Wesley Snipes ranks among the highest paid African-American actors with gross earnings worldwide estimated at over $2 billion. Here he talks about his latest outing alongside Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Terry Crews and Kelsey Grammer in “The Expendable 3.”
Kam Williams: Hi Wesley, thanks for the interview.
Wesley Snipes: How’re you doing, Kam?
KW: Great! What interested you in “The Expendables 3?”
WS: [Sarcastically] Really, it was the filming location, the food, and the wonderful hotel suite that they could give me. [Laughs] No, honestly man, it was the opportunity to work again with Sly, and the chance to be a part of that ensemble with a lot of the best of the best of this particular genre.
KW: Documentary director Kevin Williams asks: “Did you enjoy watching this genre of film growing up?”
WS: Oh yeah! All the way back to “The Seven Samurai.” I’m a big fan of this type of film. And hearing about all the heavyweights they were bringing back only made it even more attractive. It was a blessing, Kam, just to be on the set with some of these iconic actors, to see how they perform, to have a chance to get up close and personal with them, and to crack a joke or two or three or four with them.
KW: Was it ever trouble making any elbow room with so many egos on the set?
WS: Not really. What would make you think that?
KW: So many matinee idols having to share the limelight might make for sharp elbows.
WS: [Chuckles] Yeah, but you’re talking about some of the best in the game. They’re all veterans who bring a certain level of sophistication and professionalism to the table. For what it’s worth, this action hero/action star genre is a small clique. There aren’t a lot of guys that do it. And there aren’t many guys who have excelled at it. There’s an appreciation for what it takes to pull it off, and for the durability reflected in being able to survive after all these years.
KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: “Wesley, You are one of the few marketable African-American actors who can be effective in any genre, including comedy. Are you aware of any up-and-coming black actor who is as versatile as you have been?”
WS: Well, I think they’re out there, but I don’t know whether they’ve been given the opportunity to shine like I have. I hope there are. It’d be great to work with them. But, hey, it’s been a blessing. I was fortunate enough to be trained in the theater. Coming from the theater background, you’re schooled to play diverse roles in preparation for the repertory environment, or the repertory type of lifestyle. So, to me, going back and forth from genre to genre is only keeping true to the way I was trained in the theater. And I’m really an action fan. I’m a movie fan in general, but I’m definitely an action fan, as well. I appreciate all the work and thought it would be cool if it could be one of the tricks that I could bring to the table.
KW: Tony Noel asks: “Wesley, what styles of martial arts have you studied, and how do you feel about Mixed Martial Arts?”
WS: I appreciate Mixed Martial Arts, Tony. I’ve been training for a long time. I started training in the Japanese system, when I was 12, in Goju and Shotokan. From there, I was exposed to Grandmaster Moses Powell, which is the Aiki-Jujutsu form. And after that, I got into capoeira, and I got ranking in three different systems: Indonesian, African and Japanese. And I’ve done Tae Kwon. So, I’ve done pretty well.
KW: Publisher Troy Johson asks: “Wesley, was it difficult to produce the documentary, ‘John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk?’”
WS: Thank you for asking, Troy. No, that was a very personal project, which meant a lot to me because Dr. Clarke was a teacher and mentor of mine. I made the movie because I wanted future generations to learn about him and read his books, too. I’d love to make more films like that.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: “What was the toughest stunt you had to do for this movie?”
WS: Hanging onto the side of a truck. That was pretty hard. Another that was tough, because of the horrible air quality on the set, was the wild scene we shot inside a big, abandoned building. A lot of us had respiratory issues for a couple of weeks afterwards because of all the stuff flying around.
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls says: “Wesley, how did you feel about getting to play Blade, one of the first black superheroes?”
WS: I don’t remember getting that excited at first, because it hadn’t been done before. So, the reception was all a big surprise.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Wesley, and best of luck with the film.
WS: Thank you, Kam.
(To see a trailer for The Expendables 3, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTte6BQndTQ.)