Wesley Snipes

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Wesley Snipes
Wesleysnipes cropped 2009.jpg
Snipes in September 2009
Born(1962-07-31) July 31, 1962 (age 51)
Orlando, Florida, U.S.
OccupationActor, martial artist, film producer
Spouse(s)April Dubois (1985–1990)
Nikki Park (2003–present)
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Wesley Snipes
Wesleysnipes cropped 2009.jpg
Snipes in September 2009
Born(1962-07-31) July 31, 1962 (age 51)
Orlando, Florida, U.S.
OccupationActor, martial artist, film producer
Spouse(s)April Dubois (1985–1990)
Nikki Park (2003–present)

Wesley Trent Snipes (born July 31, 1962) is an American actor, film producer, and martial artist, who has starred in numerous films, including action thrillers and dramatic features. Snipes is known for playing the Marvel Comics character Blade in the Blade film trilogy, among various other high-profile roles. Snipes formed a production company, Amen-Ra Films, in 1991 and a subsidiary, Black Dot Media, to develop projects for film and television. Snipes has been training in martial arts since age 12, earning a 5th dan black belt in Shotokan Karate and 2nd dan black belt in Hapkido.[1]

In 2010, Snipes began serving a three-year prison sentence in McKean County, Pennsylvania for misdemeanor failure to file U.S. federal income tax returns.[2] He was released from prison in 2013.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Snipes was born in Orlando, Florida on July 31, 1962, the son of Marian, a teacher's assistant, and Wesley R. Snipes, an aircraft engineer.[4] He grew up in The Bronx, New York City. He attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing but moved back to Florida 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. Snipes also attended Southwest College in Los Angeles.



Snipes signing autographs at Comic Con International in 2010.

At the age of 23, Snipes was discovered by an agent while performing in a competition. He made his film debut in the 1986 Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats. Later that year, he appeared on the TV show Miami Vice as a drug-dealing pimp in the episode "Streetwise" (first aired December 5, 1986). In 1987, he appeared as Michael Jackson's nemesis in the Martin Scorsese-directed music video "Bad" and the feature film Streets of Gold. That same year, Snipes was also considered for the role of Geordi La Forge in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the role eventually went to LeVar Burton.[5]

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. He played the drug lord Nino Brown in New Jack City, which was written specifically for him by Barry Michael Cooper. He also played a drug dealer in the 1994 film Sugar Hill.

Snipes has played a number of roles in action films like Passenger 57, Demolition Man (with Sylvester Stallone), Money Train, The Fan, U.S. Marshals and Rising Sun, as well as comedies like White Men Can't Jump, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar where he played a drag queen. Snipes has appeared 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. In 1998, Snipes had his largest commercial success with Blade, which has grossed over $150 million worldwide. The film turned into a series. He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, SUNY/Purchase. In 2005, Snipes sued New Line Cinema, and David S. Goyer, director of Blade: Trinity, which Snipes also produced. He claimed that the studio did not pay his full salary, that he was intentionally cut out of casting decisions, and that his character's screen time was reduced in favor of co-stars Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel. The suit was later settled, but no details were released.[6]

His latest films are The Shooter (also known as The Contractor), filmed in Bulgaria and the UK, Gallowwalkers, released in 2012, and Game Of Death.

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 tax problems; his role eventually went to Derek Luke.[7]

Snipes with Ethan Hawke in 2009.

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 because he was not allowed to leave the United States without the court's approval.[8] He is set to appear in the sequel The Expendables 3.

Other ventures[edit]

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. Amen- ra is also the name of his film company. In 1996, the first film produced by Amen Ra was A Great And Mighty Walk – Dr. John Henrik Clarke.[9]

In 2000, the business was investigated for alleged ties to the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. It emerged that Snipes had spotted 200 acres (0.81 km2) of land near their Tama-Re compound in Putnam County, Georgia, intending to buy and use it for his business academy. Both Snipes' business and the groups used Egyptian motifs as their symbols.[9] Ultimately, Snipes and his brother did not buy the land, instead establishing their company in Florida, Antigua, and Africa.[9]

In 2005, Snipes was in negotiations to fight Fear Factor host Joe Rogan.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Snipes with wife Nakyung Park in 2009.

Snipes began training in martial arts when he was 12 years old. He has a 5th degree black belt in Shotokan karate and a 2nd degree black belt in Hapkido. He has also trained in Capoeira[1] under Mestre Jelon Vieira and in a number of other disciplines including kung fu at the USA Shaolin Temple[11] and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.[citation needed] During his time in New York, Snipes was trained in fighting by his friend and mentor Brooke Ellis.[dead link][12]

Snipes has been married twice, first to April Snipes, 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 married painter Nakyung "Nikki" Park, with whom he has four children: son Akhenaten Kihwa-T Snipes, daughter Iset Jua-T Snipes (born 2001), son Alaafia Jehu-T Snipes (born 2004), and son Alimayu Moa-T Snipes (born 2007). Snipes spends considerable time in Park's home country of South Korea, which he calls his "second home."[citation needed]

Snipes, who was raised a Christian, converted to Islam in 1978, but left Islam in 1988. During a 1991 interview, Snipes said "[Islam made] me more conscious of what African people have accomplished, of my self-worth, [and gave] me some self-dignity."[13]

Snipes' apartment was destroyed by the collapse of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers during the September 11 attacks. He was on the West Coast at the time.[12]

Income tax conviction[edit]

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 and one count of knowingly making or aiding and abetting the making of a false and fraudulent claim for payment against the United States. Snipes was also charged with six counts of willfully failing to file federal income tax returns by their filing dates.[14] 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 government also charged that Snipes sent three worthless, fictitious "bills of exchange" for $14 million to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).[15]

The government also charged that Snipes failed to file tax returns for the years 1999 through 2004. Snipes responded to his indictment in a letter on December 4, 2006, declaring himself to be "a non-resident alien" of the United States; in reality, Snipes is a birthright U.S. citizen.[16] Snipes said he was being made an example of and was unfairly targeted by prosecutors because of his fame in connection with the federal tax fraud investigation.

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.[17][18]

On April 24, 2008, Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison for willful failure to file federal income tax returns under 26 U.S.C. § 7203.[19][20][21] Kahn was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Rosile was sentenced to four and half years in prison.[22] The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Snipes's convictions in a 35-page decision issued on July 16, 2010.[23][24][25] Snipes reported to federal prison on December 9, 2010, to begin his three-year sentence,[26][27] and was held at McKean Federal Correctional Institution, a federal prison in Pennsylvania.[28] On June 6, 2011, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear Snipes' appeal.[29][30][31] Snipes was released on April 2, 2013.[32]


Theatrical release films[edit]

1987Critical ConditionAmbulance Driver
1987Streets of GoldRoland Jenkins
1989Major League"Willie Mays" Hayes
1990Mo' Better BluesShadow Handerson
King of New YorkThomas Flanigan
1991New Jack CityNino BrownNominated – MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
Jungle FeverFlipper "Flip" Purify
1992The WaterdanceRaymond Hill
White Men Can't JumpSidney "Syd" Deane
Passenger 57John Cutter
1993Boiling PointJimmy Mercer
Rising SunLt. Webster "Web" Smith
Demolition ManSimon PhoenixNominated – MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
1994Sugar HillRoemello Skugs
Drop ZonePete Nessip
1995To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie NewmarNoxeema Jackson
Money TrainJohn
1996The FanBobby "Bob" Rayburn
1997Murder at 1600Detective Harlan Regis
One Night StandMaximilian "Max" CarlyleVolpi Cup for Best ActorVenice Film Festival
1998U.S. MarshalsMark J. Sheridan / Mark Warren / Mark Roberts
BladeEric Brooks / BladeFight choreographer and producer
Down in the DeltaWill SinclairExecutive producer
2000The Art of WarNeil Shaw
2002Blade IIEric Brooks / BladeFight choreographer and producer
Liberty Stands StillJoe
ZigZagDavid "Dave" Fletcher
UndisputedMonroe "Undisputed" HutchensProducer
2004UnstoppableDean Cage
Blade: TrinityEric Brooks / BladeProducer
2009Brooklyn's FinestCasanova "Caz" PhillipsBlack Reel Award for Best Supporting Actor
2014The Expendables 3Surgeon[33]Post-Production


1988Vietnam War Story IIYoung soldier
20057 SecondsJack Tulliver
The MarksmanPainter
ChaosJason York / Scott Curtis / Lorenz
2006The DetonatorSonni Griffith
Hard LuckLucky
2007The ContractorJames Jackson Dial
2008The Art of War II: BetrayalNeil Shaw
2010Game of DeathAgent Marcus Jones


1986Miami ViceSilkEpisode: "Streetwise"
1987Vietnam War StoryYoung soldierEpisode: "An Old Ghost Walks the Earth"
1989A Man Called HawkNicholas MurdockEpisode: "Choice of Chance"
1989The Days and Nights of Molly DoddHoodEpisode: "Here's Why You Should Always Make Your Bed in the Morning"
1990H.E.L.P.Lou Barton
1996America's DreamGeorge Du Vail
1997Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildThe Pied PiperEpisode: "The Pied Piper"
1998FuturesportObike Fixx
2000Disappearing ActsFranklin SwiftProducer
2003The Bernie Mac ShowDukeEpisode: "Rope-a-Dope"


1986Execution of JusticeSister Boom BoomBroadway


1987BadMini Max18-minute music video/short film
Critical ConditionAmbulance driverCameo
1995Waiting to ExhaleJames WheelerUncredited
1998Masters of the Martial Arts presented by Wesley SnipesHimselfDocumentary
Jackie Chan: My StoryHimselfDocumentary
1999Play It to the BoneRingside Fan #2Cameo

Awards and nominations[edit]

MTV Movie AwardsBest FightBladeNominated
MTV Movie AwardsBest VillainDemolition ManNominated
MTV Movie AwardsBest Screen DuoWhite Men Can't JumpNominated
MTV Movie AwardsBest VillainNew Jack CityNominated
MTV Movie AwardsBest KissWhite Men Can't JumpNominated
Venice Film FestivalBest Actor (Volpi Cup)One Night StandWon
Hollywood Walk of Fame7020 Hollywood BlvdHimself
Independent Spirit AwardsBest Supporting ActorThe WaterdanceNominated
Image AwardsOutstanding Lead Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-SeriesAmerica's DreamWon
Image AwardsOutstanding Lead Actor in a Motion PictureNew Jack CityWon
CableACE AwardsBest Actor in a Dramatic SeriesVietnam War StoryWon
Blockbuster Entertainment AwardsFavorite Duo – Action/AdventureU.S. MarshalsNominated
Blockbuster Entertainment AwardsFavorite Actor – HorrorBladeWon
Black Reel AwardsBest Actor (Motion Picture)UndisputedNominated
Black Reel AwardsNetwork/Cable – Best ActorDisappearing ActsNominated
WorldFest HoustonGold Special Jury Award – Best ActorsThe WaterdanceWon


  1. ^ a b "Wesley Snipes: Action man courts a new beginning". The Independent (London). June 4, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  2. ^ Martinez, Michael (December 9, 2010). "Actor Wesley Snipes reports to prison to begin sentence". CNN.
  3. ^ "Wesley Snipes Leaves Pa. Prison After Tax Sentence". 6 April 2013. Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. 
  4. ^ LaVelle, Alisa; Buzgon, Michelle (August 9, 2000). "1ST PERSON: Meet Wesley Snipes". Knight Ridder/Tribune. 
  5. ^ "Letters of Note: STAR TREK/Casting". Retrieved March 25, 2010. 
  6. ^ Alabama Set your local edition ». "Wesley Snipes talks about his tax trouble and new movie, 'Brooklyn's Finest' | al.com". Blog.al.com. Retrieved 2013-04-05. 
  7. ^ Collis, Clark. "Fall Movie Summer Preview, September: Miracle at St. Anna." Entertainment Weekly, Iss. #1007/1008, August 22/29, 2008, pg. 42–45.
  8. ^ Norman, Tony. "Dear Wesley Snipes: Next Time, Try Wall Street" The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 3, 2010
  9. ^ a b c Nashawaty, Chris (December 21, 2007). "The Trials of Wesley Snipes". Entertainment Weekly, pp. 45–51.
  10. ^ Joe Rogan vs. Wesley Snipes in a mixed martial arts bout
  11. ^ Ritter, Peter (May 14, 2006). "Neighborhood Report: Greenwich Village; This Monk Is a Boldface Name". New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b "Interview with the Sports Junkies". 106.7 The Fan. February 19, 2010.[dead link]
  13. ^ "Wesley Snipes, Hollywood's hottest new star talks about: his divorce, his days on the streets and why he does not have 'jungle fever'." Ebony Magazine. Sept, 1991 by Laura B. Randolph
  14. ^ Findlaw
  15. ^ Superseding Indictment, October 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.).
  16. ^ "Feds: Snipes Declared Himself Alien, Warned Against Past Tax Prosecution", Foxnews.com, January 25, 2008.
  17. ^ "Wesley Snipes acquitted of federal tax fraud," MSNBC, February 1, 2008, at [1].
  18. ^ Snipes acquitted of tax-fraud, conspiracy, Associated Press, as reported by CNN, February 1, 2006.
  19. ^ "Snipes Sentenced To 36 Months". Orlando: WESH. April 24, 2008. Retrieved April 24, 2008. 
  20. ^ See ABC Action News, April 24, 2008, at [2].
  21. ^ See the Orlando Sentinel, April 24, 2008, at this page.
  22. ^ "Wesley Snipes to serve 3 years in prison for tax convictions". AP Online  – via HighBeam (subscription required). April 25, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Federal Panel Upholds Wesley Snipes Tax Sentence," CBS News, July 16, 2010, at [3].
  24. ^ Greg Bluestein (Associated Press), "Federal panel upholds Wesley Snipes sentence," Miami Herald, July 16, 2010, at [4].
  25. ^ United States v. Wesley Trent Snipes, July 16, 2010, case no. 08-12402, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
  26. ^ London Daily Mail, December 9, 2010, "Wesley Snipes reports to prison to begin three-year sentence for tax evasion [sic]," at [5].
  27. ^ Associated Press, "Actor Snipes begins serving sentence at Pa. prison," December 9, 2010, at [6].
  28. ^ "Wesley Trent Snipes, inmate # 43355-018". Federal Bureau of Prisons. United States Department of Justice.
  29. ^ Order List, p. 2, certiorari denied, Wesley T. Snipes v. United States, case no. 10-1075, United States Supreme Court (June 6, 2011).
  30. ^ Lee Ross, "Supreme Court Won't Hear Wesley Snipes Tax Evasion Appeal," June 6, 2011, Fox News, at [7].
  31. ^ Bill Mears, "High court dismisses actor's appeal on tax evasion conviction," June 6, 2011, CNN, at [8].
  32. ^ "Actor Wesley Snipes released from prison". CNN. April 5, 2013. Retrieved April 6, 2013. 
  33. ^ IMDB page on The Expendables 3.

External links[edit]