Wesley Snipes Once Turned Down ‘Shaft’ Because It Was an Insult to ‘African-American Culture’

The 2000 movie Shaft wasn’t an easy film to make for the actors and filmmakers involved. There were many conflicts that came from script changes and creative differences throughout the film’s production. And although the film made some money at the box office, Blade star Wesley Snipes once asserted that the film might have been made in poor taste.

Why Wesley Snipes once condemned ‘Shaft’

Wesley Snipes smiling
Wesley Snipes | Steve Granitz/WireImage

As many know, Samuel L. Jackson was the lead in Singleton’s Shaft. But before Singleton landed on the Pulp Fiction actor, he was eyeing several other actors for the role. According to Singleton himself, that list of actors was a long one.

“We talked about lots of people,” Singleton once told The Guardian. “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.”

But Wesley Snipes recalled a slightly different version of events. As a huge fan of the original Shaft film, Snipes felt there was only one actor who could do another Shaft justice.

“There’s only one Shaft – Richard Rowndtree,” Snipes once said according to a separate Guardian interview. “And if you’re going to do a remake there’s only one person that can do that – Snipes, period.”

Snipes also claimed that he was the initial choice to play the titular character in Singleton’s film. But the actor didn’t agree with how the story was told.

“I was offered the film and it was terrible, horrible. It was an insult not only to the African-American culture, but an insult to what the icon of Shaft was,” he shared.

Why John Singleton had a difficult time shooting ‘Shaft’

The late filmmaker John Singleton was involved in many battles during the filming of Shaft. In addition to dealing with bad press surrounding the film, Singleton was constantly butting heads with the producer and the writer.

Many times, the screenwriter would put in certain scenes that Singleton didn’t agree with. To combat this, Singleton would change certain scenes to fit his vision of the movie. This would often provoke a strong reaction from the studio.

“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,” Singleton shared.

Why John Singleton decided to direct ‘Shaft’

Shaft was a bit of a passion project for the director. When he watched the original film, it left a strong impression on the iconic filmmaker.

Shaft was one of the best detective movies,” Singleton told Entertainment Weekly. ”I put it up there with The Big Sleep.”

Singleton also likened the original Shaft film to one of his own acclaimed projects.

“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,” Singleton said. “It’s like Boyz n the Hood. Shaft was so successful, it started a rash of imitators.”

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