What is Wesley Snipes Net Worth and Salary?
Wesley Snipes is an American actor, film producer and martial artist who has a net worth of negative $9 million. Wesley Snipes was one of the biggest actors in the world in the 1990s. He starred in a string of box office smash hits, and at his peak earned tens of millions of dollars in film salaries. In fact, thanks to an IRS legal battle waged by Wesley, we know for a fact that he specifically earned $37.9 million between 1996 and 2004. Unfortunately during this period Wesley did not pay a dime in taxes while ALSO requesting $12 million in false refunds. These actions resulted in a lengthy court battle that ultimately landed Wesley in prison for nearly 900 days after being convicted of tax evasion. He was also ordered to pay $17 million in back taxes/interests/penalties. An amount that ballooned to $23.5 million by 2018 when the case bubbled back up in a tax court. In the end the government offered to lower his debt to $9.5 million. It’s unclear if Wesley has paid any or perhaps all of that debt to this point. Even after getting the debt chopped from $23.5 million to $9.5 million, Wesley claimed he did not have the resources to render payment and counted with an offer of $842,000. Much more on Wesley’s tax problems later in this article below or in this more detailed breakdown: How Wesley Snipes Went From Passenger 57 To Prisoner #43355-018.
Snipes first gained recognition in the 1980s with supporting roles in films like “Streets of Gold” (1986) and “Major League” (1989). His charismatic performances quickly led to leading roles, and by the 1990s, he had become one of Hollywood’s top action stars. One of Snipes’ most iconic roles came with the “Blade” trilogy, in which he played the titular character, a vampire hunter. The success of “Blade” (1998), “Blade II” (2002), and “Blade: Trinity” (2004) not only established Snipes as a leading man in the action genre but also helped pioneer the modern era of comic book films.
Outside the action sphere, Snipes has been praised for his performances in dramas such as “Jungle Fever” (1991) and “New Jack City” (1991), where he showcased his ability to delve into complex characters. His role in “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992) displayed his flair for comedy, proving his adaptability across various genres.
Despite facing legal troubles and a period of absence from the big screen, Snipes made a strong comeback with appearances in films like “The Expendables 3” (2014) and “Dolemite Is My Name” (2019), earning critical praise and re-establishing his place in Hollywood.
He was born Wesley Trent Snipes on July 31st, 1962. Although he was born in Florida, he grew up in New York City.
He began training in martial arts when he was 12 years old and today has a 5th degree black belt in Shotkan karate and a 2nd degree black belt in Hapkido. Snipes attended the famous – Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music, Art, and Performing that the movie “Fame” was based on, but he moved back to Florida before graduation, and finished high school in Orlando. Snipes went on to attend the State University of New York at Purchase.
Wesley Snipes would continue to move around the United States throughout his youth. After moving back to Orlando to graduate from high school, he returned to New York once again to attend college. Finally, he traveled to Los Angeles to attend Southwest College.
Attending college in Los Angeles thrust Wesley Snipes into the heart of the film industry. It wasn’t long before he was discovered by an agent and began booking roles. His first major film appearance was in a movie called Wildcats, and further success would soon follow. A guest appearance on the show Miami Vice helped put him on the map, as did his role in the iconic Micheal Jackson music video for the single “Bad.” In this music video, Snipes played Jackson’s nemesis – and director Spike Lee couldn’t help but take notice.
Linking up with Spike Lee won Snipes roles in films like Jungle Fever and Mo’ Better Blues. Although Wesley Snipes was clearly an actor with an incredible range, he also gravitated towards a particular type; either a drug dealer or a crime lord. The actor played these types of roles in movies like New Jack City and Sugar Hill. Snipes also won a role in the film Kings of New York.
Shift Towards Action Films
After establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with, Wesley Snipes gravitated more towards action movies, giving himself the opportunity to show off his genuine martial arts prowess. During this phase of the actor’s career, he appeared in films like Passenger 57, Money Train, The Fan, U.S. Marshalls, Rising Sun, and perhaps most notably Demolition Man alongside Sylvester Stallone. That being said, Snipes also showed his comedic talents during this period with films like White Men Can’t Jump and To Wong Foo.
Wesley Snipes experienced his greatest commercial and financial success with the Blade trilogy, starting in 1998. The first film in the series grossed $150 million worldwide, prompting the creation of two further films; Blade II and Blade: Trinity. The last film in the Blade series marked the beginning of a period of relative obscurity for Wesley Snipes.
As we explain in a moment, through court filings as part of his tax evasion case, we learned that between 1996 and 2004 Wesley earned $37.9 million in total income, the vast majority coming from film salaries. Here are some of his notable known film salaries:
- Drop Zone (1994) = $7 million
- Money Train (1995) – $5.5 million
- The Fan (1996) – $7 million
- Blade: Trinity (2004) – $13 million
Tax Issues And Prison
In 2006, just two years after the release of Blade Trilogy, Wesley Snipes was charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and another count of making a false claim for payment against the U.S. He was also charged with a further six counts of failing to file tax returns. The conspiracy charges alleged that Snipes had filed fraudulent tax returns for refunds amounting to tens of millions of dollars. Furthermore, Snipes was charged with failing to file tax returns from 1999 to 2004. Between 1996 and 2004, Snipes earned $37.9 million from his acting career and apparently failed to pay any taxes during that entire time.
In 2008, Snipes was acquitted of all felony charges. However, he was found guilty of three misdemeanor charges for failing to file tax returns. As a result, the actor was sentenced to three years in prison and was released in 2013. He served the rest of his sentence under house arrest. In addition to his prison sentence, Wesley was required to pay $17 million in back taxes, interest, and penalties to the IRS.
Wesley continued to fight his debt for years to come. In 2018 he offered to settle what by then had grown to be a $23.5 million debt for a paltry $842,000. The government rejected his offer and instead countered with $17 million. A judge eventually finalized the amount at $9.5 million. Unsatisfied, Wesley continued fighting even that reduced amount. Claiming his $842,000 offer was a best and final offer considering his lack of assets and income. It’s not clear as of this writing whether Wesley has paid off any or perhaps all of the debt. We may not know until the government makes a future filing because either the debt has been satisfied or due to further lack of payment.
New Jersey Mansion
In 2002 Wesley paid $5.6 million for a 10,000 square foot mansion in Alpine, New Jersey. In early 2008 it was reported that he owed $70,000 in back property taxes connected to the mansion. In March 2014 the home was sold for $3.5 million, representing a $2.1 million loss for the actor. He is a video tour of Wesley’s former New Jersey mansion:
Life After Release From Prison
After being released, Wesley Snipes jumped straight back into the acting world with a role in the film The Expendables 3. He has also appeared in movies like Chi-Raq and Dolemite is My Name. Recently, he has appeared in 2020’s Cut Throat City, 2021’s Coming 2 America, and 2023’s Back on the Strip.
Involvement in Martial Arts
Wesley Snipes holds a fifth degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and a second degree black belt in Hapkido. In addition, Snipes has been trained in the arts of Capoeira, Shaolin Kung Fu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and kickboxing.
Projects Outside of Acting
Wesley Snipes also started his own security firm. The company was centered around providing security for VIPs and focused on hiring personnel with law enforcement and martial arts backgrounds. Wesley Snipes also created his own film production company, which has produced films like A Great and Mighty Walk: Dr. John Henrik Clarke. In 2017, his book, “Talon of God,” was published.
Wesley Snipes has five children. His first son was born to his first wife, April Snipes. In 2003, Wesley Snipes married Nikki Park, a painter. The couple has four children together. Although Snipes was raised a Christian, he converted to Islam in 1978. A decade later, he left the religion.
Snipes’ apartment in New York City was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. At the time, he was on the West Coast.