Watch out Clint Eastwood. Actor Wesley Snipes is trying to mount his own J. Edgar Hoover film.
Admittedly though, both projects are quite different. In spite of still facing a three-year prison sentence for his infamous tax evasion case — Snipes owed tens of millions to the IRS, and while acquitted of the main charges of felony conspiracy and tax fraud charges, was found guilty of three misdemeanors for willfully failing to file taxes — the actor is still trying to work. He had to drop out of Spike Lee's "Miracle At St. Anna" because he wasn't allowed to leave the country and Abel Ferrera exited the director's chair of their "Game Of Death" collaboration midway through production, (Giorgio Serafini finished the picture) but Snipes remains in good spirits and remains undeterred.
According to Deadline, Snipes' Hoover film will actually be a drama that focuses on the notorious FBI bureau chief's hard-on for Martin Luther King Jr.. Penned by Justin Stamm and titled "Code Name Zorro," Snipes has MLK's family's blessing to tell a story of Hoover's preoccupation with the civil rights leader who he labeled a national security threat because of his rousing spirit. The script is evidently complete and intriguingly will focus on former assistant FBI director William C. Sullivan who led the code name Zorro campaign against MLK that lead to phone tapping and tactics that tried to paint the civil rights icon as a dangerous subversive.
Apparently, the covert operation was designed to tarnish King's reputations and stooped so low as to sending MLK's wife audio recordings of his conversations with other women. So Snipes as MLK? It doesn't look that way. He'll produce under his Maandi Media Production and will "play a role," but we assume if he was planning to play the nonviolent clergyman and activist that he would have told the publication. The meaty role of the picture will be the main character, Sullivan, while Hoover and MLK will play what sounds more like peripheral roles.
The story will focus less on MLK and Hoover and ultimately more on the transformation of Sullivan who went from a gung-ho agent recommending to his boss they take federal action against MLK for his dissident manner, to a man who ultimately sympathized and admired the leader for what he was trying to achieve. The script apparently will show how Sullivan's conscious catches up with him for his contemptible behavior, but that may be some creative license to create a dramatic character arc. According to his New York Times obituary, Sullivan was "the only liberal Democrat ever to break into the top ranks of the bureau." Then again, in one memo to Hoover, Sullivan called King a "a fraud, demagogue and scoundrel."
After MLK's assassination, Sullivan aired his conscious and dirty laundry to a journalist friend in hopes of exposing Hoover for his infamously underhanded and illegal ways. After he told his story, Sullivan was killed in a suspicious hunting accident. Sullivan had been scheduled to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations and was one of six top FBI officials who died in a six-month period in 1977. Sounds like an incredibly fascinating project and Snipes is trying to find a director and actors to create a package that will be shopped for financing. Strangely enough, Deadline's report makes no mention of Mark Lane and Dick Gregory's 1977 book, "Code Name "Zorro": The Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr." We'll assume it's not an adaptation of that work, but that strikes us as very odd.
“It’s not so much the persecution angle,” Snipes told Deadline. “I was attracted to the whistleblower dynamic. It's a challenging situation for a man to be in, to be among the shadowy and most powerful men in the world, who exposed information to mislead the public. What an interesting conflict and life dilemma. It makes for good drama and there are great roles for actors to play these historical figures who are part of a whole story that many of us weren’t aware of.”
As for recent talk of Marvel Films rebooting the "Blade" project, Snipes, who played the vampire hunter in three previous films sounds perturbed. "Maybe we get around to doing another 'Blade,' except, from what I’m reading, every other actor is talking about playing him, and nobody is talking to Wesley," he said, strangely referring to himself in the third person. "How strange that they don’t come and talk to me about it.”