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Of all the stories about troubled movie productions, none are quite as unbelievable as the saga of 2004’s “Blade: Trinity.” Let’s just say, it’s truly eye-opening.
Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt has recounted his experience on the “Trinity” set multiple times, claiming that during filming, Wesley Snipes would only come out of his trailer for close-ups, leaving the distant shots to a stand-in. According to Oswalt, the ensuing tension between Snipes and director David Goyer got so bad that Snipes only communicated through Post-it notes, which he’d sign “From Blade,” as one does.
But the Snipes/“Trinity” anecdote that is far and away the most hilarious gossip — we’re talking hot goss here — is the rumor that, at one point, Snipes was so unwilling to acquiesce to the demands of the production that he refused to open his eyes for the camera. And so his eyeballs had to be CGI-ed into a scene instead.
The story first came to light courtesy of A.V. Club writer Zack Handlen’s review of the “Blade: Trinity” DVD commentary, in which Goyer says: “The other thing that happened in this scene is that Blade opened his eyes, and on the day, Wesley did not open his eyes.”
The A.V. Club didn’t identify the scene in question. But based on various YouTube clips, it appears the shot is this one that involves Blade waking up in a morgue:
Eye couldn’t believe it. Neither could my colleagues, who were skeptical until they gazed upon this zoomed-in GIF from the film:
In a (not yet published) interview earlier this year, HuffPost’s own Zeba Blay attempted to ask Snipes about the allegedly CGI-ed eyes, henceforth known as CG-Eyes. However, Snipes declined to answer.
In honor of HuffPost’s Beef Week, we wanted to get to the bottom of this feud-fed optical confusion. So when I got the opportunity to interview visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer ― whose career has encompassed everything from “Elf” to “Game of Thrones,” and who, yes, also worked on “Blade: Trinity” ― I had to ask if he remembered Snipes’ eye-popping scene.
And now, iris my case. The CG-Eyes have been confirmed.
“It’s been quite a while,” Bauer said at first, when I brought up the rumor that Snipes’ eyes had to be CGI-opened. “It might be when he’s in the morgue and he has to open his eyes. Yeah, that was a bit tricky because I don’t even recall whether Wesley was still on the show at that point. He had a double, if I’m remembering this correctly ― and it’s been a while. He had a double who looked very very much like him, and we had to shoot with late ideas. We ended up doing them sometimes with the double.”
Bauer couldn’t recall if it was the actor or the stand-in who appeared in the morgue shot, but The A.V. Club reported that Goyer identified the body seen in close-up as Snipes’. Handlen, the author of that piece, confirmed to me that Goyer’s quote was taken verbatim.
The confusion is understandable, given the amount of times Bauer says Snipes’ double was used. Even the last shot of the movie, where Blade rides off on a motorcycle, was performed by the double, he told me. That shot was apparently added later in the editing process.
“We didn’t have Wesley to shoot that with, so we used a double and actually ended up blocking that out because we had to shoot a close-up on Wesley and had to do this amazing thing, but without Wesley,” he said.
But whether or not it was the double, CGI was indeed used to enhance the morgue scene. Maybe Snipes refused to open his eyes, as Goyer reportedly said, and Bauer’s team had to perform visual effects magic. Or maybe Snipes’ stand-in appeared in the scene and Bauer was tasked with adjusting his eyes to look more like Blade’s. Either way, it’s CG-Eyes.
“Getting [Blade] to open his eyes [in the morgue scene] was really tricky because no two people’s eyes are the same,” Bauer said, later adding: “Messing with the human face is the very hardest thing that anyone can do in visual effects... I won’t name, but you can name the number of attempts that have failed more than succeeded, I think.”
Even though the effects workload reportedly doubled during production, Bauer looks back on the experience positively. He praised Goyer and explained that the increased effort was a result of well-intentioned quality control. Everyone was “excited by the material,” he said.
But knowing that the CG-Eyes are real, and that Snipes was ― according to Oswalt’s account ― “fucking crazy in a hilarious way,” it’s hard to watch the movie without thinking about all the turmoil behind the scenes.
During one of the interviews in the “Trinity” DVD extras, producer Peter Frankfurt notes that dealing with “lots of very dynamic personalities who need to be properly managed is always a challenge.”
Snipes appears next in the video, saying: “We’re working days. We’re working nights. Usually it’s 12 to 16 hours, so you know, either we all love each other or either we’re just at each other’s throats. If I really could bite you on the neck, I’d bite you on the neck.”
Eye believe you, dude.