“Some motherfuckers are always trying to skate uphill.” That’s just one of the many pearls of wisdom we got from the Blade films, a comic book trilogy that prefigured and influenced the current dominance of superhero movies worldwide. While it’s probably best to ignore Trinity (Wesley Snipes certainly did during the shoot), the first two Blade pics are perfect pop-infused horror action films powered by Snipes’ impressive charisma.
So, it’s a bit disconcerting then to hear that David S. Goyer had to put up with studio heads asking why couldn’t the titular character be a white guy. The revelation came in EW’s excellent oral history of the 1998 original where, among other things, Goyer touched on what his vision was for the project, saying:
I pitched it as this racial animosity between the purebloods and the turned vampires, the young Turks like Deacon Frost. And at the same time I wanted to talk about race in a subversive way, and it played into this half-breed idea, if you will — to have one foot in each world and not be accepted by either one.
At the time, Marvel was going through bankruptcy, so they were being pretty liberal with who had the rights to their superhero IPs (which led us directly to the current tangle we have today). It meant that they were happy to let a relative unknown like Goyer have free reign with the character to realize his vision. But there was just one problem, as the writer explains:
At one point the [studio] came to us and said “can Blade be white?” and I said “absolutely fucking not. Like, that is just terrible. You cannot do that.”
All credit to Goyer here for putting his foot down on the issue, as I have no doubt that there are some directors who would’ve seriously considered doing this. After all, this was 1998, which is almost pre-internet, meaning you could probably get away with this without someone instantly launching an online campaign against the movie.
Plus, at the time, Blade was a pretty damn obscure comic book property. I’d estimate that the vast majority of the movie’s eventual audience had never even heard of him before, so why would they care if he was white? Fortunately, though, Goyer got his dream casting of Wesley Snipes and the rest is history.
If you haven’t seen the original Blade, I’d certainly recommend checking it out. It’s a teeny bit 90s, but that opening club scene still kicks all kinds of ass. Kevin Feige says the MCU will get to the character some day, too – let’s just hope they do him justice as well as Snipes and Goyer did the first time out of the gate.