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Actor Steven Seagal is best known for his starring roles in martial arts films like ‘Hard to Kill and ‘Under Siege.’
Who Is Steven Seagal?
Steven Seagal traveled to Japan at age 17 to teach English. He earned several black belts in martial arts and choreographed movie fight scenes for actors such as Sean Connery. Seagal brought his skills to the screen after returning to the United States, with flicks like Above the Law (1988), Hard to Kill (1989) and Under Siege (1992) making him one of the biggest action stars of the era. He later starred in the reality series Steven Seagal: Lawman and continued churning out action fare well into his 60s.
Early Life and Career
Actor and martial artist Steven Seagal was born on April 10, 1952, in Lansing, Michigan. The son of a nurse and a teacher, he started studying martial arts under Fumio Demura when he was a child. Seagal later traveled to Japan at age 17 where he taught English, studied Zen and perfected his martial arts, eventually earning black belts in aikido, karate, judo and kendo.
Seagal spent 15 years in Asia, studying Eastern philosophy and occasionally choreographing martial arts fight scenes in movies, working with stars such as Sean Connery and Toshiro Mifune. When he returned to the United States, he opened a martial arts academy and became a bodyguard for celebrities like Kelly LeBrock and Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz. The former became Seagal’s wife and the latter helped him make films for Warner Bros.
Films and TV Shows
‘Above the Law,’ ‘Hard to Kill,’ ‘Under Siege’
Seagal’s first film, 1988’s Above the Law was well received among action buffs, leading to 1989’s Hard to Kill and 1992’s Under Siege, his most popular film to date. In 1994, his directorial debut, On Deadly Ground, had disappointing results. He followed with the action vehicles Executive Decision (1996) and The Patriot (1998), and went on to star in Exit Wounds (2001) and Half Past Dead (2002).
‘Lawman,’ ‘True Justice’
Beginning in late 2009, the actor tried his hand at television with A&E’s Steven Seagal: Lawman, which showed him working as a reserve deputy sheriff in Louisiana. True Justice, which aired from July 2011 to September 2012, had Seagal starring as the head of an undercover task force in Seattle, Washington.
Off the Screen
Along with the attention he’s received as a film star, Seagal has made headlines for his off-screen life. Along with hinting at his possible involvement with the CIA, he’s raised suspicion in regards to his work with the Tibetan freedom fighters.
In 1997, Seagal revealed that he had been a given the title of tulku—the reincarnation of the Buddhist lama—by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. Even through the skepticism, he has consistently been a student of Buddhism.
In 2013, Seagal again turned heads due to his relationship with Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused of kidnapping and torturing Islamic insurgents and their families. He visited Kadyrov’s home in the capital city of Grozny in May, before returning to Chechnya in October, when he was spotted at a gala concert dedicated to Grozny’s 195th anniversary.
Seagal also became close with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in 2018 the 66-year-old actor was named the country’s special representative to the U.S. to promote “cooperation in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges,” according to Russia’s foreign ministry. Seagal tweeted that he was “deeply humbled and honored” to earn the appointment, adding that he aimed to “strive for peace, harmony and positive results in the world.”