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The Real Reason Wesley Snipes Isn't Returning As Blade

Among the avalanche of Marvel news coming out of 2019's San Diego Comic-Con was the confirmation of a new Blade film with the Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali set to fill the titular role of Marvel's most well-known vampire hunter. Ali won't be the first actor to play "The Daywalker." Wesley Snipes became the first Blade actor in a live-action film with 1998's Blade and its two sequels — 2002's Blade II and 2004's Blade: Trinity. Snipes' time as Blade predated not only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even the first game-changing X-Men film. Blade is sadly often forgotten in discussions of early successful superhero flicks largely because Blade wasn't a well-known property before his film adaptation, and most audience members likely didn't know he started as a Marvel character.

Why isn't Snipes playing Blade in the upcoming film? There were rumors about his return to the role in August 2018 when Snipes said he was in talks with Marvel, and less than a year later he reprised the role in a cameo for an episode of FX's vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Regardless, there are a lot of good reasons for Marvel to go in another direction, so let's take a look at the real reasons behind Marvel's choice to not cast Wesley Snipes as its rebooted Blade. 

Wesley Snipes might be too old to play Blade

By August of 2019, Wesley Snipes will be 57 years old. Granted, Snipes has aged well and we're willing to bet the guy who gave us the martial arts moves we saw in his many action flicks can still throw a mean kick. Also, age is meaning less and less these days when it comes to casting. Harrison Ford was 65 when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released in theaters, and even though he's now in his late 70s, he'll return to the role again in Indiana Jones 5. Not to mention the impressive advances in de-aging technology – something Marvel Studios has already used successfully a number of times.

But there are differences between those examples and the potential of casting Snipes as Blade. First, Marvel has used the de-aging technology sparingly — like they did to send Samuel L. Jackson back to the '90s for 2019's Captain Marvel, or to make Michael Douglas look younger in Avengers: Endgame later in the year. Using it on a lead for an entire film seems unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming. Second, a 77-year-old can play Indiana Jones because Indy isn't part vampire. In the first Blade film series, it's established Blade ages normally. But in the comics, while Blade isn't immortal like full vampires, he ages slower than humans. The new Blade films may be closer to the comics in this way. If so, having a 57-year-old half-vampire who looks like he's 57 doesn't work. 

Did Marvel pass on bringing Wesley Snipes back as Blade because of his difficult reputation?

Largely because of a 2012 A.V. Club interview with Patton Oswalt about his most memorable roles, Wesley Snipes' supposed behavior on the set of Blade: Trinity has become absolutely, hilariously infamous. Snipes and Trinity director David Goyer didn't get along behind the camera. According to Oswalt, Snipes accused Goyer of racism and at one point sat down with the director and tried to convince him to quit, only to have Goyer retort that since they'd already filmed all of Snipes' close-ups and could use a stand-in for everything else, Snipes should quit instead. Oswalt said after that confrontation, Snipes refused to communicate with Goyer other than with handwritten Post-It notes — all signed "From Blade." 

But the most bizarre anecdote apparently necessitated some truly horrible CGI. While filming a scene in which Blade wakes up in a morgue, Snipes was apparently so intent on not cooperating with Goyer that the actor reportedly refused to open his eyes, and CGI was needed to make it appear as if his eyes were opening.

Blade: Trinity came out well over a decade ago, and it could be that Snipes has mellowed with age. Regardless, Marvel will probably try to recruit some impressive directorial talent for their new Blade film, and doing that will probably be easier without a lead actor you can't even get to act like he's not dead.

Are allegations of abuse keeping Marvel from hiring Wesley Snipes for the rebooted Blade?

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, filmmakers need to think about what kinds of skeletons actors have in their closets, particularly when it comes to sexual assault and abuse. While it's never been confirmed, some believe Snipes could have been physically abusive to at least one woman he was in a relationship with — actress Halle Berry.

In the '90s Berry revealed a romantic partner had hit her so hard that she lost her hearing in her right ear. Rumors flew for years about who the offender might be, with most fingers pointing at either Berry's ex-husband former baseball player David Justice or R&B singer Christopher Williams. In more recent years, both Justice and Williams grew tired of the association, and both have since claimed the man who abused Berry was Wesley Snipes. In a series of November 2015 tweets which have since been deleted, Justice referred to a "Hollywood boyfriend" hurting Berry, and added "(WS)" without naming Snipes specifically. Williams was more direct in 2004, saying "Wesley Snipes busted [Berry's] eardrum, not me." While Berry hasn't said publicly it was Snipes who hit her, she did confirm in 2015 that Justice was not to blame.

Even if Berry never names Snipes as her abuser, if the allegations are true, then the chances could be good that she isn't the only partner he's hurt. It'd be easy to understand if Marvel didn't want Snipes in a leading role if there's a potential bomb about past abuse waiting to go off. After all, if James Gunn was temporarily relieved of directorial duties on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 because of decade-old tweets, the studio definitely isn't looking for controversy.

Mahershala Ali as Blade is too good an opportunity for Marvel to pass up

It could be that any and every concern about Wesley Snipes returning to play Blade is baseless. Maybe he's achieved a humility that would shock any of his Blade: Trinity co-stars, maybe any and all abuse allegations are false, and maybe he's retained so much of his youth that not a single drop of CGI would be needed to rejuvenate him. Even if that's all true, it doesn't change the reality that we got to see Snipes play Blade in three films, and bringing him back to the role would waste the marvelous opportunity of finding a new actor to give us a different shade of Blade. 

Mahershala Ali is a tremendous catch. We don't know much about the film yet, including its release date, but we know plenty about Ali's talent. He's got two Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role under his belt — one for 2017's Moonlight and another for 2019's Green Book. He's brilliant as political consultant Remy Danton in House of Cards as well as the villain Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage. Any marvel fan, Blade fan, or just person with with even slightly good taste should be thrilled about the casting. Sure, he was already in the MCU as Cottonmouth, but how big of a deal is that? Is that really going to hurt your suspension of disbelief? In the movie about the vampire-hunting half-vampire? Come on.

Could Wesley Snipes play Whistler in Marvel's new Blade movie?

Just because Wesley Snipes won't be returning as Blade doesn't mean he won't be in the film. When it comes to paying tribute to writers, artists, and actors, Marvel Studios has a damn fine track record, and there's no reason Snipes couldn't fill another role in the upcoming Blade. One perfect choice could be the role of Whistler — Blade's mentor/father figure/guy-in-the-chair all wrapped in one. Kris Kristofferson played Whistler in the original film trilogy, and Snipes could be perfect casting for the rebooted character. 

We're not the first ones to have the idea. Immediately following the news of Mahershala Ali's casting as the new Blade, Snipes fans reacted quickly. Many accepted the new casting but with the caveat that they wanted Snipes in the film in some capacity, even if it was just a cameo, and more than a few fans named Whistler as a perfect fit. Since we know Snipes talked to Marvel about something, this may already be in the works. In a couple of years we could see Snipes yelling at Ali for saving vampire-bite survivors and chain-smoking while spilling gasoline all over the place. 

Casting Snipes as Blade could confuse audiences

If Blade is going to get a fresh start, audiences need to understand it's a new story — and bringing Snipes along for the ride could easily confuse things. Wesley Snipes' Blade exists in a narrative all on its own and the upcoming film will be a chance to start fresh. It's likely there will be at least a few changes to Blade's mythology; his origin may be a bit different, his abilities might change, or the nature of vampires may diverge from the original trilogy. Casting Snipes as Blade could muddy the waters. 

If you're giving fans a reboot, you don't want them thinking it's a sequel, and that's exactly what audiences would assume if Snipes were cast as Blade. You could hardly blame them for the confusion. Why else would the same leading actor be cast unless it was a sequel? Imagine, for example, if Andrew Garfield were cast as Spider-Man in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, or if Eric Bana were tapped to reprise the role of Bruce Banner in 2008's Incredible Hulk. Most audiences, remembering the actors from the previous installments, would simply assume the movies were continuations rather than new narratives and would judge the movie based on that misunderstanding.

Marvel may not want to remind viewers of one of the worst superhero movies ever

Blade: Trinity – the final film of the original Blade trilogy — is arguably best defined by the BBC's Jamie Russell, who called the film "sometimes bloody, sometimes bloody awful." Russell isn't alone in his opinion. Blade: Trinity is not well liked. It has an absolutely abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score and appears regularly in any discussion of the worst Marvel films ever made. 

Why is it so hated? Well, you can argue back and forth about what's bad about it and who's to blame for all the badness, but regardless of the why or the who or the how, it's bad. And while it's bad, it's also the final Blade film Wesley Snipes appears in. 

So if Snipes were brought back to reprise the role of Blade, Trinity would not remain forgotten in the DVD bargain bins where it belongs. The promotional lead up to a new Blade would inevitably kick up jokes about the despised Trinity in interviews — not to mention those infamous stories about the Snipes/Goyer feud — and nothing about that would seem likely to help ticket sales for the new film. It's just one more good reason we should all be grateful Marvel tapped Mahershala Ali for the new Blade

Wesley Snipes supports Marvel's decision to cast Mahershala Ali as the new Blade

Whatever his reputation for on-set shenanigans might be, you've got to give Wesley Snipes this much: After the news broke that Marvel had hired Mahershala Ali to play the rebooted Blade, the O.G. Daywalker took it publicly in stride, waiting a few days for things to settle down before talking to the press and assuring his fans that he supports the studio's decision.

"To all the DAYWALKERS losing their minds right now, chillaaxx," Snipes wrote in a statement. "Although the news comes as a surprise, it's ALL good. Such is the 'business' of 'entertainment!' Much peace to the MCU crew — always a fan. Honor and respect to the grandmaster Stan. Congratulations and Salaam to Mahershala Ali, a beautiful and talented artist whose expressions I look forward to experiencing for many years to come. Inshallah, we will someday work together. Most importantly to my loyal fans, the incredible outpouring of love is overwhelming. I am grateful for the never-ending support. So, 'nah fret nah worry, it's not de end of de story.' Welcome to the Daywalker Klique."

Whether Snipes' magnanimous reaction stems from a secret involvement in the new Blade or simply some good old-fashioned maturity is anyone's guess at this point, but either way, it looks like everyone's happy with the way the future of the franchise is shaping up — even if the man who originally brought the central character to life has ended up losing the role in the process.