Interview with director Michael Oblowitz!


New Member
I remember Half Past Dead didn’t perform very well;but Dvd sales figures were great.In Turkey,The Foreigner and Out For a Kill were released same month,I’ve purchased them immediately. Incredibly bad movies Indeed


Active Member
I remember Half Past Dead didn’t perform very well;
couple of reasons for that
no TV advertisemenst(I saw one TV commercial for ir 2 days before release)
it was rated 'G" ...who ever heard of a G rated Seagal movie
very limited theaters it was released to(I know it ddin't play near me)
Only reason I new about it was because I used the Seagal forums at the time
they even had a contest or something...I still have the premiere ticket pass and a bunch of stickers they sent me..

Forrest Taft

Active Member
Half Past Dead's failure can definitely in no small part be attributed to its PG-13 rating.

They made the same mistake with Expendables 3, trying to appeal to a younger audience who have no idea who the star is and alienating the audience who want to see blood 'n' guts. So nobody wins and the box office tanks.

In the commentary, somebody says something along the lines of, since 9/11, audiences would rather see tame violence with sparks rather than blood, which is why sparks seem to shower everything whenever a bullet is fired. No. I for one would rather see Seagal tearing people's throats out.

If Half Past Dead had has some balls, it could have been a Seagal classic. Unfortunately, we got rap songs with all the f-bombs muted and Seagal killing one guy by kicking him into a cabinet.


Thanks for this, Dida. I've always been curious to find out more about Michael Oblowitz's views on these movies. Like them or not, you can't help but be struck by their distinctiveness and how different they are in tone and style. (It's the wilder, colourful OFAK that I like best of the two.) His film THE BREED also stands out from that time in his career.


Are you insane DTVDigest? Did you see the shoddy green screen work in OFAK, the editing of the prison scene, the dubbing? Oblowitz is a rent-a-director with no appreciation for the art or his audience; he was one of the first to allow Seagal all his bad behaviour and set him on the road towards films like Attack Force


New Member
For Budget approximately 20 million Usd,They’ve made John Wick;but What we have seen Steven Seagal’s worst film that date.Definetely career killer.


Are you insane DTVDigest? Did you see the shoddy green screen work in OFAK, the editing of the prison scene, the dubbing? Oblowitz is a rent-a-director with no appreciation for the art or his audience; he was one of the first to allow Seagal all his bad behaviour and set him on the road towards films like Attack Force

Oh, I'm in no doubt about the shortcomings of both films. But I do respect that OFAK is a very distinctive, stylish film. I think even with the problems appropriately addressed that it would still have that going for it. It's flaws are a part of that experience.

As for your accusation of 'enabling' and the downward turn in Seagal's career. That's quite possibly fair to say, but we can only speculate. I think it's possibly more to do with Seagal's personality and agreements/conflicts with producers than any directors being at particular fault. Seagal is a powerful figure on screen and off and has always been master of his own destiny. Good or bad, I think each film for the most part appropriately reflects on Seagal and his passion or disinterest in each project. For the most part, I don't think it matters who the director is in that sense.

In the case of these two films, Oblowitz did bring something to the table. He'd caught people's eyes with THIS WORLD, THEN THE FIREWORKS (1997) and OFAK certainly has the marks of an auteur. It's wildly ambitious and from those flaws I deduce that the final cut isn't as it was intended.


For Budget approximately 20 million Usd,They’ve made John Wick;but What we have seen Steven Seagal’s worst film that date.Definetely career killer.

The JOHN WICK comparison is a pretty good one. In terms of OFAK's aesthetic, it's very similar to that of the JW films. With a bit more love and attention, this really could have been the JW of its day. As it was, it just ended up disappointing and confusing pretty much everyone, myself included. But of all Seagal's films over the last 20 years, it does really stand out and I really like that about it.

Forrest Taft

Active Member
Have to agree that Out for a Kill is pretty terrible. Reminds me of the original Slinger version of Van Damme’s Cyborg which was filled with out-of-place rock music and moody, artsy takes. Sure, it was the ‘director’s vision’, but totally unmarketable and not what the money men want. That movie was re-edited to make it more audience-friendly. Out for a Kill, by the evidence on-screen, wasn’t. Scenes come and go with no logic, dialogue is poorly synched, obvious fight doubles, atrocious green-screen, it’s endless. The central concept and ideas could have been good in a decent film. Unfortunately, Out for a Kill is quite far from a decent film.


Active Member
Love reading about the grubby day to day business of movie making on the fringes. You can't make this stuff up:D Thanks for posting.


Thanks to Lee for posting the link to the article "The King of the Geezer Teasers: Inside Randall Emmett’s direct-to-video empire, where many Hollywood stars have found lucrative early retirement" by Joshua Hunt.

Here's some quotes from the section on Michael Oblowitz:

"Oblowitz was, by his own reckoning, an unlikely candidate for directing commercial action movies. After dodging the draft in his native South Africa, Oblowitz moved to New York, where he became a seminal figure in the No Wave movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s, creating films now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. While earning an M.F.A. at Columbia University, he palled around with Jim Jarmusch and curated a program called “Cine Virus” alongside his friend Kathryn Bigelow. At the tail end of the indie-film craze of the ’90s, Oblowitz’s 1997 movie, This World, Then the Fireworks, was featured at Cannes, but he still paid the bills directing music videos. When the opportunity to work with Seagal came along, he was happy to make a living wage directing a feature film. Oblowitz also enjoyed the surreal perks that came with the job, such as working with crews who had helped make movies with Andrei Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Then there was the time he dined with Seagal and Vladimir Putin in Warsaw. (A spokesperson for Seagal denied that he would ever have taken Oblowitz to dinner with Putin.)

"Studio heads, meanwhile, appreciated the fact that Oblowitz could tolerate Seagal’s eccentricities. Once, Oblowitz says, Seagal halted production on The Foreigner so that Buddhist monks from Nepal could perform a ceremony to determine whether the production would go forward. The ceremony, called a puja, was held at Seagal’s sprawling mansion in Los Angeles, where he summoned Oblowitz and various producers, studio executives, agents, and managers.

Millions had been spent just to get us to where we are, and now our superstar is informing us that the fate of the production a week out from beginning is going to be decided by a bunch of Buddhist monks in Seagal’s lounge in Mandeville Canyon,” Oblowitz says. “Now I’m really understanding the Seagal that everybody talks about and complains about, and Craig Emanuel [Seagal’s attorney] looks at me with this look of absolute fucking horror on his face, and I’m jet-lagged out of my brain, and on the wall is this gigantic velour painting.” In the painting, Seagal was seated on a gold throne in the Himalayas, surrounded by monks in purple robes — much like the ones gathered in front of the painting. “There are 15 of these Buddhist monks, all dressed in their purple robes and their shaved heads and their sandals, and they’ve just flown in from Tibet or somewhere on one of these 25-hour flights. After hours of chanting, Oblowitz says, the monks extinguished their burning sage and communicated something to Seagal, who then lit a cigar and declared that The Foreigner could resume production.

"Another issue was Seagal’s insistence on extensive script rewrites, which often baffled his collaborators. “Steven decided he wanted to be an archaeologist, and I went, ‘Steven, please, please, you can’t be a fucking archaeologist. Nobody wants to see Steven Seagal: archaeologist,’ ” Oblowitz says. “I wanted to track down drug dealers and avenge your murdered wife — like a Sam Peckinpah or John Ford movie. But, you know, he wanted to show his sublime knowledge of Chinese antiquities.” (Seagal’s spokesperson called both stories “absolutely false.” Emanuel declined to comment.)

"Such experiences, along with a shared love of blues music, bonded the action star and his director, Oblowitz says. When Emmett reached out with a proposal for a direct-to-video Seagal picture with Millennium Films, Emmett’s pitch, Oblowitz recalls, was that Seagal would love working in Bulgaria, “where the girls are so pretty, and we know all the model agents.” (Kaufman denied this happened but did acknowledge that Furla, Emmett’s partner, was once an investor in a modeling agency.) However clumsy his approach, Emmett’s timing was excellent: Franchise Pictures, which had bankrolled The Foreigner, was the target of a federal criminal investigation by the time Oblowitz began editing the film; Elie Samaha, who ran Franchise, was eventually found liable for $77 million in damages for inflating the budgets of films including the Scientology sci-fi epic Battlefield Earth. (He ended up filing for bankruptcy protection.) Oblowitz and Seagal agreed to let Emmett and Lerner produce their next project.

"That film was Out for a Kill. It was pivotal for many reasons: For Lerner, it was the realization of his dream to bring big-name stars to Eastern Europe, where explosions, helicopter rentals, and labor were all cheaper and $20 million could be made to look like $40 million. For Emmett, it was a proving ground.

"“I invented the formula,” Oblowitz says. “What I did with Steven with The Foreigner and Out for a Kill was the formula that everybody uses today to get an aging, overweight action star in and out as fast as possible, and it created a template whereby you can cut him through the movie.” It was, for Oblowitz, a formula born of necessity: Seagal still had box-office clout, and if he wanted to show up to work late, leave early, and spend less time shooting action sequences, Oblowitz would have no choice but to accommodate him, which meant extensive storyboarding, creative fight coordinators, and strategic use of stunt doubles. “That model is now being used with all these aging action stars,” Oblowitz says. “All these guys — Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson — they’re all doing what Seagal did.”"

dane dark

New Member
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Hello everyone, I have been in contact with director Michael Oblowitz for the last weeks. He was willing to do an exclusive interview for our website.
Thank you Michael Oblowitz for this opportunity!

Here we go:

Can you tell something about yourself? How did you become
involved in the movie business?

I studied fine art & art history & photography & then film-making—I started directing b&w art-films in the 1970’s & early 1980’s and then I started directing music videos & TV comercials---eventually I started directing commercial narrative films…

I don't know which movie was shot first, but how did you get involved in the making of The Foreigner and Out For A Kill and was this always suppose to be a 2 picture deal for you?

I was introduced to Steven Seagal by a lawyer who represented both of us to direct The Foreigner. That movie went well and then I was asked to direct Out For A Kill.

How long was the shooting schedule on both movies? Did you get enough time for preparation?

Seagal was still a pretty big international movie star when I made those two movies, and I had more than enough preparation and shooting time.. I was working in Eastern Europe for a few years on both pictures.

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Did you get to choose your own filmcrew?

Well I was working in foreign countries with local production companies. So I got to chose my key crew members like Cinematographer and Editor and Production Designers

What was your experience on set during the filming of both movies? Any anekdotes?

We always had a lot of fun on the sets. Steven is a good guitar player and he played a lot of blues in Poland with some good local musicians, during The Foreigner. During Out For A Kill we were filming in Bulgaria and he didnt play much blues over there

How was it to work with Steven Seagal on set? I mean, there are the rumours that he is not easy to work with and has a big ego. Was he dedicated to the project this time?

Seagal is just like any actor. He wants his brand protected so he wants his vision of the film created. If he feels conflict with the direction that the film is taking, he can be upset. If he feels comfortable its a fun experience.

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Did you have enough influence during the filming of those 2 movies? Were
you free to use your own vision?

The films were a combination of my vision with Seagal’s vision.

What everyone is always talking about is Seagal's fightscenes. Did he do them all by himself and did he choreograph them?

On the Foreigner we had a terrific Eastern European fight choreography crew, headed up by a great Second Unit Director from Scotland, Tom Delmar, who had worked on the James Bond films. On Out For A Kill we used a Shaolin fight crew from Mainland China. They were extraordinary. Seagal would design his Aikido choreography with the fight choreographers, and then they would integrate Seagal’s fight choreography into the style of their fight choreography and then the Second Unit Director and I would break the choreography up into parts and decide who was going to film which part.

What was the budget for The Foreigner and Out For A Kill and what was the most
difficult aspect of making these movies?

The Foreigner was around 20 million dollars and Out For A Kill was around ten million .

The Foreigner was filmed during the bitter Polish winter- A seemingly endless dark, grey, icy coldness, that endured for months on end. It was a war of attrition against the elements.

We were on location shooting many exteriors o take advantage of the iconic Polish countryside and locations. We froze our asses off…

Out For A Kill was different. We were shooting in South Eastern Europe. On the borders of Bulgaria and Romania and Serbia and Croatia. Summertime. We were replicating the Steppes of Mongolia and China. We constructed a few blocks of New York City’s Chinatown in an Olympic swimming pool in the Bulgarian city of Sofia. I had a terrific Production Designer from England, Michael Seymour. He Production Designed the original Alien movie for Ridley Scott. His design and execution of the Chinatown set inside the Olympic swimming pool was sheer genius.There were exterior and interior sets. Michael was also the original Production Designer on Blade Runner with Ridley Scott. So the attention to detail was extraordinary. I love the fight scene in the barber shop, where Seagal fights the Shaolin fighter doing the Chines Monkey Style choreography. All filmed with suspension wires and harnesses which were later removed digitally in Post Producton. The set Michael designed fort hat scene was spectacular. A Blade Runner style barbershop interior with break away walls that could be filmed from inside and outside the barber shop, from the streets of the fabricated Chinatown.

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Were The Foreigner and Out For A Kill always suppose to go dtv or was there a theatrical release in mind by the producers?

I think both films had theatrical releases in some countries, like Italy and Asia and other markets. They had big TV releases in the United States.

Can you shine a light on the making of a dtv movie? What kind of problems are you up against when making these kind of movies?

I dont know. All movies are the same no matter what the end user distribution outlet. There are technical requirements for all the different distribution formats, but that can be accomodated in the camera framing on the set and the various finale masters.

Is there anything you would have done differently regarding the making of The Foreigner and Out For A Kill?

No… I wouldnt have left my 35 mm projection print of Out For A Kill with the projectionist in Bulgaria, after the Bulgarian premiere, thinking I would get it back!!!

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Did you have some influence on the post-production of the
movies and were you happy with the final product?

I edited and audio mixed and supervised the soundtrack and total completion of both movies.

On Out For A Kill I worked with my dear friend and brilliant editor, Bobbie Ferreti, who amongst the many great action films he edited, was Under Siege, On Deadly Ground, Rocky, Tango and Cash, and many other great films…

How big is Seagal's influence during filming and postproduction?

Steven was very involved in pre-production. He basically rewrote both original scripts with me before each film started shooting, during pre-production.

I watched The Foreigner last week and I noticed that sometimes Seagal's voice was dubbed. How did that happen? Wasn't he available for post-production?

We post recorded some of his dialogue - perhaps where we had a poor recording on the set, but a good physical performance - it's Seagal doing the line- in a studio in ADR recording.

Who are your dream actors or stars you would like to work
with in the future?

Mel Gibson

What are your plans for the future? Any projects you are
working on?

I like making surfing movies

Thank you for your time and good luck with your future projects!

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Brilliant interview dida, don’t listen to the rude people, it’s great the effort you put in to this site and the fan base in general, thank you