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Up to Speed: Steven Seagal


Staff member
The Sunday Times - December 24, 2006
Mark Anstead

Born in Michigan in 1951, Steven Seagal taught aikido in Japan before moving to Los Angeles. He made his action movie debut in Above the Law in 1988 and his most successful film was Under Siege (1992). He also directs and produces films, markets his own energy drink and will tour the UK with his blues band Thunderbox in 2007 (www.stevenseagal.com). He has six children, three with his third ex-wife, the actress Kelly LeBrock

You’d think Steven Seagal would have something to say about living an active sort of life. A black belt in aikido, karate, judo and kendo, he choreographs his own fight scenes. And before morphing into a death-defying action hero in hits such as Under Siege, he claims to have been the first westerner to open a martial arts school in Japan. He also does his own stunt driving and appears to be a dab hand with a Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol.
But, when it comes to words Seagal is anything but quick on the draw. “I don’t know much about cars,” he drawls, following several attempts to elicit tales of high-speed derring-do. “I have drivers.”

He must have some pretty flash cars though? “I bought a Mercedes the other day,” he starts. “But I can’t tell you what it is. It came to me by accident: I was standing in a friend’s car lot when it was returned almost brand new. I got a great deal, but I don’t drive much because I don’t like traffic.

“I’m a simple guy,” he adds finally, after a long pause. “I like cars that have lots of room in them.”

Seagal has a reputation for being uninterested in interviews, often barely managing to conceal his boredom, a sentiment with which anyone who has sat through one of his recent straight-to-video fightfests will be more than familiar. The problem is, Seagal doesn’t really like the day job any more. “I’ve always been passionate about film-making but acting is not my favourite part of the process,” he says. “Producing and directing is far more interesting.”

Oh really? Why is that? Silence. Perhaps because you have more control over the end results? “Probably,” he says with another heavy sigh.

It was in Under Siege in 1992 that Seagal really arrived as an action hero to rival Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Before that he’d made a handful of police thrillers, playing maverick go-it-alone cops uncovering corruption or seeking revenge, but it was the pitting of his naval cook against Tommy Lee Jones’s outrageous villain that forged what remains his biggest box-office hit to date.

Seagal was nearly 41 when he made Under Siege. His receding hairline was already working its way into the prominent widow’s peak (plus ponytail) that became his trademark. As the 1990s wore on and middle age kicked in, Seagal became an increasingly static action star, prone to casting himself as a man so gifted in self-defence that all it took was a few deft flicks of his wrist to send his attackers flying. His waistline expanded and his films started bypassing the box office for Blockbuster. Asked if he’s still passionate about martial arts the 55-year-old equivocates. “I try and practise aikido every day.” Really? “Well, I did say ‘try’; I don’t always manage it.”

Smelling danger, he finally volunteers some information. He was once in a car crash after he aquaplaned on a wet freeway and finished up “in a little wreck”.

I’m not entirely gripped by this anecdote so Seagal has another stab.

“I do a lot of the car work in my movies. It has sometimes put me in dangerous situations. In Under Siege 2 I could have gone off the road at one point driving along a steep cliff, and in Out for Justice there was some crazy driving I had to do under a bridge. I enjoy it.”

After this burst of enthusiasm we move on to the subject I’m assured Seagal simply loves to talk about: music. Unbeknown to most of his fans, this is Seagal’s first love. A singer and guitarist, he has released two blues albums and performed with the likes of BB King and Bo Diddley. “I’ve been playing since I was a boy,” he says. “I practise the guitar every chance I get — it’s the first thing I pick up. I see myself essentially as a musician.”

With his blues band Thunderbox Seagal kicks off a “world tour” (UK and Denmark) in January, performing in venues such as the Market Harborough leisure centre, Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea and the Assembly Hall theatre in Tunbridge Wells. “I’m happy to play small halls,” he says. “I’m very philosophical about it; that’s part of my Buddhist approach.”

At last Seagal is talking. So how does he reconcile his peaceful Buddhist beliefs with the violence in his films? “If people really understood Buddhism they would know none of that really matters,” he says. “It’s one of the dumbest questions I get asked. It just shows a lack of understanding. People should realise that when I’m acting I’m pretending, but I use my movies to make spiritual points.”

I’m about to ask what precisely these might be, but Seagal’s face has dropped again. I’m out for the count.

On his Cd changer

King of Blues, by BB King, and The Story of Bo Diddley, left. Aretha Franklin (I like a bit of soul) and Hubert Sumlin, who is a holy man to me


If this interview is trus, then we, the fans of Steven, are in for some bad news.

He is bored to do interviews? In the past 7 years he hasn't done so many that he would be bored.

He doesn't like acting? What's he doing acting then?

He does his own stunt drving? COOL, but why has he in recent movies had someone else do his STUNT WALKING? And he hasn't driven a car himself in a one of his movies in a long time.

The problem is, Seagal doesn’t really like the day job any more
Everyone can see this, just look at his recent movies. He looks as if he wants to be somewhere else ALL THE DAMN TIME.

“I try and practise aikido every day.” Really? “Well, I did say ‘try’; I don’t always manage it.”
He should practice more and that will help him get in shape, but he seems to be bored with martial arts as well.

“I do a lot of the car work in my movies. It has sometimes put me in dangerous situations. In Under Siege 2 I could have gone off the road at one point driving along a steep cliff, and in Out for Justice there was some crazy driving I had to do under a bridge. I enjoy it.”
Yeah, that's cool, really cool, but why didn't Steven talk about the amazing end fight in Attack Force, or the amazing scene where he shoots a CGI helicopter down with his handgun in Shadow Man? OH, I get it, cause those movies suck and his older ones are really good.

If you can't take pride in what you do, then why do it? I can understand making a movie or two for the money, but not even mention them in an interview, that is bad.

Why didn't he mention Once Upon a Time in The Hood or Flight of Fury?

IF this interview is not fake, well I'm very, very, very sad to see that Steven does not care about his movies at all and that even he does not talk about his recent productions.

Such a bad start to Christmas...

I am very sad right now...

I hope this is fake...

I really do.
Thanks for the article Suzi..maybe he needs an rest god knows he deserves it..i dont know whats up with that comment ( about his acting) but we should be here to support him no matter what he does instead of judging him all the time...
Having seen and read many Seagal interviews, this is nothing new to me. I know how he feels about acting and other things, and this is why i never take his films too seriously, but i still hope he doesn`t stop making them anytime soon! Most of us are here and fans because of his films, and i think it`s because of us (and the money!) that he`s still prepared to do something he does not really enjoy. Long live the action king!

Happy holidays!


Disgruntled fan!
The only reason Seagal carrys on acting is simple: Money! After all he gets roughly 5 million dollars for every movie he does. I don't really blame him for not having the passion for acting. In truth he's never been an actor. He was started in movies because he was a tough guy. Acting never came into it. In fact from the start of his career, when he put more effort into the acting process, to now, he looks like a worse actor than when he started. You don't see that strive to improve as a thespian that you saw with say Arnold, and Van Damme, who both were hired for their physicality, without any concern for lack of acting ability. Really theres an insecurity about Seagal, which others have mentioned. He'd probably love to sit back and direct a movie, create something and let someone else be in front of camera. He perhaps doesn't see that acting can be a creative medium, if you put the passion into it. A good performance could have elevated so much of the crap he's been in.

As for directing a film, Seagal's problem is that he'll NEVER get a film financed unless he plays the lead too. Is he willing to do the work of both leading man, director and producer and scriptwriter? We'll see. But it's part of the reason POP is taking so long to get off the ground. I'd say as well Seagal's music, which he's passionate about, and fair play to him for that, but his music undoubtedly loses money. For all the money spent on making, releasing, albums, or setting up tours roudn the world, he lose money. Simple as that. There's barely the demand for his type of music, let alone the sheer disbelief non Seagalites probably have when they discover he does music. Many doubters probably don't have the respect to even listen to one of his songs, and will write it off as lame without listening. If he didn't need to bankroll is love of music, he'd have retired from acting long ago.

I hope he gets about to doing POP and the Judas film. As director and writer of both he'll have a passion to do it. And I think he realises that he really does owe the fans something back. Many of us are simply fans of his movies, we don't care how many music albums he does, and won't buy them (not me by the way). So there's a big portion of his fan base that can't be palmed off with music, they want a decent movie, or something with some passion put into it.

That interview is insiteful and truthful. It's a great summation of Seagal at this time. Is that the Times in the Uk?
Isnt there such an word as 'NO'...I mean he is Steven Seagal and i think he should have that right to say yes or no to an movie ....i hope that he does get around to making POP too after all the hoo haa..if he is just in it for the money which i refuse to believe he should get out now and just continue with his music...sounds like he is getting 'burnt out' with all his acting and really needs an good long break to re fresh...
Hmmm.......it was because of Seagal's movies that I started seriously watching in 2004 that the spiritual shipwreck of my life at the time has had a complete turnaround....... (that not even the previous 15 years hard core slog on the spiritual path involving all sorts of bizarre twists and turns could deliver any remotely truthful insight about my situation).........because I could see the spiritual point in these movies and how they seemed to relate to what was going on for me at the time.......so that he says this in the interview is hardly a surprise and is a source of further enthusiasm for me.......not that I need it......however the point being that they are spiritual allegories for fighting inner demons gives them maximum viewing pleasure........as long as the Man makes them......I for one continue watching them.......there is always something new in them and it's a blessing to recognise what is hidden in them and use them as a tool to get through my own mediocre bullsh.it that comes up

So people would be happier if they stop criticising others which is merely a statement about their own self doubt that they too scared to even admit to themselves.....and instead start to receive and utilise the gifts that are there in all of Steven's movies.......life is pretty simple after all......:)