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TG chats to Wesley Snipes
“This is going to be the shortest conversation in history, because I’m not really a gearhead…”
And thus begins TopGear.com’s chat with action legend Wesley Snipes. Yes, Nino Brown himself. Sidney Deane. John Cutter. Blade, for goodness sake. A man who has kung-fu-gripped and tiger-uppercut more than his fair share of on-screen baddies. He’s even played a few himself.
And, despite his protestations to the contrary, Snipes does know his cars, as we’re soon to find out.
We’re here because Wesley Snipes is in town promoting his return to action films in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 3.
The Expendables 3, if you’ve been living under a bridge for the last few months, is the third in a series of Sly’s movies where the most bombastic action stars of the 1980s and 1990s play self-aware old men doing what they do best: blowing stuff up. Arnold Schwarzenegger even gets to recall what is, quite simply, one of the finest lines ever spouted in cinema.
“It was a blast, filming The Expendables was fun, exciting, it had a lot of energy, and it’s nice to be in such a big franchise,” says our man Snipes in his traditionally laid-back fashion. “There’s a big future ahead, and maybe Expendables 4 is in that future too.”
Snipes being Snipes, he gets some of the best lines in the film, including a wholly unsubtle reference to his recent incarceration that elicited the most laughs from our screening audience. On the driving front, however, he sadly gets considerably less sideways action than some of his on-screen colleagues.
“The only opportunity I had for driving, they cut out of the movie,” he says. “There’s a scene where Barney pulls off after he’s kicked us to the kerb, and we’re all sitting on these custom made motorcycles, but we actually rode them off.”
So what, TG asks, was Wesley’s first experience with cars? “I learned how to drive a stick with a Honda Civic, maybe a 1976 or 1977 model. My teacher, she would teach me how to drive…”, he says, trailing off into laughter, “it was interesting. I loved it, but she hated it. It was a great experience learning for me, not so great for her.”
So what did he buy with his new-found freedom? “A Datsun B210 hatchback. It got robbed every other week too,” he says, as cool as you like. “I put an alarm system in the car, they robbed the alarm system too.”
“The Datsun was rough, but necessary. It kept overheating, and once we had to drive from South Carolina, through Georgia, to Florida at like, 40mph. It was crazy. People on the road were pissed at us,” he laughs.
He’d find some speed later on, moving up through a yellow Chevy Impala to a 1992 Lexus SC - “that car was sweet, it was one of the cars we got when I was doing White Men Can’t Jump” - and once went very, very fast in an Acura NSX. “I did around 160mph in one of those. And I’ve seen the commercials for the new one too. I like the new one. A lot.”
Though Snipes’ choice in cars might have settled down a little now - “I’ve got children so it’s basically an SUV thing, there’s a Range Rover and Escalade in my garage” - he’s a biker, too, and being a biker brings with it an inherent… crashiness.
“I had an intersection accident when I was 16 in a car,” he says, “but the motorcycles are the ones I’ve crashed on the most. It was rough. This one time I was doing over 100mph and lost it… I didn’t know at the time I had been injured, because I ended up in the grass.
“So when I dove off the bike I ended up doing some rolls and put a dent in the helmet. I had a bit of eye trouble and concussion. Thankfully I’ve never broken anything though,” he says, deadpan.
Has this brought about a sense of peace, of calm, about Wesley? “Behind the wheel? I’m an adventure seeker. I’m not as crazy as the guy I play in The Expendables 3, but I have been that crazy before. In general, I don’t lend myself to road rage very easily. I’m pretty easy going,” he says.
A beat. And his eyes switch wide open.
“But I’m born a fire sign, so you know, you strike a match and it’s on. I mean it’s on.” He laughs, and Top Gear makes a mental note never to strike a match with Wesley.
The Expendables franchise sees old action stars rolling back the years, but what does Snipes make of new automotive technology taking over the old guard? Things like driverless cars? Can they ever replace good, old fashioned driving?
“It’s an interesting technology. You might want to look at all the pictures these driverless pods are taking along the way. But to ride in one? That could be kinda’ weird,” he says. “I mean, there’ve been a couple of times when I was younger I’ve come out of the club and I would have loved a driverless car, you understand?”
He starts laughing, and, quite unnecessarily, clarifies a little further:. “You could really get your pimp on, get your mac on, you know?”
He laughs, and our time comes to an end. TG asks what cars Snipes has his eye on at the moment, and the response comes quickly. “An Aston Martin - not the Vanquish, but the smaller coupe, the V12 Vantage S. I love that thing, it’s got great lines.”
Not a gearhead Wesley? Sure.
The Expendables 3 is out in cinemas on 14th August 2014.