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July 2001
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His Moves Are Real!

Wesley Snipes

Real Name: Wesley Snipes
Born: July 31, 1962
Place of Birth: Orlando, Florida, USA
Sign: Leo
Asian sign: Tiger
Height: 5'10"
Relations: Divorced; Grandmother: Ruth Carter; Mother: Marian (Divorced during Snipes' childhood); Three sisters; Son: Jelani Asar Snipes (Born 1988; appeared in Mo' Better Blues)
Education: Graduated with a B.F.A. in Theatre and Dramatic Arts from State University of New York-Purchase; Honorary Doctorate in Humanities and Fine Arts from State University of New York-Purchase; Attended New York City's High School for the Performing Arts; Graduated from Jones High School in Orlando
Hobbies: Martial Arts (Capoeira/Capoeita, 5th degree Black Belt); Motorcycles

Awards Include:
>1999: Nominated - Blockbuster Entertainment Awards - Favorite Actor – Horror - Blade
>1999: Nominated - Favorite Duo - Action/Adventure - U.S. Marshals
>1999: Nominated - MTV Movie Awards - Best Fight - For the fight against vampires - Blade
>1998: Walk of Fame - On 21 August
>1997: Won – Best Actor - Venice Film Festival for "One Night Stand"
>1988: Cable ACE Award for Vietnam War Story
>1991: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor for New Jack City
>1997: NAACP Image Award for Best Actor (TV Movie/Series) for America's Dream.
>1997: Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival for One Night Stand

Film/Acting Credits Include:
>2001: Blade 2: Bloodlust...Blade (in production)
>2001: Liberty Stands Still...Joe (in production)
>2001: Undisputed...Monroe (in production)
>2001: Zigzag...Fletcher (in production)
>2000: Disappearing Acts...Franklin Swift
>2000: Art of War, The…Neil Shaw
>1998: Futuresport...Obike Fixx
>1998: U.S. Marshals...Mark Sheridan
>1998: Blade...Blade
>1998: Down in the Delta...Will Sinclair
>1998: Jackie Chan: My Story...(TV) Himself
>1997: Murder at 1600...Detective Harlan Regis
>1997: One Night Stand...Max Carlyle
>1996: Fan, The...Bobby Rayburn
>1996: America's Dream...George Du Vaul
>1996: John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk...Narrator
>1996: America's Dream…(TV)
>1995: Money Train...John
>1995: Waiting to Exhale...James
>1995: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar...Noxeema Jackson
>1995: Hollywood Dreams…(TV) narrator
>1994: Drop Zone...Pete Nessip
>1993: Demolition Man...Simon Phoenix
>1993: Rising Sun...Web Smith
>1993: Boiling Point...Jimmy Mercer
>1993: Sugar Hill aka Harlem...Roemello Skuggs
>1992: White Men Can't Jump...Sidney Deane
>1992: Passenger 57...John Cutter
>1992: Waterdance, The...Raymond Hill
>1992: MTV Movie Awards...(TV) Presenter
>1992: Real Malcolm X, The...(TV) Himself
>1991: New Jack City...Nino Brown
>1991: Jungle Fever...Flipper Purify
>1990: Mo' Better Blues...Shadow Henderson
>1990: King of New York...Thomas Flanigan
>1990: H.E.L.P…(TV)
>1989: Major League...Willie Mays Hayes
>1988: Vietnam War Story II…(TV)
>1987: Bad...(Music Video) Mini Max
>1987: Critical Condition... Ambulance Driver
>1986: Streets of Gold...Roland Jenkins
>1986: Wildcats...Trumaine

Filmography as Producer:
>2001: Blade 2: Bloodlust …producer
>2001: Dr. Ben…executive producer
>2001: Undisputed…executive producer
>2000: Disappearing Acts…(TV) executive producer
>2001: Art of War, The…executive producer
>1998: Futuresport…(TV) producer
>1998: Blade…producer
>1998: Down in the Delta…producer
>1998: Big Hit, The (aka Warheads)…producer
>1996: John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk…executive producer


   When Wesley Snipes first started in the screen entertainment business, he says, "In the beginning, all I wanted to do was to be a singer and a dancer. That was my real groove, my real interest. When it came to doing films, my biggest goal was to do a commercial." Well, today I think we can safely say that the man's career has certainly exceeded that modest original goal.
   Snipes was born in Florida, but grew up on the gritty streets of New York's South Bronx. The Bronx was a tough place for an undersized kid to grow up and at an early age Snipes turned to the Martial Arts as a way to protect himself on the tough streets. To him, the martial arts was a simple matter of survival.
   "I was small as a child. I matured late," he says. "It made growing up in a tough world even tougher. I started out using my martial arts training to defend myself. My style is traditional martial arts mixed with Bronx street fighting," he explains, and adds; "I've practiced many different martial arts disciplines.

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Wesley Snipes

They are what taught me how to deal with adversity in my life. You have to endure and overcome so much physical pain to learn these moves that you can apply the same principles to life experiences."
   Well, Snipes not only survived the streets, he also fought to follow his dream of some day becoming an entertainer. He even won acceptance to Manhattan's High School for the Performing Arts, but was eventually forced to drop out when the family moved back to Florida. After graduation from a Florida high school he appeared in local dinner theaters and regional productions, still pursuing his dream of becoming an entertainer.
   He eventually returned to New York a few years later with his dream still intact. For a time, he performed with a traveling puppet troupe giving performances for kids in public parks and schools, but he was determined to study real acting and was soon accepted to the prestigious theatre program at S.U.N.Y. Purchase where he worked hard at the study of drama, eventually earning a B.F.A. in Theatre and Dramatic Arts. He was one of only four African-American students.
   After graduation, he worked as a telephone installer by day and at night kept up with the theater work he so loved. As luck would have it, an agent saw him in a competition one day and loved what he saw. The result was a supporting role in his first movie alongside Goldie Hawn in the film "Wildcats." Snipes was able to keep body and soul together after "Wildcats" by landing minor TV work and more supporting roles in movies such as "Streets of Gold."
   But his next bit of casting was anything but expected. Odd as it was, it was also to prove unexpectedly fortunate. Not film or TV work, he was, instead, asked to take a role in a music video. A hungry young actor, Snipes was not above taking whatever work he could get, so he accepted the job. It was a small part in the Michael Jackson, Scorsese-directed music video "Bad" where he was directed to shove Jackson against a wall. Needless to say, the mega-star singer didn't have to do much acting to be believably frightened by Snipes.
   The unique result of his brief role in the music video was that his small performance got him noticed by the legendary director Spike Lee, who, after asking around, finally found out who Snipes was. He eventually contacted the actor, asking if he'd be interested in trying his hand in a part in Lee's movie "Mo' Better Blues." There was little soul searching needed for the young actor. He jumped at the part.
   Snipes did such a fine job in "Mo' Better," Lee would later come back to the actor with another offer. This time it was for the lead role in the interracial-romance drama "Jungle Fever." In reality, Lee had been so impressed with Snipes' earlier performance, he actually wrote the "Jungle Fever" role of Flipper Purify with Snipes in mind.
   With his tall good looks, his long-time training in the martial arts and an acting ability that Snipes worked on as diligently as he did his martial arts training, Snipes became a natural for action movies at a time when directors were desperately searching Hollywood for actors capable of looking good while performing the requisite action moves. The martial artist/actor Wesley Snipes was a perfect fit. The result was casting success in such movies as "Passenger 57" and "Rising Sun."
   But action films would prove to be just a part of this actors talented range. Not wanting to be typecast, Snipes has made a point of taking on other, perhaps riskier roles between his action films; with the express purpose of proving to himself and others that he possesses a truly broad range of abilities as an actor.
   Today, Snipes has proven that he's as equally gifted with subtle and complex films as he is with special effects laden action material. His portrayal of a wheelchair-bound patient in "The Waterdance" was memorable, as was his quirky portrayal of a drag queen in "To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar."
   Despite his all-man, action-star reputation, "To Wong Foo" wasn't that difficult for a man who has always been in touch with his feminine side. "Most people in my family are women," he says. "I grew up in a house with three women. My aunt had three daughters. My babysitter when I was young--she had three daughters. I was even in the Girl Scouts when I was 9 or 10," he says. "I was like a Girl Scout helper. I sold cookies like anybody else, so I could get to go on the field trip."
   But despite his girl scout background and his more sensitive screen roles, when called upon to name a single top film by the talented Mr. Snipes, the public seems to have but one response – "Blade!"
   Like it or not, Snipes will be forever associated with the martial arts wonder character he made famous in the blockbuster vampire slayer film. But Snipes makes no apologies for the film or the martial arts that helped make the film and his name household words. In fact, Snipes continues his eternal study of Eastern doctrines and the fighting skills he's made famous on the big screen.
   Today, he studies several Asian philosophies such as meditation, herbology, acupuncture and massage. He has even found a soul mate in the very Asian Donna Wong. The two met on a blind date set up by one of his assistants. He says Wong has "brought out more of my yang side. I have found that Asian women are more compassionate than either African-American or white women." Snipes says he sees Asian women as being more comfortable with their beauty. "They don't try to find ways to compensate for being beautiful or to compete with men," he says.
   Snipes was married earlier in life when he was 22. The marriage lasted five years and produced a son, Jelanie Asar. "I agonized over breaking up my son's home, but my wife and I did not agree on where my life and career should go and how I should get it there," he says with genuine remorse. He explains that being an actor is often a tough life, not suitable to everyone's idea of how life should be lived.
   On a lighter note, Snipes says he's always had difficulties when it comes to romance, even from the beginning. "Fourth grade, P132 in the Bronx," Snipes says. "I remember her name was Anita and we were really cool — until she pushed me down the stairs." Asked what turns him on in a woman, Snipes replies, "I love legs. From the waist down, it's all good."
   Getting back to "Blade," Snipes says he is often questioned about the making of the film. He explains that he was not only the actor, he also helped choreograph all the fight sequences with his martial arts partner Jeff Ward.

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Wesley Snipes

   "We rehearsed the fight sequences with our stunt team for a month before we brought in the cameras, and then we rehearsed for a week with the cameramen so they could learn to track around our moves."
   And bringing a comic book character to life also gave the team license to do almost anything.
   "You can push the envelope of creativity and imagination because comic books are fantasy," Snipes says recalling the creative process behind the film. "You can do things that real life storylines don't afford you the opportunity to do."
   He says producing "Blade" was something he ended up doing because, after all the hard work by everyone involved, he wanted the film to be a good one.
   Despite the many popular films he had already been in, Snipes says, "People would ask me when I was going to be in a really good film. The only way that can ever happen for an actor is when he is also the producer. That's the only way you get any real control over the final product." He ended up producing the film through his Amen Ra Films company and it became the Hollywood blockbuster and legend-creator that his fans had always hoped for the actor.
   Snipes says life is a constant battle, even if you're a star and especially if you're black. He equates his struggle of overcoming the hierarchy of control in Hollywood to that of a being a Roman gladiator. "The gladiators were admired and revered," he says. "But they were still living in the bowels of Rome. They still had to fight for their living, you know." As a producer, he now has the control of a Caesar to go along with his gladiator stardom.
   Continuing with thoughts on his work, Snipes has often been asked what it was like to co-star alongside the erratic Robert Downey Jr. in their back-to-back projects, "One Night Stand" and "The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals," especially with Downey's much publicized drug rehab problems at the time. His response is always given with a smile.
   "I've gone to schools with teachers and other actors who were more off the wall," he laughs, wiping away any concerns. "I was accustomed to it. I come from the theater, man! You get all types in the theater--they come from under every rock and every block you can find."
   Today, Snipes seems to have found his inner peace and self confidence.
   When asked recently what he thinks about what others think about his work he just laughed and said, "I don't care. I truly do not care what people think. I'm about doing the work. To be honest, whatever the Divine Creator has instilled in me, that is something He—or She—gave to me. And my job is to do the best that I can do with it: to hone it, craft it, form it, shape it, so it can be a reflection of that gift and my appreciation of it. So I don't care what other people say. You can't make everybody happy, man. When I was trying to make everybody happy, people were still pissed. Nobody's ever satisfied. Some people are soldiers, some people are political activists, some people are compassionate spirits like Mother Teresa. I'm not either. I'm an artist."
   Snipes the artist is also Snipes the motorcycle enthusiast, which has sometimes caused him more than just a few problems. He loves to ride, but in 1993 he crashed his bike in L.A. and ended up being booked for carrying a concealed weapon. The very next year, he led police on a 120-mph chase down a 30-mile stretch of Florida highway until he looked in his mirror and realized they were behind him.
   Unfortunately, when he dutifully went to pull off the road, he crashed his bike again, this time along a highway off-ramp. He was thrown from the bike but refused medical treatment. To add insult to injury, he was cited for reckless driving. Needless to say, the artist loves to ride, but he's also been very lucky when it comes to walking away from potential disaster.
   In 1996, Snipes also experienced what could have been another life-ending disaster. He was frightened into physical action by a London woman who had been stalking him for three years.
   "This poor woman thought she and I were a princess and prince who have had five or six children together," he recalls. "She'd been tracking me to reunite us. I was rollerblading along the beach (in Marina del Ray, California) when she started following me on a bicycle. She finally jumped off her bike and grabbed me.
   "I had visions of what happened to John Lennon. I honestly thought it was my time so I reacted physically."
   Police reports indicated that the woman suffered a broken leg in the brief scuffle, but with Snipes' martial arts skills, she's lucky that's all that happened to her. Snipes was not charged in the incident and the woman was quickly deported back to England.
   To keep himself in shape, Snipes worked out at Gold's Gym but now he has his own state-of-the-art Paramount weight-training circuit (he bench-presses 210, 225 lbs), which he alternates with a rigorous martial-arts program based on Japanese, Brazilian, African and Chinese disciplines.
   "As far as my work is concerned, I look better when I'm toned and full, as opposed to really huge," he says. "I've got nothing but respect for Arnold and Sly, but their bodies become part of their personas. That's not my thing. With my regimen, I get the job done, and then it's party time."
   While he may love exercise and the martial arts, Snipes is less than crazy about the water. Once pressed to join a spontaneous beach-based swimming outing, he bellowed, "Hell, no! Woody [Harrelson] surfs out there, and a couple of times I've seen him come back with all these sores and barnacles on his back. Man, there is no way I'm going in there. I'll wait until I get a pool."
   These days, Snipes reflects thoughtfully about how he succeeded in his chosen profession.
   "I'm a Leo and my Asian sign is the Tiger. Those are powerful, determined hunting signs. It means I should be able to achieve my goals if I really apply myself.
"The martial arts helped me put my inner life in order. I took them up for my own sanity, not because other people thought I should."
   Speaking about both his martial arts training and his film work, he says, "I've found that the greatest difficulty is maintaining my skill level. I continue to work with people who can help improve my skill level."
   Still working on self-improvement. Impressive! There's a lesson in that for all of us!