Look, he says, in real life, justice takes a bit longer than a 90-minute movie. “And you have to worry about children and the elderly being nearby, or good Samaritans wanting to jump in and help. If something doesn’t go right on a movie set you just do it again.” Action star Steven Seagal is also a bona fide lawman, with a badge, and is well aware of the difference between justice on screen and off, as he explains here as he’s about to leave for Australia for An Evening with Steven Seagal.
Think action hero and a few names jump to mind. But count them on one hand and you won’t run out of fingers. Seagal is right up there. He’s 67 in April, still making movies. In fact his next one is going to be a sequel to that very first film, the one that launched him in the ’80s, 36 films ago.
He’s always strived to be the thinking man’s action star, the martial-artist with a conscience, and it’s brought us some great characters. Like the chef who takes on terrorists aboard the battleship Missouri.
He’s of Russian Jewish background and two years ago was granted citizenship of Russia where he now lives. President Vladimir Putin, no less, welcomed him.
Your first film, Above the Law (1988), was a hit which began a career now up to its 36th film – ironically, Above the Law 2. How have you managed to keep doing it for so long? Hollywood and moviemaking is tough and when people ask me how they get into showbusiness I tell them they should look at doing something else [laughs]. It hasn’t been easy. The landscape of moviemaking has changed over the years and tastes have changed since I began in the ’80s. From blockbuster tough-guy action movies to your special-effects-driven comic-based movies. Yes, I’ve been lucky to be doing it for as long as I have thanks to a fantastic fan base.
On screen you’re strong, in control, winning against the odds . . . but real life is never as easy. How hard is to keep believing in yourself, and your product, when you're surrounded by the relentlessly negative people this industry throws up? You have to believe in yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t get out of bed each day. This is a job. I get paid to beat up bad guys and make sure good triumphs over evil. We just constantly have to come up with new ways to make that exciting on screen. I won’t have negative people around me, so being based in Russia and spending a lot of time in Asia, I don’t have a lot of industry people around me unless I’m on set.
You have to believe in yourself or you wouldn’t get out of bed each day. I get paid to beat up bad guys – we have to keep coming up with new ways to make that exciting. I won’t have negative people around me.STEVEN SEAGAL
Success never lasts; thankfully, neither does failure. Most of us juggle the two. What have you taken away of lasting value from (a) your successes? You’re only as good as those around you. With a great director, producer, writers and cast you can make great films. It’s important to appreciate those collaborations. The same when walking the path of a peaceful lifestyle, with family and friends who hold the same values as you.
I’ve made some great movies and I’ve made some poor ones but you do your best each time with what you have. You look at what you did well and do more of it in future and look at what didn’t work so well and note how you can do it differently next time.STEVEN SEAGAL
. . . and (b) your failures? Failures are a learning experience. They happen for a multitude of reasons. People have different visions of how things should be done. Or budgets get cut. I’ve made some great movies and I’ve made some poor ones but you do your best on each one with what you have. Look at what you did well and do more of that and look at what didn’t work so well and note how you can do it differently.
In movies, the good guys win most of the time. In reality, justice takes a bit longer than a 30-minute TV episode or a 90-minute movie.STEVEN SEAGAL
You’ve spent time working as a real lawman, away from the screen. How is real-life law enforcement different to the screen version? I’m a real-life deputy with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana. Have been for over two decades. Obviously, my movie career takes me all over the world, so my time with them is limited. In real-life law enforcement the good guys don't always win. Many officers all over the world have been badly injured, or killed, upholding the law and protecting the public. In movies, most of the time, the good guys win. And in reality justice takes a bit longer than a 30-minute TV episode or a 90-minute movie. In real life, you have to worry about innocent bystanders, unexpected factors like children and the elderly being nearby, or good Samaritans wanting to jump in and help. If something doesn’t go to plan on a movie set, you cut and do another take. Shoot-outs and fights are choreographed and planned. You don’t get that luxury in real life where you make split-second decisions that can affect yours and everyone else’s future. It’s stressful.
In real life, you have to worry about innocent bystanders, unexpected factors like children and the elderly being nearby or good Samaritans wanting to jump in and help. If something doesn’t go right on a movie set, you just re-shoot.STEVEN SEAGAL
You've worked with some fabulous actors – Michael Caine, Billy Bob Thornton, Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, Pam Grier, Elsie Pistolhead. Whom did you love the most? They’re all fantastic. Michael Caine is a legend and that’s why I cast him in On Deadly Ground. He was fantastic and it’s one of my favourite movies, with a message I care about and, of course, I directed it. I’ve been lucky enough to play some amazing characters and write and direct stories I care about – such as political corruption in Above the Law, big-business corruption and the environment in Fire Down Below and On Deadly Ground.
What will people take away from an Evening with Steven Seagal? We’ll discuss the movies, martial arts and take pictures with fans and discuss many topics that are important to me. Most importantly, the question will be asked “Has anybody seen Ritchie?” [laughs]. I get asked to say that line from Out for Justice a lot! Thank you very much for the insightful questions. I look forward to seeing everyone in February.