What the Hell Happened to Steven Seagal?
Steven Seagal was a martial arts legend. Just ask him. If Seagal is to be believed, he has lived an action-packed life that would rival James Bond. Seagal, a seventh degree black belt in aikido, rose from obscurity in the late 80’s to become one of Hollywood’s top-paid action stars in the 90’s. Since then, Seagal has morphed into a walking fat joke.
What the hell happened?
Seagal is a big man who likes to tell big stories. As a result, his life story is filled with anecdotes which have been refuted or disproven. At one point, Seagal claimed to be of Italian descent. He’s actually half Irish and half Jewish. He also claimed to have grown up in Brooklyn. He actually moved from Michigan to California at a young age. It was Seagal’s own mother who discredited her son’s version of his childhood. There’s a lot more of that to come. According to Seagal, he was a student of the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba died in 1968 when Seagal was a teenager. While Seagal’s claim has not been disproven, it seems to have been over-stated. To date, only one of Ueshiba’s students has any recollection of Seagal’s presence during this time. And according to that source, Seagal was “the kid who was always playing guitar.”
Speaking of the guitar, Seagal fancies himself a blues musician. He has released two albums with his band, Thunderbox. According to Seagal:
“I came up in Detroit and there was a lot of blues. I didn’t learn blues from a fucking record; I learned it from the front porch. There were all these people from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and I learned from them.”
Seagal was five-years-old when his family moved from Lansing, Michigan to Fullerton, California. But that doesn’t stop him from telling stories about impressing the local blues artists who travelled from all over the country to Detroit.
“Little Milton hadn’t heard me play before. I was doing this Lightnin’ Hopkins thing. Milton looked at me and nodded, like he was trying to say, “This mutha ain’t white.”
When Seagal was in his twenties, he married his first wife, Miyako Fujitani whose father owned an aikido dojo in Osaka. Eventually, Seagal ran the dojo for his father-in-law. This substantiates Seagal’s claim that he was the first Westerner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan. Take note of that. It is one of the few stories Seagal has told about himself which is actually true.
Seagal has frequently told stories of fighting off the feared Japanese mafia, the Yakuza. He told Movieline, “I jumped right in their faces. I was a tenacious motherfucker, man, and I was fearless.”
Seagal’s first wife refutes his claims,“It is a lie. He once chased a few drunks away from the dojo but never was involved with Yakuza.”
Fujitani also cast suspicion on Seagal’s Aikido black belt. “The only reason Steven was awarded the black belt was because the judge, who was famous for his laziness, fell asleep during Steven’s presentation. The judge just gave him the black belt.”
In the eighties, Seagal returned to the United States and married Days of Our Lives actress, Adrienne La Russa. He didn’t let the fact that he was still legally married to Fujitani stand in his way. When Fujitani learned of her husband’s second marriage, she filed for an annulment. Many believe Seagal only married her so he could stay in Japan and run a dojo.
Seagal came to Hollywood as an aikido instructor and stunt coordinator. His first film as a stunt coordinator was the 1982 action movie, The Challenge. which starred Scott Glenn and was directed by John Frankenheimer.
In 1983, Seagal was hired as a martial arts instructor on the James Bond flick, Never Say Never Again. He was hired specifically to train Sean Connery. During filming, Seagal broke Connery’s wrist. It is one of a long list of on-set injuries caused by Seagal.
Two years later, Seagal was hired as a martial arts choreographer on the Roger Moore Bond movie, A View to a Kill.
In 1986, Seagal met model and actress Kelly LeBrock whom he described as his “destiny”. LeBrock was famous from the shampoo ads in which she pleaded, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
She had also starred opposite Gene Wilder in the 1984 comedy, The Woman in Red and played the perfect woman in John Hughes’ teen comedy, Weird Science. Whereas Seagal had broken James Bond’s wrist.
Although still married to La Russa, Seagal followed LeBrock to Hong Kong to pursue a relationship. LeBrock became pregnant with Seagal’s child. When La Russa learned of the love child, she had her marriage to Seagal annulled. Meanwhile, Seagal filed for a legal divorce from first wife his first wife. Two divorces later, Seagal was free to marry LeBrock which he did in 1987.
Seagal was working as an aikido instructor in LA. Among his famous students was super-star talent agent, Michael Ovitz. At the time, Ovitz was considered by many to be the most powerful man in Hollywood. Ovitz believed Seagal could be a movie star, so he set up a martial arts demonstration on the Warner Bros lot.
Warner Bros was in the market for a low-budget action hero they could call their own. Although Seagal had no acting experience whatsoever, Warner Bros decided to take a gamble on him as an action hero. They offered the aikido instructor his choice of several action scripts. Seagal turned them all down but offered to write his own action movie treatment.
Seagal’s film debut was in the 1988 cop movie, Above the Law. Above the Law was written and directed by Andrew Davis who would go on to success with The Fugitive. Davis worked with the story which Seagal had written. Above the Law co-starred Pam Grier and a then-unkown Sharon Stone. Reviews were more positive than one would expect from a low-budget action film. Above the Law grossed $19 million dollars at the box office which was impressive given its $7 million dollar budget. While promoting Above the Law, Seagal hinted to the LA Times that he had worked for the CIA in Japan:
“They saw my abilities, both with martial arts and with the language. You could say that I became an advisor to several CIA agents in the field and through my friends in the CIA, met many powerful people and did special works and special favors.”
Many have debunked Seagal’s claims to having worked with, for, or in proximity to the CIA. Next: Hard to Kill? More like Hard to Like
Posted on May 15, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged aikido, entertainment, hard to kill, marked for death, movies, Steven Seagal, under siege. Bookmark the permalink. 107 Comments.