In his youth, Steven Seagal relocated to Fullerton,
California and began studying the martial arts under the
direction of renowned s---o-ryu karate master Fumio Demura and
aikido under Rod Kobayashi, the President of the Western States
Aikido Federation. This was the beginning of his life-long focus
on Asian phenomena, with a particular emphasis on Japan. 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
As far as other information from his early years, he graduated from Buena Park High School in Buena Park, California, and held one of his first jobs at a Burger King. Some sources say that he attended college at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, as well as Fullerton College in Fullerton. This information contradicts other sources, which say Steven Seagal left America for Japan at the age of 17 to study aikido. Whatever actually happened remains unclear, due to Seagal's secrecy on the matter.
Steven Seagal developed his aikido career in Japan in the mid 1970sHowever it is confirmed that Seagal moved to Japan c. 1970 with then-girlfriend Miyako Fujitani, native of Japan whom he later married and lived with her parents, who owned the Akido school in question; allegations surface 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.
It is confirmed that Seagal moved to Japan around the time of his marriage, and changed affiliation from Koichi Tohei's Ki Society and Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido to the Hombu Aikikai. Seagal claims that he battled the yakuza (Japanese mafia) over the rights to the 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." He was the dojo-cho (chief instructor) of the dojo until he left in 1982, after spending about 10 years in Japan; however Ms. Fujitani likewise stated that Seagal never properly earned his title, claiming that the judge was a "drunk who was asleep during the testing."
Steven Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico with senior student and later stuntman Craig Dunn. He opened a dojo, but was gone much of the time, pursuing his film career and other ventures. Dunn stayed in New Mexico and is there to this day, still running the dojo. Seagal returned to Japan, and came back to the U.S. with senior student Haruo Matsuoka in 1983. The two opened an Aikido dojo. This school was 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.
Steven Seagal's first venture into the film industry occurred when he was hired as the stunt co-ordinator for the 1982 film The Challenge, starring Toshiro Mifune and Scott Glenn.
Inspired by Steven Seagal's inclusion in the film, Seagal returned to the United States more than a decade after he left, in order to pursue a career in the film industry. Following The Challenge, he worked as a stunt co-ordinator for the 1983 James Bond film, Never Say Never Again.
Seagal's acting career took off when, by chance, Michael Ovitz, the then president of one of the most powerful talent agencies in Hollywood, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), came to Seagal's Aikido Studio in Burbank, California and became his student, after witnessing a demonstration by Seagal--a demonstration which Seagal claimed was real, but which his demonstration-students later testified was clearly staged. Ovitz, who was very supportive of Seagal’s acting ambitions, personally financed a screen test for Seagal around 1987; rumor later surfaced of a homos--ual affair between Seagal and Ovitz. Warner Brothers Pictures, who was looking to capitalize on the profitability of action stars at the time, were impressed by what they saw and signed him to a four-picture contract.
From there, Steven Seagal began work on his first film, Above the Law (also known as Nico in Europe), with director Andrew Davis. In it, Seagal played Nico, a vice squad cop in Chicago who becomes suspicious when suspects in a drug raid are set free and Nico is ordered not to pursue the suspects. The film, which heavily relied on Seagal’s martial arts fight sequences was a hit, and he quickly became a favorite among action fans. The film's tone is best displayed by Nico's quote:
"No-one is above the law but me as no-one is that tall! Kevin Laird has messed with the wrong Nico Toscani, and picked a fight with the wrong Nico Toscani - he can't win!"
Following the success of Above the Law, Steven Seagal made three more pictures (Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice) that were decent box office hits. Hard to Kill grossed $47 million in the United States. Seagal found wider mainstream success in 1992 with the release of Under Siege. The film reunited Seagal with the director Andrew Davis and was a blockbuster in America and abroad, grossing $156.4 million worldwide.
Riding high on the success Under Siege brought him, Seagal made his directorial debut with On Deadly Ground (1994) in which he played an oil rig explosives expert trying to single-handedly save Alaska from an evil oil corporation run by Michael Caine. Seagal used this movie to stress the issues of pollution, environmental destruction, and corporate collusion. Some (including Utne Reader) found it to be an entertaining fantasy of eco-terrorism; a few saw it as tragically misunderstood comic genius. But the movie was a failure with audiences and hurt his career financially. The movie cost an estimated $50 million to make and grossed less than $39 million in the United States.
He tried to recover with a sequel to Under Siege titled Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) and a cop drama (The Glimmer Man) (1996), but both fell short of expectations. Steven Seagal had his first supporting role in the Kurt Russell film Executive Decision (1996), in which Seagal was incorrectly billed in pre-release marketing as having a starring role. He then tried once 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. While movie fans gave it mixed reviews, the movie was a commercial failure.
The next year, he would make 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 off to produce The Prince of Central Park, a more gentle film, Steven Seagal’s career had something of a resurgence in March, 2001 with the release of Exit Wounds. Although the film had few martial arts fight scenes to which Seagal fans were accustomed, it represented a surprise commercial success. This renewed success however, was short-lived, as his next two projects, Ticker co-starring Tom Sizemore and filmed in San Francisco, and Half Past Dead, starring rap star Ja Rule, failed with audiences at the box office.
Seagal’s career has since gone into decline. As of December 2005, every film he has made since 2003 has been released direct-to-video in North America, with only limited theatrical releases in the rest of the world. These movies are routinely criticized by both fans and detractors alike as being of poor overall quality, and will often question whether or not he really has his heart into making movies anymore. Although he has not seen much success in this period, he did star in a US Mountain Dew commercial in 2003/2004 in which he parodied his tough-guy persona, and was well-received; however many criticized such self-parody as insincere mask for more self-indulgence.
Steven Seagal has produced many of the movies that he stars in, and has also participated in writing and directing--inevitably to expand his character's superhuman abilities and reputations within the film. 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). Instead, Seagal's 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), etc. Seagal's characters always hold all the cards, and cannot be beaten or even slowed down; indeed, such characters seem to underscore Seagal's egocentric and irrational nature, which are only enabled by film-success into "meltdown." Indeed, critics have often observed that Seagal's films serve simply to showcase his public indulgences of his private insecurities, even owing such to "mental disorders and arrested development."
This invincible, perfectly controlled, and often depraved/sadistic protagonist is found disturbing to even the most hard-core audiences, and may be partially to blame for his lack of success in recent years. 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-- in addition to self-indulgent egotism and disturbed fantasy. In fact, some people refer to embracing typecasting as "Seagalism."
Although its merit as an academic subject is a topic for debate, there is such a thing as Seagalogy. Its first known origins seem to have come around 2002, by internet film columnist Vern. Vern, who has said himself his goal was to “study each one of these movies closer than any sane person would, come out the other end alive and then present my findings”, has also said on updates on his site that he has been working on putting Seagalogy into book form “for about 3 years now” (site update 11/7/5). Some have brushed it off as a joke, while others do believe that it may happen, as Vern has stated on several occasions he is a fan of Steven Seagal and has reviewed his movies shortly after their release dates.
Seagalogy does not have many known participants, although a joke site, titled seagalology.com, appeared in late 2005. This site, which is updated sparsely, contains primarily derogatory comments on Seagal. The site’s author has even gone as far as stating in his disclaimer that it is a “joke site” and that whatever is written on it should be “taken in jest”.
Seagal reportedly has been rough on stuntmen. During the filming of Exit Wounds, he injured a number of stuntmen, as well as his co-star, DMX. He also would reportedly "kick guys in the nuts to see if they were wearing cups". Steven Quadros, a fight trainer, has stated that he knows men who have needed surgery after being injured by Seagal.
Steven Seagal has also been the target of widespread allegations, centering on a reputed loss during a challenge match with stuntman and Judo master Gene LeBell. Although no confirmation of these events from Seagal or LeBell has yet surfaced, the story is still subject of much speculation on the Internet.
Throughout the nineties, Seagal was accused of s--ual harassment by employees and prospective actresses. Ned Zeman in Vanity Fair quotes an actress who described Seagal's new spin on the casting-couch lure. According to the woman, Seagal had asked her to take off her top and groped her breasts in order to show her where her spiritual "meridian points" were located.
Actress Jenny McCarthy was one of Seagal's casting couch victims. "They were casting Playmates for Under Siege 2," she recalled. "I was the last audition, dressed frumpy and plain, the way I usually go, and I walk into his office and it's only Steven. His office has a huge shag carpet – shag, I'll repeat that, shag – and a huge screaming casting couch. Casting, casting, casting, casting couch. And he says, 'Listen, I can't tell what your body looks like with what you're wearing, so why don't you stand up and take off your dress?'"
"I started crying, and I said, 'My video's for sale for $14.99, go buy it if you want to see.' And I ran out to my car, and he grabbed my arm and followed me and said, 'Don’t ever tell this to anybody.' I was like, 'Dude, you are gonna regret this one day.'"
In addition to improper conduct with females off-screen, is notable for widespread use of a penetrative, homophobic style of intimidation on-screen. Fire Down Below, On Deadly Ground, and other films feature Steven Seagal's comparison of his law enforcement and investigative methods with male-on-male s--ual assault.
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 also features duets with Tony Rebel, Lt. Stichie, Lady Saw, and Stevie Wonder. One of his album tracks, "Girl It's Alright," was released as a single in parts of the world and has been made into a music video. The soundtrack to Seagal's 2005 film Into the Sun features several songs from the album.
Seagal's second album, titled Mojo Priest, was released in April 2006. In a move not seen with Songs from the Crystal Cave, Seagal has an extensive U.S. and international tour scheduled.
Steven Seagal maintains a ranch in Colorado and a home in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles.
Steven Seagal was born to a Jewish father Stephen (a high school math teacher), and Irish Catholic mother Patricia (an emergency room technician). As an adult, Steven has had a rich and varied family life, including many marriages, children and foster children.
Seagal has been honored by additional names which recognize his other talents. He has been proclaimed Chungdrag Dorje and Takeshigemichi in separate ceremonies. These two titles were sometimes thought to represent separate people, as they were so divergent. However, it is confirmed that Shigemichi and Dorje are one and the same, in spite of their diametric opposition. In keeping with Seagal's consistent asiaphilia, both of these aliases are of Asian origin. Additionally, fans have also given him the title Lord Steven, and the nickname Steagal.
Steven Seagal is a practicing Tibetan Buddhist. In 1997, one
of his teachers, Penor Rinpoche, gave him this name as he
proclaimed him a tulku, a reincarnation of a Tibetan lama, the
Treasure Revealer of Palyul Monastery. Chungdrag Dorje
deals in the realm of quiet, reflective spirituality, in sharp
contrast to the violent blend of aikido and terror advocated by
Seagal in his film work. This recognition as a reincarnation has
raised mirth and surprise or even dismay among other Buddhists
with his authenticity as a holy man regularly ridiculed. Bona
fide Buddhists can indeed not recognize a real Buddhist title,
with respect attached to it, being thus undermined.
Takeshigemichi Shihan is Seagal's title as a teacher of aikido; the term means "Pathway to Prosperity." Through his acting career, Seagal introduced aikido to a new, younger audience with his films in the 1990s.
Under the title Master Take Shigemichi, he was reputedly the first foreigner ever to own and operate an Aikido dojo in Japan, specifically the Aikido Tenshin Dojo in the city of Osaka.
Takeshigemichi's aikido style (i.e. Takeshigemichido) blends a variety of techniques from other traditions. Groin attacks, jailhouse taunts, gunfire, and pressure point assaults are seamlessly integrated into a traditional framework of wristlocks and seiza walking.
Steven Seagal has long-standing peer relationships with animals. Source: http://gucky.guck.netSeagal has been an outspoken opponent of animal cruelty. This is consistent with his views on reincarnation and spirituality, as well as his environmentalist views (as showcased in On Deadly Ground). Seagal is also a vegetarian.
Steven has described his activism method as "shaming companies into changing." He has worked with 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 singlehandedly pressured the Premier of Taiwan to sign legislation limiting animal cruelty. He also prevented the export of baby elephants from South Africa to Japan. For these and other efforts, Seagal was awarded a PETA Humanitarian Award in 1999.
This activism has not diminished in recent years. In 2003, Seagal wrote an open letter to the leadership of Thailand, urging them to enact law to prevent the torture of baby elephants.
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, Steven Seagal offered this story:
In Seagal's early aikido years in Japan, a dog approached him. 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 and thus became the mythical dog.
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