- Wesley Trent Snipes
July 31, 1962 (age 59)
- Actor, Film Producer, Martial artist, Businessperson
- Nakyung Park
- Marian Snipes, Wesley R. Snipes
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.
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. He was released from prison in 2013.
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. He grew up in The Bronx, New York City. He attended P.S. 132, an elementary school in The Bronx. Snipes graduated from I.S. 131, a middle school in The Bronx, and also attended the famed 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.
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.
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.
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 under Mestre Jelon Vieira and in a number of other disciplines including kung fu at the USA Shaolin Temple and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
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 a lot of time in Park's home country of South Korea, which he calls his "second home."