There is a story going around about Wesley Snipes meeting with Marvel to discuss a new Blade film.
It's very likely that has happened; Marvel knows that the Blade films have only gained renown with horror and action fans, and the first two films were put together with some amazing directing and writing talent, most notably writer David Goyer who wrote all three films and directed the third, and director Guillermo del Toro who handled the second Blade movie.
I spent last night re-watching the first two Blade movies, which are just as good as I'd remembered. They're beautiful, sexy looks at a world of vampires and a man who relentlessly hunts them. (The video below is NSFW, by the way.)
They have a hard R-rating and are fronted by a person of color, which are both rarities in the modern world of Marvel. Marvel Studios, in fact, controls the films rights to Blade again after New Line Cinemas let them lapse.
This all sounds good, so why am I so pessimistic about the chances of Snipes returning?
This is a risk for Marvel
Marvel already has a huge slate of films planned years in advance; it's an ambitious schedule of production, promotion and release, and they're laser focused on the Marvel Universe above all else. That would mean giving Blade to an outside creative team, which is unlikely, or folding the violent, adult world of Blade into a world where Captain America chides people about PG-13 level swearing.
From a business and creative standpoint it just doesn't make sense.
Blade also has a bad stink on it after the poor critical and commercial reception of the third Blade film, not to mention a TV series that virtually no one remembers, or watched. Why try to rehabilitate a character when Marvel is seeing such huge success turning B-list comics like Guardians of the Galaxy into films?
Let's also remember that Wesley Snipes is 52 years old, and was recently released from prison where he was serving time for tax evasion. Before that he sued the production of Blade: Trinity for $5 million in damages.
"In a suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Snipes alleges that in violation of his contract, the director, screenplay and supporting cast of Blade: Trinity were forced on him," Variety reported back in 2005. "He also claims he’s still owed a portion of his fee and that he was harassed and defamed because of his race. New Line declined to comment." The lawsuit was ultimately settled.
That being said, by all reports Snipes was nearly impossible to work with on set. Patton Oswalt famously described his work on the movie to the AV Club.
Then I remember one day on the set — they let everyone pick their own clothes — there was one black actor who was also kind of a club kid. And he wore this shirt with the word "Garbage" on it in big stylish letters. It was his shirt. And Wesley came down to the set, which he only did for close-ups. Everything else was done by his stand-in. I only did one scene with him. But he comes on and goes, "There’s only one other black guy in the movie, and you make him wear a shirt that says ‘Garbage?’ You racist motherfucker!"
Snipes was reported to have physically attacked director David Goyer, and to have been using recreational drugs on set while often refusing to appear for scenes. "Wesley [Snipes] was just fucking crazy in a hilarious way," Oswalt claimed. "He wouldn’t come out of his trailer, and he would smoke weed all day. Which is fine with me, because I had all these DVDs that I wanted to catch up on."
Writer Chris Parry, who was on the film's set for a story he was preparing for Spin magazine, wrote up his own thoughts on the production of the film.
"...Wesley Snipes? Not only was he not prepared to help his fellow actors during their close-ups, but if the shot involved anything less than a front-on close-up, he called for a stand-in to do the acting for him," Parry wrote. "What does that mean? It means Wesley Snipes' stand-in was in more of Blade: Trinity than Snipes himself was."
According to Parry, much of what you see in the film is actually a double, and the production was troubled in almost every way.
"'He's a dick,' I was told by a crew member who asked to remain anonymous, due to her executive position with the film. 'He's the star of this fucking movie, it's the only thing he's got going for him in his career, and he treats us all like idiots. Even his own co-stars! He doesn't talk to them face to face, instead he has his assistant do it. He refers to Ryan Reynolds as 'that cracker' 'tell that cracker to get out of my eyeline,' and 'tell that cracker to get his lines right.' He refers to Jessica Biel as 'that girl.' Honestly, I've never seen anything like this in a decade in production, and if it weren't for the fact that everyone is working so hard to make up for his crap, I probably would have walked, first week.'"
The lawsuit also claimed that the film was written in such a way to allow for spinoff films featuring Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds, which explains part of Snipes' belligerence. There were reports that Reynold's ad-libs during shooting, which were some of the best parts of the film, were there due to Snipes' lack of time on set.
What does this all mean?
Wesley Snipes obviously felt trapped during the production of the third Blade film, working with actors he didn't approve of and a director he likely didn't respect. There are multiple reports that the set was racially charged, and Snipes has a point: The first two Blade films had wonderful, diverse casts, while the third film ... didn't.
The problem is that Snipes' behavior on set makes it impossible to say if the ultimate problems with the film were due to the cast and director or Snipes himself. Marvel keeps a tight control of everything during a film's production, from the creative team to the script. We've seen the stress this puts on those involved with the films, from Joss Whedon leaving the Avengers series after Age of Ultron to Edgar Wright walking away from the production of Ant-Man. Marvel hands writers and directors the ability to put a huge blockbuster on their resumé, but it's very clear who has ultimate control of the project.
The reality is that Wesley Snipes may have been right about many of his grievances, but Marvel is unlikely to risk a repeat of that situation if the aging star doesn't agree with their choices for the film's script or director.
Personally I'd love to see Snipes come back to the Blade franchise, especially one written by David Goyer and again directed by Guillermo del Toro with the ability to show R-rated violence. That's unlikely in the new era of Marvel, however, and Snipes presents a potential liability to anyone asking him to carry an entire film, and you better believe Blade would be on his shoulders in that situation.
I have no doubt Snipes would love to return to Blade. As a fan of the series I would love to see it happen, and I would love for this op-ed to be wrong. But the chances of Marvel taking the risk, and adding this film to its already bloated slate of projects? I'm not hopeful.
Even if the series is rebooted, it's likely Marvel would go with a younger lead for the film, one they would feel sure they could control. Snipes likely loves the fact the press is running with this story, because he has everything to gain from a new Blade film. Everyone else? Not so much.