Steven Seagal

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Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Steven Seagal
Born Steven Frederic Seagal
(1952-04-10) April 10, 1952 (age 62)[1]
Lansing, Michigan, United States
Style Aikido
Rank      7th degree black belt in Aikido
Years active c. 1988-present
Occupation Actor, film producer, martial artist, musician, writer, director, reserve deputy sheriff, entrepreneur
Spouse
Children seven, including Ayako Fujitani
Website stevenseagal.com

Steven Frederic Seagal[2] (born April 10, 1952)[1][3] is an American actor, film producer, screenwriter, film director, martial artist, musician, reserve deputy sheriff and entrepreneur. A 7th-dan black belt in Aikido, Seagal began his adult life as an Aikido instructor in Japan.[4] He became the first foreigner to operate an Aikido dojo in Japan.[5]

He later moved to the Los Angeles, California, area where he made his film debut in 1988 in Above the Law. By 1991, he had starred in three successful films and achieved fame in Under Siege (1992), where he played Navy SEALs counter-terrorist expert Casey Ryback. However both On Deadly Ground (1994, which he directed) and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) did less well at the box office. During the latter half of the 1990s, he starred in three more theatrical films and the direct-to-video (in the US) film The Patriot. Since that time, with the exception of Exit Wounds (2001) and Half Past Dead (2002), his career has shifted almost entirely to direct-to-video films (often low budget productions and shot in Europe or Asia). From 1998 to 2009, he appeared in a total of 22 of these. At the age of 59, he returned to the big screen as Torrez in the 2010 film Machete. In 2011, he filmed the third season of his reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman.

Seagal is a guitarist, recording artist, and the founder of Steven Seagal Enterprises.[6] In addition to his professional achievements, he is also known as an environmentalist,[citation needed] an animal rights activist, and a supporter of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.[7][8]

Early life

Seagal was born in Lansing, Michigan, where he lived until he was five years old, when the family moved to California. His mother, Patricia (1930–2003), was a medical technician, and his father, Samuel Steven Seagal (1928–1991), was a high school math teacher.[9] His mother was of Irish ancestry and his father was Jewish (the son of immigrants from Russia).[10] In a Russian interview, Seagal stated that he had a Mongolian grandfather (either Buryat or Kalmyk).[11] His parents relocated to Fullerton, California, where Seagal attended Buena Park High School in Buena Park.

Aikido

At the age of 13, Seagal lied about his age and got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant named The Wagon Wheel.[citation needed] One of the cooks at the restaurant was a Japanese shotokan karate expert and noticed Seagal moved very quickly around the kitchen. He taught Seagal the basics of karate. Seagal began training in aikido under master Harry Kiyoshi Ishisaka, founder of the Orange County Aikido School (Orange County Aiki Kai) (OCAK) in 1964. Seagal considers him to have been the most important martial arts teacher in his life. Seagal moved to Japan at some point between the ages of 19 and 21 with his father who was visiting for military purposes, and met karate masters and decided to remain in Japan. He received his 1st dan degree (Shodan) under the direction of Koichi Tohei. He continued to train in aikido as a student of Seiseki Abe, Tohei (whose aikido organization, Ki Society, Seagal refused to join in favor of staying with the Aikikai), Kisaburo Osawa, Hiroshi Isoyama and the second doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. He attained a 7th dan degree and Shihan in aikido and became the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan.[12]

After returning to California in 1974, Seagal met Miyako Fujitani, an aikido instructor teaching in Los Angeles. He returned with her to her native Japan in 1975 where they married. When Seagal's father-in-law, also an aikido instructor, retired, Seagal became the new head of the organization known as Tenshin Aikido in Jūsō, Osaka City (affiliated with the Aikikai). Seagal is known by his students as Take Sensei. When Seagal left his dojo in Osaka, his then-wife Miyako became the caretaker of the dojo which has continued to the present day. Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico, with his student (and later film stuntman) Craig Dunn, where they opened a dojo, although Seagal spent much of his time pursuing other ventures. After another period in Japan, Seagal returned to the U.S. in 1983 with senior student Haruo Matsuoka. They opened an aikido dojo, initially in North Hollywood, California, but later moved it to the city of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997.[13][14][15]

He has helped train Brazilian mixed martial artists Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. Silva, who is the former UFC Middleweight Champion, went on to knock out Vitor Belfort with a kick, in their fight at UFC 126 in February 2011,[16][17] and Machida also credited him for helping him perfect the front kick that he used to knock out Randy Couture at UFC 129 in May 2011.[18][19]

Hollywood career

1990s

In 1987, Seagal began work on his first film, Above the Law (titled Nico in Europe), with director Andrew Davis and reportedly as a favor to a former aikido student, the agent Michael Ovitz.[20] Ovitz took Seagal to Warner Brothers to put on an aikido demonstration and the executives were impressed by him and offered him several scripts; Seagal turned them down but agreed to write what would become Above the Law. Following its success, Seagal made three more movies – Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice – that were box office hits, making him an action hero. Later, he achieved wider, mainstream success in 1992 with the release of Under Siege (1992). That film reunited Seagal with director Andrew Davis, and was a blockbuster in the U.S. and abroad, grossing $156.4 million worldwide.[21]

Seagal then directed On Deadly Ground (1994). This film, in which he also starred, emphasized environmental and spiritual themes, signaling a break with his previous persona as a genre-ready inner-city cop. The film featured Michael Caine as well as R. Lee Ermey and Billy Bob Thornton in minor supporting roles. On Deadly Ground was poorly received by film critics,[22] but despite many critics denouncing Seagal's long environmental speech in the film, Seagal considers it to have been one of the most important and relevant moments in his career. Seagal filmed a sequel to one of his most successful films, Under Siege, titled Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), and cop drama The Glimmer Man (1996). In 1996, he had a role in the Kurt Russell film Executive Decision, in which he played a special ops soldier who only appears in the film's first 45 minutes. He subsequently made another environmentally conscious film, Fire Down Below (1997), wherein he was an EPA agent fighting industrialists dumping toxic waste in the Kentucky hills, but the movie was commercially unsuccessful. This film ended his original multi-picture contract with Warner Bros.[citation needed]

Direct-to-video work

The next year, Seagal made The Patriot, another environmental thriller which was his first direct-to-video release in the United States (though it was released theatrically in most of the world). Seagal produced this film with his own money, and the film was shot on-location on and near his farm in Montana.

After producing Prince of Central Park, Seagal returned to cinema screens with the release of Exit Wounds in March 2001. The film had fewer martial arts scenes than Seagal's previous films, but it was a commercial success, taking almost $80 million worldwide. However, he was unable to capitalize on this success and his next two projects were both critical and commercial failures. The movie Ticker, co-starring Tom Sizemore and Dennis Hopper, was filmed in San Francisco before Exit Wounds, and went straight to DVD. Half Past Dead, starring rap star Ja Rule, made less than $20 million worldwide.

All of the films Seagal has made since the latter half of 2001 have been released direct-to-video (DTV) in North America, with some theatrical releases to other countries around the world. Seagal is credited as a producer and sometimes a writer on many of these DTV movies, which include Black Dawn, Belly of the Beast, Out of Reach, Submerged, Kill Switch, Urban Justice, Pistol Whipped, Against the Dark, Driven to Kill, A Dangerous Man, Born to Raise Hell and The Keeper, a movie released in Japan fifteen weeks earlier than the United States.[23]

Return to the big screen and television work

In 2009, A&E Network premiered the reality television series; Steven Seagal: Lawman, focusing on Seagal as a deputy in Louisiana. In 2010, Seagal appeared in his first theatrically released film in nearly a decade, as the main villain in Robert Rodriguez' Machete. In 2011, Steven Seagal produced and starred in a 13-episode television series entitled True Justice.

Themes and motifs

Many of Seagal's films share unique elements which have become characteristic of his body of work. His characters often have an elite past affiliation with the CIA, Special Forces or Black Ops (for example, Casey Ryback in Under Siege, a former Navy SEAL, Jack Cole in The Glimmer Man, an ex-CIA police detective, or Jonathan Cold in The Foreigner and Black Dawn, an ex-CIA Black Ops freelancer.) His characters differ from those of other action movie icons by virtue of their near-invulnerability; they almost never face any significant physical threat, easily overpowering any opposition and never facing bodily harm or even temporary defeat.[24] A notable exception is 2010's Machete, which features Seagal in a rare villainous role.

Seagal's films frequently reflect aspects of his personal life. His music appears in several of his films (for example, Into The Sun and Ticker, where he appears as part of a bar band), as does his fluency in other languages (he speaks Japanese in Into the Sun) and religion (Buddhism features prominently in The Glimmer Man and Belly of the Beast). His past as an aikido teacher is also incorporated into several films, for example Above the Law (which opens with a montage of real-life photos from Seagal's own past) or Shadow Man, where he is seen giving an aikido demonstration. Several of his films also feature prominent political messages, most notably the environmentalism evident in On Deadly Ground, which ends with a lengthy speech in which Seagal (playing ex-CIA firefighter Forrest Taft) accuses big business of rampant environmental degradation:

Big Business is primarily responsible for destroying the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat. They have no care for the world they destroy, only for the money they make in the process... They basically control the legislation, and, in fact, they control the Law... They influence the media so that they can control our minds. They have made it a crime to speak out for ourselves, and if we do so we're called "conspiracy nuts" and we're laughed at... We have to force these companies to operate safely and responsibly, and with all our best interests in mind.[25]

In 2008, author and critic Vern (no last name) published Seagalogy, a work which examines Seagal's filmography using the framework of auteur theory. The book divides Seagal's filmography into different chronological "eras" with distinct thematic elements. The book was updated in 2012 to include more recent films and Seagal's work on the reality TV show Steven Seagal: Lawman.[26]

Other ventures

Music

Seagal live in 2007

In addition to acting and aikido, Seagal also plays the guitar, and his songs have been featured in several of his movies (such as Fire Down Below and Ticker). In 2005, he released his first album, Songs from the Crystal Cave, which has a mix of pop, world, country and blues music. It features duets with Tony Rebel, Lt. Stichie, Lady Saw, and Stevie Wonder. The soundtrack to Seagal's 2005 film Into the Sun features several songs from the album. One of his album tracks, "Girl It's Alright", was also released as a single in parts of the world alongside an accompanying music video created for it.

Seagal's second album, titled Mojo Priest, was released in April 2006. Subsequently, he spent summer 2006 touring the United States and Europe with his band, Thunderbox, in support of the album.

Law enforcement work

Seagal is currently a Reserve Deputy Chief in the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana Sheriff's Office. Seagal owns a second home in Louisiana and spends several months a year there.[27] According to the show, Seagal graduated from a police academy in Los Angeles over twenty years ago and has a certificate from Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST), an organization that accredits California police officers. However, POST officials in California and Louisiana have no record of Seagal being certified, and Seagal's rank in Louisiana is ceremonial.[28]

In November 2008, A&E announced that they had begun taping Steven Seagal: Lawman, which follows his work in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office. The series premiered on A&E on December 2, 2009. Seagal stated that "I’ve decided to work with A&E on this series now because I believe it’s important to show the nation all the positive work being accomplished here in Louisiana—to see the passion and commitment that comes from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in this post-Katrina environment." The series premiere drew 3.6 million viewers, ranking as best season opener for any original A&E series ever.[29]

On April 14, 2010, the series was suspended by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand due to a sexual trafficking lawsuit filed against Seagal. The suit was later dropped.[30] A&E resumed the show for the second season which began on October 6, 2010.

Business ventures

Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt energy drink

Seagal Enterprises markets an energy drink known as Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt, as well as an homeopathic oil product line and an aftershave called Scent of Action.[31]

Personal life

Seagal introduces his wife Elle to Matthieu Ricard, Vancouver, 2008

He owns a dude ranch in Colorado and a home in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, a wealthy neighbourhood in Los Angeles. In November 2013, he adopted a Romanian stray dog.[32][33] Seagal is a Buddhist. In February 1997, Lama Penor Rinpoche from Palyul monastery announced that Seagal was a tulku, and specifically the reincarnation of Chungdrag Dorje, a 17th-century terton (treasure revealer) of the Nyingma, the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism.[34] Seagal's recognition aroused controversy in the American Buddhist community, with Helen Tworkov commenting in Tricycle to doubt the extent of Seagal's "spiritual wisdom" and to suggest that Seagal bought his Buddhahood by donations to Penor's Kunzang Palyul Choling center. Penor Rinpoche responded to the controversy by saying that Seagal, although acting in violent movies had not actually killed people, and that Seagal was merely recognized, whereas enthronement as a tulku would require first a "lengthy process of study and practice".[35]

Relationships and family

Seagal is married and has seven children from his four relationships.

In Japan Seagal married his first wife, Miyako Fujitani, the daughter of an aikido instructor. With Fujitani, he had a son, model and actor Kentaro Seagal, and a daughter, writer and actress, Ayako Fujitani. Seagal left Miyako Fujitani to go back to the United States.[36][37]

In the United States he married former Days of our Lives actress Adrienne La Russa, despite his divorce to Fujitani not yet being finalized. During his marriage to La Russa, Seagal reportedly saw actress and model Kelly LeBrock in the 1984 Gene Wilder film Woman in Red and said that she was "his destiny".[38] He began a relationship with her and she eventually became pregnant with his child. When news of this emerged, Seagal's marriage to La Russa was annulled and he then married LeBrock on 5 September 1987. His three children with LeBrock are daughters Annaliza and Arissa, and son Dominic. In 1994, LeBrock filed divorce papers citing "irreconcilable differences". During this time it emerged that Seagal was having an affair with Arissa Wolf, who was hired to be a nanny to Seagal and Lebrock's children.[39] Seagal has a daughter with Arissa Wolf, Savannah.[40]

Seagal is currently married to Erdenetuya Batsukh (Mongolian: Эрдэнэтуяа Батсүх), better known as Elle, and with whom he has a son, Kunzang.[41] Elle is from Mongolia.[42] She trained as a dancer from her early age at the Children's Palace in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. After her graduation from high school and the Children's Palace, she pursued a career as a professional dancer. She won numerous dancing contests and she was considered as the top female dancer in Mongolia. She particularly excelled in ballroom dance. Erdenetuya first worked as Seagal's interpreter when he visited Mongolia in 2001.

In addition to his biological children, he is the guardian to a Tibetan child, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo.[43] Rinzinwangmo, or "Renji", is the only child of the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet. Renji studied in the United States at American University, and Seagal was her guardian and bodyguard.[44]

In addition to his seven children, he has two grandchildren by his eldest son Kentaro Seagal born in 2006 and 2007.[45]

Allegations and lawsuits

Seagal has often been accused of sexual harassment during his film productions.[46][47] In May 1991 during the filming of Out for Justice, Warner Brothers employees Raenne Malone, Nicole Selinger, Christine Keeve and another woman accused Seagal of sexual harassment.[38] Malone and another women reportedly received around $50,000 each in return for a pledge of confidentiality in an out of court settlement.[38][48]

Jenny McCarthy has claimed that Seagal asked her to disrobe for him during an audition for Under Siege 2.[49]

1995 lawsuit

In 1995, Seagal was charged with employment discrimination, sexual harassment and breach of contract.[46] Cheryl Shuman filed a case against Seagal, accusing him of threatening and beating her during the filming of On Deadly Ground.[46] The case was dismissed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki in August 1995 as "repetitive and unintelligible."[46]

2010 lawsuit

On April 12, 2010, 23-year-old Kayden Nguyen filed a lawsuit against Seagal in Los Angeles County Superior Court claiming sexual harassment, illegal trafficking of females for sex, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and false representation about employment,[50][51] that specified damages exceeding one million dollars.[50][51][52] On April 13, 2010, the day after Nguyen made the claims, Seagal's attorney, Marty Singer, released this written statement to CBS news: "The lawsuit filed by Kayden Nguyen against Steven Seagal is a ridiculous and absurd claim by a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired for using illegal narcotics."[51] Seagal personally denied the claims, yet he was forced to suspend his show, Steven Seagal: Lawman, while his attorneys attempted to resolve the case privately.[50] On July 14, 2010, three months after Nguyen made her claims against Seagal, the case was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff without any public explanation.[53][54]

2011 lawsuit

On August 30, 2011, Jesus Sanchez Llovera filed a lawsuit against Seagal over his part in a police raid that was taped for his A&E reality show, Steven Seagal: Lawman. Llovera was seeking $100,000 for damages made during raid including a formal apology letter from Seagal to his children for the death of their family pet. He said that his 11 months old puppy was shot and killed during the raid.[55] The lawsuit was dismissed in January 2013 because Llovera failed to file court-ordered paperwork after his attorney had withdrawn from the case.[56]

Activism

Seagal has volunteered, lending his voice as a narrator for an activist film project, Medicine Lake Video, which seeks to protect sacred tribal ground near his ranch in Siskiyou County.[57] In 2003, He wrote an open letter to the leadership of Thailand, urging them to enact a law to prevent the torture of baby elephants.[58]

Political views and friendship with Vladimir Putin

Seagal and Vladimir Putin, August 11, 2012

In a March 2014 interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Seagal described Vladimir Putin as "one of the great living world leaders", stated that he "would like to consider him as a brother," and expressed support for the annexation of Crimea by Russia.[59] In July 2014, following calls for a boycott, Seagal was dropped from the lineup of the Augustibluus music festival in Haapsalu, Estonia.[60][61] Estonian rock legend Tõnis Mägi, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Paet, and Parliament's Foreign Affairs chairman, Marko Mihkelson, had condemned inviting Seagal into the country,[61] with Paet stating, "Steven Seagal has tried to actively participate in politics during the past few months and has done it in a way which is unacceptable to the majority of the world that respects democracy and the rule of law."[62] In August 2014, Seagal appeared in Sevastopol, Crimea in a Night Wolves-organized show supporting the Crimean annexation and depicting Ukraine as a country controlled by fascists.[63][64]

Honors

In 1999, Seagal was awarded a PETA Humanitarian Award.[65][66][67]

Stunts

Year Title Role
1982 The Challenge martial arts coordinator
1983 Never Say Never Again martial arts instructor
1985 A View To A Kill martial arts choreographer
1988 Above the Law martial arts coordinator
1990 Hard to Kill martial arts coordinator
Marked for Death martial arts coordinator

Filmography

Films

Year Title Role Notes
1988 Above the Law Nico Toscani Also receives "Story by" credit.
1990 Hard to Kill Mason Storm
Marked for Death John Hatcher
1991 Out for Justice Det. Gino Felino
1992 Under Siege Casey Ryback
1994 On Deadly Ground Forrest Taft Also director.
Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
1995 Under Siege 2: Dark Territory Casey Ryback
1996 Executive Decision Lt. Colonel Austin Travis Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
The Glimmer Man Lt. Jack Cole
1997 Fire Down Below Jack Taggart Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple/Ensemble
Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song
1998 My Giant Himself Cameo appearance
1998 The Patriot Dr. Wesley McClaren First film to go direct-to-video
2001 Exit Wounds Orin Boyd
Ticker Frank Glass
2002 Half Past Dead Sasha Petrosevitch Last film with Seagal in a starring role to get a wide theatrical release in the USA.
Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
2003 The Foreigner Jonathan Cold
Out for a Kill Prof. Robert Burns
Belly of the Beast Jake Hopper
2004 Out of Reach William Lansing
Clementine Jack Miller
2005 Into the Sun Travis Hunter Also receives "Story by" credit and co-writer.
Submerged Chris Cody
Today You Die Harlan Banks
Black Dawn Jonathan Cold
2006 Mercenary for Justice John Seeger
Shadow Man Jack Foster Also co-writer.
Attack Force Cmdr. Marshall Lawson Also co-writer.
2007 Flight of Fury John Sands Also co-writer. Uncredited remake of 1998's Black Thunder.[68]
Urban Justice Simon Ballister
2008 Pistol Whipped Matt Conlin
The Onion Movie Cock Puncher
Kill Switch Jacob Also writer.
2009 Against the Dark Tao
Driven to Kill Ruslan
The Keeper Roland Sallinger
2010 A Dangerous Man Shane Daniels
Machete Rogelio Torrez
Sheep Impact Paul Weland Short film.
2011 Born to Raise Hell Samuel Axel Also writer.
2012 Maximum Conviction Cross
2013 Force of Execution Mr. Alexander
2014 Gutshot Straight Paulie Trunks
A Good Man Mr. Alexander Sequel to Force of Execution

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1991 Saturday Night Live Host Episode: "Steven Seagal/Michael Bolton"
2009–present Steven Seagal: Lawman Himself Creator, Executive producer
2011–2012 True Justice Elijah Kane Creator, Writer, Executive producer

Discography

See also

References

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External links