Wesley Snipes, the start of such movies as “White Men Can’t Jump,” “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Demolition Man,” “The Expendables 3”, “New Jack City,” and “Blade”, is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood history. Apart from acting, he is also a martial artist, having achieved black belt 5th dan in Shotokan Karate. He also did a stint in federal prison for tax evasion.
The son of Wesley Rudolph and Maryann Snipes, Wesley was born in Orlando, Florida, on July 31, 1962, as Wesley Trent Snipes. His mother was a teacher’s assistant and his father an aircraft engineer. Wesley grew up in the Bronx and attended High School of Performing Arts of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Before he could graduate, he moved back to Florida without his diploma. Eventually, he got one from Jones High school in Orlando. After finishing high school, Wesley returned to New York to attend the State University of New York in Purchase. Again, he moved away before graduating, this time to Los Angeles, where he enrolled at Southwest College.
Snipes’ acting career begun when he was 23, with a role in Wildcats, a sports comedy starring Goldie Hawn in 1986. In the same year, he got a minor role in a popular TV show Miami Vice, playing a drug-dealing pimp in Streetwise episode. Next year, he got the role of a villain in Michael Jackson’s spot Bad, directed by Martin Scorsese. He auditioned for the role of Geordi La Forge in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, but producers eventually decided to give it to LeVar Burton.
After seeing him in Bad, Spike Lee offered him a small role in his movie Do the Right Thing, but snipes turned it down in favor of Major League, which was a huge box office hit. With Cristopher Walken, he starred in King of New York. Barry Michael Cooper wrote the role of Nino Brown specifically for him in New Jack City.
During the 1990s, he appeared in a series of action movies, including Passenger 57, Demolition Man (with Sylvester Stallone), Money Train, The Fan, U.S. Marshals, and Rising Sun. He also filed several comedies, like White Men Can’t Jump and To Wong Foo. His biggest success came with Blade in 1998. The movie grossed over $150 million worldwide and turned into a franchise. His role in Blade: Trinity in 2004 was the last one before hiatus. Wesley sued both the studio and director, New Line Cinema and David S. Goyer over his salary and screen time. The suit was settled, but neither side commented on the details of the settlement.
After that, Snipes appeared in several movies that went direct to video. The only exception was Brooklyn’s Finest in 2009, which brought him Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also appeared in Expendables 3, playing the role of Doctor Death.
Ever since he was 12, Snipes trained martial arts. In Shotokan Karate he got 5th dan black belt and 2nd dan in Hapkido. He also trained capoeira, kung fu, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Wesley Snipes was married twice. He married April Dubois in 1985. The couple had one child, a son Jelani, who followed in his father’s footsteps and became an actor. Wesley and April divorced in 1990. In 2003, Wesley married again, to Nakyung “Nikki” Park, a painter. They have four children.
The incident that did the most to derail Wesley’s career was his conviction for tax evasion. In 2006, he and two of his friends were charged by the IRS for tax fraud. His defense was that he was “a non-resident alien”, but the court thought otherwise. Wesley was sentenced to three years in jail in 2010. He spent the majority of his sentence in McKean Federal Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania. He got out in April 2013, serving the remainder of his time on house arrest.
Wesley Snipes net worth is estimated at $12 million. Most of it came from his acting career, but he also owned a security firm with his brother, providing bodyguard service to the celebrities. He also owned a film company, named Amon-Ra. It produced A Great and Mighty Walk – Dr. John Henrik Clarke in 1996. During the September 11 attacks, he lost an apartment in the World Trading Center.