Twenty years ago today, Marvel released a movie about a vampire fighting ravers and it changed the course of film history forever. It pushed Wesley Snipes even further toward Hollywood superstardom and ushered Marvel from the spooky gothic vampires like Dracula and Morbius into spandex-clad avengers with an all-consuming obsession. Today, we decided to unearth some fun facts about the movie that started it all.
Wesley Snipes brought an iconic cool to the role of everyone's favorite dhampir, but he wasn't the first choice for the part. Writer David S. Goyer originally had hip-hop superstar LL Cool J in mind for the role at first, and LL almost took the job. He eventually settled on his role in the 1999 shark movie Deep Blue Sea.
Just like the titular hero, the main antagonist was almost played by a different, coincidentally much more famous actor than Stephen Dorff. Jet Li was originally set to step into the button-down shirts and horribly rendered CGI of Deacon Frost before he was eventually called away to Lethal Weapon 4.
As if a vampire movie based on a then-obscure comic character starring LL Cool J and Jet Li wasn't enough, Stephen Norrington was almost replaced in the director's chair, too. David Fincher, who already had 1992's Alien 3, 1995's Seven, and 1997's The Game to his name, was the original consideration to direct Blade's first adventure. His trademark moody style and convoluted plot pretzels might've actually been a good fit for the universe, but he wound up making Fight Club, still arguably his signature movie, a year later in 1999 instead.
The leather-clad collected badass Blade that Wesley Snipes helped popularize was a big deal; so big that this version was eventually translated to most every Marvel comics story going forward. The character goes as far back as 1973 when he debuted in a Dracula comic Marvel was publishing at the time. He was born and raised in a London brothel and wasn't born a dhampir, having been bitten after he was already a grown man. This version was also obsessed with vampires to the point of psychosis and he'd be unwilling to work with anyone who didn't meet his highly specific demands. I think it's safe to say that the cooler, calmer, and more collected version of Blade is better. Thanks, Wesley.
Blade was a success for New Line Cinemas when it first released, grossing $131 million on a $45 million budget. There was one person involved who didn't get the money they thought that they deserved: co-creator Marv Wolfman. Wolfman was a casualty of Marvel's infamous "work for hire" policy for all characters created in the 1970s and back, and they would regularly claim the publishing and movie rights to characters like these. Wolfman didn't like this and sued Marvel, New Line Cinemas, and Time Warner for about $35 million in damages, but wound up settling for creator credit in the film's opening.
One of the things most of us remember about Blade 20 years later is how terribly the special effects aged. The character of Deacon Frost might've been the worst offender, especially given how terrible the last fight scene in the film looks. The original scene involved Droff's Frost turning into a tornado of blood, but the footage tested so poorly with audiences that they had to reshoot the scene as a sword fight and a no better looking gooey serum explosion that still makes me laugh to this day.
Vampires. blood, and gore might already be a far cry for certain movie fans, but Blade almost took the gross factor one step further. There was originally supposed to be a scene where Blade and his mentor Abraham Whistler were going to run weapons tests on a vampire baby, which probably would've involved some kind of torture. Like Frost's blood tornado, the scene tested so poorly that they decided to scrap it entirely, relegating it to a DVD commentary fun fact.
I can't think of a single Marvel movie made recently that doesn't have a cameo from co-founder Stan Lee in it, and he almost found his way into Marvel's first big box office smash. Lee was originally set to play a cop who ran to help clean up the rave scene at the start of the film, and while it was filmed, it was deemed inappropriate for the film's overall tone and cut entirely.