Movie News & Reviews

Snipes waiting and hoping

For a man out on bail, Wesley Snipes is in a happy, comfortable place right now.

He is starring in the cop drama "Brooklyn's Finest," a comeback project that takes him out of the straight-to-DVD purgatory he's inhabited for the past several years and puts him back on the big screen, in the high-caliber company of actors such as Don Cheadle and Richard Gere.

But Snipes can't avoid the fact that he's been more notorious of late for his role as a federal income tax evader. Given the promotional fervor swirling around him, it would perhaps be easy for him to forget that soon he might have to leave behind the press junkets to serve time in prison.

In a widely publicized case, Snipes was sentenced in 2008 to three years in prison, the maximum penalty requested by federal prosecutors, for failing to file several years' worth of tax returns. (The government says Snipes owed $2.7 million in back taxes on an income of $13.8 million for the period in question.) The actor was released on $1 million bond while his attorneys appeal the conviction and sentence; they've been waiting since November for a ruling.

The appellate court's decision could be issued at any moment, says Peter Goldberger, one of Snipes' attorneys. Snipes, 47, who lives in suburban New Jersey, is permitted to travel as he pleases.

Although he won't discuss the specifics of the case ("I'm not a lawyer," he explains with a laugh), he maintains that he was given bad financial advice and did not intend to withhold money from the government.

Still, living in legal limbo has to be itchy and uncomfortable, even for a man who once controlled the Cash Money Brothers ("New Jack City"), hustled for cash on the basketball court ("White Men Can't Jump"), and sliced and diced his way through his share of vampires ("Blade"). Doesn't the possibility of serving jail time weigh on him?

"Yeah, but that's life, you know?" Snipes says, leaning back in his seat.

"You walk out in the street, you don't know if you're going to get hit by a car. So you just keeping moving. And if mind can control matter, then you project how you want things to become ... as opposed to concentrating on using that same energy to create your demise or work against you. So I just project that everything is going great."

In the past, though, he sometimes has been portrayed as arrogant or difficult — a reputation earned, perhaps, when he sued New Line Cinema in 2005 for allegedly withholding a portion of his salary and shutting him out of the creative process on "Blade: Trinity" (a case that later settled).

For the most part, though, the husband and father of five is focused on the future as an actor. He and his longtime friend Spike Lee, who directed Snipes in "Mo' Better Blues" and "Jungle Fever," are still discussing the possibility of a James Brown biopic starring Snipes, who trained during his high school and college days as a dancer.

As for whether "Brooklyn's Finest" will get him closer to regaining his spot on Hollywood's A-list, all Snipes can do is what he's so used to doing: wait, and hope for the best.