "Wesley Fever," in Premiere (New York), July 1991.
"Wesley Snipes: Busiest Actor in Hollywood," in Jet (Chicago), 18 May 1992.
Current Biography 1993 , New York, 1993.
Hirschberg, Lynn, "Living Large," in Vanity Fair (New York), September 1993.
Norment, Lynn, "Bachelors with Money and Clout," in Ebony (Chicago), October 1993.
Fink, Mitchell, "Could It Be the Title?" in People Weekly (New York), 6 March 1995.
* * *
Wesley Snipes is best-known to the mainstream moviegoing public as a durable star of action-adventure films. Upon earning his movie star stripes in the early 1990s, he became an action hero to rival Stallone and Schwarzenegger. The actor's success in the likes of Passenger 57 (playing a specialist in antiterrorism who goes up against airline hijackers) and Drop Zone (cast as a U.S. marshal battling sky-diver villains) confirms that an African-American actor is perfectly capable of finding major stardom playing such roles. Snipes also has been cast as other standard characters in action epics. He has been the wizened veteran hero's youthful partner (in Rising Sun , paired with Sean Connery); and the deranged, ultra-dangerous villain (in Demolition Man , opposite Stallone).
But what truly marks Snipes as a motion picture personality is his versatility; his interest in playing not only in action-adventure fare but in character-driven films; and his willingness to experiment in roles that a Sylvester Stallone never, ever would accept. He initially attracted attention as the gang leader in the popular Michael Jackson music video Bad , a role that served as his calling card for feature film work. After impressive supporting turns in three films— Major League (as the speedy baseball player Willie Mays Hayes); King of New York (as a tough, honest cop); and Mo' Better Blues (as a jazz musician)—Snipes hit the mark in two 1991 releases. Not only did his performances in New Jack City and Jungle Fever establish him as a rising young star, but they effectively displayed his range as an actor. In New Jack City , he offered a chillingly sinister performance as Nino Brown, a Harlem drug lord; and in Jungle Fever , he gave a subtle performance as Flipper Purify, a guilt-ridden architect, married to a black woman, who enters into an affair with his white secretary.
Around the time he made The Waterdance and White Men Can't Jump , Snipes quickly was emerging as one of the decade's upper-echelon stars. In The Waterdance , he is Raymond Hill, a streetwise black who has become a paraplegic and is confined to a rehabilitation center. In White Men Can't Jump , he plays another street-smart type: Sidney Deane, a Southern California basketball hustler. At first glance, both characters are contemporary African-American stereo-types. Raymond Hill is a self-described ladies' man who before becoming wheelchair-bound had lived a "wild life"; admittedly, he was not much of a husband to his wife or father to his little girl. And Sidney Deane seems the type who, if given the opportunity, would hustle you out of your last dime. Nevertheless, in both The Waterdance and White Men Can't Jump , Snipes adds unusual depth and poignancy to his characterizations. His performances allow you to see beyond the characters' surface hype, making both men at once deeply flawed and deeply human.
Snipes also is not apprehensive about playing against type—in the broadest possible sense. He lampooned his macho image in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar , in which he, along with Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo, play drag queens. Snipes's Noxeema Jackson comes complete with blond wig and red high-heel shoes. He/she is co-winner of a drag queen beauty pageant, and he/she is not afraid of wiggling his/her hips. Arnold Schwarzenegger may be amenable to gently spoofing his screen image, playing the "twin" of Danny DeVito in Twins and a scientist who finds himself pregnant in Junior. But one cannot imagine Schwarzenegger playing a homosexual, let alone a drag queen. It is to Snipes's credit that he is willing to risk alienating his action-adventure audience by stretching himself in a role like Noxeema Jackson.
In the latter part of the 1990s, Snipes kept on mixing his screen roles. He appeared in thrillers, action films, and science fiction epics, playing heroes, villains, and victims: U.S. Marshalls (as an ex-CIA agent framed on a murder rap); Murder at 1600 (as a homicide detective intent on solving the title crime); Money Train (re-teamed with White Men Can't Jump co-star Woody Harrelson, as a New York City undercover transit cop who becomes entangled in a theft scheme); The Fan (as a star San Francisco Giants baseball player who is stalked by a psycho); and, most strikingly, the ultra-violent Blade (as a half-human/half-vampire). At the same time, Snipes accepted roles in dramas, playing secondary characters in a pair of films that charted the plight of contemporary black women: Waiting to Exhale (as a businessman whose wife is dying); and Down in the Delta (as a successful lawyer). Perhaps his most interesting role of the period is the lead in One Night Stand , Mike Figgis's thoughtful and ambitious follow-up to Leaving Las Vegas. Snipes has one of his best-ever parts as Max Carlyle, an otherwise intelligent and compassionate television commercial director who is floundering in a world that is all gloss and no substance, and whose wife, friends, and colleagues are collectively shallow. Max undergoes a crisis upon visiting an old friend who is dying of AIDS and having a chance encounter with a kindred spirit, a woman who may be his true soul mate.