Wesley Snipes is an incredible actor, who doesn’t hesitate to leave his fans with dropped jaws, but the actor has a rule when it comes to African-American culture.
John Singleton’s “Shaft” is a remake of the 1971 crime-action movie directed by Gordon Parks. The movie starred Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft, the lead character. After its release in 2000, the film received mainly positive reviews. It even landed the number one position in the box office.
However, the making of the movie wasn’t a walk in the park for the actors and filmmakers. The original film, “Shaft,” was considered a masterpiece in the black community, so significant changes in the storyline were met with some opposition.
Besides the conflict surrounding the script changes and creative differences, there was almost a change in the lead character. According to “Blade” actor Wesley Snipes, he was initially selected to play the titular role but refused because he disagreed with the script.
Snipes Called ‘Shaft’ An ‘Insult’ To The African American Culture
Jackson is known for his smooth bada** ways on set, so his casting as Shaft wasn’t surprising. Due to how well he performed in other slightly similar roles, audiences weren’t shocked that he was a perfect fit for the position. However, according to the actor, Jackson wasn’t the director’s first choice.
Singleton himself revealed that he had several actors in mind for the role. He told The Guardian, “We talked about lots of people. Don [Cheadle], Wesley Snipes, Will Smith. But Sam was the best dude for it. Every movie he does, he’s talking s*** and looking cool.”
However, Snipes’ recollection of what happened is slightly different. In another Guardian interview, the actor said that he was the only actor that could do the role any justice. He said, “There’s only one Shaft – Richard Roundtree. And if you’re going to do a remake, there’s only one person that can do that – Snipes, period.”
The “Blade” actor also mentioned he was the first pick but didn’t like the story. “I was offered the film, and it was terrible, horrible. It was an insult not only bro the African-American culture, but an insult to what the icon of Shaft was,” he said.
Snipes Said He Wasn’t Dissing Jackson
Not everyone liked Singleton’s remake of “Shaft.” According to J Hoberman from the Village Voice, the film was “basically a posture-fest fuelled by ethnic jive and racist invective.”
The movie was also accused of imitating the era’s styles but forfeiting the original movie’s radical political undertones.
At that time, Snipes was filming “Blade 2” and clarified that he had no issues with Jackson or his performance in the movie. He said, “Sam is my man, and we’ve been talking about this. Sam knows I ain’t dissing him; I’m dissing the movie.”
Singleton had issues filming ‘Shaft’
Although the movie had some success when it came out, the director, Singleton, had to fight many battles in the filming process. Besides dealing with the movie’s bad press, the late filmmaker was also in constant conflict with the movie’s producer and writer.
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On several occasions, the screenwriter added scenes that Singleton didn’t favor, and the director always responded in kind. He would usually tweak certain scenes to suit his taste to the dismay of the studio.
The director shared, “So I’d go up to Sam’s trailer and say, ‘Here’s what you’re gonna say.’ And he’d say, ‘Let’s go.’ And the studio would complain that we weren’t shooting the script. Well, f*** you. The script is wack.”
Why Singleton Directed’ Shaft’
The director revealed that his main reason for directing “Shaft” was because it left a strong impression on him when he saw the original movie.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said, “Shaft was one of the best detective movies. I put it up there with ‘The Big Sleep.'”
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He also mentioned that the 1971 movie bore a resemblance to one of his works. “It wasn’t a Pimp Movie. You had white guys running around with leather jackets and afros, wanting to be Shaft. Let’s get that straight; it’s not a black exploitation film. It’s like ‘Boyz n the Hood.’ ‘Shaft’ was so successful, it started a rash of imitators,” he said.