Celebrity Interviews: Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames




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Snipes and Rhames speak the Undisputed truth!

Laurence Washington

Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames challenge each other for the title of undisputed heavyweight boxing champ in "Undisputed" a fight film loosely based on Mike Tyson going to prison. Rhames plays the World Heavyweight Champion George "Ice Man" Chambers and Snipes plays Monroe Hutchen, the undefeated champion of Sweetwater Prison in the Mojave Desert.

Blackflix.com caught up with Rhames and Snipes at the luxurious "W" Hotel in nearby Beverly Hills. After a relaxing brunch, Rhames and Snipes were ready to discuss "Undisputed" and future projects the actors have in the works.

BF: Do you think Tyson would like this film, aside from for the ending?

Rhames: Yeah.

BF: Have you ever met Tyson?

Rhames: He was training in the same Gym that Wesley and I were training in.

BF: Did he know about this film?

Rhames: No. I talked to him about Sonny Liston. I was training for "Liston" and got pushed back and now the Hughes Brothers are going to direct it. Then I got a call from Walter Hill who offered me the role that Wesley is playing. When I read the script, I wanted to play Ice Man. Wesley had read it and wanted to play Monroe Hutchen. So it worked out well.

BF: Did you and Tyson talk about the "Liston" film?

Rhames: Yeah, we talked about the film. Liston is his idol. Mike is a boxing historian. He can tell you want round something happened, what sort of punch was thrown.

BF: The Ice Man role seems very fleshed out - not one dimensional.

Rhames: We’ll let me tell you what I’ve been good at doing. It’s very easy for me to flesh out characters. There really is no good guy - bad guy in the film. Wesley’s character is in jail for murder, my character is in jail for rape.

BF: How hard did you train?

Rhames: I trained on and off for two years, because of the "Liston" film. It was pretty extensive from running to jumping rope to speed bag to shadow boxing and lifting weights.

BF: Wesley, did you have to unlearn some of your martial arts skills for the film’s fight scenes?

Snipes: Just adapt. Every now and then I would do something a little martial artsy.

BF: How did you adapt?

Snipes: It’s basically the same principle as boxing. Don’t get hit. Look out for the other guy. We put six or seven punches together, a couple of combinations, and then we emphasized on the tail end of choreographed combinations to keep the reality going. It’s the same principal we adhere to in "Blade." We lay it out…train all the time…and we emphasize and get some spontaneity in there without killing each other.

BF: What was your weight for the film?

Snipes: I usually weigh 180.

BF: So Ving had about 20 pounds on you right?

Snipes: Yeah, but what’s interesting in the film is it doesn’t appear that way. It looks like we’re almost about the same size.
When Walter Hill told me he was going to cast Ving. I said, "Ving? That’s my man, but how am I going beat him?

BF: I gather it was a toss up on which of these character you would play?

Snipes: I wanted to play the "early go home" character. The come in late, leave early character. I wanted to do something where I wasn’t always out in front. And didn’t have all of the dialogue. I could be more of ying instead of the yang.

BF: How did you get involved in the project as a producer?

Snipes: It was part of the contract. As you move up in the ranks, it comes as a condition. It’s a rule of thumb right now, because it gives me a chance to influence the final outcome. And you get a chance to protect yourself as an actor and character. And hopefully contribute something that will make the film better.

BF: What does Walter Hill bring to a vehicle like this?

Snipes: I think he brings sincerity, he makes it very realistic and captures the ambience of that world. What’s great about Walter is that he is an actor’s director. He gives actors the entitlement to explore and take risk, expand and see if it works.

BF: We've heard rumors about it, but what is "Godforsaken?"

Snipes: It’s a film that we are discussing, an action-comedy. It’s about a guy who’s a hit man who finds out he’s dying of cancer. And he decides there’s not much more to live for, so he puts a contract out on himself. And then he gets a phone call that the lab made a mistake. He’s not dying of cancer. So he tries to call off the contract, but he can’t.

BF: What do you consider your most underrated film?

Snipes: "The Art of War." I thought we did a pretty good job. Some people didn’t think so. I like that whole intrigue and you never know who’s on who’s side. There’s always another layer to another layer to another layer.

BF: Do you think it could had been handled differently in terms of marketing?

Snipes: I think so. What I hear from the people who have seen it since its release on DVD, is that they like the movie. They thought it was a pretty good film. So marketing is the key to making a film big or small at the end of the day.

BF: How did you approach that performance, since your role was mostly silent?

Snipes: I didn’t say very much.

BF: So, you’re not one of those method guys who put a lot of back story into it?

Snipes: I would have liked to, but we just didn’t have the time. We filmed it right before we were going to film "Blade" over in Prague. I had just come off filming "Liberty Stands Still," which was a movie I did in two days. So I really didn’t have much time to put much into the character. I would have liked to, though.

BF: Your roles have been pretty diverse — drama, romance, action hero — but as a black belt in the martial arts, there always seems to be that action element imbedded in your films. Is that from your personal life?

Snipes: All of the physical stuff just kind of developed. I never really thought of doing action films. It was never my intention to bring my private life into my work. Now, it’s just become part of this whole thing. But it’s cool. I don’t have a problem with it because it has opened up a lot of doors. And has even given me a strong international fan base. So, at the end of the day, maybe they’ll just say "Wesley the actor."



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