In Coming 2 America, the sequel to the classic 1988 comedy Coming to America, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and many of the original cast members return for another cross-continental adventure. This time, Prince Akeem (Murphy) and his best friend and aide Semmi (Hall) travel back to New York City to find the prince’s estranged son and deliver him to Zamunda.
Back in Africa, however, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the supreme leader of the militaristic country Nextdoria, is waiting in the wings to take over Zamunda if Prince Akeem fails to bring the heir to the throne back home.
During an interview with the Current, Snipes talked about his scene-stealing character, his initial reaction to the news that a sequel was in the works and a bit about his past movies, including White Men Can’t Jump and Wildcats.
Coming 2 America was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD.
How much of your own flair did you bring to General Izzi, or was it all in the script?
It was kind of written a little harsher. He had some of the classic despotic characteristics. I wanted to bring something to the table to make it a little more fun. Imagine the kind of guy that you hate to love. He really means well. He’s really a great guy. It’s not his fault that he likes to play with grenades and Kalashnikovs.
Talk about his walk. If he’s not dancing with every step, he’s basically gliding into the room.
Oh, yes. Well, when he was studying in America, he went to the Fred Astaire Dance Studio and won a couple of medals. At one point, he was even invited to be on Dancing with the Stars, but he was involved in too much political turmoil back home, so he couldn’t pursue it. But they wanted him.
When your character is first introduced, they refer to him by several nicknames, including “the conqueror of countries and hearts,” “the wrestler of lions” and “the most well-endowed man in Africa.” Which of those is your favorite and were any left on the cutting room floor that you liked?
Oh, we don’t have to limit it to one. I think all of them were very accurate. But “the midnight train to Georgia” is one that made me break character.
When you found out this sequel was in the works, did you know it was something you wanted to be a part of?
It was immediate when I heard about it, but I didn’t get the immediate call. I actually heard about it from a couple of friends. I even heard about it from Mike Epps. People were asking me, “Hey, are you going to be in the movie?” I was like, “Nobody called me. I guess I’m not good enough.”
If you could pick a character to play in the original, who would you have wanted to play?
I’d play the reverend. (Laughs.) That would be fun. I actually auditioned for Eriq La Salle’s character, but I lost out. I was one of the finalists. I was working with Michael Jackson at the time. [Snipes starred in Jackson’s 1987 music video Bad.] But I was a nobody then. Nobody knew me. Eriq, who is a friend of mine, and I had a similar journey going back to being classically trained in theater school.
You must have made a pretty big impact wearing Soul Glo if you were a finalist.
I don’t even remember if I had to put the wig on. (Laughs.) Yeah, I don’t think I did.
Since you weren’t in the original, did you feel less pressure to make this sequel good? Or did you feel you had the same stake in the game as Eddie and the others?
Well, I’m always going to try to bring my A-game out of respect for the craft and the artists that I’m working with. But I was in the movie as a fan. Just the mere fact that I was on that set and having that experience was good enough for me. (Laughs.) I said that every day. I’m so happy to be here. This is so much fun. I’m having a ball. The most rewarding aspect of this whole experience was having the experience.
If you could pick one of your earlier movies to make a sequel, which one would work? How about a sequel to Wildcats where you come back as Goldie Hawn’s assistant coach in college or the NFL?
(Laughs.) You know, the cool thing would be if it was an all-girls team. That could be cool. I’d do that. And then Goldie still outruns me. Demolition Man would be interesting to play now. Physically, I think I could hold up. It would be interesting to see what nuances we could bring to it.
If your character from White Men Can’t Jump took the court today with Woody Harrelson’s character, how do you think they’d fare against the competition?
Whoo! We’d smoke ‘em on the hustle. But the three-point game right now is like, oof. Everyone can shoot it! We’d have to figure that one out. We’d have to put a microchip in the basketball or something. But on the hustle, we got ‘em.
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