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Steven Seagal

 Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal (born April 10, 1951) is an American action movie actor, producer, writer, director, martial artist, singer-songwriter, and activist. A 7th-dan black belt in aikido, Seagal began his adult life as an aikido instructor in Japan, before moving to the Los Angeles, California area where, after being noticed by entertainment executives, he made his film debut in 1988. Since then, Seagal has become a globally recognized action star, with his movies earning more than $2 billion worldwide.

Seagal belongs to a generation of film actors who epitomise the movie action hero, including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis.

Seagal has used his fame as an action star to cross over to other industries. He is also a recording artist and the founder of Steven Seagal Enterprises. In addition to his professional achievements, he is also known as an environmentalist, aikido master (Takeshigemichi), an animal rights activist, and he has been recognized by Tibetan lama Penor Rinpoche as a reincarnated Tulku (Chungdrag Dorje).

Early years

Youth
Steven Seagal was born in Lansing, Michigan. When he was 5 years old, the family then relocated to Fullerton, California, where Seagal attended the Buena Park High School, Buena Park, California. It was at the age of 7 that Seagal first began allegedly studying the martial arts under the direction of renowned Shito-ryu karate master Fumio Demura and Aikido under Rod Kobayashi, the President of the Western States Aikido Federation. He earned belts in aikido, karate, judo, and kendo and in his late teens, Seagal became part of Demura's Karate Demonstration Team and performed daily demonstrations in the former Japanese Village and Deer Park, in Southern California. In 1974, he was promoted by Kobayashi-sensei to shodan in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (a fact disputed by his now ex-wife, below).


Steven Seagal
Japan
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 in order to avoid the Vietnam draft at the time, and married Ms. Fujitani in order to provide reasonable evidence to his remaining there in spite of a possible draft-call.

Seagal also 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; the Aikido Tenshin Dojo in the city of Osaka.

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 is there to this day, still running the dojo. After another period spent in Japan, Seagal returned to the U.S. with senior student Haruo Matsuoka in 1983. The two opened an aikido dojo, initially located in Burbank, California, but later moved to the city of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997. During this period, Seagal first found himself in contact with Hollywood. Initially he worked as martial arts coordinator on the films The Challenge (1982) starring 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, personally financed a screen test in front of Warner Bros. executives. They too were impressed and Seagal was signed for his first film.

Film career

1990s: the action hero years

Steven Seagal in 1992's Under Siege.Seagal has played a cop or a military official/agent in all of his movies. In 1988, Seagal began work on his first film, Above the Law (also known as Nico in Europe), with director Andrew Davis. Following its success, Seagal made three more pictures (Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice) that were decent box office hits, marking him as an action hero. Seagal found wider mainstream success in 1992's Under Siege. The film reunited Seagal with the director Andrew Davis and was a blockbuster in America and abroad, grossing $156.4 million worldwide.

After the success of Under Siege, Seagal made his directorial debut with On Deadly Ground (1994) in which he also starred, alongside Michael Caine. The movie cost an estimated $50 million to make and grossed a little more than $38 million in the United States.

Steven Seagal filmed a sequel to his most successful film Under Siege titled Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) and a cop drama, The Glimmer Man (1996). In 1996, Seagal also had his first supporting role, in the Kurt Russell film Executive Decision, in which Seagal was billed as having a starring role to keep his character's fate secret. He then tried again to make an environmentally-conscious film. In Fire Down Below (1997), Seagal played an EPA agent fighting industrialists dumping toxic waste in the Kentucky hills region, but the movie was not a commercial success. This film marked the end of Seagal's original multi-picture deal with Warner Bros. With its failure at the box office, his contract was not renewed and the film itself was released direct to video in certain areas.

Retreat to video
The next year,Steven 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 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 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 April 2007, all 13 films Steven Seagal has made since 2003 have been released direct-to-video in North America, with only limited theatrical releases in the rest of the world. Steven Seagal is currently working on a comeback for 2007 with action films Urban Justice. In May 2007 he agreed to work on the Indie film Marker for Roel Reiné, a Dutch director.

Steven Seagal, filmmaker

Steven Seagal as director and star of the 1994 environmental thriller, On Deadly Ground.Seagal intends to have his films remembered. 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."

Steven Seagal has produced many of the movies that he stars in, and has also participated in writing and directing. 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. Many also accuse Seagal of playing a one-dimensional type of action movie star who never gets injured or loses a fight.

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 two commercials (for Orange SA and Mountain Dew), Seagal pokes fun at his 'invincible' action star archetype.

Other career areas
Music
In addition to acting and aikido,Steven 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 is also a collector of vintage guitar and amplifier gear.

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 some support from UK audiences, the tour continues through early 2007.

Steven 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 Trooper'.

Work as a Deputy Sheriff
According to Steven Seagal himself while appearing as the guest host in episode 6 of the forth session of The Friday Night Project on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom[13] 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 in an interview on MSNBC during the Katrina crisis, and he 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 Orleans.

Business ventures
Steven Seagal Enterprises markets an energy drink known as Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt, as well as an herbal oil product line.[16] Seagal personally endorses this drink, "I have traveled the world creating this drink; there is none better that I know."

Personal life
Steven Seagal was born to an Irish Catholic mother Patricia (an emergency room technician) and Jewish father Stephen (a high school math teacher). He now keeps a ranch in Shasta, California 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", "Chaos", and "Fist."

Marriages
Miyako Fujitani (1975–1986) (divorced) 2 children
Adrienne La Russa (1984-1987) (annulled)
Kelly LeBrock (1987–1996) (divorced) 3 children
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 "irreconciable 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
Steven 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 led him to a position of friendship 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.

Views and activism
A Buddhist, Seagal was quoted in an interview with Stanley Weiser as saying, "People call me all kinds of things, including four letter words. I respond to all of them. 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. But I do believe that buddha nature is in all of us, even in a mangy dog lying in the gutter with fleas. That dog is Buddha to me. People can call me anything they want, I respond to anything."

Animal rights work
Steven Seagal 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 animal cruelty.

Seagal was awarded a PETA Humanitarian Award in 1999.

In 2003, Seagal wrote an open letter to the government of Thailand, urging them to enact a 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 fire. He never saw the dog again.

Solar power
Steven 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 an advocate for the rights and interests of Native Americans. In On Deadly Ground, Seagal depicted himself as The Chosen One, sent to save the Inuit people from the evils of "Big Oil". Seagal has also narrated an activist film project, Medicine Lake Video, which seeks to protect sacred tribal ground near his ranch in Siskiyou County.

Parodies
Seagal has become the target of Internet-based jokes at his expense. The above-mentioned commercials for Orange SA and Mountain Dew poke fun at his ability to knock anyone unconscious without effort. Seagal is sometimes considered to be in on the joke.

On MADtv, Steven Seagal  was portrayed by Will Sasso. In various skits involving the actor, Steven Seagal  was portrayed to be an unintelligent, disrespectful, and egotistical actor for comedic effect with a strong preference for violence. 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.)

He was also portrayed on Mad TV in a parody of Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.

A scene in an episode of Family Guy portrays Seagal in the Arctic fighting a group of seals for killing a village's fish.

In what could be considered a parody or satirical homage, Seagal is mentioned by name in the film In & Out during its fictional Academy Awards event, where Steven Seagal is "nominated" for Best Actor in a Film for his role in a film called "Snowball in Hell".

 

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