The ’80s and ’90s were a golden age for American action films. The genre launched the careers of icons like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mel Gibson, along with a whole pantheon of popular B-listers such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, and an intriguing martial-arts-instructor-turned-movie-star named Steven Seagal.
Seagal’s fighting style was aikido (he was the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan), which focuses on blocks, parries, throws, and other defensive moves, so his action scenes were unlike anything in American movies at the time. And so was Seagal himself. It wasn’t long before some truly crazy Steven Seagal stories began to emerge, and he developed a reputation as one of the strangest and most difficult-to-work-with stars in the industry.
There are a lot of insane things about Steven Seagal, and this list looks at some of the weirdest and most troubling ones that have emerged over the years. From his obscure music career to his new status as “Russian citizen Steven Seagal” and the fact that he’s a living god (no lie!), there’s a reason he’s continued to fascinate us over the years. And now Russia gets to have Steven Seagal, too!
He Crapped His Pants When a Judo Legend Choked Him Out
According to some accounts, as Segal’s star rose high in the Hollywood sky, he began to believe his own hype. Apparently, at the height of his fame, he once claimed to be immune to a judo choke hold. To prove this claim, he instigated stunt man and martial arts legend Gene LeBell to choke him. LeBell obliged.
As it turns out, Seagal was not, and probably still is not, immune to judo. LeBell choked ol’ Stevie until he passed out and crapp
A Dead Puppy, 115 Euthanized Chickens, and a House Crushed by a Tank for Reality TV
At one point, Seagal had his own reality show, Steven Seagal: Lawman. On this show, he played cop for real in Maricopa County, AZ, alongside pillar of the community Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who once said, “I don’t use e-mail or u-mail or whatever it’s called.” Boyish hijinks ensued.
During one arrest, Steven bravely drove a SWAT tank through the front wall of notorious cock-fighting master criminal Jesus Llovera’s compound. Llovera’s alleged crime was keeping 115 chickens on his property to use in illegal fights. Someone forgot the first rule of Chicken Fight Club and squawked to Seagal.
During the raid, Llovera’s puppy was killed, and the 115 chickens were euthanized.
He’s Buddies with Putin, Who Made Seagal a Russian Citizen
Who doesn’t want Steven Seagal to be a citizen of their country? Russia got lucky here, really. Steven was probably open to this because Russia’s run by a kindred spirit of his, Vladimir Putin. As Claire Suddath wrote in Bloomberg in 2013, before Seagal was granted citizenship by the modern czar himself,
As it turns out, Seagal and Putin pal around quite a bit. The actor has dined with the Russian leader, gone with him to sporting events, and attended state functions. The two “have long been friends and regularly meet each other,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Russian Itar-Tass News Agency in March…
In Russia, C-list action stars are adored without irony, and Putin and Seagal seem to have bonded over, among other tough-guy traits, a shared affinity for martial arts.
The friendship helped get Seagal involved in the war on terror. When US lawmakers traveled to Russia to investigate the perpetrators of the Boston marathon bombing, Seagal escorted them to their meetings. According to Representative Dana Rohrabacher, “Seagal opened some doors.”
Seagal praised Putin’s annexation of Crimea, saying Ukraine is run by fascists and needs a leader like ol’ Vladdy to liberate it. He also appeared at a 100,000-person strong motorcycle rally in Sevastopol, Crimea, in support of Putin. When Seagal called Putin “one of the greatest living world leaders,” Estonia revoked an invitation for him perform at a blues festival there.
He Likes to Establish Himself as Alpha Male
Steven Seagal seems to be very insecure. He tries to establish authority over all other people in any situation (except probably with Putin, because does he really want a nuke up his ass?). According to John Leguizamo, things got a little hairy when the two were cast in Executive Decision.
We were in rehearsals for Executive Decision. I’m playing his Master Sargeant and we come in for rehearsals and he says, ‘I’m in command. Everything I say is law. Anybody doesn’t agree?’
I was like, ‘Bwahahaha.’ I started cracking up because he sounded like a retard and he came up and he Taekwondo’ed my ass against the brick and he [hit me with his elbow]… He’s six-foot-five and he caught me off guard and knocked all of the air out of me and I was like, ‘Why?! Why?!’ I really wanted to say how big and fat he was and that he runs like a girl, but I didn’t because all I could say was, ‘Why?!’
Leguizamo incorporated this story into a stand up routine, which really pissed ol’ Stevie off. “His publicist told my publicist that he wants to punch me out,” the actor revealed. Seagal also pulled his alpha routine on the stunt co-ordinator of Exit Wounds.
I was training DMX on the soundstage and Seagal showed up and was throwing a few guys around on some mats… I waited till he was finished and walked over and introduced myself. I figured ‘Why wait, he’s going to see me around anyway?’ But I wasn’t wearing a cup. I had left it in LA.
So I stood kind of sideways just in case he decided to suddenly kick me in the family jewels. During the conversation he moved to where he was standing square with me. So while I was chatting with him I slowly moved back to where I was semi sideways again. He moved again to square up with me. I’m thinking, ‘This is not happening.’ So I switch to where my right foot was forward, turning sideways again the other direction.
I was doing this very subtly. He had that ‘look’ in his eyes as he squared up with me again. I smiled, folded my hands in front of my groin and said I had to get going and walked away. It was very weird.
He Has a Way with Women. A Very Bad Way
Steven Seagal is a movie star. It should be easy for him to hook up with lovely ladies, like all the characters he plays in his movies. But he just keeps messing this up.
He sexually harassed Jenny McCarthy in a bizarre and repulsive encounter she describes thus:
I’m listening to him go on and on about how he found his soul in Asia and is one with himself and whatever. When I said, “Well, I’m ready to read,” he said, “Stand up, you have to be kind of sexy in the movie and in that dress, I can’t tell.” I stand up and he goes, “Take off your dress.”
He also sexually harassed Ray Charles’s granddaughter, Blair Robinson (“It became clear to me that he wanted and expected sexual favors as part of my job duties.”). And four office assistants on the set of Out For Justice, a movie that could be construed as a sexual assault on the art of cinema. His ex-wife, Kelly LeBrock, was so frightened after their divorce she basically went into hiding in the wilds of Santa Barbara.
On top of all that, a former assistant filed a lawsuit against Seagal, alleging sexual harassment, sex trafficking, false representation about employment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. According to Jiu-Jitsue Times, “Kayden Nguyen accuses the actor of sexually abusing her three times, and in one situation, she had to escape Seagal’s home in New Orleans. Nguyen claims Seagal keeps two Russian attendants who have to be ready for him at all times.”
He Is a Citizen of, and Cultural Institution in, Serbia
In January 2016, months before making headlines for being ordained a Russian citizen by Vladimir Putin, Seagal was granted citizenship in Serbia. Though perhaps random to the outside world, the presentation of citizenship to Seagal came perfectly naturally to many Serbs. In addition to being a hugely popular musician in the country, Seagal has trained Serbian special forces in aikido, met with the country’s president and other top officials, and hopes to one day open a dojo in Belgrade.
A passionate defender of the character of the Serbian people, Seagal has vowed to do all he can to promote a positive international image of Serbia, to combat what he feels are unfair prejudices based on the country’s role in the Balkan conflict.
He Owns a Bulletproof Leather Jacket That Looks Like a Kimono
There’s a company in Colombia that makes stylish bulletproof clothing for rich people. Seagal wanted in on this fashion trend, and decided his best choice was a kimono. Or rather, an oversized leather jacket that kind of looks like a kimono. You can check it out at 5:23 in the video profile above. It’s enormous, and performed the triple duty of protecting Seagal’s life and ego, while slimming his waistline.
This is hardly the only bizarre piece of clothing Seagal owns. He appeared in court to testify against the mob in what was described as “a chocolate-colored silk Mandarin jacket and blue jeans.”
His Music Is Terrible, His Lyrics Are Genius
Ol’ Stevie released an album in 2005 called Songs from the Crystal Cave. He describes its sound as “outsider country-meets-world music-meets-Aikido.” Somehow, he convinced Lady Saw (!) and Stevie Wonder (!!!) to appear on the album. In the liner notes, Seagal is listed as performing vocals, rhythm & lead guitar, drums, percussion, and clay pot.
Seagal co-wrote most of the music and lyrics for the record, and came up with some of the most insightful, artistic, poetic words this side of Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. Some noteworthy lyrics from the record include:
“My philosophy’s from outer space” “I could ruin your livelihood/I could kill you I would/With the messiest sh*t you ever heard/I could trash your lip, mutate ya /You might lose your wife I might destroy your life” “The last school I know would f*ck you for money/Hey man this is freedom of the press/ Who you mean feedin’ the f*ckers for free?/Hey man this is our constitution and you know the fifth f*ckin ammendment/You turn this piece of paper into a weapon of mass destruction our forefathers would be rollin’ over in their graves” “Girl what you really want all night/Me want the buddy, make me feel nice/Boy what you really want all night/Me want the poonani, see for make nice/She want the buddy/Him want the poonani/And me know it nice”
He Tells Dubious Tales About His Past
It’s easy to see why Steven Seagal wanted to be a movie star. He loves making up stories. Supposedly, he was a student of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba died in 1968, when Seagal was 14. If this story is true, Seagal was living alone in Japan at 13 or 14. There are reports of Seagal hanging around Ueshiba’s studio in the late ’60s/early ’70s, though it’s unlikely his time there overlapped with when Ueshiba was teaching.
Seagal also claims he helped train CIA agents in Japan, telling the Los Angels Times, “They saw my abilities, both with martial arts and with the language. You could say that I became an advisor to several CIA agents in the field and through my friends in the CIA, met many powerful people and did special works and special favors.” His wife at the time denies he was involved with the CIA, but isn’t that what the CIA would want her to say?
What else? Well, Ol’ Steven has said he’s of Italian descent, but his his mom says he’s Jewish and Irish. He also apparently fought the yakuza with the help of the American Mafia, as one does. Oh, and he’s supposedly one of the world’s foremost experts on swords, claiming he’s regularly retained by auction houses for authentification purposes.
He Has Taken Credit for Multiple UFC Championships
According to Seagal, he not only taught Anderson Silva the kick used to knockout Vitor Belfort, but also provided the strategy that led to a first round KO in that championship bout.
I couldn’t have been happier because right before he walked out I said stay away from him for the first 2 or 3 minutes… just kind of get him frustrated and then fake low and come high and do that kick that I’ve been teaching you… and kick him to the head or the face. He did exactly what I said and exactly what I wanted to happen happened.
During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in 2012, Seagal took credit for some more UFC wins.
I am teaching Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida… I show them, you know, a lot. Not everything I know, but I show them punches and what we call Ashi Sabaki, which means how you move with your feet, how you enter, hand angle, joints, but mostly I’m teaching them kicks and punches…
There is a signature kick that I’ve taught them that they’ve knocked champions out with and won world championships with.
Silva dismissed Seagal’s claims, anf distanced himself from ol’ Stevie in 2013. In 2015, a video appeared on Youtube showing Silva and his team mocking Seagal’s training techniques. Many believe Seagal’s association with UFC was a publicity stunt by the league.
He Scoured the Wilds of Asia to Design an All-Natural, Sizzling Nutraceutical Beverage
Add “master herbalogist” to Steven Seagal’s increasingly bloated resume. In 2005, he launched an energy drink. Or, rather, a nutraceutical beverage called Lightning Bolt. It’s best to let the product’s press release speak for itself:
Maintaining an unrelenting schedule that would tire younger entrepreneurs, the 54-year-old Seagal has just completed two movies, Into the Sun and Submerged. His album, Songs from the Crystal Cave, released earlier this year, has already hit the pop charts in Europe. Lightning Bolt Energy Drink(TM) is the result of Seagal’s travels in Asia in search of the botanicals believed to keep many locals disease-free for life. Seagal says he discovered the benefits of Asian Cordyceps (one of the most rare and treasured botanicals used in Chinese and Tibetan medicine for thousands of years) while researching immune builders in Asia. It promotes energy, vitality and longevity. Other unique ingredients of the drink include the Tibetan Goji Berry, a powerful anti-oxidant and a juice concentrate with a patented process that contains naturally occurring policosanols. Policosanols have been shown in clinical studies to lower cholesterol.
Lightning Bolt is the first energy drink made from 100% natural juice… “I have traveled the world creating this drink; there is none better that I know,” says Seagal, who frequented Tibet and Japan in the 1960s and 1970s while learning Buddhism, martial arts and herbalogy. “I have included in this drink everything I could to strengthen the body.”
As of 2015, Lightning Bolt is discontinued.
Steven Seagal, Vegetarian, Animal Rights Activist, and PETA Honoree
Steven Seagal, a vegetarian, has worked with PETA to dissuade consumers from purchasing fur products, in contradiction to his puppy-and-chicken killing activities on reality television.
In 1999, Seagal was decorated with a PETA Humanitarian Award for preventing the export of baby elephants from South African to Japan. In 2003, he wrote a letter to the government of Thailand asking the country to consider legislation preventing the torture of baby elephants. He similarly wrote to the prime minister of India regarding cows.
According to the Animal Liberation Front, “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 perception.'” Films like On Deadly Ground and Fire Down Below reflect Seagal’s stance on animals and the environment.
Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Seagal: A Towering Figure in Modern American Literature
A profile in Vanity Fair says it all:
One day, an executive walked into Seagal’s trailer and found Hollywood’s reigning manly man… weeping. ‘Oh, I’m reading this script,’ Seagal explained, still misty. ‘It’s the most incredible script I’ve ever read.’
‘That’s fantastic,’ the executive said, ‘Who wrote it?’
Seagal didn’t miss a beat. ‘I did,’ he replied.
The Banner Photo on His Official Website
His IMDB Bio Dubs Him Lord Steven
Before you read this, keep in mind IMDb is not Wikipedia. Not just any Internet fanboy can come along and edit a celebrity’s profile. The copy you read there is heavily controlled, filtered through agents and image consultants, so as to present the celebrity in the best possible light.
Here’s how Steven Seagal’s IMDb bio introduces him:
Steven Seagal is a striking and somewhat boyishly handsome (often with ponytail) action star who burst onto the martial arts film scene in 1988 in the fast-paced Warner Bros. film Above the Law (1988).
Seagal carries himself differently [from other action stars], too, and often appears wearing Italian designer clothes and usually favors an all-black outfit, generally with a three-quarter-length coat with an elaborate trim. Additionally, Seagal’s on-screen characters were often seemingly benign or timid individuals; however, when the going gets rough they reveal themselves to be deadly ex-CIA operatives, or retired Special Forces soldiers capable of enormous destruction!
It also gives him the nicknames “Lord Steven” and “The Great One.”
He Tangled with the Mafia IRL After His Spiritual Awakening
Steven Seagal made a whole movie where he beats up mobsters. It was called Above The Law, his first starring role, the one that put him on the map. It also got him noticed by the real-life Mafia, who, it turns out, aren’t as nice as they’re shown to be in movies.
They tried to shake him down through his agent, who warned them Seagal doesn’t scare easily (“You really gotta get down on him. ‘Cause I know this animal, I know this beast. You know, unless there’s a fire under his ass.”). After a handful of meetings, Seagal agreed to star in a slate of action films for the wiseguys, though reneged when he had a spiritual awakening and decided to star in less violent fare and devote his life to the compassion of the Buddha (this never happened).
Long story short, Seagal testified against the wiseguys in court. Bada bing bada boom! Not so funny now, are ya, guys?
A Mystical Dog Saved His Dojo
Apparently, while Seagal was living in Japan in the ’70s, he met a mystical dog. He described feeling as though he’d known the animal, which was all white and wore no collar, his entire life. The dog lived with Seagal for a few days. On the final day of its stay, it flew into a barking fit, alerting Seagal that his aikido dojo was on fire. The warning allowed Seagal and friends to extinguish the flames and save the dojo. The dog vanished while they were doing so, and ol’ Stevie never saw it again.
He’s the 17th Reincarnation of a Venerated Tibetan Treasure Revealer
Penor Rinpoche, a venerated Tibetan Buddhist monk believed to be a reincarnation of Indian monk Vimalamitra, recognized Steven Seagal as the reincarnation of Chungrag Dorje, a treasure revealer who founded a Tibetan monastery. As Rimpoche explained:
In February of 1997 I recognized my student, Steven Seagal, as a reincarnation (tulku) of the treasure revealer Chungdrag Dorje…
Traditionally a tulku is considered to be a reincarnation of a Buddhist master who, out of his or her compassion for the suffering of sentient beings, has vowed to take rebirth to help all beings attain enlightenment. To fulfill this aspiration, a tulku will generally need to go through the complete process of recognition, enthronement and training.
Rimpoche went on to clarify that, while Seagal is recognized as the reincarnation of an important man, he should not be thought of as a holy person.
In the case of Steven Seagal, he has been formally recognized as a tulku, but has not been officially enthroned. He has also not undergone the lengthy process of study and practice necessary to fully realize what I view as his potential for helping others.
Rinpoche even addressed Seagal’s career in his statement:
As for Steven Seagal’s movie career, my concern is with the qualities I experienced within him which relate to his potential for benefiting others and not with the conventional details of his life which are wholly secondary. Some people think that because Steven Seagal is always acting in violent movies, how can he be a true Buddhist? Such movies are for temporary entertainment and do not relate to what is real and important.