The Untold Truth Of Wesley Snipes

The real-life story of Wesley Snipes, whose
movie career ranges from raucous comedy to superhero action to serious drama, is a complicated
one, with plenty of comedy, action and drama of its own, along with some tragedy, too. In 2010, Snipes was sentenced to three years
in prison for tax evasion. According to the Pappas Group, self-proclaimed
tax adviser Eddie Ray Kahn told Snipes and around 4,000 other unlucky advisees to set
up nonprofit religious corporations, name themselves as overseers, channel all their
earnings into those nonprofits, and live tax-free because of tax exemptions for religious organizations. Kahn also printed so-called “bills of exchange”
for his clients, which were documents that looked like checks but weren’t actually checks. Kahn would send the bills of exchange to the
IRS in lieu of payment, thinking that would appease them. It didn’t. Snipes set up his fake religious nonprofit
and then sent the IRS an amended return in which he claimed a $7.4 million refund on
his 1997 taxes. The IRS didn’t agree with that assessment,
clearly. It’s possible Snipes simply got really bad
advice, but the fact remains that he took it. “I relied on the advice of those who I considered
professionals.” Wesley Snipes’ reputation as a tough guy has
probably contributed to a persistent rumor about his relationship with actress Halle
Berry. In a 1996 interview with People magazine,
Berry said a boyfriend once hit her hard enough to puncture her left eardrum, resulting in
an 80% hearing loss in that ear. “You lost 80 percent of your hearing in
your left ear, is that true?” “Mmm-hmm.” “Was he famous?” “That means yes.” According to people who knew her at the time,
her breakup with Snipes caused her a lot of personal distress. Berry has never come right out and said Snipes
was the ex who hit her, but her former boyfriend, R&B singer Christopher Williams, pointed the
finger at Wesley Snipes after vehemently denying that he himself was responsible. Two of her other exes were similarly accusatory. Former Major League Baseball star David Justice
even went so far as to publicly deny that he was the abuser in a Tweet, saying: “Reading the latest Halle Berry Reports, it
wasn’t me who hit Halle causing the ear damage. Halle has never said that I hit her.” In follow-up tweets, Justice added the initials
“WS,” which seems to point the finger at a specific ex of Berry’s. Snipes was born in Orlando, Florida, but he
grew up in the Bronx, where he discovered his love of acting. According to GQ, Snipes attended the School
of Performing Arts in New York starting at the age of 13, but was only there for a couple
of years before his mother announced that they were moving back to Florida. On his last day living in New York, Snipes
got a phone call from a well-known New York theater producer, inviting him to take part
in an upcoming musical as his stuff was literally being loaded into the U-Haul. When he got back to Florida, Snipes learned
that the movie Fame was being shot at the School of Performing Arts, and a lot of his
former classmates were in it. A lot of kids would have given up in despair
at that point, but not Snipes. After he was voted “Most Talented” by his
high school graduating class in 1980, he went on to the State University of New York, where
he obtained a Fine Arts degree. It wasn’t until 1986, though, that he finally
got his big break. A casting agent helped him get a role in the
football movie Wildcats. Some action stars really are trained fighters,
and Wesley Snipes can count himself in that category. In fact, if you lined up all of Hollywood’s
action heroes based on real action hero skills, Snipes would be somewhere near the front of
the line. Snipes started his martial arts training when
he was 12, and he didn’t just stick with the same style. He studied several Asian martial arts, as
well as Egyptian, Brazilian, Indonesian, and African styles. According to Bleacher Report, he has a fifth-degree
black belt in Shotokan Karate. But it’s still not enough to take down Mike
Tyson. According to a story in the book The Inner
Ring, by Tyson’s former bodyguard Rudy Gonzalez, the former heavyweight boxing champion caught
Snipes with Tyson’s then-girlfriend at a soul food restaurant in Los Angeles, ordered Snipes
to the restroom, and then knocked him out cold. Not long after landing his first movie role,
Snipes got a lucrative part in a music video, and not just any music video. It was a starring role in Michael Jackson’s
epic video for “Bad,” which was directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese. Also, he stole the part from Prince at least,
that’s what he told Conan in 2017: “Michael had told Prince that he had the role
and then he met me.” “Is that true?” “This is a true story.” For the record, that’s not the way Prince
said it happened. Snipes plays the antagonist in the video,
but that wasn’t his only job on set. According to Rolling Stone, he was also Jackson’s
bodyguard while they were filming in Harlem. Jackson was evidently feeling less than comfortable
in that environment, and at one point he turned to Snipes and said, “Are you scared?” Snipes later recalled: “I was like, ‘Yo, Mike, what are you talking
about? […] This is Harlem, baby! This is where we grew up. They love you. Really, you’re scared?’ He was like, ‘A little.'” Snipes reportedly once led police on a 120
mile-per-hour chase down Florida’s Turnpike in 1994. According to the Palm Beach Post, a dispatcher
informed the Martin County Sheriff’s Office that there was a motorcyclist going over 100
miles per hour on the turnpike. Officers responded, and the motorcyclist led
them on a 30-mile, three-county chase that ended when he crashed into a grassy area on
a turnpike exit. It was Wesley Snipes, of course, and officers
also say that during the chase he tossed something about the size of a baseball off the side
of the road. Police later found three ounces wrapped in
tape, though they couldn’t conclusively prove it belonged to Snipes. Snipes was briefly handcuffed and charged
with reckless driving. His defense was he didn’t know he was being
chased and the crash at the exit was just the normal, ordinary sort of crashing one
might expect to happen when exiting the turnpike at 130 mph. Snipes was hit with a $7,150 bill for court
costs and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service. Wesley Snipes was raised Christian, but at
a young age he started to have some doubts. According to Ebony magazine, he was one of
just four black students in the theater arts department at his university, a fact that
he said made him feel, quote, “like mold on white bread.” Then he found out about Malcolm X, and everything
changed. He said: “When I saw [a Malcolm X] documentary, it
changed my whole life everything. […] I went straight to the library and literally
stole the [Autobiography of Malcolm X], and for two days I just read.” Snipes found himself drawn to Islam and its
emphasis on black pride, and for a while he was a Muslim. His new religion didn’t stick, though, and
today he no longer calls himself a Muslim. He explained: “When you’re drowning, you grab onto a log
to keep afloat. But don’t hold onto the log when the boat
comes by. Get on the boat and bring your butt on back
home. So Islam to me was the log to make me more
conscious of what African people have accomplished, of my self-worth, to give me some self-dignity.” White Men Can’t Jump was the unlikely buddy
film where Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes scammed their way through pickup basketball
games, but it wasn’t their only screen outing. Snipes and Harrelson first teamed up in Wildcats,
before going on to star together in White Men Can’t Jump and Money Train. Over the years, the two have formed an obvious
bond some might even say bromance to the point where Harrelson once went out of his way to
stick up for his friend. According to the Smoking Gun, Harrelson wrote
a character reference letter to help Snipes during the sentencing phase of his tax evasion
trial. In the letter, Harrelson called Snipes, quote,
“a true citizen of the world” who “strives for rightness in all his relations.” In an interview with BET, Harrelson also said
that he would choose Wesley Snipes as his Hunger Games killing partner. He is a fifth-degree black belt, so it’s not
a bad choice. Like many Hollywood actors, Wesley Snipes
spends time on both coasts. In 2001, he had an apartment in Manhattan. That’s where he and his wife, Nikki, planned
to be during September of that year, but plans changed when Nikki gave birth to their daughter. The September 11 attacks destroyed the Snipes’
apartment, so who knows what would have happened if they had been home at the time. Wesley Snipes told the Guide: “My daughter was born at the same time [as
the attacks]. We were taking care of her in Los Angeles,
because there’s a tradition that you don’t travel with a newborn. So, literally, we were lying in bed, and my
sister called me and said, ‘Turn on the TV.’ Our daughter’s lying there between us, and
I looked over at my lady and said, ‘Baby, our place is gone!’ I just turned to my daughter and started kissing
her. ‘That’s why you came, my girl. You saved our lives […] you’re a lifesaver!'” Wesley Snipes has a reputation for being,
well, difficult. There’s no better illustration of that than
Patton Oswalt’s first-hand account of what Snipes was like on the set of Blade: Trinity. “He wouldn’t come out of his trailer, and
you’d walk by his trailer and this wall of stench would just, like, whoa!’ Snipes was apparently often high on set or
just not there at all, and Oswalt told the AV Club everyone else had to compensate: “A lot of the lines that Ryan Reynolds has
were just a result of Wesley not being there. We would all just think of things for him
to say and then cut to Wesley’s face not doing anything because that’s all we could get from
him.” Oswalt also said Snipes tried to strangle
director David Goyer over another actor’s attire, and the day after Goyer jokingly tried
to hire a bunch of bikers to pretend to be his security, Snipes sat down with him and
said, “I think you need to quit. You’re detrimental to this movie.” Unfazed, Goyer replied, “Why don’t you quit? We’ve got all your close-ups, and we could
shoot the rest with your stand-in.” Snipes reportedly backed down, and then for
the rest of the production refused to communicate with Goyer except via sticky notes, which
he would sign, “From Blade.” Black Panther was one of the first movies
to feature a black superhero supported by a mostly black cast. And it was a long time coming; longer than
you think, even, because in the 1990s, none other than Wesley Snipes had plans to bring
the franchise to the big screen. Snipes even told the Hollywood Reporter that
the legendary Stan Lee was on board with the project. Evidently, one of the major roadblocks to
the production was that Snipes had trouble explaining the difference between the comic
book Black Panther and the 1960s civil rights group the Black Panthers. Snipes recalled, “They think you want to come out with a black
beret and clothing and then there’s a movie.” After three scripts, producers were ready
to sign a director. But when Snipes discussed the project with
potential director John Singleton, Singleton insisted that they put the Black Panther character
in the civil rights movement, so there was that problem again. Ultimately, the project stalled out because
Snipes couldn’t find the right combination of director and script, and also because he
didn’t feel he could do justice to the high-tech world of Wakanda given the special effects
limitations of the time. Snipes went on from there to do Blade, and
we got an extra-awesome version of Black Panther a couple decades later. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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