What the Hell Happened to Steven Seagal?

Steven Seagal Leaving Sutton Place Hotel

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.  On his mother’s side, he is of European descent but it’s a mix of English and German with a splash of Dutch.  Seagal’s father was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.  He also claimed to have grown up in Brooklyn, but 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.”

seagal - blues

Steven Seagal

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 - emotion chart

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.”

seagal - la russa

Steven Seagal and Adrienne La Russa

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 - the challenge

The Challenge – 1982

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.

seagal - never say never again

Steven Seagal

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.

Next: Above the Law and Hard to Kill


Posted on May 15, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 162 Comments.

  1. Steven Seagal Has His Own Clickbait Website (And What We Discovered May Shock You)


  2. Steven Seagal (along with Katherine Heigl) on WatchMojo’s Another Top 10 Hated Actors


  3. 11 Actors Who Survived Career Suicide Twice

    Steven Seagal

    Seagal is one of the few stars who started his career as a leading man, and from 1988’s Above The Law to Under Siege he was one of the biggest box-office draws of the nineties. He was also – if the many stories are true – an ego maniac and bully, so when he starred in and directed the unintentionally hilarious On Deadly Ground, nobody felt sorry it was his first bomb.

    Seagal struggled to regain his powers after that, but after taking a break for a few years, he scored an unexpected hit with Exit Wounds. The success of that was short lived; he put on a lot of weight for his next movie and was laughed off the screen by audiences.

    He then went to DVD hell, where he stars in basically the same movie again and again. The budgets might get smaller while his waist only gets bigger, but he still earns huge checks for them and occasionally reappears on the big screen, like his bad guy turn in Machete.


    • He will always be my favorite actor. I really don’t care were he came from or the lies he told to get there because everyone tell lies in there life just because he gain weight people seem like they hate him now, well get over it. He has made his money in life now you need to get yours. Haters


  4. 13 Planned Film Trilogies That Need To Be Completed

    Under Siege 3

    If people cast their minds back to the mid-nineties they might remember Steven Seagal was a thing; his movies were huge, with the Under Siege movies being his most successful. Unfortunately, for him, he had the acting range of a clothes shop mannequin, and when his waist expanded to Marlon Brando proportions audiences stopped attending his movies.

    He spends most of his time now in interchangeable straight to DVD movies, dyeing his “hair” with some kind of tar or being best mates with Vladimir Putin. Now and again talk of a third Under Siege movie crops up, with rumors of a plot involving a blimp being hijacked or – amazingly – Seagal versus Aliens. The snag appears to be that just about everyone in Hollywood hates Seagal.

    Warner Bros. own the rights to the series, and they apparently have a terrible relationship with him. Despite the original movies being considered classics, and fans eager for a third part to happen, no producer seems brave enough to spend a prolonged amount of time with Seagal to make it happen.


    • It’s “Die Hard on a battleship”

      Under Siege (1992)

      In 1992, former martial arts instructor Steven Seagal was on track to be another Chuck Norris, spending his career grinding out simplistic, violent, modestly budgeted action pictures with interchangeable titles like Above The Law, Hard To Kill, Marked For Death, and Out For Justice. Then Seagal starred in Under Siege, and for one brief moment, he looked like an A-lister. Under Siege was no less formulaic than what had come before. The film’s “one capable rogue against a cadre of armed thugs” plot is, like so many other 1990s movies, an unapologetic Die Hard rip-off. But J.F. Lawton’s script, Andrew Davis’ direction, and—most importantly—the casting are all prime examples of how to bring some panache to the generic, and make leftovers tastier.

      Some of what makes Under Siege so consistently entertaining a quarter-century later is inadvertent. There’s a “very much of its time” quality woven into the plot, in ways that even Lawton couldn’t have anticipated. The movie opens with then-President George H.W. Bush presiding over a battleship’s decommissioning (and not cable news clips of the ceremony either, but actual film footage), and then proceeds to tell a story that feels like the last hurrah of the Reagan/Bush era. Set not long after Operation Desert Storm, Under Siege depicts the winding-down of America’s international military presence, and the actions of two angry hawks—an anarchic ex-CIA operative played by Tommy Lee Jones and an arrogant naval officer played by Gary Busey—who decide to take advantage of the new “softness” by hijacking the retiring U.S.S. Missouri and stealing its Tomahawk missiles.

      Jones and Busey compete with each other to see who can gobble up the most scenery, which contrasts well with Seagal, who does his usual steely shtick. As a rebellious former Navy SEAL turned “pain-in-the-ass cook,” Seagal’s Casey Ryback doesn’t say a whole lot, and instead slips stealthily though the ship, sabotaging bad guys and freeing other sailors. Davis and Lawton find a tone that acknowledges the ridiculousness of making a super-capable chef into the hero, while still indulging in all the amped-up, jargon-heavy standoffs that the genre demands. Under Siege is sincere, but not overly serious.

      Davis followed Under Siege with The Fugitive—again with Jones in a colorful supporting role, which won him an Oscar. After that, he settled into a fairly undistinguished career, helming forgettable action-adventure pictures like Chain Reaction, Collateral Damage, and The Guardian. Seagal, meanwhile, took advantage of his new clout to direct and star in the laughably self-important eco-thriller On Deadly Ground, which effectively marked the beginning of the end of his stint as a major Hollywood player. With Bush losing the presidency to Bill Clinton a month after Under Siege came out, American culture as a whole in the 1990s headed off in a different direction. All of that makes this movie today seem almost elegiac. Every time Jones and Seagal crack smiles as their characters match wits, they look like two veteran athletes, enjoying one last game.


      • Under Siege (1992) – A Review

        We’re back in the era when Steven Seagal was a box office star. The influence of Die Hard was seeping onto every action movie coming out and the creation of a sub-genre of action imitators has taken hold. Die Hard-inspired stories of lone heroes fighting terrorists and saving hostages is becoming the norm and each new one is looking for a new setting and locale to have it take place in.

        Mix those ingredients up and we have ‘Die Hard on a battleship’ with Seagal being the hero to save the day. It’s Under Siege, which would become one of Seagal’s most popular and successful films.

        The deal is the U.S. Missouri is about to be decommissioned. The captain and crew are anticipating a very uneventful final voyage to dry dock, while a surprise birthday party for the Captain is being planned. Meanwhile, the ship’s cook Casey Rybeck (Seagal) is in his kitchen going about his duties.

        After the arrival of caterers, a band and a Playboy Playmate, the duplicitous Commander Krill (Gary Busey) shows his hand, begins killing the crew and locks them up. This group of terrorists led by William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones) are threatening to launch some nuclear missiles and auction off the rest to the highest bidders. With the crew out of the way and Washington leaders unable to do anything, the situation seems hopeless.

        But wait! What about that cook! It turns out Rybeck is an ex-Navy Seal and he begins to disrupt the bad guys plans and starts killing them one-by-one. Hooray!

        One good thing about Under Siege is that it knows it’s a Die Hard ripoff and doesn’t try to be anything else. It hits all the notes that you would suspect it would and thanks to director Andrew Davis it moves at a good clip, has some well-staged action and showcases some over-the-top, delightful villains and it all ends up being an entertaining actioner.

        Seagal might be the most out of place element here. Yeah, he handles the action fine, but when it comes to acting…’s passable is the best I can describe it. Ever since first seeing this movie in theaters I’ve always been struck by certain moments and line readings by him that are so bad they’re unintentionally funny. There’s quite a few good parts like that.

        Seagal’s Rybeck is meant to be a bit more lighthearted and likable character than he had played in the past. But when they try to show him clowning around with his buddies in the kitchen it looks incredibly forced and artificial. I don’t buy it for a minute. That also goes for most of the required action one-liners he delivers. Where they’re meant to be humorous they’re more cringe-inducing thanks to Seagals monotone delivery of them.

        There’s one exchange that I always found hilarious. After Rybeck frees a handful of pals he looks at one, I guess he’s meant to be one of his closer buddies and he asks him dramatically, “Are you ok?”
        And the guy looks at Seagal and says, “Yeah. Are you ok?”
        And Seagal replies, “Yeah.”

        This exchange doesn’t read as goose-pimply embarrassing as how it comes off when it’s performed onscreen by Seagal and the actor. It’s so utterly ridiculous and awkward, it’s one of the moments of Seagal’s that I remember most from Under Siege – other than his action stuff.

        Granted, Seagal fans are not looking for him to give an award-worthy acting performance, but when he doesn’t have a gun in his hand he’s about as interesting as a dried up mop. His character of Rybeck is not as human or likable as say John McClane. There’s no appearance of vulnarbility or fear by the guy. He gets a band-aid placed on his back, but that’s about it. He’s all a very matter-of-fact hero who is just going to go around and kill the bad guys without much worry and we don’t have to be too concerned for his safety.

        Erica Elaniak shows up as a Playmate and is there to provide some eye-candy and to do a topless scene, which she’s successful with. A scene by the way that not surprisingly got a lot of attention by fans. So by those standards she played her role in this quite well.

        Seagull being partnered up with a Playmate is meant to create some funny interactions between the stern Rybeck and the buxom blonde. Eh. There’s a few fleeting moments, but again they’re really stiff.

        I always thought it was ludicrous how Seagal seems so aggravated with her for no knowing stuff. Like, how he sounds so condescending towards her as he teaches her about guns. She’s a Playmate dude! How is she supposed to know about this. Luckily, she becomes well versed in the art of shooting bad guys very quickly.

        If your’e looking for some fun characters and genuinely funny lines, the place you really want to be is on the bad guy side. What Seagal lacks with his acting is more than made up by Busey and Jones who look like they’re just having a ball chewing up script pages and doing any and all things they can to play their parts in the most animated humorous ways.

        As the Washington generals and big wigs at the Pentagon sit at their Dr. Stranglove giant table, Seagal goes about the battleship shooting the bad guys, giving them headaches and making Jones and Busey very angry. All of that is entertaining stuff. It’s all put together pretty well and looks like a nice big-screen action flick that doesn’t disappoint.

        Under Siege sure was a hit when it came out. I remember seeing it opening weekend and fans were pretty satisfied with it. Today it’s still considered by most Seagal fans if not his best movie, definitely towards the top.

        For me Seagal has never been a very charismatic actor. When he’s not punching, kicking or shooting he comes off extremely stiff. That’s just how I always feel about the guy. Like, when the climactic confrontation happens in the end and he’s talking to Jones I can’t help but shake my head the entire time. All this nonsense he says about, “we’re the same, we’re puppets” and all that….just get to the punching!

        But when he does get to do his action the battleship becomes a fun playground for him to showcase it on. Under Siege is really helped along by Jones and Busey and being overseen by Davis, who I think are the big reasons why the movie has become one of Seagal’s best.

        Oh, another one of my favorite lines Seagal gives is after being locked up in a freezer and the bad guys start shooting their guns. He tells his young novice guard, “Hey boy that’s gunfire. Now you let me out of here and I’ll take care of it.”

        I always laugh at that line too. No worries Mr. guard, Seagal will deal with that gunfire, just let him out of there.

        Maybe Seagal is a master of comedy in his own way.


      • Episode 167 – Under Siege 2: Dark Territory

        On this week’s episode, the gang rides the rails with Steven Seagal and Eric Bogosian in the train hijacking sequel, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory! Why do we need Seagal microwaving a cake? Did Bogosian have to do that Rod Serling impression? And is Seagal really getting foiled by a Newton and a clogged fax line? PLUS: We all better go talk to the Captain.

        Under Siege 2 stars Steven Seagal, Eric Bogosian, Everett McGill, Morris Chestnut, Peter Greene and Katherine Heigl; directed by Geoff Murphy.

        WHM Verdict: Recommend!


  5. I’m sitting here watching Steven segal movies now I love spending my day off work watching his movies im a huge fan of Steven segal and I don’t care what is pass life was about I give all his movies thumb up he got my vote


  6. My friend worked in film and word is that Steven Seagal is the biggest a**hole on set. Crew are regularly told not to make eye contact with him. He also mentioned that most of his lines are shot chest up with cue cards cause he’s too fat and doesn’t memorize lines. I guess a lot of shots are done with doubles.


  7. 15 Movie Stars Who Peaked in the ’90s


    Steven Seagal’s refusal (or inability) to change has kept him in the same cinematic space for thirty years. A pony-tailed judo master who graduated head of his class in cracking skulls, the former stunt consultant has pushed this shtick into everything from reality TV (Steven Seagal: Lawman) to terribly forgettable films (Maximum Conviction, A Good Man). Cornering the same direct-to-DVD market that punching peers Dolph Lundgren and Van Damme eventually exploited, Seagal has only succeeded in reminding us why his stuff is way past it’s expiration date.

    That being said, there was a time Seagal could sleepwalk through a fight scene and the studio would have a hit. Jumping off with Hard to Kill in 1990 and snapping across Out for Justice (1991), Under Siege (1992), On Deadly Ground (1994), and The Glimmer Man (1996), sub-par actor Seagal became an international phenomenon. Filling the void of a less enlightened Bruce Lee, his films were gloriously cheesy with silly story-lines at best. It was kitschy in execution, but the actor’s charismatic cutlery, while short lived, was too fun to pass up. Key word: was.


  8. Steven Seagal on WatchMojo’s Top 10 Celebrities with Crazy Beliefs


  9. These Celebrities Just Couldn’t Handle Being Roasted

    Steven Seagal should have never been roasted

    Speaking of Ross… if you want a great roast story that reveals how much it means to some people to be on the scorching end of a joke, read Ross’ account of his hilarious Bea Arthur joke. Now, if you want the complete opposite of that, we go all the way back to the first time Ross performed at a roast. It was Steven Seagal’s roast in 1995, a roast for an actor who famously has a terrible knack for comedy. Ross introduced himself with the above joke and later revealed, “Steven Seagal just started scowling at me. But the audience was roaring with laughter and so I was like, this is definitely my thing, man, I love this.”


  10. Why these famous actors haven’t had a hit movie in years

    Steven Seagal

    You know it’s a bad sign when the four most popular movies on your IMDb page came out more than 20 years ago. But such is the life of action star Steven Seagal, whose career has been stuck in direct-to-video limbo since his early ’90s heyday. Like many action stars before and after him, Seagal spent much of his time in the spotlight starring in movies that, even at their best, were never regarded as anything more than mind-numbing diversions—and as he aged out of the action-hero demographic, neither studios nor audiences trusted him to carry a picture with his acting.

    Of course, Steven Seagal the Celebrity may have something to do with it, as well. He’s been targeted by a number of lawsuits over the years, some of which claimed he sexually harassed women. He’s also friends with Russian president Vladimir Putin, which…yeah. That about sums it all up.


    • 15 Actors Who Desperately Need A Hit

      Steven Seagal

      Steven Seagal has had just two theatrically-released movies since 2002, that year’s flop Half Past Dead, and 2010’s Machete, which was a surprise hit even if Seagal only had a fairly small villainous role.

      The Under Siege star is still churning out at least a couple of straight-to-video action films ever year, and though many may believe it’s simply too late for him to get his big-screen movie career back, never say never. Stranger things have happened.

      Sure, Seagal has bloated out over the last decade-or-so and typically employs the use of stunt doubles for even basic combat in his movies, but if he can put aside his beef with Expendables producer Avi Lerner, it’d be great to see him kicking a** alongside his fellow action legends in that hit franchise.


      • 15 Actors Who Should Have Retired By Now


        Everyone’s favorite B-action movie meathead will probably never quit. Steven Seagal is a bonafide force of nature, taking every chance that comes his way to engage in cinematic buttkicking. Between his much publicized personal escapades and regular straight-to-DVD output, there’s no telling when Seagal is ever going to slow down, let alone retire. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have already.

        Seagal will probably have a devoted fanbase as long as he’s alive. His films cater to a thriving niche market, and he’s anchored in a brand that’s all his own. Had he retired from Hollywood earlier in his career, his martial-arts-meets-80s-gunplay persona might have avoided becoming self-parody. Plus, he’d have been able to focus his attention on that real-life Deputy Sheriff thing he’s always talking about.


  11. Whatever Happened to Steven Seagal?

    The savviest movie stars give the people what they want. And in the late ’80s, the people wanted action movies in which drug dealers and international criminals get kicked and shot at by a sort-of-mystical, stone-faced martial arts expert with a ponytail–in other words, Steven Seagal. He ruled the box office for years with huge hits like Hard to Kill, Above the Law and Under Siege, but tastes change, and eventually, Seagal faded from movie star prominence. Here’s a look at what he’s been up to since receding from the spotlight.


  12. Seagal will never appear in The Expendables franchise because he won’t be allowed to be the best at everything within the film, remember it is something that is always written into his films, and he always defeats his opponents with ease, even Machete where he was the bad guy and the film had been building Machete up as a badass, Seagal wipes the floor with him only for Machete to stick him with a cheap shot. But put him in a film with a gaggle of old action movie stars who all outclass him where he can’t be the best of them all? His bloated ego would never allow that.


  13. Steven Seagal Makes His Bromance With Vladimir Putin Official, Becomes Russian Citizen


  14. In recent years, following a string of controversies and regular critical drubbing, Steven Seagal’s fame has faded. At one point though, he was an action film icon, and a box office star. So what happened? What was the appeal of Steven Seagal?


  15. The Untold Truth of Steven Seagal


  16. Steven Seagal is not half Irish. His Mother is English, German and Dutch ancestry. His Father is Russian Jewish.


  17. Putin’s pal Steven Seagal is banned from Ukraine for five years as he’s deemed a ‘national security threat’

    Many suspect it is because of their relationship


  18. I’ll tell you what happened to steven Seagal- he got tired of the constant exercising and Not being able eat what you want to and havinhaving to eat much less than you want to and having to constantly watch his weight. That’s what happened. Imagine being so rich and being able to buy any kind of expensive food all around the world But, instead not being able to for years and years just to accomadate hollywoods perception of having to be very fit, and having to constantly worry about what he eats. It’s too much pressure and staying hungry and exercising for 24/7 for years. He finally got tired of it and decided to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and stopped doing the strenuous exercises and instead took comfortable easy exercise instead, like maybe light walking. And once he started gaining the weight he probably said it’s just a little weight, and then actually months later told himself now I gained way too much weight but, it’s a little too much weight gained and it would be incredibly hard to go back to making his body “near perfect” again. Then, he said it’s too late it’s just too much to lose, just forget it, life is too short-Just go ahead and eat whatever you want.
    What happened to steven Seagal is what happened and happens to many women every day after they gain so much weight after their pregnancy. That’s what happened! Give the guy a break! Let him to enjoy his life! He had enough of his own share if dieting and exercising for years. Bottom line just don’t be so shallow!


    • 15 Famous Actors Who REALLY Aren’t Aging Well


      In his prime, Steven Seagal was a one-man force of nature in Hollywood, kicking ass and taking names in ’90s action thrillers like Hard To Kill and Under Siege. Only Jean-Claude Van Damme could rival him in the action movie stakes at the time. But as the decade went on and box office interest in the pair began to wane, the pair took to direct-to-video releases and increasingly contrasting appearances.

      Van Damme, for all his troubles with drugs, booze, and women, stayed in great shape and remains very much the Muscles from Brussels he was once dubbed. Seagal, by contrast, piled on the pounds to such an extent that he’s a shadow of his former self. Not only does it look like he’s not trying in his new movies anymore, it looks like he couldn’t even do it if he did try.


  19. By the way that’s the exact same thing that happened to his ex-wife Kelly Lebrock who gained a lot of weight. And was done with dieting!


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