"Blade" - New Line
“Blade” – New Line

On this day in film history, March 22, 2002, the second, and arguably the best “Blade” movie, opened in USA theaters, following the first film that was released 4 years earlier that launched what would become a trilogy for star Wesley Snipes; although the 3rd film is one that most of us would like to forget ever happened. In fact, some joke and say that they’re still waiting for the 3rd Blade movie to be made.

The films would lead to an awful short-lived 2006 Spike TV series based on the character, starring Kirk Jones (aka, rapper Sticky Fingaz). I’ll speak no more of it.

There was also an animated TV series made in collaboration between Marvel and Japanese animation studio Madhouse, titled “Marvel Anime: Blade,” voiced by Akio Ohtsuka in the Japanese version and by Harold Perrineau in the English dub, which aired in Japan between October 2010 and September 2011. The English-language version aired in North America on G4 between July 2011 and April 2012. The series largely features Japan as the setting for the storyline.

But the Blade on-screen franchise still lives, as fans have been vocal over the years, encouraging Marvel to consider either bringing Wesley Snips back for another go at it in maybe a 4th film, or a complete reboot of the series which I think is more likely – either as a TV series on a cable TV channel (or an SVOD platform like Netflix or Amazon); or on the big screen with a new, younger actor to play the part, and carry the character into a new era of Blade movies and/or TV series.

Snipes certainly hasn’t been shy about his desire to revisit the franchise. For a while there (after he became a free man again in mid-2013), it seemed like every other month there was talk of another Blade movie, especially as superhero-movie-fever seemed to take over Hollywood, and studios producing superhero movies and TV shows were criticized for not diversifying their output.

Snipes himself was routinely asked about the possibility during press junkets. Most recently, while doing press for his then upcoming NBC series “The Player” (it was canceled last TV season), speaking with the HuffPost Live, he shared that he was definitely interested in a “Blade 4,” but whether or not it happens is obviously not his decision to make.

“There’s always a possibility, you know. It’s in Marvel’s hands. They’re controlling the pace and the flow with that. Conversations have been good. They see the value in it. We see the value in it,” Snipes said. “I’m still in shape enough and fit enough to handle the role. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t really know what’s going to happen to it yet.”

And when he was asked about the chance that Blade would join the Avengers in a film, Snipes said: “That would be interesting. I mean, I know it’s in the comic book. It would be interesting to see where they would place him and where he really would fit in. He’s got to bite somebody. I don’t know who he’s going to bite.”

But a 4th “Blade” movie would certainly be welcomed, especially after the disaster that was the 3rd film, which left a bad taste in many mouths – including Snipes’ who, you might recall, revisited his many frustrations with that production in a 2014 profile of the actor in the UK’s Telegraph, published during the week “The Expendables 3” (which he co-starred in) was set to open. Snipes talked to the media about his involvement in that film, but also his legacy as an actor, especially leaning on what arguably helped launch the current superhero franchise craze – his starring role in the mostly successful “Blade” trilogy, based on the Marvel comic.

Snipes said at the time that a 4th “Blade” movie was “very much a possibility,” adding that he’d love to work with Guillermo del Toro (director of the second film in the franchise, and the most financially successful) again, as well as with Spike Lee (not necessarily on a 4th “Blade” film, but on future projects).

He also reflected on playing the character in 3 movies, and how the franchise helped inspire the current hits that Marvel Studios is enjoying, stating: “There were empires and institutions that were built off the Blade franchise… I mean, look at Marvel now, to this day. It’s a megalith!”

He then speculated on how different his career might have been today, had he understood the “Blade” franchise’s potential, as well as the renewed enthusiasm and popularity for comic book superhero movies today: “You know, if I would have understood the potential of… doing, or adapting comic book characters to feature films, and also the tie-in to gaming and digital technology, when I was doing the first Blade films, then I’d be in a different business right now. I’d be in a whole different ball game,” he said, adding, “I still would have done, the, er, you know… er, the dramatic work, and probably had a kind of cushion to do experimental work, because the economics in that kind of business are huge.”

Further he said, “More and more people are recognizing the contribution that Blade made to this resurgence, or this model, this new business. At the time when Blade was offered to me, my management and my agents all thought I was out of my mind for doing it. They told me, ‘You know, you’re a classically trained actor. Why would you want to even play a vampire from a comic book?’ I was, ‘Everything you’re saying is right, but here’s the thing – I’ve never seen a movie like this.’”

And so it went…

The fact that Snipes would later sue New Line Cinema, writer/director David Goyer and Toby Emmerich, executive producer of “Blade: Trinity,” in a wide-ranging lawsuit seeking more than $5 million in damages, was certainly a nod to his disgust with the 3rd film in the franchise (“Blade: Trinity”), and his involvement in it.

You might recall that, in the suit, Snipes claimed:

– A violation of his contract;

– That the director (Goyer), the screenplay and the supporting cast were essentially forced on him, and he had no say in any of those choices; especially with the script, which he didn’t care for, objecting to what he called the “juvenile level of humor” in it, as well as the fact that his character, the lead character, whose name is on the marquee, was marginalized, with focus being shifted from Blade to the 2 sidekicks (played by Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds) – the plan, Snipes claimed, being to set the stage for spinoffs featuring other cast members.

– Racial discrimination/prejudice against Goyer and the whole production. Specifically, that in contrast to the first two Blade films, in which efforts were made to select a multiracial cast and crew, Goyer and Emmerich “intentionally hired only white people,” which Snipes claimed led to him feeling isolated and excluded. He also claimed that Goyer made racially motivated statements about Snipes being unprofessional and difficult to work with, and that Goyer refused to discipline a crew member who wore a racially discriminatory T-shirt on the set.

There was more to the suit, but you get the picture; basically, he felt disrespected and railroaded, and that the movie sucked as a result!

Also worth noting, fans of the franchise who watched and listened to the DVD commentary for “Blade 2” will know that, originally, for “Blade 3,” Blade was supposed to have a sex scene in the film, since the first 2 movies didn’t give the superhero a love interest; that piece of info was revealed by both Snipes & Goyer on the “Blade 2” DVD commentary. And who was the character supposed to have sex with? Abigail Whistler, the character played by Jessica Biel in the 3rd movie. And as we all know, there was no such sex scene in “Blade: Trinity.” What a surprise!

So, yeah, the project was in the toilet from day 1 it seems, and Wesley didn’t like the smell of any of it.

Patton Oswalt, who played a supporting role in “Blade Trinity” added some color to the behind-the-scenes story in a 2012 interview with AV Club which was a hilariously painful read, several years later; insider stories like this (from the contents of the lawsuit, to the interview) really are gold, pulling back the curtain for the average viewer, allowing us to see some of the chaos that goes on behind the scenes – especially where black talents are concerned.

Check out an excerpt from the Oswalt interview below:

PO: Oh, Christ. That was the third Blade movie. And there’s a scene where Blade goes in and confronts this guy for harvesting humans. That scene was supposed to be the whole basis of the film. Blade is fighting for the last shred of humanity. But they thought that it was just so fucking grim, so they decided to just have Blade fighting Dracula. It was just one of those; it was a very troubled production. Wesley [Snipes] was just fucking crazy in a hilarious way. He wouldn’t come out of his trailer, and he would smoke weed all day. Which is fine with me, because I had all these DVDs that I wanted to catch up on. We were in Vancouver, and it was always raining. I kept the door to my trailer open to smell the evening rain while I was watching a movie. Then I remember one day on the set—they let everyone pick their own clothes—there was one black actor who was also kind of a club kid. And he wore this shirt with the word “Garbage” on it in big stylish letters. It was his shirt. And Wesley came down to the set, which he only did for close-ups. Everything else was done by his stand-in. I only did one scene with him. But he comes on and goes, “There’s only one other black guy in the movie, and you make him wear a shirt that says ‘Garbage?’ You racist motherfucker!”

And he tried to strangle the director, David Goyer. So later that night, Ron Perlman was in the city. Everyone who makes movies in Vancouver stays in the same hotel. It’s like an episode of The Love Boat. Every time the elevator stops, you’ve got a different celebrity getting on. Like, [announcer voice] “Hey, now we’ve got Danny Glover!” So we went out that night to some strip club, and we were all drinking. And there were a bunch of bikers there, so David says to them, “I’ll pay for all your drinks if you show up to set tomorrow and pretend to be my security.” Wesley freaked out and went back to his trailer. [Laughs.] And the next day, Wesley sat down with David and was like, “I think you need to quit. You’re detrimental to this movie.” And David was like, “Why don’t you quit? We’ve got all your close-ups, and we could shoot the rest with your stand-in.” And that freaked Wesley out so much that, for the rest of the production, he would only communicate with the director through Post-it notes. And he would sign each Post-it note “From Blade.” [Laughs.]

I love how Wesley always seems to be aware of and accounts for his *blackness*, and represents!

There was a New York Daily News piece in 2014 that said Snipes would indeed be returning for a 4th “Blade” movie, with their sources telling them that the actor’s comeback, after being released from prison in April 2013, was “looking good” and that he’d make $3 million from the film, plus a cut of the back-end profits.

That report was never confirmed by anyone, certainly not Marvel nor Snipes himself.

Finally, in 2015, Snipes shared that he’d met with Marvel about potentially returning to the role, although nothing was/is in development: “The project is controlled by Marvel and we did have a really productive and a wonderful meeting and we discussed a number of things… I don’t know where it’s on their schedule at this point, that hasn’t been decided. I guess it’s still up in the air.”

Snipes also seemed to suggest that he’s certainly open to playing another Marvel character, if it’s not Blade: “I’ve always been a fan of these pieces and adaptations and it’d be nice to be a part of the family again… But if we don’t to a ‘Blade 4’ or something else with Marvel, we’ll do something else.”

I should note that, also in 2015, Marvel Comics unveiled a new Blade comic book series focused on the daughter of the original Blade – a sixteen-year-old girl named Fallon Grey (concept illustrations below).

Titled “Blade #1,” the new comic book series debuted last fall. As I said back then, with the timing of that announcement coinciding with Snipes’ revelation at Comic-Con around the same period, that he’d spoken to Marvel about how they might bring back Blade, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Fallon Grey figures into the “how” in some way. There’s also the thriving Netflix/Marvel relationship, which could prove to be a suitable testing ground for, let’s say, a Fallon Grey animated or live-action series, entirely her own.

Hopefully the next post on Blade will be an official announcement of some new Marvel project on the character.

In the meantime, all 3 Blade movies are available on various home video platforms, as are the live-action and animated TV series.

Collectively, the 3 Blade movies grossed $324.9 million domestically (adjusted for inflation, which averages at over $100 each); and over $550 million worldwide (also adjusted for inflation). Not bad at all, considering that all 3 films were rated R. A reboot/revisit of the film franchise seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s a proven property with cross-over and international appeal; the fans want it; and we’re currently in an environment in which it would likely see enormous success… if done well of course. And I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Marvel does bring Blade back in some manner sooner than later.

Fallon Grey concept art
Fallon Grey concept art