The Fall And Rise Of Wesley Snipes - "It's Good Being Back"

Wesley Snipes is back. The actor returns to our cinema screens in ‘The Expendables 3' this week, his first acting role since being released from prison in 2013.

"It’s good to be back," says Snipes in our interview above, "It’s good being liked, being back!”

Snipes was incarcerated for three years in 2010 for tax evasion and was released in April last year. Sylvester Stallone made the call upon his release, offering a career olive branch to his former ‘Demolition Man’ co-star, and now Snipes is back playing Doctor Death in the latest in the ‘Expendables’ series.

Wesley Snipes in Expendables 3
Wesley Snipes in Expendables 3

It wouldn’t be the first time that Stallone’s franchise had dragged a career out of the straight-to-DVD bargain bin – mentioning no names, of course – and into top billing in an ‘Expendables’ movie.

Generally speaking, of course, career prospects following a run-in with the law don’t seem to be any more favourable for actor types than for those in other professions.

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As for what happens now and what prospects might be out there for Snipes, his spell in chokey is certainly not helped by the fact that his career has been in some woefully dire form since the mid-2000s and the end of the ‘Blade’ series, a franchise which was the very epitome of a lesson in the laws of diminishing returns.

Wesley Snipes in Blade Trinity
Wesley Snipes in Blade Trinity

In fact, his post-‘Blade’ work comprised a couple of films per year which remained largely confined to the video market, despite his early 90s hits like ‘White Men Can’t Jump’, ‘Demolition Man’ and ‘Rising Sun’.

Who, for example, recalls his lead performance as Sonni Griffith in ‘The Detonator’, or as US secret ops agent Marcus in ‘Game of Death’?

Other straight-to-video performances included starring roles in ‘The Contractor’, ‘The Marksman’, ‘7 Seconds’ and the tragically apt ‘Hard Luck’, about an ex-con drug dealer going straight.

Hard Luck DVD
Hard Luck DVD

There are few actors have pulled much back in career terms after going to prison, the redemption stories being notably thin on the ground.

Tom Sizemore has, despite his giddily impressive early CV, become better known for being ‘troubled’ in recent years and has been in and out of prison since the early 2000s, largely for incidents related to his ongoing battle with drug addiction, along with assault and battery charges in 2003. There was also that sex tape.

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As a result, his career prospects have suffered immeasurably, though oddly he’s being talked up for a role in the next ‘Expendables’ movie too.

No one is rushing to lavish jobs on Lindsay Lohan following her stints in prison, but then she has developed a reputation for being extremely difficult to work with and indeed insure, which probably trumps the contents of her criminal record when being considered for work.

In fact, most actors and actresses who have ended up in prison have had issues with substance abuse not helping their cause. ‘Terminator 2’s Edward Furlong, for example also found that jail did nothing for his prospects, but his known issues with drugs and domestic violence certainly didn’t help matters.

The exception that proves the rule, however, is that of Robert Downey Jr. In the late 90s, his substance abuse was out of control, and he landed himself a number of jail terms – a four month stint in Los Angeles County for missing a court ordered drug test, and then a three-year sentence for the same thing in 1999.

Robert Downey Jr Mugshot
Robert Downey Jr Mugshot

But since then, he’s staged a staggering comeback, and is now, thanks in the main to his stint as Tony Stark in the ‘Iron Man’ movies, one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. He got paid a cool $50 million for ‘The Avengers’.

Even Charlie Sheen has bounced back from his court-enforced spells in rehab facilities to get his career back on track, with his latest sitcom ‘Anger Management’ breaking ratings records.

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So it’s a story of mixed fortunes for ex-jailbird actors, but with just tax evasion on his rap list rather than the age-old substance abuse issues or battery, Snipes prospects might not be as dire as other actors emerging from a stint in chokey.

It’s his recent work that is more likely to be the issue.

Snipes doesn’t have any other big projects in the pipeline right now, but he’s keen to return to the role of Blade as he told us earlier this week.

It’s a shame if ‘Expendables 3’ doesn’t act as a springboard to a career resurgence, as he’s one of the best things in the geriaction thriller.

'The Expendables 3' is in cinemas now.

Image credit: New Line Cinema/Lionsgate/Columbia Home Entertainment