Generally speaking, press tours are terrible and boring, but when it’s Steven Seagal doing them, anything can happen. For one thing, there’s the minefield of potentially touchy subjects, from Seagal’s history of sexual harassment accusations to his status as an apologist both for Vladimir Putin and even Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. Then there’s Seagal himself, who always seems like a bear that’s been roused from hibernation and is grouchy about the all bright lights. Which in turn is always paired with a delusional sense of his own importance, and a “what offensive thing will grand dad say next” tension. It’s magnificent.
This month, Seagal is doing the rounds for Absolution, in which he plays sensitive mercenary John Alexander, opposite Vinnie Jones. Which means he’s doing lots of phoners. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from various interviews.
From The Guardian:
A person watching your films might think you were superhuman though.
I don’t know about that. I’m just a simple country boy.
Sorry, the line broke up, you’re a simple what?
(Raising voice) A SIMPLE COUNTRY BOY.
My God, the possibilities. I can think of 100 Nicholas Sparks movies with Steven Seagal playing the lead. Or a Seagal vehicle called “A Simple Country Boy,” where the poster shows Seagal wearing a straw hat with a stalk of wheat dangling from his teeth, creeping up from behind a grain silo holding a silenced 9 mm. “They took his favorite sheep. Now it’s personal.”
I think that Keoni is one of the brightest young men out there. I think he’s a very good director. I think he has a wonderful story-mind, which is very important – in other words, he doesn’t just have to film what’s on the page; he understands what’s on the page. I think he’s a wonderful director who understands editing, looping, dubbing, mixing, foley… he just understands all of that stuff. He’s a great friend: very ethical and very moral. I’m his biggest fan.
Brother, can you hang on a second?
I’m sorry, that was Manny Pacquiao’s people. They wanted me to possibly come to this Mayweather fight, and I just don’t think I’m going to be here.
I like to think some stoners got a hold of Steven Seagal’s phone number and now spend all day calling him with fake invites, and he never gets the joke. “Hello, Mr. Seagal? This is… (*sound of muffled laughter*) Princess Kate Middleton. The Queen Mum and I were just wondering if you… (*snickers*) would like to be the guest of honor at our… (*more stifled giggling*) uh, fox baptism.” (*unstifled laughter*)
SEAGAL: (*mumbling, muffled sound of belly scratching and a searching for reading glasses*) “Oh, uh… Hi there, Princess… thanks for asking… uh, when is it? My schedule is pretty packed and I don’t keep track of space and time too well…”
From The Guardian:
I always wondered if you were surprised by what happened to your character in Executive Decision.
[Long sigh] What’s the question?
“Mr. Seagal, I asked what you had for lunch.”
“Yeah, but what’s the question.”
(*interviewer at a loss for words*)
(*assistant leans over to whisper in Seagal’s ear*)
“Okay, I’m being told that actually is a question. Sorry, I don’t keep track of words or interactions too well. Anyway, I had a pound of hot pastrami served in a man’s hat. Next question.”
One common thread in these interviews (not surprisingly) is Seagal’s inflated sense of self and his barely disguised hatred of girls.
Seagal: I don’t think my philosophy has changed much. What’s changed is the business, the people, the technology, the attitudes… you know what I mean? It’s like I was saying the other day, I really do the things that people pretend to do. I really am a fully-commissioned police officer. I really do work on the border: I take a machine gun and a plate carrier, and get out there. We go on high-risk warrants, and we chase bad guys. I really do the sh*t people pretend to do in the movies, but that doesn’t matter one bit to anyone because they can take a huge zero of a person – and when I say “zero of a person”, I mean someone who doesn’t have the ability to do any action at all – and make them a huge action star with the technology we have today. You look at [IRON MAN 2]: you can take a girl who has no background in fighting, martial arts or anything, and just turn them into the greatest action person on earth. It’s all really different now. They don’t need someone who really did it or does it or can do it. They just need someone who looks the way they want them to look, and someone who can act – which I understand.
I’m a little curious about the brackets there. How did they just infer that he was talking about Iron Man 2? Like, oh, a zero of a person? Clearly he means Scarlett Johansson.
Not only am I a fan of your work, you’d also had the opportunity to star opposite some truly beautiful actresses? Who are some of your favorites?
There’s a difference between the acting and the physical beauty. Like, with acting I got to work with Marg Helgenberger in FIRE DOWN BELOW. While I don’t think she’s a physical, spectacular, drop dead gorgeous woman, at the same time she’s a spectacular actress.
“I mean, let’s be honest: 2/10, would not bang, but at the same time, great shoulders on her. And a hell of a handsome broad.”
Also from JoBlo:
It’s a little thing called money. If you have the money for those special effects, you can do anything. By virtue of the fact that I’m a real guy, I’m doing [things] in real life that a lot of people pretend to do, what they all pretend to do. In the movies, it doesn’t mean anything. No one cares. But in real life, I do all the things other people pretend to do in the movies. It doesn’t mean nothing.
“Yes, but don’t you ever get bitter?”
Me, I’m Asian. I was raised in Asia and, to be honest with you, my favorite films of all time are really [Akira] Kurosawa films. He was a friend of mine.
[CITATION NEEDED]. For the record, Seagal has claimed to have a Mongolian grandfather, but as far as being “raised in Asia…”
Seagal, Pat [Seagal’s mother, who is not Asian] recalls, spent a deafening part of his teen years holed up in the garage playing rock music. When he wasn’t pumping up the volume, he was pumping up his aikido abilities at a local dojo. “He worked with this nice old Japanese man at a dojo in Garden Grove,” Pat says. “He encouraged Steven to go to Japan.”
Just when Seagal packed up and left for Japan is another confusing matter. During various interviews, he has indicated that it was anywhere from 1968 to 1973. According to enrollment records at Fullerton College, he attended classes there from the fall of 1970 and left after the fall of 1971, putting him at age 19 before he could have departed for a long stay in Japan. The date of his departure is only an issue because Seagal has claimed that he studied with Morihei Uyeshiba, the founder of aikido, who died in 1969. “That story is bull,” says Terry Dobson, a fifth-degree black belt who studied with the master from 1961 to 1969. “[Back then] I never heard of Steven Seagal.”
Whatever the course of his travels, by 1974 Seagal was back in California. [People, from 1990]
Close enough, by Seagal standards. Asian or not, at the very least, he does own several plus-sized kimonos, at least one of them bulletproof.
Okay then, enough fact checking. Let’s wrap this up with some classic guru talk, you know, get real mystical.
Red Beard is one of the most important movies in my life because it’s… I don’t want to say a movie about me, but it’s a movie about someone I tried to emulate subconsciously — or accidentally I should say — in that I am a martial artist, I am a healer, and I am a warrior, and those are the three kind of components that really make up Toshirô [Mifune]’s kind of character, you know? So I particularly relate to that movie on a very deep level.
Only Steven Seagal would feel the need to clarify that a Kurosawa movie made when he was 13 isn’t actually about him. “I can understand how a lot people would make that mistake…”
Jeremy: Your movies have often been about violent men who are on a path to peace and/or enlightenment. There’s obviously a bit of a contradiction there, so I’m curious as to how you reconcile these ideas.
Seagal: In the ultimate way – that’s called the “tao” – we believe that the original calligraphy of “dô” means “war” or “warrior”. But within that kanji for “warrior”, if you dissect it from the beginning, it means from the origin “he who has the ability to stop war”. So in my opinion, in order to be a great warrior, you also have to have the spiritual foundation to want to be a man of God. A peacekeeper. One who keeps the benevolence of society, the greater good and the safety of well being of good people and righteousness above all. That’s kind of how I look at it. Does that make any sense to you?
When I picture Steven Seagal as “one who has the ability to stop war,” I imagine “war” as a running back, and Steven Seagal is that big nosetackle, a real Vince Wilfork type, who can clog up the line and keep war from getting a first down.
Anyway, that’s your Steven Seagal update for the week. And remember: Steven Seagal is a great man. He does the kinds of things in his imagination that people like Scarlett Johansson only pretend to do in superhero movies.
By the way, who was the costume designer on this movie, Steven Seagal?