Steven Frederic Seagal (born April 10, 1952 in Lansing, Michigan) is an American actor, producer, writer, musician, activist, 7th-dan black belt in Aikido, reserve deputy sheriff, father of seven, Buddhist, "cultural ambassador" of the United States to Russia (according to the Kremlin, at least), and guardian (legally and literally) of the only child of the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet. According to That Other Wiki he was also the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan.
For the last few decades, the ponytailed star has neck-punched his way though dozens of movies since his late-eighties debut in Above the Law (1988), which was directed by Andrew Davis. His films largely consist of him shrugging off bullets, taking on dozens of mooks singlehandedly and eventually killing the Big Bad in brutal fashion. Several times over.
After the success of his first movie Seagal went on to make box office hits Hard to Kill, Marked for Death and Out for Justice, securing his place as a top action star during the late 80's and early 90's. Before his limitations became obvious it even seemed that he might make the transition from exploitation films to serious drama, à la Mickey Rourke. In his review of Above the Law, Roger Ebert even claimed that "[Seagal] can play tender and he can play smart, two notes often missing on the Bronson and Stallone accordions".
The apex of his success came with his most well-known movie Under Siege, which was also directed by Davis. Unfortunately, this proved to be the beginning of the end of his big box office success. The 1994 film On Deadly Ground was a pet project of the actor, with a large budget and even an all-star cast. Co-produced, directed and starring Steven Seagal, the movie was a Box Office Bomb and got torn apart by critics.
Despite Under Siege 2: Dark Territory being successful, Seagal's movies rapidly declined in financial success. He seemed to make a comeback with Exit Wounds, but his follow-up Half Past Dead was a critical and commercial flop and since then most of his films have gone Direct to Video. He made a proposal to have American releases of Tony Jaa's Thai smash-hit Ong-Bak re-cut with him in the prologue and epilogue as the Mighty Whitey who trained him into a Muay Thai master, but the idea was rejected. He was later seen in the reality TV show Steven Seagal: Lawman, and made his return to the big screen in 2010 as the main villain of Robert Rodriguez's Machete. He also recorded two albums — a debut, Songs from the Crystal Cave, and the straight-blues Mojo Priest — and created and co-wrote many episodes of the TV series True Justice (starring guess who).
There is also an energy drink made in his name: Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt.
- Nico Toscani in Above the Law (1988)
- Mason Storm in Hard to Kill (1990)
- John Hatcher in Marked for Death (1990)
- Gino Felino in Out for Justice (1991)
- Casey Ryback in Under Siege (1992) and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)
- Forrest Taft in On Deadly Ground (1994)
- Austin Travis in Executive Decision (1996)
- Jack Cole in The Glimmer Man (1996)
- Jack Taggart in Fire Down Below (1997)
- Wesley McClaren in The Patriot (1998)
- Orin Boyd in Exit Wounds (2001)
- Frank Glass in Ticker (2001)
- Sasha Petrosevich in Half Past Dead (2002)
- Jonathan Cold in The Foreigner (2003) and Black Dawn (2005)
- Robert Burns in Out for a Kill (2003)
- Jake Hopper in Belly of the Beast (2003)
- Jack Miller in Clementine (2004)
- William Lansing in Out of Reach (2004)
- Travis Hunter in Into the Sun (2005)
- Harlan Banks in Today You Die (2005)
- Chris Cody in Submerged (2005)
- John Seeger in Mercenary for Justice (2006)
- Jack Foster in Shadow Man (2006)
- Marshall Lawson in Attack Force (2006)
- John Sands in Flight of Fury (2007)
- Simon Ballister in Urban Justice (2007)
- Matt Conlin in Pistol Whipped (2008)
- Jacob in Kill Switch (2008)
- Cock Puncher in The Onion Movie (2008)
- Roland in The Keeper (2009)
- Tao in Against the Dark (2009)
- Ruslan in Driven to Kill (2009)
- Shane Daniels in A Dangerous Man (2009)
- Rogelio Torrez in Machete (2010)
- Bobby Samuels in Born to Raise Hell (2010)
- Cross in Maximum Conviction (2012)
- John Alexander in Force of Execution (2013)
- John Alexander in A Good Man (2014)
- Paulie Trunks in Gutshot Straight (2014)
- John Alexander in Mercenary: Absolution (2015)
- Robert Sikes in Code of Honor (2016)
- Jake Chandler in Sniper: Special Ops (2016)
- Gan Sirankiri in The Asian Connection (2016)
- Decker in End of a Gun (2016)
- John Harmon in Contract to Kill (2016)
- The Director in The Perfect Weapon (2016)
- John Harrison in Cartels (2017)
- Lauder in China Salesman (2017)
- "Axe" in Attrition (2018)
- Jack Alexander in General Commander (2019)
- Augustino "Finn" Adair in Beyond the Law (2019)
- As Himself in Steven Seagal: Lawman (2009-10)
- Elijah Kane in True Justice (2010-12)
- As Himself in promotional material, as well as a USN Commander in his likeness, in World of Warships (2016)
Tropes associated with Steven Seagal:
- Acrofatic: More apparent in his later films, due to a combination of his aging and neglecting to keep himself physically fit. His characters are frequently depicted as being frighteningly fast and adept at fighting, while being visibly overweight and out of shape at the same time. Ultimately subverted with Seagal himself as all of his action scenes are filmed with Stunt Doubles fighting in his place, while he's obviously lethargic and placid in the shots that do actually focus on him.
- Cool Shades: A staple of Seagal's later characters, whether day or night. On the few occasions where he plays a villain, it's Sinister Shades instead.
- Creator Thumbprint: His characters are often depicted using an M1911 pistol as their preferred sidearm, owing to Seagal's own fondness for the gun. For extra cool points, said pistol is often shown being fired one-handed as well.
- Dull Surprise: Seagal maintains his cool, gritty action hero persona in just about everything he does, whether it's film, commercials, or Saturday Night Live, and refuses to settle for anything less, which often makes his works unintentionally funny as a result.
- Girly Run: He has a habit of running with his hands flailing wildly, causing mockers to compare it to this trope. This is one of the reasons why there aren't any shots of him running in his more recent movies (except through body doubles).
- Guttural Growler: In keeping with the "cool" characters he typically plays, Seagal delivers his line in a deep, gravelly manner, though it tends to come across as Guttural Mumbler in many of his late-career films due to his aging and Dull Surprise.
- Flynning: A staple of his characters' sword or knife fighting for Rule of Cool, as demonstrated in movies like The Asian Connection or A Good Man, where blade duels are drawn-out with excessively flashy theatrics, typically a lot of wild swinging and clashing.
- Invincible Hero: Seagal is well-known for insisting that his characters be unstoppable killing machines who are almost never seriously challenged by any opponent he faces, with almost every fight ending up being an utter Curb-Stomp Battle in his favor (seriously, if you ever see him take so much as a punch in any of his later films, it'll be a cold day in Hell). This is why, in Executive Decision, his character makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save others rather than, as was originally in the script, have his head explode from air pressure. Seagal reputedly went on a one-man strike until this was changed.
- Kavorka Man: Especially apparent in his late-career films, where Seagal's characters are overweight and surly, and yet at the same time frequently shown to be romantically involved with young women about a third of his age, with Rescue Romance and Bodyguard Crush being the more frequent excuses for this happening.
- Lightning Bruiser: Any character played by Seagal is fast enough to hit an opponent before they could react and strong enough to put them down quickly. How convincing this is varies depending on the era, the budget, and the editing.
- Mook Chivalry: If Seagal's character is involved in a fight scene against a group of bad guys, they will usually attack him one-on-one despite their significant numerical superiority, for no apparent reason other than to allow him to steamroll each of them with ease.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In most of Seagal's movies, the main villain is dispatched via an extensive (and almost entirely one-sided) beating.
- Obvious Stunt Double: He is rather infamous for his excessive usage of body doubles in his later direct-to-DVD films, where many of his action scenes are actually performed by much fitter and younger stuntmen, even the standing and sitting ones, since Seagal is no longer in his physical prime. Any time he is not in close-up or his face is not clearly visible, it's plainly obvious that a stunt double is standing in for him, and Jitter Cam is cranked up to eleven in fight scenes to hide this. He also has his voice looped by doubles.
- Pretentious Pronunciation: Seagal pronounces his last name "Sea-GALL", as opposed to the usual "SEA-gull". According to an interview, he used to pronounce it the usual way until he was inspired by a Chagall art exhibit. Interestingly though, Sea-GALL is very much the common way to say his name in Britain and Latin America.
- Promoted Fanboy: The reason why he appears in World of Warships is because he's apparently a big fan of the Iowa-Class Battleship, USS Missouri, AKA "Mighty Mo". In order for Wargaming to have him even do the advertising and voice a captain required Wargaming to make the Missouri playable, as opposed to just using the generic Iowa-class tier IX. This could also count as an Actor Allusion, since Under Siege was set aboard the Missouri.
- Signature Move: Almost all his films will have him use wrist and arm locks and twists to immobilize opponents or flip them over or twist their body in some way as is standard in Aikido.
- Soul Brotha: Played with, as he's obviously not black. He began speaking like one, however, around the period where The Glimmer Man came out, which is likely intentional given his professed affinity for African-American culture and Blues music, which he has released two albums of with his band.
- Stout Strength: In his Direct to Video years, he's put on a considerable amount of weight. However, this doesn't make any one of his characters any less of an Invincible Hero, if anything making them even stronger as they seem to dispatch their foes quicker and easier than ever.
- The Tyson Zone: Mainly due to his notorious arrogance, there are anecdotes about Seagal having violent incidents with more or less every renowned martial artist or action film actor, and most of them have Steven getting the shorter end of the stick. The list includes Bob Wall, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Gene LeBellnote , Dan Inosanto, and even pro wrestler Curt Hennig.
- Wolverine Publicity: Many of his late-career movies have been criticized as only billing him on the cover to draw in attention, while Seagal himself usually has a very minimal appearance in them. This is most apparent in the movies where Seagal doesn't play the protagonist, especially the post-Keoni Waxman works. This isn't anything new, as it stretches as far back as Executive Decision, where he was given top billing alongside Kurt Russell despite his character dying early on in the film (though some releases excised him from the poster).