Stardom Stalks Snipes: But `Fan' Actor Refuses to Let Success Go to His Head
Pearlman, Cindy, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Look who's stalking now.
If you are director Tony Scott, your stalker looks a lot like Wesley Snipes.
"I stalked Tony for three days," says Mr. Snipes, who admits that he was a man obsessed when the script for "The Fan" hit his desk.
"I drove by his house a couple of times and yelled out the car window, `Tony, see I can be a stalker!' "
Or can he?
In "The Fan," Robert De Niro is the psycho sporting-knives salesman who gives new meaning to the term "fan-addict." Mr. De Niro is desperate to track every move of his favorite baseball player, Bobby Rayburn, played by Mr. Snipes.
"He starts out being on my side because I'm in a slump," Mr. Snipes says. "Then when I start winning, he gets real pissed at me - like how dare I start appealing to all these other fans. It's almost like I'm cheating on him.
"It's a real juicy role."
For Mr. De Niro, that is.
"The role I actually wanted to play was the Robert De Niro character," Mr. Snipes admits, sitting down for coffee in Los Angeles' Four Seasons Hotel.
He looks much smaller in person - thin and intense. Dark John Lennon-style glasses mask his face. Mr. Snipes might hide his eyes, but he doesn't shy away from speaking his mind.
"I begged Tony to let me be the wacko just this once, but he was adamant about me considering the baseball character. To me, it would have been a little more challenging to go nuts."
Mr. Action Star of hits such as "Demolition Man" (1993) and "Passenger 57" (1992) wants to be known as Mr. Serious Actor again.
"I did `The Fan' because I really wanted to get back to acting again and work with the best, like De Niro," Mr. Snipes says. "I'm tired of this industry only thinking of me as an action star.
"I'm just starting to get better scripts now, but they still have this physicality incorporated into the characters, and that's what I'm trying to leave behind for now."
Mr. Snipes actually graduated to the "A" list of actors after dramatic roles in "New Jack City" (1991), "Jungle Fever" (1991) and the $70 million-grossing hit comedy "White Men Can't Jump" (1992).
His action flicks pushed him into superstar land. Consider that "Passenger 57," which was made for $15 million, took in $44 million at the box office. He repeated that success with the megahit "Demolition Man."
"When I started with the action films, it was breaking new ground," Mr. Snipes says. "I had a gun! At that point, you had rarely seen a black man with a gun shooting anyone for the good of society."
Then the action slowed down. A string of wham-bang films followed, including the disappointing "Drop Zone" (1994) and the flop "Money Train" (1995).
Funny, but when "Money Train" was skidding to disaster, Mr. Snipes was getting whooping cheers for action of another kind.
His small role in "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), where he romances Angela Bassett but doesn't sleep with her, insisting, "I want to make this night beautiful," had his female fans palpitating. Enter Wesley Snipes, Mr. Sex Symbol.
"I did that around the time I decided I wanted to really act again," he says. "I had just made some adjustments in my managerial camp that afforded me the opportunity to be more open to do small roles in good films."
And while trading lines with Miss Bassett, something clicked for Mr. Snipes. "Something in my brain just turned on and said, `Wesley, you have to work like this all the time.' "
And the benefit of such work?
The minute the handsome Mr. Snipes came on screen in that film, women were screaming. "Thank you very much," Mr. Snipes says. "I felt like I should take a bow."
Mr. Serious Actor might not like it, but it seems that women would love to see him playing the romantic hero again.
"He is such a sexy man. …