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Steven F. Seagal ( ; born April 10, 1952) is an Americanmarker action movie actor, producer, writer, director, martial artist, philanthropist, guitarist, singer-songwriter, and deputy sheriff. He belongs to a generation of movie action hero actors who were featured in many blockbuster action films of the late 1980s and 1990s (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Bruce Willis to name a few).A 6' 4" (193 cm) 7th-dan black belt in aikido, Seagal began his adult life as an aikido instructor in Japanmarker. He became the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan. He later moved to the Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker area where he made his film debut in 1988 in Above the Law. Since then, Seagal has become a major action star, mainly due to his films of the 1990s such as Under Siege (1992) and Under Siege 2 (1995) where he played Navy SEALs counter-terrorist expert Casey Ryback. In total his movies have earned in excess of $850 million worldwide.

Seagal is also a recording artist and guitarist and the founder of Steven Seagal Enterprises. In addition to his professional achievements, he is also known as an environmentalist, an animal rights activist and a supporter of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, and the cause of Tibetan independence. Spiritualism and Buddhism play an important role in Seagal's life and he has been recognized by Tibetan lama Penor Rinpoche as a reincarnated Tulku of 17th century eastern Tibet, Chungdrag Dorje.

Early years

Youth

Seagal was born in Lansingmarker, Michiganmarker, where he lived until he was five years old. His mother, Patricia (1930-2003), was a medical technician, and his father, Samuel Steven Seagal (1928-1991), a high school math teacher. His mother's ancestors were Irish and his father's Jewish. His father's parents, Nathan Siegelman - later changed to Seagal - (1892-1973) and Dora Goldstein (1894-1989), had emigrated from the Russian Empire to the USA in 1912 and 1914, respectively. The family relocated to Fullertonmarker, Californiamarker, where Seagal attended the Buena Park High School in Buena Parkmarker, Californiamarker.

Return to the U.S.

Seagal initially returned to Taosmarker, New Mexicomarker, with his student—and later a film stuntman—Craig Dunn. There, they opened a dojo, but Seagal spent much of his time pursuing a film career and other ventures. Dunn stayed in New Mexicomarker and continued to run the dojo. 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 Burbankmarker, Californiamarker, but later moved it to the city of West Hollywoodmarker. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997. It was during that period that Seagal first found himself in contact with Hollywood. Initially, he worked as the martial arts co-ordinator for the films The Challenge (1982) starring Scott Glenn and Toshirô Mifune, and Never Say Never Again (1983) starring Sean Connery.

Hollywood career

The 1990s: the action hero years

Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill
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, who believed he could make anyone a star. 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.

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 and a small role by Billy Bob Thornton.

Following the general critical and financial disappointment of On Deadly Ground, 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 his first supporting role, in the Kurt Russell film Executive Decision (1996), which featured him in a starring role, but kept secret his character's fate (though he appeared to fall out of the plane without a parachute.) Then, he again made an environmentally-conscious film, Fire Down Below (1997), wherein he was an EPA agent fighting industrialists dumping toxic waste in the Kentuckymarker hills, but the movie was commercially unsuccessful. This film ended his original multi-picture contract with Warner Bros., and because of its lack of box-office success, his contract was not renewed.

Direct-to-video years

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 Montanamarker.

After taking a couple years to produce 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. Ticker co-starring Tom Sizemore and Dennis Hopper, and filmed in San Franciscomarker before Exit Wounds, went straight to DVD while Half Past Dead, starring rap star Ja Rule, made less than $20 million worldwide.

Seagal at the Pollstar Awards, February 2006.
, all of the films Seagal has made since the second half of 2001 have been released direct-to-video (DTV) in North America, with only limited theatrical releases in the rest of the world. Though Seagal is credited as a producer (and sometimes a writer) on many of these DTV movies, it is unclear how deeply involved he was in their production - his voice is often dubbed in by another actor as seen in the film Attack Force and a double is used in almost any scene where his face is not shown clearly. The most notable stunt doubles are in his films Black Dawn, Belly of the Beast, Out of Reach and Submerged. One of his most recent films, Kill Switch (2008), also featured extensive fight-double footage added in post-production.


His other recent direct-to-video films include Urban Justice, Pistol Whipped, Against The Dark and Driven to Kill. He has finished filming The Keeper for a projected 2009 release.

Work as filmmaker

Seagal intends to have his films remembered; "I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol." Seagal has clarified the purpose of his films: "Above the Law was a politically conscientious movie. On Deadly Ground was environmentally conscientious so I want to keep making movies like that which are more geared with a certain entertainment value but also bring people forward into contemplation."

Seagal has produced many of the movies that he stars in, and has also participated in writing and directing. Seagal's roles do not fit the standard action hero archetype; instead, Seagal's characters are usually "born perfect", displaying no limitations, character flaws, or character development (as is typically included in the story arc for most action heroes). His characters are often associated with attributes given to action movie antagonists or villains, such as clandestine government associations (Under Siege), great wealth and high-level corporate ties (On Deadly Ground), high-level biochemical research skill (The Patriot). Seagal's characters are normally nigh-on invincible and are unable to be beaten or even slowed down.

While his acting performance in Above The Law gained praise from Roger Ebert, Seagal has repeatedly faced criticism from both actors and fans who accuse him of playing the same character in many of his movies (see typecasting), as well as displaying a lack of emotional range.

Others have surmised that Seagal's unorthodox approach to film is actually an elaborate joke. This is supported by Seagal's statement regarding humor: "I’m a very funny guy, if you’ll forgive me for saying so. When I did The Glimmer Man with Keenan Ivory Wayans, he and I were talking about who was funniest, and...I kicked his ass every day." In addition, some of Seagal's own self-parody supports this view. In at least one commercial for Orange SA, Seagal pokes fun at his action star archetype.

Other career areas

Music

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, 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. Having received good support from UK audiences, the tour continued through early 2007.

Seagal uses a blend of Blues, Country, World Music and Euro techno in his unique compositions, reflecting the eclectic mosaic style of his martial arts and film work, both of which combine different styles (aikido/gunfire and action/lecture are respective examples). Seagal is also known for his live cover versions including seminal works like Don Macleans' 'American Pie' and Hot Gossips' 'I Fell In Love With a Starship Trooper'.

Work as a deputy sheriff

Seagal is currently a deputy sheriff of his home community of Jefferson Parish, Louisianamarker. In November 2008, A&E announced that they have begun filming Steven Seagal: Lawman, a reality show that follows his on- and off-duty work in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office. 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."

Business ventures

Seagal Enterprises markets an energy drink known as Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt, as well as an herbal oil product line. Seagal personally endorses this drink, "I have traveled the world creating this drink; there is none better that I know." He also has his own aftershave called Scent of Action. Seagal has his own imprint of Kershaw Knives. The "Steven Seagal Edition" knives feature 4" blades with his signature etched in, and no auto-assisted opening mechanism.

Personal life

An only son, he has three sisters, one older and two younger. He now keeps a dude ranch in Coloradomarker and a home in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwoodmarker, a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. He has adopted many animals from shelters, including the cats Sylvester and Gap, and the dogs Gruff, Cole, Tyson, Hamlet, and Chaos. Steven travels back and forth to a home in Eads, Tennessee, a rural unincorporated area located just east of Memphis, Tennesseemarker.

Marriages

  1. Miyako Fujitani (1975–1986) (divorced) 2 children
  2. Adrienne La Russa (1984-1987) (annulled)
  3. Kelly LeBrock (1987–1996) (divorced) 3 children


When he left his first wife Miyako Fujitani to go back to America (reportedly, Steven's last words to her were, "You're crazy; I want a divorce"), 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 he met actress/model Kelly LeBrock, with whom he began a relationship and who 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 September 5, 1987. 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.

Children

Seagal has six children from three relationships. With Fujitani, he had a son, model and actor Kentaro Seagal (b. October 3, 1975), and a daughter, writer and actress, Ayako Fujitani (b. December 5, 1979). His three children with LeBrock are daughters Annaliza (b. 1987) and Arissa (b. 1993), and son Dominic (b. 1990). Seagal and Arissa Wolf have one daughter, Savannah (b. 1996).

In addition to his biological children, Seagal's Tibetan Buddhist beliefs have also placed him in the role of guardian to a Tibetan child, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo. 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.

Animal rights work

Seagal has been an outspoken opponent of animal cruelty which can be seen in a scene in the movie Out for Justice. This is consistent with his views on spirituality, as well as his environmentalist views (as showcased in On Deadly Ground). Seagal believes in reincarnation: "When I walk into a room some people see a dog, some people see a cow. I am all of what they see. It is their perception."

Steven has described his activism method as "shaming companies into changing," a theme that is visible in such films as On Deadly Ground and Fire Down Below. He has worked with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to discourage the fur trade, and has written to the Prime Minister of Indiamarker to seek increased legal protection for cows. Seagal worked effectively towards saving dogs destined to drown in Taiwanmarker.

This activism has not diminished in recent years. For these and other efforts, Seagal was awarded a PETA Humanitarian Award in 1999. In 2003, Seagal wrote an open letter to the leadership of Thailandmarker, urging them to enact law to prevent the torture of baby elephants.

Native American issues

Seagal is a concerned advocate for the rights and interests of Native Americans. In his film On Deadly Ground, Seagal depicted himself as The Chosen One, sent to save the Inuit people from the evils of "Big Oil".

Outside of his film work, 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.

Filmography





Discography



References

External links




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