With sleek, well-muscled good looks that
easily lend themselves to romantic leading roles or parts that call for
running, jumping, and handling firearms, Wesley Snipes became one of the
most popular Hollywood stars of the 1990s. First coming to prominence with
roles in Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues and Jungle Fever, Snipes went on
to prove himself as an actor who could appeal to audiences as a man that
women want and men want to be.
Born in Orlando, Florida on July 31, 1962,
Snipes grew up in the Bronx. He developed an early interest in acting and
attended Manhattan's High School for the Performing Arts. His mother moved
him back to Florida before he could graduate, but after finishing up high
school in Florida, Snipes attended the State University of New York-Purchase
and began pursuing an acting career.
It was while performing in a competition
that he was discovered by an agent, and a short time later he made his
film debut in the Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats (1986). Although he appeared
in a few more films during the 1980s, it was Snipes's turn as a street
tough who menaces Michael Jackson in the Martin Scorsese-directed video
for "Bad" that caught the eye of director Lee. He was so impressed with
the actor's performance that he cast him in his 1990 Mo' Better Blues as
a flamboyant saxophonist opposite Denzel Washington. That role, coupled
with the exposure that Snipes had received for his performance as a talented
but undisciplined baseball player in the previous year's Major League,
succeeded in giving the actor a tentative plot on the Hollywood map. With
his starring role in Lee's 1991 Jungle Fever, Snipes won critical praise
and increased his audience exposure, and his career duly took off.
That same year, Snipes further demonstrated
his flexibility with disparate roles in New Jack City, in which he played
a volatile drug lord, and The Waterdance, in which he starred as a former
wild man repenting for his ways in a hospital's paraplegic ward.
Both performances earned strong reviews,
and the following year Snipes found himself as the lead in his first big-budget
action flick, Passenger 57. The film, which featured the actor as an ex-cop
with an attitude who takes on an airplane hijacker, proved to be a hit.
Snipes' other film that year, the comedy White Men Can't Jump, was also
successful, allowing the actor to enter the arena of full-fledged movie
After a few more action stints in such
films as Rising Sun (1993), which featured him opposite Sean Connery, Snipes
went in a different direction with an uncredited role in Waiting to Exhale
(1995). The same year he completely bucked his macho, action figure persona
with his portrayal of a flamboyant drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks For
Everything! Julie Newmar. Snipes continued to focus on less testosterone-saturated
projects after a turn as a baseball player in The Fan (1996), starring
as an adulterous director in Mike Figgis's One Night Stand (1997) -- for
which he won a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival -- and as Alfre
Woodard's handsome cousin in Down in the Delta in 1998. That same year,
Snipes returned to the action genre, playing a pumped-up vampire slayer
in Blade and a wrongfully accused man on the run from the law in the sequel
to The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals.
Some facts on Wesley Snipes:
He called "U.S. Marshals," a "Fugitive-"esque
thriller with Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr., the most strenuous
of his career.
Snipes is a longtime martial arts aficionado?
While shooting a fight scene with Tommy Lee
Jones for "U.S. Marshals," he developed a nasty reaction to the grain that
was dumped on their heads?
He installed telephones before landing his
first movie role in "Wildcats"?
Before enrolling in college, he formed a traveling
puppet troupe that performed in public parks and schools?
He won the best actor award at the 1997 Venice
Film Festival for his role in "One Night Stand"?
See how he was made