Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Under Siege

If you are martial arts folk, you know who Steven Seagal is. If you missed all his movies back in the day -- before they started going straight to DVD without theatrical release -- he was an aikido action star.

These days, he has -- had -- a reality cop show in New Orleans -- and sings the blues.

Figuratively and literally, on the last. And he's not bad as a singer/player, though Son House's reputation isn't in jeopardy there.

Seagal is also a Buddhist, and supposedly the current reincarnation of a high lama, too.

There has always been some controversy about the man. Something to do with whether or not he was a covert op. Or if he was in bed with the mob. He was cagey about claims, but when asked about being a spook, he would smile and allow as how he couldn't talk about it, a classic no-comment that might as well have been spoken aloud as yes, when in fact he was never.

I got a secondhand story from a buddy who told me he and a Vietnam pal used to bump into Seagal and get him going, on stuff about which he was supposedly an expert and about which they were experts. They'd make up hardware, he said, M-59 grenade launchers or somesuch and watch him nod -- Yeah, he knew about those ...

At one point, he was being extorted by some wiseguy, and the feds stepped in.

There is some question as to which other martial artist kicked his ass. (I've heard that Seagal invited a stunt man on the set of Under Siege, the well-known and regarded "Judo" Gene LeBell, to put him in a choke-hold so that he could demonstrate an escape -- only the escape didn't work and he was rendered unconscious on the set. Always a bad idea to allow somebody like LeBell to get the hold, and then try the technique. Or even have him in the same room.)

And here of late, Seagal is getting accused of sexual harassment.

How low the mighty have fallen. Read the sordid tale here ...


Dave Huss said...

A distant relitive of mine, Gay Talese, did a best selling book on the Bonanno crime family from New York. Old daddy Joe was one of the five familys Mafia crime bosses. A real badass. A big chunk of it was about the son, Salvador Bonanno and what a piece he was. When Sonny got out of Federal Prison in California in the 80's he went Hollywood and put the arm on Steven Seagal. Extorted a lot of money out of him over a long time and basicly scared the shit out of him. It went so far as Seagal got him a bit part in "Out for Justice". So much for Seagal's rep as a tough guy.

Justin said...

The Gene LeBell story is the stuff of legend. When told with gusto, it would get anyone to bust up laughing.

"Yeah, but Gene...what if I did this to you?"

"I'd choke you out."

"Yeah, but my aikido is so superior to --"

"I'd choke you out."

Sensei Gene is one of the true masters and true characters in martial arts. I got to do some training under him and undefeated judoka Gokor Chivichyan at Hyastan MMA Academy in North Hollywood. Problem was, I'd go in for a class, get the tar stretched out of me, then not be fit to attend for another few weeks -- thus starting back at square one.

James said...

An egotist in Hollyweird. Who da thunk it?
The reality show wasn't bad. I saw Seagal take out a bad guy on the FATS machine with a head shot at what looked like about 40 feet. That's good shootin'.
A cop/military buddy of mine was assigned to NY customs after 9/11 and met Seagal. Said he was a really nice guy.
Guess we all got problems.

Steve Perry said...

We all have problems. Some of us have more than others.

Yeah, you could tell from the movies that Seagal spent some quality time at the handgun range. And he was a serious aikido guy back in the day.

On the other hand, his personal life with women seems to have been an ongoing train wreck. He went to Japan to study, married his aikido teacher's daughter, then deserted her, to move back to the U.S.

He started hustling his way into the movies -- he was teaching high-end producers and agents and doing bodyguard work. Talked Michael Ovitz, the guy who created CAA and the concept of movie-packaging -- into giving him a shot. Married a TV soap actress -- before his divorce from the Japanese wife became final, as I heard it. Then he dumped that wife, married Kelly LeBrock. She left him when she caught him making nick-nick with the kids' nanny.

He got sued for using the casting couch when he was a producer: So, this movie has a nude scene. Take off your dress and let's have a look ...

And now these accusations. Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but there seems to be an awful lot of smoke that might portend fire.

As long as Seagal stayed an action star, he probably would have had a nice Chuck Norris career. But after Under Siege hit it big, he wanted to write, direct, produce, and act in his movies. When you are hot in Hollywood, they don't say no to you.

Sometimes they should.

The results of Seagal taking over the reins were some of the biggest turkeys ever to hit the silver screen. When a guy goes from being a top action star to making movies straight-to-video? Not the arc he wants. He's been in, like thirty-seven movies. The first seven, starting with Above the Law and running until Under Siege, were good, clean, violent fun.

Then came The Gimmer Man, Fire Down Below, The Patriot, and a raft of other stinkers. He's been nominated for nine Razzie Awards, (but only won one for Worst Director.) In 1998, he got four nominations: Worst Actor, Worst Original Song, Worst Screen Couple, and Worst PIcture ...

And it didn't make things any better that the tall and lean guy had to start wearing long, loose and floppy shirts to disguise his shape. The story is that he was poisoned by an enemy and almost died, and that it wrecked his health and that's why he put on all the weight.

Yep, that's the story.

Supposedly, he broke Sean Connery's wrist in Never Say Never Again, and there are more than a couple of actors who seem to have, um, less than high opinions of the guy.

He projects a certain arrogance in his action roles that goes well with the characters he portrays. You always wonder when you see that how much of it is the role and how much the actor.

On the other hand, he likes dogs, so I give him that.

Justin said...

It's also hilarious to watch just how low and angled-up they had to place the camera on his "high" kicks to make them look better than knee-level.

Blake Erven said...

Don't forget his energy drink:

It's been unavailable for half a decade yet he keeps the site live for seemingly no reason.

Interesting parallel to his acting career...

Dan Gambiera said...

Steve, he's practicing perfectly good Buddhism. It's obvious he has no attachments to any of those women. Or to his money. His career. His reputation...

Stan said...

One of the best comments I've heard about M. Seagal's career was a throw-away line in the movie, "In and Out," Where Glenn Close read the list of Best Actor, "Oscar" nominees, ending with, "and Steven Seagal, for 'Snowball in Hell."

I used to enjoy his movies, then I realized that he actually only has three moves: a kesanage "scarf-style" forearm strike to the chest; a moroyubitori (multiple finger hold) that locks up the "bad guy's" arm; and a simple katatetori (wrist lock) taking the "bad guy" into a straight-over.
Of course, he mixes in short punches, chops and leg strikes...but he's basically done exactly the same thing in each flick.

Then again, I've never even been on the set of an action flick, so I have to admit that he's been more successful than me, in that arena.

Have a great weekend, Folki!

Ian SADLER said...

Hi Stan,

I don't know your M.A. background, so my apologies if I offend.

The three moves you refer to in Aikido parlance would be

1. Irimi Nage (entering throw), his more 'direct' version would be the ki no nagare method.

2. Sankyo (third teaching), I think grabbing the fingers is less preferable to the entire back of the hand. Fingers means you have more joints to control before the body as a whole is affected.

3. Kote Gaeshi (gauntlet counter), a fave of most Aikido-ka, as the ukemi (break fall) can be done in a manner that makes the practitioner look good, even if the technique is crap. Hmmmm I wonder if that ever occurred to M. Seagal?

The only other move that stands out in my memory, is his koshi nage (hip throw), from a bar room brawl in 'On Deadly Ground'. Haven't seen the movie since it's first release, but my memory of that throw is that it looked kinda good..

Stan said...

Greetings, Ian!

Nope, no offense at all. One of the advanced students in our dojo had Akido training, prior to his jujitsu. He would also identify the similar techniques and call them by the names he first learned.

As to the throws used by M. Seagal; yes, most of them were off his hip (Goshi Nage), either forward or backward. And the "straight over" to which I had previously referred did come from the "KoteGaeshi" following the Katatetori wrist lock.... Most likely for the exact reason you noted, Ian. A good Uke can make even a sloppy Tori look good, as long as he is practicing solid Sutemi/Ukemi!

Thanks for the thoughts! Have a great weekend.

James said...

@ Dan, That was just freakin' great!

But who the hell screws around on Kelly Le Brock? Why?!!? We're talkin' involuntary psychiatric commitment here.