Even though Wesley Snipes is appearing in Coming 2 America, a direct sequel to a movie from the late ’80s (and, folks, he is dynamite as General Izzi, the rival to Eddie Murphy’s Akeem), when pressed, Snipes doesn’t seem all that interested in making sequels to his own hit movies from the ’80s and ’90s. (So, maybe don’t expect Passenger 58 anytime soon, though he did say he’ll “look into it.”) Oh, and he has a lot of hit movies from that era, which, I suspect, a good number have been rewatched over the last year as we all try to seek out fun entertainment. Though, Snipes does seem to worry people have forgotten about what he does best. But to anyone who lived through the peak Snipes era, that doesn’t seem possible.
But Snipes is positive that he’s better than ever, often referring to himself as, now, a black belt – as opposed to his former white belt status. This is, as he puts it, his Blade-killer. Which is either a reference to his old Blade films or the new Blade project (which he says he has nothing to do with) – but, most likely, it’s both. Though, there do seem to be two things Snipes really wants to do. One is to re-team with Woody Harrelson for a fourth movie, which he says is going to happen. And the other is to work with Martin Scorsese again, which he hasn’t done since the video for Micheal Jackson’s “Bad.” Though, Snipes says he’ll probably have to wear a Robert De Niro mask to get Scorsese’s attention.
You have been such a huge part of my quarantine experience. I think I’m up to ten Wesley Snipes movies at this point.
Are you feeling better or feeling worse?
Oh, they make me feel better. I’ve rewatched everything from, obviously, Passenger 57, but even back to Wildcats.
Wow. Wildcats. Me and Woody met on that film.
People always forget that one when talking about the Wesley and Woody movies. That’s a good movie.
It was fun. It was my first!
A movie that is not your first, Coming 2 America, you look like you’re having the time of your life.
To get a chance to work with Eddie again, Arsenio, and to be on the set of a movie that was not only iconic, but had so much influence on my continued pursuit in the arts, was wonderful. Wonderful.
I assume you saw the first one in theaters?
I did, multiple times. I did, for different reasons, too.
What were the different reasons?
Well, some were thespian, and some were straight Homo sapien.
I see. How many times did you see it in theaters?
I can’t even count. More than three.
What were your thoughts the first time you saw it in theaters?
You know the opening scene when the dancers came in?
That, to me, was like, wow, that’s the dream. I even imagined being one of the dancers. More than being one of the actors, I wanted to be one of the dancers in that opening scene, because I had a passion for dance all my life. I kind of use martial arts in the action movies as my surrogate dance partner.
What was going on in your life when you saw it? Were you making Major League around that time?
This is over 30 some years ago. I don’t remember exactly.
I didn’t know if you had to get away from set or something…
No, man. I wasn’t no big star, man. I wasn’t no big star. Ain’t nobody knew who Wesley was, man.
Well, Coming to America came out in ’88 and Major League came out in ’89. So I assumed you might’ve been filming that, and you’re a big part of that movie so you might’ve had responsibilities.
I think that’s around the “Bad” video. That’s when I was working with Mike. Isn’t that around when I was working with Michael Jackson and Martin Scorsese?
I don’t know. It’s ballpark in that era.
Somewhere around then. Amazing.
Here’s my assumption. I assume on Dolemite is My Name, Craig Brewer and Eddie Murphy were like, “Hey, you should do this one.” Was it that easy, or is there a lot more to it?
I wish he came that quick. Didn’t come that quick.
Yeah, it was after Dolemite. They pulled my coat saying, “Hey, man, we want you to do something.” Craig says, “We want you to do something in Coming to America 2.” Because, actually, I’d heard through the grapevine that they were doing it. It was kind of like feeling, once again, I was the bridesmaid and never the bride because no one was talking to me. And it had gotten down to a screening of a Dolemite, almost a month into all these rumors, that they finally came to me and asked me to join up.
Because you killed it in Dolemite. I didn’t know you had to keep pestering them.
Hey, man, some people are unsure.
So, take me through that.
Some people went, “Oh, well, maybe. He could be a fluke.”
So you were at the screening for Dolemite and you’re still talking to them going, hey, I’m hearing rumors of this?
And I think, if I’m not mistaken, Mike Epps was at that screening as well. And I remember Craig pulling Mike Epps off to the side and walking up the steps and saying, “Hey, man.” Mike is like, “Yeah, man.” I mean, I was like, look at this shit here. I’ll be damned. I’m going to stand over here by the door, like I’m the popcorn man, and wait till everybody leave. I ain’t leaving until somebody says something.
Did you confront them?
I would like to say yes, that I used my extrasensory perception, you know what I’m saying? To create the opportunity for Craig to come down those stairs and see me standing by the door and go, “Oh, yeah, Wes. Hey, man, I want you to be in the movie.” I would like to think that I was a motivation behind that.
So the way you describe it, it sounds like the plan was to put yourself in the right people’s eyesight the whole night.
Just like the last chick at the bar.
See, I don’t believe that.
The last chick at the bar. I’m telling you, man. Sometimes they forget what Wes do. They forget who I am and what I do. They forget, man. Sometimes I just have to remind them. And it’s okay. I don’t mind. I’ve worn pumps in the past before. I don’t mind.
I don’t believe anyone forgets what you do. I think that’s impossible.
Well, I don’t know. I mean, it seems to me, but you could be right.
I don’t personally know anyone who could ever forget what you do.
Give thanks and praise. Give thanks and praise. That’s wonderful. Well, we’re going to keep trying. We’re going to try to be indelible. We’re going to keep pushing and trying till we get in their memory. Scorsese still hasn’t called me to do another film since we did “Bad.”
I’ve said the same thing.
Well, it’s kind of hard right now with the pandemic. But once that’s over, you just go where he is and just wait around…
Yeah. Oh, right. And if I put my Robert De Niro mask on, then he’s going to pay attention. Like, “Hey, Robert. Hey.”
I would pay money to see you wearing a Robert De Niro mask. I feel that would be an interesting thing to watch.
I’ll do it. I’ve done it. I love the guy. I love the guy. You know?
When did you and Eddie first meet?
Aw, man, that’s back when Russell Simmons and them, and they had Def Jam had Def Lounge back in New York. Man, that’s got to be ’89 ’90, somewhere in that ballpark?
When was the first time you two ever discussed doing something together?
When I came to California in ’91, Eddie and Stevie Wonder and a couple of other people were the first ones to invite me, embrace me, bring me tea and stuff. Like good neighbors. And he invited me to dinner with he and his crew and the family, and had a wonderful evening with him. And that was the first time I mentioned, “Hey, man.” But I went off and started doing a lot of drama and then got in the action thing. And most of the action doesn’t really cross over with the artists who populate comedy in films, comedy work.
I’m curious, so you’re doing Coming 2 America, a sequel to a movie that came out in 1988. Does this make you think, “I have a lot of movies in that era that are hits, maybe people would enjoy Passenger 58?”
No, because, yeah, I’m on the film as a fan, right? I’m living out my fan fantasy, even though I’m part of the cast. That’s all I’m thinking about. And the opportunity to have so much fun with this ensemble of artists in this venue. Oh, yeah, that’s a good one.
But you know what I’m saying though? It feels like the opportunity is there to rekindle some of your old franchises, if you wanted to.
I’ll look at that. And we’ve got some new stuff that fits into that Blade world. That hybrid action genre and the martial arts, comedy martial arts action. So, by the grace of God, we’ll be able to bring a lot of that great quality stuff to the market soon.
Speaking of Blade. Mahershala Ali is taking over a role you made pretty famous. Do you have any involvement at all? What do you think of Blade coming back?
I don’t have any involvement, but I support the young artists and I support Marvel in their business decisions. It’s a beautiful thing. I think he’s a heck of a job. He’s got a heck of a job on his hands.
People love your Blade movies.
Yeah, but we were white belts then. Wait until you see now what we do as black belts.
Wait, what’s that mean?
We think it’s going to smoke all of the Blade stuff.
How so? What you’re doing next?
We have two things. We have one which is a female action franchise. And also what we call our Blade-killer, our Blade on steroids. And we set our character in the world of shape-shifters and a little bit of time travel. But the action is going to be … Well, we did white belt action in Blade. Now we’re going to do black belt action.
I like that you referred to it as the Blade-killer.
It’s wonderful what we did, but, brother, we’re so much better than we were then. So much better now than we were then. Yes, indeed. And we’ve got more tools. Some of the things that were innovated in the Blade franchise in the first film are now standard in the Marvel universe and all of these other action movies. And the technology allows them to do a lot of things we couldn’t do then. Now give us the technology, and we’ve already got the skills and the flavor. It’s popping, baby!
That sounds pretty amazing.
You won’t be disappointed, mark my word. You’ll me call me back and you’ll be like, “Yo, doc, you said this.” Yeah, man. If we’re not better, shame on us.
You have never disappointed me in a movie. So I’m going to take your word for it on that one.
Thanks. Give it time though. I’ll be around a while, so give it time.
Do you still talk to Woody? Is there any chance that you two would re-team for a fourth movie?
The first chance we get! We’ve been trying to figure out the project, but we are both open for that and hungry for that reunion. Yeah, there’s a couple of people who … yeah, well, it’s going to happen. Just like this opportunity with Coming to America 2.
If you re-teamed with Woody, people would be very excited.
Oh yeah. I think we’re better actors now, too. So it could be quite fun what we could do, quite interesting. Quite interesting.
Well, I’m out of time…
Hey, thank you for the appreciation, man. And thank you for riding with me for the journey, as I continue to do good work.
I will keep riding. I am on the ride.
‘Coming 2 America’ begins streaming via Amazon Prime on March 5th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.