Steven Seagal blames FBI for loss of career

You may know that Adam is a huge Steven Seagal fan (check out his review of Seagal’s incomprehensible Into The Sun), but did you know that the reason we haven’t been seeing many Seagal movies recently is due to an FBI probe? Neither did I, but that’s what he’s claiming.

“False FBI accusations fueled thousands of articles saying that I terrorize journalists and associate with the Mafia,” Seagal told the newspaper. “These kinds of inflammatory allegations scare studio heads and independent producers — and kill careers.”


The FBI investigation stemmed from Seagal’s ties to former private detective Anthony Pellicano, who once was employed by many Hollywood stars, directors and producers, but is now in federal prison awaiting trial on wire-tapping and other charges.

The Pellicano investigation dates to 2002 when a free-lance reporter for the Los Angeles Times found a dead fish, a red rose and a note saying “Stop!” on her car. At the time, the reporter was researching Seagal and a former business partner.

Seagal told the Times that he and Pellicano had not been on speaking terms since the 1990s and the Times’ story said his lawyers told FBI agents that by 2002, Seagal and Pellicano had become rivals in a bitter legal dispute.

The actor said in October 2004, an FBI official told him that federal agents knew he had nothing to do with the Pellicano investigation. Still, Seagal claims they have not publicly exonerated him.

Both shockingly and disappointingly, Seagal was apparently suspected of links to the Italian-American Mafia, and not the Yakuza.

42 thoughts on “Steven Seagal blames FBI for loss of career”

  1. Wow, I forgot I even wrote that. I feel bad for making fun of that movie when the *man* was bringing him down the whole time. I am sure without the FBI’s intervention we would be bombarded with ads for Exit Wounds 3 now instead of Rush Hour 3.

  2. That might be the best post you ever wrote, how could you forget?

    I see a real block-buster in teaming up Steven Seagal with Jackie Chan. I know Seagal has to have some untapped comic potential in there.

  3. Wow, it was the FBI, not sucking, that led to Segal’s downfall. I hear that Van Damm’s downfall was due to his becoming a huge cokehead.

    Fantastic review, BTW.

    “I don’t see Japan’s younger generation ripping society apart at the seams a la Battle Royale.”

    Isn’t Battle Royale about Japanese society ripping the younger generation apart at the seams?

    What did you guys think about Lucy Liu’s Japanese in Kill Bill? I know that she has an excuse (speaking no Japanese) but I thought that she sounded like Elmer Fudd. Maybe Sean Connery’s Japanese in “Rising Sun” takes the cake though….

    I heard a rumor that Edward Norton is fluent (although that might be “fluent” like a second year JET claims to be fluent) in Japanese. Has anyone ever heard him speak? I also saw an article that said Natalie Portman is fluent, but when it said that it was one of her 9 languages, I kinda lost faith.

  4. I thought Lucy Liu did a fairly respectable job, but it still sounded like a foreigner and she was supposed to be natively bilingual, so he really should have cast someone who was more convincing in both languages, like the half French(?)/half Japanese woman that was also in the Yakuza segment. I was more impressed by Uma Thurman, who, although her accent was atrocious, was only supposed to be an American that probably knows twenty languages.

    Never seen “Rising Sun” although I know I should.

    According to Wikipedia, “Following graduation, Norton worked in Osaka, Japan, consulting for his grandfather’s company, Enterprise Foundation. He also appeared in an ESL textbook, Only in America, used by Nova, a major Japanese language school.”

    No idea how long he lived/worked in Japan or studied the language, but I find it totally plausible that he’s at least conversationally fluent, especially since it sounds like he worked in the business and not the eikaiwa sector. I second your lack of faith about Natalie Portman, but if she wants to prove me wrong I’ll submit.

  5. Norton seems like a smart guy with his stuff together so it sounds plausible. However, that consulting could have been entirely in English and I’ve only seen other people say that Norton is fluent – never seen an interview comment where he says it himself. If he can speak Japanese, that would be something for a lot of film industry people to keep in mind. I’d far rather see Norton trying to pretend that he can fight than Segal trying to pretend that he can act.

    With all of these crapfest Japan movies floating around (or pure Oriental fantasies like “Memories of a Geisha” – that I also thought was a crapfest but not everyone did) it really makes you appreciate something like “Babel” – just admitting that Japanese people in Japan speak Japanese and not trying to mix them with gaijin actors who are just pretending goes a LONG way. Apart from its oversexualization of Japanese highschool girls (something that Japanese films can also be accused of….) it struck me as well shot, well written, and a very sensitive look at some Japanese characters – none of whom would have seemed out of place in a 100% Japanese production. Of course, the whole film was about communication so if they had tried to pass off accented English as foreign languages (an old Hollywood trick) it would have brought down the whole house of cards.

  6. “Isn’t Battle Royale about Japanese society ripping the younger generation apart at the seams?”

    Well of course that was the me of 2 years ago talking, but what I think I meant to say was that someone like Steven Seagal would see the movie like that and would be on the side of the paranoid adults, at least according to the portrayal of youth in Into the Sun. And anyway the BR movie at least portrays the problems of dangerous youths as real (theres some kind of teacher stabbing in the beginning IIRC).

    “Wow, it was the FBI, not sucking, that led to Segal’s downfall.”

    Of course it could have been both. If Schwarzenegger had been mob-connected (or a Nazi sympathizer which is more plausible) it might not have mattered so much (or say, Tom Cruise’s religion never mattered until recently). Seagal was never a 100 million plus seller and came late to the Dirty Harry/Death Wish/Invasion USA (had to include that last one) “angry white man” action movie boom. Since people like Seagal, VD, Dolph Lundgren, etc. couldnt do humor or blockbusters (and of course were ageing) they couldnt adapt to new trends – or maybe in Seagal’s case never got the chance to because studios were wary of getting involved with an over the hill action star with little personality AND mob connections.


    There is some CHOICE info in this article! Charges of draft-dodging as his motivation for going to Japan, a disputed tale of fighting the yakuza to protect his dojo, and this:

    Mystical dog incident
    While being interviewed by PETA, Seagal was asked to provide an example of a special interaction with an animal. To lend context and meaning to his animal rights work, Seagal offered the story about a dog which approached him during his early aikido years in Japan. Seagal described feeling as if he had known this white dog forever. After keeping the dog for a few days, the dog (by barking) warned Seagal that his dojo was on fire. Seagal quickly summoned help to put out the conflagration. Seagal never saw the dog again.

    He’s a complicated man!

  8. Correction: He made a 100 million plus grossing movie once and never repeated it:

    (Under Siege) reunited Seagal with the director Andrew Davis and was a blockbuster in America and abroad, grossing $156.4 million worldwide.

  9. Is VD Vin Diesel?

    Maybe Steven Seagal could play the Beat Takeshi character in the Hollywood remake of Battle Royale. I can totally see him as a disgruntled gym teacher. They don’t have a sense of humor anyway.

  10. Duh. Of course. Is he still making movies? At least Dolph Lundgren always has his fallback career of biochemist.

  11. I trained under Seagal’s ex-wife in Osaka. Nice enough lady. whenever she wanted to show you that she dissaproved of a technique she would say “Stevenの技ですけど”.

    Probably still bitter about Kelly LeBrock.

    There was one Seagal movie, his first, that mentioned his Japanese life – Nico (Above the Law). As an action flick I thought it was fairly passable. The only passable film he ever made.

    According to IMDB, which describes Seagal as “a striking and somewhat boyishly handsome looking (often with ponytail) and usually impeccably dressed action star” he is good friends with Jackie Chan, so maybe a team-up isn’t off the cards.

    I would have thought it was his enormous girth that killed his career though. Some friends of mine saw him at an exhibition in Wakayama once and they said he was slooooow as.

  12. Don’t hate her cuz she’s beautiful!

    I do realize that Above the Law has him doing Aikido or something in the beginning (though thats one of his movies I am not as familiar with) but Into the Sun is like his “movie about Japan” opus

    The girth I think came around the time of Mountain Dew ads (probably they paid him in Mt Dew)

  13. I’m pretty sure it was making films like “Under Siege” that killed his career. I forget the title of the really wonderful one with the long lecture about environmental and native rights at the end (largely as all Japanese translations of his film seem to have the same title, a bit like the ‘Man with the Naked XXX’ thing for Leslie Nielson), but that was a truly awful waste of perfectly good celluloid. And yeah, not looking increasingly like a pony-tailed fake-tanned blimp would not have hurt either.

    Jennifer Connelly is another who is supposed to speak Japanese “fluently” but if you dig a bit, she definitely can’t. To those who do not speak a foreign language (especially if they do not speak ANY foreign language) those who can tend to create the impression that so long as they’re not stuttering, they’re fluent. And actually, if they CAN speak, however simply, without umming and ahing and trying to remember words, perhaps they are technically ‘fluent’ – just not in all areas….

    “Rising Sun” is well worth watching, for its sheer educational value. The book is also worth a read for the same reasons. And with the book you don’t have to listen to Sean’s attempts at speaking Japanese….

    M-Bone: How about “Apart from its oversexualization of Japanese highschool girls (something that Japanese SCHOOLS can also be accused of….)” Sailor suits=niiiice…. Although haven’t bloomers been phased out? I think I read about that somewhere. Haven’t hung around a joshi kousei sports meet for a while, you see….

  14. Rising Sun? The book is waaay better, for the wrong reasons, than the movie. It’s very much a novel that documents the bad old days of the cultural essentialism of 1985-92. But it was credible for people who didn’t know much about Japan. The movie, on the othe hand, was ass-water. I kinda wonder whether the “Japanese” actors were Chinese, or even Mexican.

    Steven’s environmental movie was “Fire Down Below”, right? That’s the one where he bangs the Indian chick. Kris Kristopherson was the bad guy and Stephen’s outfits were waaay stupid in a Native American leather meets Mafia black silk shirt kinda way.

  15. Wow, I had forgotten how hilarious that ’05 Segal review was. And I’m still laughing from Joe’s comment about Sean Connery’s bad Japanese in Rising Sun (“I’m getting very, very O-KO-TTA!”) . I just found this site that does a fair overview of “Japan in films.” Highlights of each film include a “best line” category. Sample (Sean Connery from You Only Live Twice):

    Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba): You like sake, Mr. Bond? Or would you like a vodka martini?

    James Bond: Oh no, I like sake – especially when it’s served at the correct temperature, 98.4F, like this is.

    Tiger Tanaka: For a European, you are exceptionally cultivated.

    Good stuff.

  16. Ah right I forgot the late great Tamba Tetsuro (who I met once!) was in that Bond film… I really need to see it.

    As much as we complain about Japanese language etc in film it does allow us Western colonialists the chance to enjoy a movie on a different level (and complain loudly about it) and in that respect I hope Hollywood keeps making hilariously bad attempts at representing Japan.

  17. Don’t worry, Hollywood never stops. “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” has to be one of the strangest Japan movies out there…. I’m sure that they have a few more coming…. You guys have heard about that Seven Samurai remake with George Clooney, right?

    Has anyone seen “Initial D” – a movie where a bunch of Chinese actors speaking Chinese play Japanese characters in Japan and…. it seems a hell of a lot more realistic and tasteful than lots of American Japan movies out there including “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

    When you think about it, not many people think that it is strange that all of the characters in “Gladiator” or something are speaking English – its this tendency in Japan movies for Japanese characters to speak English to each other, which the audience is supposed to take as “Japanese”, and then speak English to the English characters which is supposed to be taken as…. I don’t know…. that is really weird.

  18. I have not heard about this George Clooney project- is it going to be a Magnificent Seven adaptation into another setting? Nothing wrong with that.

    I actually haven’t seen “Memoirs” due to an almost total lack of interest in Geisha (although I am slightly curious to see how they portray Kyoto ~100 years ago) but considering it’s adapted from a novel written in English I think it’s probably more “faithful” to film it in English than to translate the dialogue. Not casting native English speakers is probably the worst decision in that case.

    “this tendency in Japan movies for Japanese characters to speak English to each other”
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single movie that does that. What are some, aside from “Memoirs”?

  19. “Initial D” probably seems more realistic because it was originally a manga (and later anime and line of video games), which probably works out better than what your average Western screenwriter could come up with for Japan.

  20. I tried to watch an episode of the Initial D anime once. God did it suck. You’ll never catch me watching a live action adaption of that junk.

  21. Car freaks like Initial D. The manga has some pretty good full page panels but it is light on plot. Initial D, however, is an interesting globalization case study as it is almost single handedly responsible for the popularity of Japanese cars in Asia and among Asian American. Initial D and Gran Turismo.

    Sure the Memoirs film is more “faithful” to the book because of the English dialog, however, the main character goes from speaking Japanese as a child to speaking Chinese accented English meant to represent Japanese as an adult, to seamlessly switching over and speaking to the American occupation guys in Chinese accented English that is supposed to be… well… Japanese accented English. If they stuck to one (or two) things, it would not be so damn distracting.

    Other movies aside from Memoirs — The Bond movie, Karate Kid II, all of those 1950 and 1960s Orientalist movies – “The Barbarian and the Geisha”, “Teahouse of the Whatever”, etc. of course, in those days, they often had white people in makeup playing Japanese characters.

    If the George Clooney movie were going to be a Magnificent Seven remake, that would be fine. However –

    Well all know that you can’t make a Hollywood Japan movie without Zhang Ziyi. I know that article is a bit old but the latest buzz is that, yes, they are still planning to do it. All I can say is that it had better be set in the year 3702 or something.

  22. That article is vague enough so I still expect it to be a Magnificent Seven style remake, set in some other context than either the original OR the Western remake.

    I really need to re-watch Karate Kid II. I distinctly remember that there was dialogue in Japanese, but I probably haven’t seen it since was like 12, when I didn’t know any Japanese words I hadn’t learned in karate class. I really hope they actually speak in authentic Okinawan and not American-accented standard Japanese.

    I’ll accept that “Initial D” could be an interesting case study. If you ever write that case study, send me a copy to read- but I still won’t be watching Initial D itself.

  23. Oh, and “All I can say is that it had better be set in the year 3702 or something.”
    Have you seen this anime series? If George Clooney is doing a live action remake of THIS version of “The Seven Samurai” I am totally on-board.

  24. Seen it, probably doing some research on it at some point (sigh). There is a video game as well – different remake. I think that the designs for the game were done by a French artist. Love those kind of varied projects.

    As for the Seven Samurai remake, I think that the Weinstein mindset is probably something like –

    Want to make an Asian movie -> should remake an Asian movie -> why not Seven Samurai? -> now let’s put some Asians in it! -> and why not George Clooney!

    However, they haven’t announced any plot details, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. In any case, I’m getting sick of these remakes. Old Boy, a Korean adaptation of a Japanese manga is likely getting remade in Hollywood. Ouch.

  25. “I really need to re-watch Karate Kid II.”
    Karate Kid II was filmed in Hawaii not Okinawa (due to annoying US helicopters noise I heard) and when I saw it just starting out learning Japanese it seemed way cool, but now it’s a joke, and the accents, for example, of the Japanese-Americans playing the children trapped in the storm grate terribly.

    Talking of accents and age, The Last Emperor shows some remarkable switches as well as Pu Yi ages.

    Memoirs is not too bad in its recreation of Kyoto in the 1920s-30s. Gets it a lot more right that Last Samurai’s depiction (well, of anything) of Yokohama or the Imperial Palace (which suddenly develops a huge flight of steps).

  26. Ah yes Tokyo Drift – that movie may deserve a review at some point. I saw it in Thailand and it was decent for a movie costarring Lil Bow Wow (like saying this show is good even though SMAP is in it). The best part of the movie was seeing the “unmarried busu talent” Shibata Rie as a teacher instructing the new American student to wear the “indoor shoes” in the school — but again that was something that could only be enjoyed by the Japanese or Japanese-speaking audience and was esp. relevant to me as a former gakuran-wearing exchange student.

    Like a lot of things in the segmented movie market, there’s going to be some cognitive dissonance when something intended for one audience borrows visual themes from something like Japan and plays fast and loose with it.

    And yes they play fast and loose (and furious) – somehow this kid gets a visa to live with his uncle, a marine stationed in the US who nonetheless lives in his own house in a Tokyo ghetto, and then he just shows up at school no problem. They get around the language problems by basically only showing other military brats or pretending that everyone in Japan basically speaks English. And many of the Japanese actors are just Asian-Americans, and the Japanese lines are barely intelligible. Basically it’s a big fantasy – the writer might have had some knowledge of the Tokyo racing circuit and needed to make an appealing film around it.

    Anyway I guess I should save my vitriol for some future review.

    And about the non-Japaneseness of Japanese characters in recent Hollywood movies – I get the impression that most of the actors in Japan are tied up with agency contracts that make it next to impossible for them to find good roles on their own – Kikuchi Rinko astonished everyone when she went completely around the Japanese system and landed a great role in Babel. Zhang might be beholden to Chinese agencies as well but in their case they are lobbying hard to make her an international star, which is the opposite case for the Japanese market (who would have to start shelling out way more money for talent if their carefully constructed stable system collapses)

  27. “it was decent for a movie costarring Lil Bow Wow”

    I’ll give it my “fun watch if you’ve had 9 beers” recommendation. As for the racing circuit thing, I heard that it pissed off Japanese car nuts because of a few really unrealistic things but I can’t remember the details….

    On the car and globalization issue, this is fun –

    “I get the impression that most of the actors in Japan are tied up with agency contracts”

    Well, they have been using two of the biggies – Yakusho Koji and Watanabe Ken. There is always the potential of scouting new talent….Let’s face it, before “Crouching Tiger” Zhang was pretty much unknown. With Japanese actresses like Terajima Shinobu floating around, this old “could not find any talented actors / actresses” line that Hollywood companies have pulled a number of times is not going to do it. A lack of of speaking intelligible English should not be a problem either – anyone see Gong Li Miami Vice? Great actress…. in Chinese.

  28. I was watching Tokyo Drift on TV in a bar a couple of weekends ago, so I could see all the visuals but couldn’t hear any of the dialogue. I thought it kicked ass. Maybe that’s how it should be viewed–put it on mute, choose a hoppin’ playlist for the BGM…

  29. Tokyo Drift is another wonderfully educational movie, like Last Samurai and Rising Sun and all those others. It educates you as to how Japan is NOT. The plot was nonsense, and street racers race the hills in old Nissan 180SXs and the like, not in poser-style jigger pimpmobiles which they would never dare as much as scratch or even take out in the rain. But then are all movies – and by extension all ‘art’ – about another country or culture required to be as accurate as possible? Are we naive at best for thinking something like Tokyo Drift would ever present a realistic viewpoint – of anything? Not all art is created equal, and I would only save my ire for movies that claimed to be based in careful research (like The Last Samurai) and not live-action arcade games.

    Did like the emphasis on drift though (but drifting through the Shibuya crossing? Like hell…). It’s not as well known outside Japan as it should be. And since Japan’s roads are narrow and drifting has the very good chance of drifting right off the road, you wouldn’t want to do it in a thousand-horsepower Nismo Skyline Gt-R with Veilside aero parts and a paint-job worth more than your salary….

    I’ll start being really upset about Hollywood using Chinese to play Japanese when they stop using Americans to play French, or Brits to play Italians, or whatever. Just…don’t make them speak Japanese….

  30. OK,Please don’t do this next time when I’m taking vacation,talking about Hollywood adoptation of Japanese images….

    I just came back from Okinawa.It’s my third visits there.and Yes I saw Karate kid 2 in Shibuya in 1986.What can I say…The movie was pretty “imaginative”.
    Everyone at the theater broke into laughter in the climax scene when the director(John G. Avildsen of “ROCKY”)actually intended everyone to hold their breath.

    “Initial G”is OK.It’s from”Infernal Affairs”(HK original of “The Departed”)directors Andrew Lau and Alan Mak had directed.Not an auto freak myself,but the movie has good car chase scenes compared to the CGs in anime version(and highschool girl in sailor suits does the usual Enjyo Kousai as any high school Japanese girl would do,played by Suzuki An whose debut to the silver screen was I thought the Hollywood production of “The Snow Falling On the Cedars”)
    It’s also fun to see Anthony Wong acting as Gunma Tofu Shop daddy in the film.So I have no problem with Chinese acting as Japanese.
    What I do have trouble is renowned Hollywood stars(caucasian)playing Japanese.Anybody seen”Teahouse of August Moon” starring Marlon Brando?He is an Okinawan Fisherman in that movie.I’ve only watched some clips for a while on TV,pretty disturbing thing.

    “That article is vague enough so I still expect it to be a Magnificent Seven style remake, set in some other context than either the original OR the Western remake.”
    Hey,I have no problem with seeing George Clooney fighting in Darfur along with Bono and five others to save innocent refugees from camel ridin’,Al-Quaida backin’ ,evli Arab militias in this new Hollywood “Seven Samurai”remake.Just don’t let Matt Damon does the usual “wise-ass-in-the-crew”role.

  31. “What I do have trouble is renowned Hollywood stars(caucasian)playing Japanese.”

    However I think we can not worry about that one too much as it doesn’t happen these days – that I am aware of, of course. It’s a historical curiosity, rather than something reflective of current Hollywood ideas.

  32. Anybody saw a French film”Fear and Trembling”(directed by Alain Corneau)?
    I haven’t.But my friend living in Paris did.She told me it’s sort of”Lost in Translation”meets”Stalag 17″…..

  33. Hmm, if the HK Initial D was from the same director as “Infernal Affairs” I may actually check it out someday.

    I happened to see a few minutes of Karate Kid III on TV this afternoon. What a shit movie that was. Is there even such a thing as naturally occurring “wild bonsai trees?”

  34. Anderw Lau also bandwagoned the recent Korean wave and directed “Daisy”with complete Korean cast set in the Netherland.
    Saccharin HK romance meets Korean tearjerker.The outcome is a cinematic disaster.So I wouldn’t count too much on Lau’s directoral talent.I liked ID though.



    Can we just say that he rocks and leave it at that?

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