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 crapped his pants.
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.
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 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.