Blade doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of love as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, the original X-Men movie or the MCU jump-starting Iron Man. But the cybergoth vampire hunter story proved that a comic book franchise about someone outside of the world of Batman or Superman could be viable.
Credit to the team behind Blade, as Wesley Snipes was perfectly cast as the half-vampire who seeks out and kills his more murderous kin. A big part of believing him in the role was his physique. While it’s expected now that anyone cast in the MCU will go through a grueling bit of training to come out the other side looking superhuman, those rules hadn’t been set in stone at the time of Blade. Luckily, Snipes is a lifelong gym rat and martial artist who was fairly close to where he needed to be before being cast as the Daywalker. Still, he put in work to look superhuman on the silver screen. Here’s how Wesley Snipes got ripped for Blade.
The ‘Blade’ question
Before we get to that, we have to talk about the fact that although Blade helped pave the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wesley Snipes has not been welcomed into the MCU fold. It’s possible that Blade as a character didn’t fit into the MCU’s colorful palette early on. It’s likely that they wouldn’t have been able to find a space for him in the Avengers-focused world of their early phases. It’s also understandable if they don’t want to remind viewers of a time when Marvel’s footing was much less sure and their vision less clear.
The pre-mandate days of Marvel — the time before top-down control, interconnected plots, and Disney ownership — was a lot shaggier than the well-oiled machine that cranks out reliable blockbusters that top a billion dollars at the box office. Bringing back Blade while they were still setting up the Avengers might have reminded audiences of a much campier time, one when leather-clad vampires fought in warehouse raves.
Is Snipes’ reputation hurting him?
Marvel is bringing back Blade in the near future, but Wesley Snipes is no longer in the role. The studio announced that Mahershala Ali will play the vampire hunter upon his MCU debut, making the goth battalion of Marvel’s fanboy army break out into uncharacteristic grins.
The most obvious reason bringing in a young actor like Ali to potentially reboot a franchise is age. Snipes is creeping up on 60 and while he still looks great, it could become a problem if he needs to portray a half-vampire who is famously resistant to aging. However, there is one other theory about why Snipes won’t be cutting down vampires in the near future: he was reportedly a bit of a tyrant on the set of the final Blade film.
In an interview with the AV Club, Patton Oswalt shared the mood on the set of Blade: Trinity. "It was a very troubled production. Wesley [Snipes] was just f***ing crazy in a hilarious way," he recalled. "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."
Oswalt went on to say that Snipes attempted to strangle director David Goyer, would only appear on set for close-up shots, and communicated with the staff via Post-It notes. He said they wrote around it by having Ryan Reynolds riff to the air, only to edit in Snipes’ stoic close-ups as reaction. "That was an example of a very troubled shoot that we made fun," he said. "You have to find a way to make it fun."
With stories like that, it’s easy to see why Marvel might want to go in another direction.
Snipes is fine with the decision
Wesley Snipes seems to be fine with Marvel’s decision to leave him out. We aren’t likely to see any undercutting of the production from the actor once a new Blade movie nears. He told his online fans to welcome Ali as the half-vampire fighting on behalf of humanity, and in a statement released after the casting news broke, Snipes seemed excited for Ali to take over.
"To all the DAYWALKERS losing their minds right now, chillaaxx," Snipes said. "Although the news comes as a surprise, it’s ALL GOOD. Such is the ‘business’ of ‘entertainment!’ Much peace to the MCU crew –- always a fan. Honor and respect to the grandmaster Stan. Congratulations and Salaam to Mahershala Ali, a beautiful and talented artist whose expressions I look forward to experiencing for many years to come. Inshallah, we will someday work together."
He thanked his fans for their enthusiasm before welcoming Ali to the world he helped build. "Most importantly to my loyal fans, the incredible outpouring of love is overwhelming. I am grateful for the never-ending support. So, ‘nah fret nah worry, it’s not de end of de story.’ Welcome to the Daywalker Klique."
It’s nice that Snipes appears to be on good terms with Ali, as the younger actor could learn a lot from the way Snipes got into vampire-fighting shape.
Wesley Snipes’ life of training
Snipes didn’t start from scratch like Marvel’s recent transformations of Kumail Nanjiani and Chris Pratt. He’s been training in martial arts since he was 12 years old. Snipes is an expert in several styles, holding a fifth dan black belt in Shotokan Karate and a third dan black belt in taekwondo. He has also trained in kung fu and capoeira.
Snipes is relatively quiet about his martial arts training. The stoic characters he tends to play onscreen seem to come from Snipes himself. He was asked by The Independent about his training and whether he’s ever had to fight outside of a dojo or movie set. He was frank and to the point: "They were disrespectful," he said. "It ended very quickly."
That’s not to say Snipes didn’t have to put in work before donning his signature bulletproof vest and coat. The workout for Blade: Trinity in particular was particularly grueling.
The intense Blade regimen
In a behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of Blade: Trinity, Snipes and his fellow leads reveal the insane workouts they had to go through while the film was being made. Director David Goyer shared the lengths the cast went to for the trilogy’s closing film.
"They were all training a good three months before we started shooting," he said. "Every day, four hours a day, seven days a week."
Another member of the crew shared Jessica Biel‘s motivation for committing to the workout, saying she wanted the audience to find her character credible. "You want to really believe that Abigail kicks ass," she said. "You want to believe…that this girl could take down several large men."
Ryan Reynolds described a workout that is tiring just to read — starting with 500-1,000 sit-ups, then moving to heavy weights. "Weight training involved a variety of exercises too numerous to mention at reps of about 8-12, for 6 days a week," he said. "After the first week I was longing for the sweet release of death, but soon enough I got really into it."
While Reynolds and Biel were starting from scratch and working intensely, Snipes merely had to maintain what he already had with a few enhancements. His workout was significantly different.
Yoga and Pilates for Snipes
Snipes revealed in the short documentary that he had much more relaxing elements to his workout, something he’d earned by being insanely fit to begin with.
"I work out every day," he said. "I’ll do something, either some calisthenics or, you know, some Pilates. Some stretching, some kicking, little boxing."
While Pilates might not seem like a crucial part of a workout to become superheroic levels of fit, and we’ve rarely seen it appear in other deep dives into the way actors got ripped for Marvel, Snipes merely needed to maintain his already otherworldly physique. Yoga, on the other hand, kept Snipes loose, flexible, and in control of his muscles to perform the fights and stunts that were required in all three Blade films. It would be deeply weird to see someone like Snipes in the class at your local gym, rolling out his mat, but the Daywalker could likely teach his classmates a thing or two about sticking to their fitness regimen.
Wesley Snipes’ commitment kept his Blade sharp
Snipes has been a gym rat for most of his life. Since he had a bit of a head start on his co-stars — he had been training in some form or another since he was a pre-teen — he was able to do simple calisthenics to keep fit. Calisthenics are a workout that uses the body’s own weight as resistance, such as pushups, pullups and crunches. If you ever took PE classes in school, chances are that most of your workouts were in this vein.
It might be hard to believe that the workouts of Jack LaLanne have any place in the beefed-up world of Marvel’s superhero workouts. Calisthenics, like the first two Blade movies, are classic for a reason. They do what they set out to do and they do it well.
Even Wesley Snipes needs rest
While those who are new to the gym frequently balk a bit at the idea of rest, it truly is an important part of any workout regimen. Muscles need time to recover and getting enough sleep helps guarantee that you gain muscle without hurting yourself. Impatience can lead gung-ho gymgoers to neglect this essential ingredient for any workout program. But even Wesley Snipes admits that resting up is a crucial step in seeing results. When listing his many workouts, Snipes threw "a little sleep" on the end.
"Should get more sleep," he said, with a laugh. "That’s the key."
In an article for Bodybuilding.com, contributor and bodybuilder David Robson explained why sleep is so important.
"The best training routine, diet and supplement program will not compensate for insufficient rest, and sleep is the best." he wrote. "Even if your training and nutrition program can straight for the mouth of God almighty, without adequate rest your body will fail to adapt."
Weightlifting, martial arts and archery
While Wesley was getting his sleep, his co-stars were waking up early for intense and varied workouts.
"I got to go through a lot of serious training," Jessica Biel said of her regimen. "Lots of weight training, lots of running, lots of cardio."
Biel went on to break down the exact amount of work she did every single day. She said that she hit the gym for 45 minutes of cardio, an hour of weightlifting, an hour of martial arts, and an hour of archery training. That last one was unique to her character, Abigail, who slays the undead with specially made arrows. Biel said that her whole workout was a trial, but noted that learning to hold and shoot a bow was the toughest part.
"The archery was the hardest. It’s really specific positions," she said of her training. "You squeeze your back in a way that you’ve never felt before if you’ve never done archery before and it’ s incredibly difficult to get used to that."
A vampire hunter’s high protein diet
All of the stars of Blade: Trinity coupled their training with an intense diet. The meal plan called for small, regular meals spread throughout the day and required those meals to be high in protein and low in cards. Dominic Purcell, who played Dracula in the movie, shared what his typical morning looked like. "We’re on this very intensive protein diet," he said. "Getting up in the morning and having oatmeal and a protein shake."
Biel also credited the diet for her improved physique.
"It’s all about the diet," she said. "Eating three big meals a day, not good. Your metabolism is slower. What you really would love to do in a perfect world is have 6-8 small meals a day."
Ryan Reynolds was snarky about the meal plan, as is his wont. He joked that what the trainers had him eating was not really food, quipping,"I’m eating drywall and wood chips, mostly."
Ryan Reynolds on the perils of the workout
While Ryan Reynolds is bound to crack a few jokes about everything he has to go through, the future Marvel star was remarkably clear about how tough the regimen was on him. For anyone who might want to jump on the Blade workout, the actor has a warning. Reynolds said that he was constantly in pain while trying to be in shape for Blade.
"It’s a tough thing when you work a 14-15 hour day and you have to get up at 4:30 in the morning, lift weights for two hours and then go to work all day," he said, adding that eventually you get used to the feeling. "You get into it and you love it in the long run."
Reynolds also questioned the idea that ultra-fit people feel better. He struggled with working out so much only to feel like a "truck hit me in the chest."
"How can you feel like a million bucks when you’re in shape when you’re always exhausted?" he said. "When you’re always working out you never feel what it’s like to be fully strong."