After finishing college, Seagal moved to Japan with then-girlfriend
Miyako Fujitani, native of Japan whom he later married, and lived with
her parents, who owned an aikido school; allegations surfaced that he
left to avoid the Vietnam draft at the time, and married Ms. Fujitani to
provide reasonable evidence to his remaining there in spite of a
During this time in Japan, Seagal changed affiliation from Koichi
Tohei's Ki Society and Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido to the Aikikai. Under the
title Master Take Shigemichi, Seagal was reputedly the first foreigner
ever to own and operate an aikido dojo in Japan (though his in-laws, and
not himself, were the actual owners): the Aikido Tenshin Dojo in the
city of Osaka. Seagal claims that he battled the yakuza (Japanese mafia)
over the rights to the Aikido Tenshin Dojo, which he claims that his
wife's father lost in a gambling game; however, his former wife Miyako
Fujitani, claims "it's a lie", and that he "yelled at some drunks, but
never fought anyone".
Fujitani likewise claims that Seagal never properly earned his aikido
titles — a claim supported by the fact that Seagal, despite claiming
world-class fighting skills, never has once competed in any notable
match-up — while, like-wise, either losing or surrendering to all
physical confrontations; however, advanced rank in Aikido does not rely
on "match ups", but examinations by superior teachers. Meanwhile, in
1988, he was offered the title role in Above the Law, because of his
Master 6th Degree Black Belt in Aikido. He also impressed many Hollywood
actors and actresses with his Martial Arts. Although people believe that
Steven Seagal has claimed he was trained by Ōsensei Morihei Ueshiba, the
founder of Aikido, in a recent book by Vern titled seagology (2008) he
has only claimed to have seen him a couple of times demonstrate and has
not had any other contact.
Return to the U.S.
Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico, with senior student, and
later 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 Mexico and currently still runs the dojo. After another period in
Japan, he returned to the U.S. with senior student Haruo Matsuoka in
1983. They opened an aikido dojo, initially in Burbank, California, but
later moved it to the city of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in
charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted 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. Seagal then became a
bodyguard to celebrities, such as future wife Kelly Le Brock and
Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz. It was Ovitz who, impressed with Seagal's
martial arts abilities, who personally financed his screen test in front
of Warner Bros. executives, they, too, were impressed, and signed Seagal
for his first film.
The 1990s: the action hero years
In 1988, Seagal began work on his first film, Above the Law (titled Nico
in Europe), with director Andrew Davis. They transformed an average
police thriller by adding exhilarating action and sharp
characterization. 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. 
After the success of Under Siege, Seagal made his directorial début with
On Deadly Ground (1994) in which he starred with Michael Caine. The
movie failed with audiences and critics, and was an estimated financial
loss of $50 million to make, while grossing less than $39 million in the
To recuperate popularity, he filmed a sequel to his most successful film
Under Siege titled Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) and the 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
as in a starring role, but kept secret his character's fate. 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 Kentucky hills, but the movie was commercially unsuccessful. This
film ended his original multi-picture contract with Warner Bros., and
because of its failure, his contract was not renewed.
Retreat to video
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 Montana.
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
woldwide. However, he was unable to capitalise 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 Francisco
before Exit Wounds, went straight to DVD while Half Past Dead, starring
rap star Ja Rule, made less than $20 million worldwide.
As of May 2008, all of the films Seagal has made since 2003 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.
His latest direct-to-video films include Urban Justice (2007) and Pistol
Whipped (2008). Another DTV film, Kill Switch, is due out in 2008, he is
currently filming Ruslan for a projected 2009 release, and a self
directed project, Prince of Pistols is also in the works.
Work as filmmaker
Seagal as director and star of the 1994 environmental thriller, On
Seagal as director and star of the 1994 environmental thriller, On
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. Reports state that Seagal insists on such
roles, even allegedly becoming hysterical when his character was
scripted to die a heroic death in the movie Executive Decision, when
director Stuart Baird insisted he must do it as scripted. Seagal held up
filming for a few days, and finally acted the death scene as scripted
after threat of contractual breach.
While his acting performance in Above The Law gained praise from the
likes of 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, 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
Other career areas
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 continues through early 2007.
Seagal uses a blend of Blues, Country, and World Music 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
Work as a Deputy Sheriff
According to Seagal himself, while appearing as the guest host in
episode 6 of the fourth series of The Friday Night Project on Channel 4
in the United Kingdom, he is currently an active police officer of
his home community of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. In fact, he is a
member of their SWAT team and is responsible for their training,
according to Sheriff Lee during an interview on MSNBC during the Katrina
crisis and was filmed by CNN's Anderson Cooper on 2005-09-13 riding
around with the SWAT team from Jefferson Parish in the streets of New
Desmond Tutu Body Guard
On the same show, "The Friday Night Project", Steven claimed that during
the days of Apartheid in South Africa he was a bodyguard for Archbishop
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.
An only son, he has three sisters, one older and two younger. He now
keeps a ranch in Colorado and a home in the Mandeville Canyon section of
Brentwood, 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".
1. Miyako Fujitani (1975–1986) (divorced) 2 children
2. Adrienne La Russa (1984-1987) (annulled)
3. Kelly LeBrock (1987–1996) (divorced) 3 children
Seagal has gained some notoriety for being a bigamist. When he left his
first wife Miyako Fujitani to go back to America (reportedly, Steven's
last words to her were, "You are 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 5th September 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.
Seagal has six known children from three relationships in which he has
been involved. 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.
Views and activism
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 is also a vegetarian. 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
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 India to seek increased legal protection for cows. Seagal
worked effectively towards saving dogs destined to drown in Taiwan; he
successfully sought the Premier of Taiwan to sign legislation limiting
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 Thailand, urging
them to enact law to prevent the torture of baby elephants.
Mystical dog incident
While being interviewed by PETA, Seagal was asked to provide an example
of a special interaction with an animal. To lend context and meaning to
his animal rights work, Seagal offered the story about a dog which
approached him during his early aikido years in Japan. Seagal described
feeling as if he had known this white dog forever. After keeping the dog
for a few days, the dog (by barking) warned Seagal that his dojo was on
fire. Seagal quickly summoned help to put out the conflagration. Seagal
never saw the dog again.
Seagal is an advocate for solar power, consistent with his views on oil,
as showcased in 1994's On Deadly Ground. Upon spotting another Caucasian
in Thailand in 2004, Seagal was pleased to find this man was a
manufacturer of solar-powered bicycles. Seagal promptly purchased a
number of solar electric utility and transport vehicles to bring feed to
his animal partners at his ranch in California.
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
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.
Seagal is a great admirer of Tesla coils and has even collected a few.
Seagal has donated three Tesla coils to California state universities.
Seagal has become the target of Internet-based criticism. However, the
line between Seagal's own work and a parody portrayal of Seagal is
becoming increasingly blurry. The above-mentioned commercials for Orange
SA and Mountain Dew poke fun at his action aikido style. Seagal is
sometimes considered to be in on the joke.
In the TV show, madTV, Seagal was portrayed by Will Sasso. In various
skits involving the actor, Seagal was portrayed to be an unintelligent,
disrespectful, and egotistical actor for comedic effect. The trademark
slapstick humor ranges from attempting to do stunts, but failing
miserably, to random attacks on other characters in the scene (most
notably, random chops or snapping necks.)
A scene in an episode of Family Guy portrays Seagal in the Arctic
fighting a group of seals for killing a village's fish.
* Above the Law. (1988)—Playing a Chicago cop Nico Toscani who discovers
a web of corruption in the city's police department, directed by Andrew
* Hard to Kill (1990)—Playing a cop out for vengeance, with assistance
from a nurse (played by then-wife Kelly LeBrock).
* Marked for Death (1990)—Playing a retired DEA agent who returns to his
hometown, to find an evil drug lord in charge.
* Out for Justice (1991)—Playing an NYPD cop in Brooklyn on the hunt for
an old childhood rival who killed his best friend
* Under Siege (1992)—Another Andrew Davis movie, about a cook on a Navy
ship who prevents nuclear armageddon. This was his most successful
* On Deadly Ground (1994)—A movie in which he befriends an Alaskan
Native Indian tribe and fights against an evil oil company. This is
Seagal's directorial debut; he also produced. However, the movie
underperformed at the box office and damaged his career.
* Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)—Seagal returns as Casey Ryback,
this time out to foil a mad scientist who tries to hijack a satellite
weapon hidden on-board a train.
* Executive Decision (1996)—Playing the head of an elite military team
that must stop a plane carrying a nerve-gas bomb.
* The Glimmer Man (1996)—Playing a detective who (along with Keenan
Ivory Wayans) must find a serial killer.
* Fire Down Below (1997)—Playing a hard-hitting EPA agent investigating
a mine in Kentucky.
* The Patriot (1998)—Playing a small town doctor who foils an evil,
* Prince of Central Park (2000)—Credited as producer.
* Exit Wounds (2001)—Playing a tough urban detective who tries to clean
up his precinct with the help of a wealthy business man who in turn is
trying to free his brother from jail.
* Ticker (2001)—Playing the leader of a bomb squad.
* Half Past Dead (2002)—Playing a Russian FBI agent, Sasha Petrosevitch,
who goes to jail undercover.
* The Foreigner (2003)—Political intrigue and scandal plague Seagal's
character, Jonathan Cold, in this film.
* Out for a Kill (2003)—Playing an archaeologist who avenges the death
of his assistant by the Chinese Triads.
* Belly of the Beast (2003)—Playing a retired agent who must go to
Thailand with his old partner to save his kidnapped daughter and her
* Out of Reach (2004)—Seagal attempts to save a kidnapped girl.
* Clementine (2004)—Guest stars in this Korean martial arts film.
* Into the Sun (2005)—Playing a CIA operative in Tokyo who must take on
* Submerged (2005)—Playing a mercenary who must fight terrorists.
* Today You Die (2005)—Seagal plays a former thief who is trying to go
straight and seeks vengeance on those who framed him
* Black Dawn (2005)—Seagal returns as Jonathan Cold in this continuation
of "Foreigner" franchise.
* Mercenary for Justice (2006)—Playing a mercenary who is blackmailed
into a mission to save his family, only to turn the tables on his
* Shadow Man (2006)—Playing a former intelligence operative who must
find his kidnapped daughter in Bucharest while also defeating various
parties who believe he has a lethal virus.
* Attack Force (2006)—Plays Marshall Lawson, the leader of a
* Flight of Fury (2007)—Playing John Sands, a former soldier who is sent
to retrieve a stolen stealth bomber.
* Urban Justice (2007)—Out for revenge after his son is shot dead by the
local gang leader.
* Pistol Whipped (2008)-Playing an ex-cop with both alcohol and gambling
* The Onion Movie (2008) —Guest stars in a spoof of himself by the
makers of The Onion.
* 2005: Songs from the Crystal Cave
* 2006: Mojo Priest
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