When the first Blade movie hit theater screens in August of 1998 it became a surprise smash hit and accomplished several noteworthy goals: it gave Wesley Snipes an iconic movie hero in the mold of Rambo and John McClane to call his own, spawned one of New Line Cinema’s most lucrative franchises since the heyday of Freddy Krueger and the Ninja Turtles, and it proved that Marvel Comics characters could successfully headline their own motion picture adventures, thus paving the way for Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers to rule the box office in the years that followed. It took four years for a sequel to come together but with Guillermo Del Toro at the helm, Blade II surpassed the original in every way and became one of the best comic book movie sequels of all. The rapturous reception from moviegoers and critics that greeted Blade II helped revive Del Toro’s American directing career.
Expectations were high for a third Blade movie; at one point German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) was rumored to take the reins for a post-apocalyptic sequel that would have had Snipes’ monosyllabic vampire hunter continue his neverending battle in a world dominated by the bloodthirsty undead. Instead David S. Goyer, the screenwriter who was instrumental in bringing Blade to the big screen, signed on to write and direct the movie that would be released in December 2004 as Blade: Trinity. The end result has since been deemed by many to be one of the worse comic book movies ever made, if not the absolute worse. Make no mistake friends, if you’ve never seen the movie you’re not missing anything at all. It’s atrocious. In the annals of superhero it ranks with the likes of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Elektra. Blade: Trinity makes other maligned third chapters of comic book movie franchises like X-Men: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 3 look like masterpieces in comparison.
Much has been written since Blade: Trinity crawled out of theaters on its belly shortly after it made its premiere of the battles behind the scenes between Snipes and Goyer that far surpassed any and all of the movie’s many carnage-packed showdowns between Blade and his bloodsucking archenemies. One person who was there for nearly every dark second was actor, writer, and stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt. In a recent career-spanning interview with the A.V. Club, Oswalt, who had a small supporting role as a tech geek supplying Blade with some killer weaponry that barely gets used, talked extensively and candidly about the problems that plagued the movie’s production from the very beginning. Not surprisingly, executives at New Line Cinema took issue with the tone Goyer wanted to establish for Blade: Trinity:
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.
Oswalt learned soon after joining the production that due to his unorthodox acting methods the star playing the movie’s titular hero was less than approachable when the cameras weren’t rolling:
When I met him I was like, “Hi!” And he was like, “I’m Blade.” And also, Natasha Lyonne was on that set, and she was going through some kind of mental breakdown. Wesley is all boundaries, and she has no boundaries. She played a blind computer expert. So the first scene they had together, she put her hand right on his face, and he just recoiled. It was awesome.
According to Oswalt, Snipes dealt with his increasing lack of interest in the movie by turning to copious amounts of marijuana and sometimes his own insecurity would lead to tense showdowns with the besieged Goyer:
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.
The slow deterioration of Snipes and Goyer’s professional relationship ultimately led to the director taking matters into his hands to deal with his temperamental lead actor in ways both humorous and dead serious, much like the tone of the Blade series:
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.”
One of the problems Snipes had with the movie that he was not shy about voicing was the shifting of the narrative focus from Blade’s battle against the vampire hordes and their chosen leader Dracula (played by thick-necked Australian actor Dominic Purcell) to setting up a spin-off franchise based around the Nightstalkers, younger vampire slayers played by Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel who ended up taking away a chunk of Snipes’ screen time. As a result, the action hero would only show up for filming when absolutely necessary. Oswalt and the other actors found humorous ways to liven up the dour proceedings:
A lot of the lines that Ryan Reynolds has were just a result of Wesley not being there. We would all just think of things for him to say and then cut to Wesley’s face not doing anything because that’s all we could get from him. It was kind of funny. We were like, “What are the worst jokes and puns that we can say to this guy?” And then it would just be his face going, “Mmm.” “Smiles are contagious.” It’s so, so dumb. [Laughs.] That was an example of a very troubled shoot that we made fun. You have to find a way to make it fun.
Well I’m glad they had fun, but after one viewing of Blade: Trinity I was left wishing I had some of that primo shit Snipes was smoking in his trailer to relieve my psychic misery. Live and learn.