Famed actor, film producer, martial artist, and author Wesley Trent Snipes attended Purchase’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts in the early 1980s. Snipes is well known for prominent roles in such films as Major League (1989), Mo’ Better Blues (1990), New Jack City (1991), White Men Can’t Jump (1992), Demolition Man (1993), and the Marvel Comics character Blade in the Blade film trilogy (1998–2004).
Snipes made his film debut in the 1986 with Goldie Hawn in the film Wildcats. In 1987, he appeared as Michael Jackson’s nemesis in the Martin Scorsese–directed music video “Bad” and the feature film Streets of Gold. His 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.
Snipes went on to play Thomas Flanagan in King of New York opposite Christopher Walken. He played the drug lord Nino Brown in New Jack City, which was written specifically for him by Barry Michael Cooper.
Snipes has been featured in many action films: 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, and Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar where he played a drag queen. Snipes has also appeared in dramas like The Waterdance and Disappearing Acts.
In 1997, he won the Best Actor Volpi Cup at the 54th Venice Film Festival for his performance in New Line Cinema’s One Night Stand. In 1998, Snipes had his largest commercial success with Blade, which has grossed over $150 million worldwide. The film turned into a series. He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an honorary doctorate in humanities and fine arts from Purchase.
In 2014, he appeared in the sequel The Expendables 3. He is cast to play the character of D’Urville Martin with Eddie Murphy (as Rudy Ray Moore) in the upcoming Netflix film Dolemite is My Name, directed by Craig Brewer.