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Wesley Trent Snipes (born July 31, 1962) is a an American actor, film producer, and martial artist. He has starred in action-adventures, thrillers, and dramatic feature films but is best known for his role as Blade in the Blade trilogy. In 1991, the actor formed a production company called Amen Ra Films and a subsidiary, Black Dot Media, to develop projects for film and television. Snipes has been training in martial arts since age twelve, earning the rank of fifth dan black belt in Shotokan Karate. He has also trained as a student of Capoeira under Mestre Jelon Vieira and in a number of other disciplines including various styles of kung fu.

Early life

Snipes was born July 31, 1962, in Orlando, the son of Marian, a teacher's aide, and an aircraft engineer father. He grew up in the Bronxmarker, New York Citymarker. Snipes graduated from I.S. 131 an underprivileged middle school in the south Bronx and also attended the famed Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing , but moved back to Floridamarker before he could graduate. After graduating from Jones High School in Orlando, Snipes returned to New York and attended the State University of New York at Purchase, before being asked to leave the prestigious Acting Conservatory his junior year. Snipes also attended a few years at Southwest College in Los Angeles.



A 26-year-old Snipes was discovered by an agent while performing in a competition. He made his film debut in the Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats. In 1987, he appeared as Michael Jackson's nemesis in the Martin Scorsese directed music video "Bad" (he is seen in only the long version of the video) and the feature film Streets of Gold.

Snipes' performance in the music video "Bad" caught the eye of director Spike Lee. Snipes turned down a small role in Lee's Do the Right Thing for the larger part of Willie Mays Hayes in Major League, beginning a succession of box-office hits for Snipes. Lee would later cast Snipes as the jazz saxophonist Shadow Henderson in Mo' Better Blues and as the lead in the interracial romance drama Jungle Fever. Another important role for Snipes was the powerful drug lord Nino Brown in New Jack City, which was written specifically for him by Barry Michael Cooper. Another film in which his character was involved in drugs was the somber movie Sugar Hill.

Although Snipes is more known for his roles in action films like Passenger 57, Demolition Man (with Sylvester Stallone), Money Train, U.S. Marshals (a sequel of The Fugitive) and Rising Sun (with Sean Connery), he has also had success in comedies like White Men Can't Jump, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar where he played a drag queen together with Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo. Snipes has also been critically acclaimed for his roles in dramas like The Waterdance and Disappearing Acts.

In 1997, he won the Best Actor Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival for his performance in New Line Cinema's One Night Stand. 1998 marked Snipes's largest commercial success with the opening of Blade, for New Line Cinema, which has grossed over $150 million worldwide. The film turned into a successful series. He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker and an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, SUNY/Purchase, for his outstanding achievements in film.

Most of his latest films have been released straight-to-DVD. His latest films are The Shooter (also known as The Contractor), filmed in Bulgariamarker and the UK, with Charles Dance, Lena Heady, Eliza Bennett, and the upcoming Gallowwalker, set to be released in 2009.

Snipes was originally slated to play one of the four leads in Spike Lee's 2008 war film, Miracle at St. Anna but had to leave the film due to his widely-publicized tax problems, and his role eventually went to Derek Luke.

Snipes made a comeback performance in Brooklyn's Finest as Caz, a supporting character. He also had to turn down the part of 'Hale Caesar' in The Expendables due to not being allowed to leave the United States without the court's approval.

Other ventures

In the late 1990s, Snipes and his brother started a security firm called the Royal Guard of Amen-Ra, dedicated to providing VIPs with bodyguards trained in law enforcement and martial arts.

In 2000, the business was investigated for alleged ties to a group called the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. It turns out that Snipes had spotted of land with the intention to buy and use for his business academy, which were close to the aforesaid compound in Putnam Countymarker, Georgiamarker. Both Snipes's business and the groups had Egyptian motifs as their symbols, which prompted people to hypothesize ties between them.

Snipes and his brother ended up not buying the land and established their company in Floridamarker, Antiguamarker, and Africa, while the compound was raided in 2002 and their leader convicted ( In later years the conviction has been overturned).

In 2005, Snipes was in negotiations to fight Fear Factor star, Brazilian jujitsu brown belt, and UFC commentator Joe Rogan in an upcoming event.

Personal life

Snipes has been linked to a number of women including Jada Pinkett Smith, Sanaa Lathan, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Lopez. He has been married twice; first, to April Snipes from 1985-1990 with whom he has a son, Jelani Asar Snipes, born in 1988. Jelani had a cameo role in Snipes' 1990 film Mo' Better Blues.

In 2003, Snipes wed painter Nakyung "Nikki" Park, who is the mother of his four youngest children: son Akhenaten Kihwa-T Snipes; daughter Iset Jua-T Snipes (born July 31, 2001); son Alaafia Jehu-T Snipes (born May 26, 2004); and son Alimayu Moa-T Snipes (born March 26, 2007). Snipes spends a lot of time in Park's home country of South Koreamarker, which he calls his "second home."

Snipes has a younger half brother A.D. Snipes, a comedian residing in San Antonio, Texasmarker, who has appeared in the TNT Classics films Rough Riders and Buffalo Soldiers, and has appeared on BET's Comicview and HBO's Def Comedy Jam.

Snipes converted from Christianity to Islam in 1978, but later left Islam in 1988. His current beliefs are unknown.

Snipes's apartment was destroyed by the collapse of the World Trade Center's Twin Towersmarker during the September 11 attacks in 2001. He happened to have been delayed at the gym where he was working out, otherwise he would have been home at that moment.

A September 24, 2002 Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee press release listed Wesley Snipes as an "artist who is supporting" a $6 million fundraiser with tickets ranging from $500 to $250,000."

Legal troubles

Tax problems

On October 12, 2006, Wesley Snipes, Eddie Ray Kahn, and Douglas P. Rosile were charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States under and one count of knowingly making or aiding and abetting the making of a false and fraudulent claim for payment against the United States, under and . Snipes was also charged with six counts of willfully failing to file Federal income tax returns by their filing dates under . The conspiracy charge against Snipes included allegations that he filed a false amended return including a false tax refund claim of over US$4 million for the year 1996 and a false amended return including a false tax refund claim of over US$7.3 million for the year 1997. The government alleged that Snipes attempted to obtain fraudulent tax refunds using a tax protester theory called the "861 argument" (essentially, an argument that the domestic income of U.S. citizens and residents is not taxable). The indictment said Snipes used accountants who already had a history of filing false returns to obtain refund payments for their clients. The government also charged that Snipes sent three worthless, fictitious "bills of exchange" to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the amounts of $1,000,000 (on November 30, 2000), $12,000,000 (January 18, 2001), and $1,000,000 (September 10, 2002), with each accompanied by an IRS tax payment voucher coupon.

Under the alleged deal, the firm American Rights Litigators was to receive, from the clients, an amount equal to 20 percent of the tax refunds obtained for those clients. The government also charged that Snipes failed to file tax returns for the years 1999 through 2004.

In a December 4, 2006 letter from Snipes in response to his indictment, he declared himself "a non-resident alien" of the United States (in reality Snipes is a US born citizen). Snipes said he was being made an example of and unfairly targeted by prosecutors because of his fame in connection with the federal tax fraud investigation. He attempted unsuccessfully to get the trial moved from Ocala, Floridamarker on the ground that racist attitudes in that town would prejudice his chance for a fair trial. Snipes faced the possibility of up to sixteen years in prison and substantial fines if convicted on all the charges. The trial began on January 14, 2008, in Ocala, Florida, with opening statements beginning on January 16, 2008.

On February 1, 2008, Snipes was acquitted on the felony count of conspiracy to defraud the government and on the felony count of filing a false claim with the government. He was, however, found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of failing to file Federal income tax returns (and acquitted on three other "failure to file" charges). His co-defendants, Douglas P. Rosile and Eddie Ray Kahn, were convicted on the conspiracy and false claim charges in connection with the income tax refund claims filed for Snipes.

On April 24, 2008, Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison for willful failure to file federal income tax returns under . While defense lawyers urged leniency, prosecutors argued that Snipes should be made an example of because of his fame. Kahn was sentenced to ten years in prison, and Rosile was sentenced to four and half years in prison. As of April 2009, Snipes remains free on bail to work, even traveling internationally, while he appeals his conviction.In April 2009, the Los Angeles Wave reported that Snipes has refused to answer certain questions in connection with a talent agency lawsuit in which the agency claims that Snipes owes over $1.4 million in commissions. Snipes is reported to have taken the position that his answers could incriminate him in a federal tax investigation. Lawyers for the talent agency stated that Snipes' lawyer advised the lawyers for the talent agency that "Snipes and his [ . . . ] companies are under an additional investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and Snipes would be asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and would not answer any questions at his deposition." On May 22, the trial court ruled that Snipes may remain free while his appeal is being considered.

New Line lawsuit

In 2005, Snipes sued New Line Cinema, and David S. Goyer (director of Blade: Trinity) claiming that the studio did not pay his full salary, that he was intentionally cut out of casting decisions and filmmaking process, despite being one of the producers, and that his character's screen time was reduced in favor of costars, Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel.

Snipes contends that Goyer, his fellow producers, and New Line kept him out of the project's decision process, which ended up harming the film's performance (it made just $52 million, compared to the previous installments that had made $70 million and $82 million respectively). He says that a portion of his salary - $3.6 million - was withheld as punishment. The suit is still pending.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Title Result
MTV Movie Awards Best Fight Blade Nominated
Best Villain Demolition Man
Best Screen-duo White Men Can't Jump
Best Villain New Jack City
Best Kiss White Men Can't Jump
Venice Film Festival Best Actor (Volpi Cup) One Night Stand Won
Hollywood Walk of Famemarker 7020 Hollywood Blvd Awarded
Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Actor The Waterdance Nominated
Image Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series America's Dream Won
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture New Jack City Won
CableACE Awards Best Actor in a Dramatic Series Vietnam War Story Won
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Duo - Action/Adventure U.S. Marshals Nominated
Favorite Actor - Horror Blade Won
Black Reel Awards Best Actor (Motion Picture) Undisputed Nominated
Network/Cable - Best Actor Disappearing Acts
WorldFest Houston Gold Special Jury Award - Best Actors (shared) The Waterdance Won


Year Title Role Notes
1986 Wildcats Trumaine
1987 Streets of Gold Roland Jenkins
Vietnam War Story II Young Soldier Direct-to-video
1988 Critical Condition Ambulance Driver Cameo appearance
1989 Major League Willie "Mays" Hayes
1990 King of New York Thomas Flanigan
Mo' Better Blues Shadow Handerson
1991 Jungle Fever Flipper "Flip" Purify
New Jack City Nino Brown
1992 Passenger 57 John Cutter
White Men Can't Jump Sidney "Syd" Deane
1993 The Waterdance Raymond Hill
Boiling Point Jimmy Mercer
Demolition Man Simon Phoenix
Rising Sun Lt. Webster "Web" Smith
1994 Drop Zone Pete Nessip
Sugar Hill Roemello Skugs
1995 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Noxeema Jackson
Money Train John
Waiting to Exhale James Wheeler uncredited
1997 The Fan Bobby "Bob" Rayburn
America's Dream George Du Vail TV
Murder at 1600 Detective Harlan Regins
1998 One Night Stand Maximilian "Max" Carlyle Volpi Cup (Best Actor) in Venice Film Festival
Blade Blade/Eric Brooks/The Daywalker also fight choregraphy and producer
U.S. Marshals Mark J. Sheridan/Warren/Roberts
Down in the Delta Will Sinclair Also executive producer
Masters of the Martial Arts presented by Wesley Snipes Himself Documentary
Jackie Chan: My Story Himself Documentary
Futuresport Obike Fixx TV
1999 Play It to the Bone Ringside Fan Cameo appearance
2000 The Art of War Neil Shaw
Disappearing Acts Franklin Swift Also producer
2002 Blade II Blade/Eric Brooks/The Daywalker also fight and coordinator and producer
2002 ZigZag David "Dave" Fletcher
Liberty Stands Still Joe
Undisputed Monroe "Undisputed" Hutchens Also producer
2004 Unstoppable Dean Cage
Blade: Trinity Blade/Eric Brooks/The Daywalker also producer
2005 7 Seconds Jack Tulliver Direct-to-DVD
The Marksman Painter Direct-to-DVD
2006 Hard Luck Lucky Direct-to-DVD
Chaos Jason York/Scott Curtis/Lorenz Direct-to-DVD
The Detonator Sonni Griffith Direct-to-DVD
2007 The Contractor James Dial Direct-to-DVD
2008 The Art of War II: Betrayal Neil Shaw Direct-to-DVD
2009 Gallowwalker Aman Post-Production
Brooklyn's Finest Caz post-production
2010 Chasing the Dragon Agent Bo Monroe pre-production
2010 Game of Death filming

TV series

Year Title Role Episode
1986 Miami Vice Silk Streetwise
1987 Vietnam War Story Young Soldier An Old Ghost Walks the Earth
1989 A Man Called Hawk Nicholas Murdock Choice of Chance
The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd Hood Here's Why You Should Always Make Your Bed in the Morning
1990 H.E.L.P. Lou Barton Series lead
1997 Happily Ever After The Pied Piper The Pied Piper
2002 The Bernie Mac Show Duke Rope-a-Dope


  1. 1ST PERSON: Meet Wesley Snipes. | Knight Ridder/Tribune (via Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service) (August, 2000)
  2. [1]
  3. Collis, Clark. "Fall Movie Summer Preview, September: Miracle at St. Anna." Entertainment Weekly, Iss. #1007/1008, August 22/29, 2008, pg. 42-45.
  4. Nashawaty, Chris (December 21, 2007). "The Trials of Wesley Snipes". Entertainment Weekly, p. 45-51.
  5. Joe Rogan vs. Wesley Snipes in a mixed martial arts bout
  6. Wesley Snipes, Hollywood's hottest new star talks about: his divorce, his days on the streets and why he doesn't have 'jungle fever. Ebony Magazine. Sept, 1991 by Laura B. Randolph
  7. Facts about Wesley Snipes -
  8. Media Research Centre, Oct. 1, 2002 [2].
  9. Findlaw
  10. Findlaw
  11. Superseding Indictment, Oct. 12, 2006, United States v. Wesley Trent Snipes, entry 6, page 8, paragraphs 29 & 30 and page 9, paragraph 39, case no. 5:06-cr-00022-WTH-GRJ, United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Ocala Div.).
  12. "Wesley Snipes Arrested in Tax Fraud Case", Forbes, 8 December 2006.
  13. apnews.myway
  14. "Feds: Snipes Declared Himself Alien, Warned Against Past Tax Prosecution",, January 25, 2008.
  15. Carmen Gentile, "Wesley Snipes Could Face Wrath of IRS", Fox News, Jan. 15, 2008].
  16. The sixteen years was calculated from one year on each of the six counts under 26 U.S.C. section 7203, five years under 18 U.S.C. section 371, and five years under 18 U.S.C. section 287.
  17. Travis Reed, "Snipes' tax fraud trial opens in Ocala", Associated Press, Jan. 14, 2008.
  18. "Jury selected in Wesley Snipes tax trial", Associated Press, Jan. 15, 2008].
  19. "Wesley Snipes acquitted of federal tax fraud," MSNBC, Feb. 1, 2008, at [3].
  20. Snipes acquitted of tax-fraud, conspiracy, Associated Press, as reported by CNN, February 1, 2006.
  21. See ABC Action News, 24 April 2008, at [4].
  22. See the Orlando Sentinel, 24 April 2008, at this page.
  23. Stephen Hudak, April 24, 2008, "Wesley Snipes sentenced to three years in federal tax case," Orlando Sentinel, at [5].
  26. "Wesley Snipes pleads fifth, won’t answer more lawsuit questions," April 28, 2009, Los Angeles Wave, at [6].
  27. Stephen Hudak, " Judge grants appellate bond for Wesley Snipes", Orlando Sentinel, May 22, 2008.

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