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Steven F. Seagal (born April 10, 1952) is an American action film actor, producer, writer, martial artist, guitarist, and deputy sheriff. A 7th-dan black belt in aikido, Seagal began his adult life as an aikido instructor in Japan. He became the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan.He later moved to the Los Angeles, California, area where he made his film debut in 1988 in Above the Law. Since then, Seagal has become a major action star, mainly due to his films of the 1990s, such as Under Siege (1992) and Under Siege 2 (1995), where he played Navy SEALs counter-terrorist expert Casey Ryback. In total, his movies have earned in excess of $923 million worldwide.

Seagal is also a recording artist and guitarist and the founder of Steven Seagal Enterprises. In addition to his professional achievements, he is also known as an environmentalist, an animal rights activist and a supporter of the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, and the Tibetan independence movement.

Early life and career

Seagal was born in Lansing, Michigan, where he lived until he was five years old. His mother, Patricia (1930–2003), was a medical technician, and his father, Samuel Steven Seagal (1928–1991), was a high school math teacher. His mother was Irish American and his father was Jewish. The family relocated to Fullerton, California, where Seagal attended Buena Park High School in Buena Park, California.

Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico, with his student—and later a film stuntman—Craig Dunn. There, they opened a dojo, but Seagal spent much of his time pursuing other ventures. Dunn stayed in New Mexico and continued to run the dojo. After another period in Japan, Seagal returned to the U.S. in 1983 with senior student Haruo Matsuoka. They opened an aikido dojo, initially in Burbank, California, but later moved it to the city of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997. It was during that period that Seagal first found himself in contact with Hollywood. Initially, he worked as the martial arts coordinator for the films The Challenge (1982) starring Scott Glenn and Toshirô Mifune, and Never Say Never Again (1983) starring Sean Connery.

Hollywood career

1990s

In 1987, Seagal began work on his first film, Above the Law (titled Nico in Europe), with director Andrew Davis and reportedly as a favor to a former aikido student, the agent Michael Ovitz, who believed he could make anyone a star. Following its success, Seagal made three more movies – Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice – that were box office hits, making him an action hero. Later, he achieved wider, mainstream success in 1992 with the release of Under Siege (1992). That film reunited Seagal with director Andrew Davis, and was a blockbuster in the U.S. and abroad, grossing $156.4 million worldwide.

Seagal then directed On Deadly Ground (1994). This film, in which he also starred, emphasized environmental and spiritual themes, signaling a break with his previous persona as a genre-ready inner-city cop. The film featured Michael Caine and a small role by Billy Bob Thornton.

Following the general critical disappointment of On Deadly Ground, Seagal filmed a sequel to one of his most successful films, Under Siege, titled Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), and cop drama The Glimmer Man (1996). In 1996, he had his first supporting role, in the Kurt Russell film Executive Decision (1996), which featured him in a starring role, but kept secret the fate of his character, who was killed in the film's first act. He subsequently made another environmentally-conscious film, Fire Down Below (1997), wherein he was an EPA agent fighting industrialists dumping toxic waste in the Kentucky hills, but the movie was commercially unsuccessful. This film ended his original multi-picture contract with Warner Bros.

Direct-to-video work

The next year, Seagal made The Patriot, another environmental thriller which was his first direct-to-video release in the United States (though it was released theatrically in most of the world). Seagal produced this film with his own money, and the film was shot on-location on and near his farm in Montana.

After producing Prince of Central Park, Seagal returned to cinema screens with the release of Exit Wounds in March 2001. The film had fewer martial arts scenes than Seagal's previous films, but it was a commercial success, taking almost $80 million worldwide. However, he was unable to capitalize on this success and his next two projects were both critical and commercial failures. Ticker co-starring Tom Sizemore and Dennis Hopper, and filmed in San Francisco before Exit Wounds, went straight to DVD while Half Past Dead, starring rap star Ja Rule, made less than $20 million worldwide.

All of the films Seagal has made since the latter half of 2001 have been released direct-to-video (DTV) in North America, with some theatrical releases to other countries around the world. Seagal is credited as a producer and sometimes a writer on many of these DTV movies, which include Black Dawn, Belly of the Beast, Out of Reach, Submerged, Kill Switch, Urban Justice, Pistol Whipped, Against the Dark, Driven to Kill, A Dangerous Man, and The Keeper, a movie released in Japan fifteen weeks earlier than the United States. His latest film, Born To Raise Hell, was in post-production as of 2010.

Critical reception and image

While his screen presence in Above the Law gained praise from Roger Ebert, others have surmised that Seagal's unorthodox approach to film is actually an elaborate joke. In at least one commercial for Orange SA, Seagal pokes fun at his action star archetype.

Regarding his career, Seagal has stated, "I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol." Seagal has clarified the purpose of his films: "Above the Law was a politically conscientious movie. On Deadly Ground was environmentally conscientious so I want to keep making movies like that which are more geared with a certain entertainment value but also bring people forward into contemplation."

Music

In addition to acting and aikido, Seagal also plays the guitar, and his songs have been featured in several of his movies (such as Fire Down Below and Ticker). In 2005, he released his first album, Songs from the Crystal Cave, which has a mix of pop, world, and blues music. It features duets with Tony Rebel, Lt. Stichie, Lady Saw, and Stevie Wonder. The soundtrack to Seagal's 2005 film Into the Sun features several songs from the album. One of his album tracks, "Girl It's Alright", was also released as a single in parts of the world alongside an accompanying music video created for it.

Seagal's second album, titled Mojo Priest, was released in April 2006. Subsequently, he spent summer 2006 touring the United States and Europe with his band, Thunderbox, in support of the album.

Law enforcement work

Seagal is currently a Reserve Deputy Chief of the Sheriff's Office in the community of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Seagal has a second home in Louisiana, and spends several months a year there. He says that he graduated from a police academy in California and has a certificate from Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST), an organization that accredits California police officers. In television commercials broadcast prior to the premiere of his reality television series, Steven Seagal: Lawman, he says he has been a police officer for 20 years. However, according to a December 2, 2009 Los Angeles Times commentary, P.O.S.T. has no record of this, and his deputy chief rank is ceremonial only. It should be noted, however, that an individual can serve as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff at certain agencies in the state of Louisiana without being P.O.S.T. certified provided he/she is partnered with another P.O.S.T. certified deputy. In November 2008, A&E announced that they had begun taping Steven Seagal: Lawman, which follows his work in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office. The series premiered on A&E on December 2, 2009. Seagal stated that "I’ve decided to work with A&E on this series now because I believe it’s important to show the nation all the positive work being accomplished here in Louisiana—to see the passion and commitment that comes from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in this post-Katrina environment." The series premiere drew 3.6 million viewers, ranking as best season opener for any original A&E series ever.

On April 14, 2010, The series was suspended indefinitely by Jefferson Parish, Louisiana Sheriff Newell Normand due to the sexual trafficking lawsuit filed against Seagal

Business ventures

Seagal Enterprises markets an energy drink known as Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt, as well as an herbal oil product line.Seagal personally endorses this drink, saying, "I have traveled the world creating this drink; there is none better that I know." He also has his own aftershave called Scent of Action.

Activism

Seagal has described his activism method as "shaming companies into changing," a theme that is visible in such films as On Deadly Ground and Fire Down Below. He has worked with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to discourage the fur trade, and has written to the Prime Minister of India to seek increased legal protection for cows. Seagal worked effectively towards saving dogs destined to drown in Taiwan.

In 1999, Seagal was awarded a PETA Humanitarian Award. In 2003, Seagal wrote an open letter to the leadership of Thailand, urging them to enact law to prevent the torture of baby elephants

Outside of his film work, Seagal has volunteered, lending his voice as a narrator for an activist film project, Medicine Lake Video, which seeks to protect sacred tribal ground near his ranch in Siskiyou County.

Personal life

An only son, Seagal has three sisters, one older and two younger. He owns a dude ranch in Colorado and a home in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, a wealthy neighborhood in Los Angeles. He has adopted many animals from shelters, including the cats Sylvester and Gap, and the dogs Gruff, Cole, Tyson, Hamlet, and Chaos. Seagal travels back and forth to a home in Eads, Tennessee, a rural unincorporated area located just east of Memphis, Tennessee.

After Seagal left his first wife Miyako Fujitani to go back to the United States, he married former Days of our Lives actress Adrienne La Russa, despite his divorce to Fujitani not yet being finalized. During his marriage to La Russa he met actress/model Kelly LeBrock, with whom he began a relationship and who eventually became pregnant with his child. When news of this emerged, Seagal's marriage to La Russa was annulled and he then married LeBrock on September 5, 1987. In 1994, LeBrock filed divorce papers citing "irreconcilable differences". During this time it emerged that Seagal was having an affair with Arissa Wolf, who was hired to be a nanny to Seagal and Lebrock's children.

Seagal has six children from three relationships. With Fujitani, he had a son, model and actor Kentaro Seagal, and a daughter, writer and actress, Ayako Fujitani. His three children with LeBrock are daughters Annaliza and Arissa, and son Dominic. Seagal and Arissa Wolf have one daughter, Savannah.

In addition to his biological children, Seagal's Tibetan Buddhist beliefs have also placed him in the role of guardian to a Tibetan child, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo. Rinzinwangmo, or "Renji", is the only child of the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet. Renji studied in the United States at American University, and Seagal was her guardian and bodyguard

2010 lawsuit

On April 12, 2010, 23-year-old Kayden Nguyen former executive/personal assistant of Seagal filed a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment, illegal trafficking of females for sex, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and false representation about employment. Nguyen claims that she was asked to join Seagal's harem which included two Russian women and was to be a replacement of one of the Russian women who had sex with Seagal. Seagal's attorney Marty Singer released this statement on April 13, 2010, "The lawsuit filed by Kayden Nguyen against Steven Seagal is a ridiculous and absurd claim by a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired." Nguyen is suing for over one million dollars.

On April 14, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana Sheriff Newell Normand announced he will not launch an investigation into Seagal unless a criminal complaint is filed in Jefferson Parish by the accuser.

Martial arts

Seagal is a 7th Degree Black Belt in aikido. He has also helped train UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.

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