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Tuesday, March 19, 2002


Even though his character apparently died in Blade, there was little doubt Kris Kristofferson's Whistler would be back for Blade II.

"From the moment we decided to do the second film, we knew Whistler had to come back," says Blade II star Wesley Snipes. "Blade is a lone warrior and Whistler serves as a good guide, teacher and confidant."

"When Kris signed up for the second film, we were elated," says writer David S. Goyer. "It's a much meatier role for him this time around. And Kris and Wesley have great chemistry between them."

But how does Whistler come back from the bloody beating from Deacon Frost's bunch, and an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound?

"I won't tell people how he's coming back," Goyer says with a grin. "But we certainly get to know Whistler better in this movie."

Snipes and Kristofferson are the only cast members back from the first film, which was directed by Stephen Norrington. Blade II was directed by Guillermo del Toro.

"I'm very grateful to be involved and very pleased to be working with Guillermo," Kristofferson says. "He brings an interesting dimension to this one. There is more depth and dimension to the different characters in this film than a lot of action films. Between Guillermo and Wesley, there are some brilliant ideas going on."

In the Blade backstory, Whistler picks up the orphaned Blade from the streets. Together they take on the vampiric underworld.

"Abraham Whistler is compelled to kill vampires because they massacred his wife and children," Kristofferson says. "I have a large family of my own, and it's the most important part of my life. So, it was easy for me to identify with Whistler's anguish and his urge for vengeance."

In Blade, Whistler fell victim to Frost and his minions and was severely beaten. Instead of becoming a vampire, Whistler asked for Blade's gun to shoot himself. As Blade walked away with his back to Whistler, a gunshot rang out, seemingly marking his death.

"You hear the gunshot but you don't actually see what happens," Goyer notes.

In the sequel, Blade is responsible for finding Whistler.

"As a warrior, you never leave one of your comrades behind enemy lines," Snipes says.

Together, they go deep in the vampire underworld, teaming with a group of vampires against a new threat, the Reapers.

Although he has appeared in many films since making his debut in 1971, including last year's Planet of the Apes, kicking vampire butt has been a whole new experience for Kristofferson.

"I wasn't familiar with the comic book," he says. "Plus, I wasn't sure I was equipped for the role of an action hero sidekick.

"The scenes where I limp around in a leg brace and fire weapons in every direction -- and hit the mark, of course -- those were new experiences for me. So, there was a learning curve involved."

Blade was a surprise at the box office, dominating the late summer of 1998, including two weeks at the No. 1 spot. Although Whistler first appeared in Fox's Spider-Man animated series with Blade, the character is a creation of screenwriter Goyer.

"I thought it would be interesting for Blade to have a teacher," Goyer says of why he created Whistler. "The aging gunfighter who passes down his knowledge. It's the John Wayne character.

"Initially, with Whistler, we were thinking Patrick McGoohan, and then we started thinking Jon Voigt and then Kris Kristofferson, especially after Lone Star came out. I loved him in Lone Star."

Lone Star was the first step in the rejuvenation of Kristofferson's acting career, and the first Blade was his most successful film in years.

Kristofferson says he has enjoyed working with Snipes.

"Wesley is terrific," he says. "Working with him was a great experience for me at this stage in my career."

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