13 Times Steven Seagal Was A Nightmare On Set

In the late '80s and early '90s, Steven Seagal was one of Hollywood's biggest action heroes, known for his tough-guy image and his penchant for martial arts. Following a run of hit movies, including "Above the Law," "Under Siege," and "Hard to Kill," Seagal became one of the most bankable heroes in Hollywood, right up there with Wesley Snipes, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Bruce Willis.

But Seagal's career took a steep, sudden nosedive later that decade, as Hollywood moved on from his brand of explosive action movie. His reputation took a serious hit too, as a number of allegations of difficult behavior behind the scenes emerged, whether it was delaying productions, sparring with crew members, and even accusations of sexual harassment and assault. Since his heyday, in fact, many former co-stars and crew members have come forward with stories of Seagal's abusive and bullying behavior, painting a disturbing picture of an actor who isn't the hero he might seem on screen. 

From charges of assault on his co-stars, to causing problems with directors, and even breaking a major movie star's bones, it's almost astounding how many times Steven Seagal has been accused of being a nightmare on set.

Steven Seagal beefs with Jessica Alba

By 2010, Steven Seagal was long past his prime, and mostly relegated to direct-to-DVD clunkers like "Driven to Kill" and "Against the Dark." But thanks to his past status as an action icon of the '90s, the actor was cast in a villainous role in the Robert Rodriguez grindhouse schlocker "Machete," starring Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, and Robert De Niro. Also appearing was Jessica Alba, and during filming on the movie, she had a strange run-in with Seagal that seems to have left a bad taste in her mouth.

Not long after the film's release, Alba was asked by MTV about the experience of working with the "Under Siege" star. Attempting to brush off the question, Alba's only reply was "He's Steven Seagal," which seemed to imply that he lived up to his reputation as a difficult actor to get along with. Pressing the actor further, Horowitz got Alba to open up about one incident that had occurred on set. "I kind of called him an actor and he kind of got mad at me and corrected me and said he was an officer of the law," she said.

While Alba insisted that Seagal had told her that he wasn't offended, MTV noted her discomfort at the question, suggesting that this was not a pleasant interaction with Seagal at all.

Julianna Margulies didn't want to be alone with Steven Seagal

While Jessica Alba may have been overly cautious in dishing dirt on Steven Seagal, that definitely doesn't hold true for Julianna Margulies, best known for her role in "ER." Before she starred as Dr. Carol Hathaway, Margulies had a small role in the 1991 Steven Seagal action movie "Out for Justice," and just prior to the start of production she had a terrifying encounter with the star that left her traumatized. 

Brought up to Seagal's hotel room for an audition of sorts, the then-unknown Margulies found herself unexpectedly alone with the actor. "I sat down and jumped right back up because there was something very hard underneath the cushion," Margulies said in an interview with CBC Radio's Q.  "And he said, 'Oh, oh, that's my — sorry, I must have left my gun there.' And he took out from under the cushion this big black pistol." 

Though Margulies managed to get out of the situation, she still wound up getting the role, which only caused more problems on set for the young actress. "When I got the part and they flew me to LA, I just made sure to stay near everyone," she explained. "I told the hair and makeup people, 'Please don't leave me alone on set with him, I never want to be in a room alone with him.'"

He broke Sean Connery's wrist on a 007 movie set

It's not just young women that Steven Seagal has tried to intimidate over the years, but even some of Hollywood's biggest stars. In the early '80s, Seagal was serving as a fight choreographer for the James Bond film "Never Say Never Again," which saw the return of Sean Connery to the role of 007. But Connery — said to be a black belt in karate himself — may have tried a bit too hard to show off, which he believed didn't sit well with Seagal.

According to Connery, Seagal purposely broke his wrist while practicing fight movies, ostensibly in retaliation for showing him up during rehearsals. Connery spoke about the incident in 1996 on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (via The Independent), and described how it all went down: "I got ahold of Steven and we had this training in the building where I had an apartment and he was really very, very good and everything. And I got a little cocky because I thought I knew what I was doing because the principle is, it's defense, so it's a pyramid and I got a bit flash." Demonstrating his move to the audience, Connery lifted a hand in front of his face, saying, "I did that — and he broke my wrist."

While Connery believes it was a purposeful maneuver, he admitted that several years went by before he even realized that the wrist had been broken.

Four assistants accused Seagal of sexual harassment

The most disturbing part of Steven Seagal's troubled history of on-set behavior is the pattern of sexual misconduct allegations. Beyond pressuring young, up-and-coming actors like Julianna Margulies, a number of prominent actors have come forward over the years to accuse the action star of sexual misconduct or even assault, including Jenny McCarthy, Portia De Rossi, and Pamela Anderson. Back in the early '90s, however, it wasn't just actors who Seagal was allegedly abusing, but even his own assistants.

It happened on the set of 1991's "Out for Justice." During filming, four different young female assistants — Raeanne Malone, Nicole Selinger, Christine Keever, and an unnamed woman — quit the film due to Seagal's "continued piggery," per Spy magazine. As detailed in the story, Seagal went out of his way to make crude, lascivious remarks that we won't repeat here. Ultimately, three of the four threatened to sue the studio and the star for his behavior, and two of them were said to have been paid something to the tune of $50,000 each, while signing confidentiality agreements in an effort to sweep the allegations under the rug.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

His SNL appearance has become infamous

Possibly the most notorious moment in Steven Seagal's career doesn't even come from one of his movies, but from an appearance on "Saturday Night Live." In 1991, at the height of his fame, Seagal apparently became a nightmare on the set, with "SNL" stars David Spade and Norm McDonald, plus writer Bob Odenkirk, all telling stories of how demanding and difficult he was to work with.

"He didn't want to go along with what the plan was that week," Spade revealed in the book "Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" (via Ultimate Classic Rock). Things got so bad, in fact, that they even considered booting him from the show and not having a host at all. Norm McDonald. meanwhile, recalled Seagal as the worst host in the history of the show, summing him up simply: "Just not a nice guy."

Odenkirk claimed to Howard Stern that Seagal's ego was so fragile that he demanded to beat up recurring characters Hans and Franz, worried that if it was the other way around he'd look bad. "Don't worry, no one will think that they [beat you up]," Odenkirk recalled telling the actor. As Odenkirk described it, Seagal wrote sketches himself, including a wildly bizarre closing fight scene that made no sense at all. In the end, the episode was so universally panned that producer Lorne Michaels banned it from further broadcast and forbid Seagal from ever appearing again.

He was sued for bad behavior on Today You Die

You might think that after suffering a major career decline, Steven Seagal might have been humbled enough to fix his faults and rethink his on-set behavior. But even into the 2000s, when it had been years since Seagal's last hit movie, he continued causing problems on the set of his direct-to-video productions. Case in point, the 2005 action movie, "Today You Die," which is notable only for an early career appearance from Chloe Grace Moretz.

The allegations came out after Seagal was hit with a $14 million lawsuit from Kill Master Productions, the team behind the film, for his problems on the set of "Today You Die" and another film titled "Mercenary." According to the company's filing, Seagal repeatedly showed up late to filming, causing persistent delays that wound up costing millions in budget overruns. The suit also accused the star of making changes to the script and dialogue without permission, which significantly altered the plot to a degree that it was no longer the film that they had promised to their investors.

Worse yet, the producers accused Seagal of bullying the cast and crew, saying, "Seagal and his entourage continually harassed, intimidated and threatened the production and members of the production team with requests and demands that were inappropriate, outrageous or not contractually required."

Seagal was accused of misconduct against an underage Katherine Heigl

While Steven Seagal has found himself at the center of numerous misconduct allegations, including sexual assault, none may be as unnerving as the charges made against him on the set of "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory." The 1995 film features Seagal as former Navy officer Casey Rybeck, who must escort his niece Sarah to attend the funeral of her father. Playing Sarah was a 16-year-old Katherine Heigl, and in the years since, the actress has told disturbing stories about Seagal's behavior towards her on the set.

"[On] the last day of shooting — and again, I had just turned 16 on this movie — and he said 'you know Katie, I got girlfriends your age,'" the actress recounted on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" (via Cinemablend) in 2017. "And I said, 'Isn't that illegal?' And he said, 'They don't seem to mind.' And I said, 'Mom!' ... I'm not making that up." Kimmel then produced an infamous photo of Seagal with his hands on the underage Heigl's chest during the movie's Hollywood premiere. While Heigl and Kimmel laughed over the story, there's something deeply unsettling about Seagal — who has been repeatedly accused of preying on young women — treating the 16-year-old Heigl in such a manner on the set of a major movie.

Seagal's abuse forced a director into a career change

It's not just fellow actors who have come out to describe Steven Seagal as a problem on the set, but filmmakers and crew persons too. In 2022, director Anthony Hickox, once mostly known for horror movies like the memorable franchise entries "Warlock: Armageddon" and "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth," talked about how he moved into action movies for a time. That is, until a nightmarish experience with Seagal while making the 2005 direct-to-DVD action movie "Submerged"' forced him out of the genre.

"[Seagal] is a nightmare!" Hickox told Dread Central (via Best Life magazine). "He's impossible; he doesn't turn up, he refuses to say any line that's written, it's just ridiculous. I sat back when I was making it and said, 'I'm a better director than this,' so I went back to what I like to do, which is write and direct horror." The difficult experience with the action star proved so traumatic that Hickox actually took four years off from directing, only returning in 2009 with the horror movie "Knife's Edge."

"I must say I do enjoy blowing [stuff] up!" added Hickox. "But it was beginning to get a little mind-numbing, especially the one I did with [Steven Seagal]; I just decided 'I can't do this [expletive] anymore.'"

A stinky fight with a stuntman

Easily one of the most infamous on-set incidents in Seagal's career involves movie stuntman Gene LeBell. A man whose credits are too numerous to count, it's enough to say that he has been involved in stuntwork in some of Hollywood's biggest movies and TV shows, going all the way back to the 1960s. In the early '90s, he was an uncredited stunt coordinator on a trio of Seagal classics, "Marked for Death," "Hard to Kill," and "Out for Justice."

It was on the set of the latter that Seagal and LeBell came into conflict. "When we had a little altercation or difference of opinion, there were 30 stuntmen and cameramen that were watching," LeBell told MMA reporter Ariel Helwani. "Sometimes Steven has a tendency to cheese off the wrong people, and you can get hurt doing that." As the story goes, Seagal was boasting that he was so good that he could get out of any chokehold, and may have challenged LeBell to put him in one himself to prove it. Once locked up in LeBell's grip, however, Seagal was allegedly unable to break free, to the point where he reportedly soiled himself as he approached unconsciousness.

While many have chalked this up to an urban myth, LeBell didn't deny it when asked directly, and even suggested that there was truth to the story. Whatever the case, Seagal's soiling has become the stuff of legend.

John Leguizamo feuds with Seagal on Executive Decision

Though Steven Seagal only had a relatively modest role in the 1996 action film "Executive Decision" — with his character dispatched fairly early in the film — that didn't stop him from once again wreaking havoc on the set. The brouhaha occurred between Seagal and supporting actor John Leguizamo, who wasn't quite the known name he is today. Seagal — then still a notable name in the action genre — may have used that to push his co-star around. Since becoming a bigger star, however, Leguizamo has been open about his dislike for Seagal, stemming from an on-set altercation during the making of the movie.

"Yeah, I did not have a good time with Steven Seagal," Leguizamo told The New York Post. "No one has." According to Leguizamo, Seagal had a habit of hitting the stuntmen on purpose, and it wasn't until he was threatened by the aforementioned Gene LeBell that he stopped doing it. But the real fireworks happened between the two actors during rehearsals, when Seagal first stepped on set. "We start rehearsing and he came in and was like, 'I'm in command. What I say is law,'" the actor told AV Club. "Who comes into rehearsal and says that s***? So I started laughing and he slammed me with an aikido elbow against a brick wall and knocked all the air out of me."

Since the incident, Leguizamo has made his hatred for Seagal more than clear, telling EW, "He's kind of a horrible human."

Seagal tried coercing Erika Eleniak into a sex scene

Though Seagal has faced serious accusations of sexual misconduct and assault over the years, some actresses have been able to avoid becoming a victim. One such actress is Erika Eleniak, who was cast opposite Seagal in the 1992 classic, "Under Siege." In the role of a Playboy model — which she also was in real life — Eleniak got the chance to play hero as Jordan Tate, who teams up with Seagal's Navy chef to save the day against a group of terrorists.

But in 2014, actor Gary Busey, who played the villainous ship commander Peter Krill, revealed that the film shoot was anything but easy thanks to Seagal. Constantly at odds with the film's star, Busey recalled Seagal's massive ego and demanding nature. "Oh boy. He's insecure. This guy went overboard with the control master," he revealed to Empire magazine.

Worse than that, however, Busey was forced to step up to protect Eleniak from Seagal's behavior on the set. "I had her under my wing," he recounted. "He was looking to add in a love scene so he could really get down and dirty."

Seagal completely rewrites Glimmer Man

As a major action star known for violent movies where he guns down any number of bad guys, Steven Seagal was surely expected to deliver much of the same when he joined the cast of "The Glimmer Man." Unfortunately, as his co-star Stephen Tobolowsky recalled in an interview with Cut, problems immediately arose when Seagal inexplicably decided he didn't want to kill anyone in the movie, which Tobolowsky learned from director John Gray ahead of the first day's filming.

"[Gray said] Steven Seagal has had a spiritual sort of crisis, a spiritual awakening. He decided that he doesn't want to kill people anymore in movies ... Warner Brothers is very upset, they say 'Steven, I understand what you're doing, but you dance with who brung ya. You kill people really good. And in this movie, you have to kill people.'" So when the time came for Seagal's character to kill Tobolowsky — who was playing a psychotic serial killer — the actor had to convince Seagal to do the deed. 

According to Tobolowsky, he successfully argued that killing the serial killer would be both "removing evil from the world," and helping the villain reincarnate into a newer, better life. "'All right, I'll kill you in this scene,'" he recalled Seagal finally telling him. But that wasn't the end of the problem, because Seagal later ad-libbed a line saying he didn't kill the villain, requiring another round of reshoots. "It was horrible," Tobolowsky said.

Seagal was accused of sexual assault by a Bond girl

Another serious allegation of sexual assault was brought against Steven Seagal in 2018, this time stemming from a 2002 rehearsal for the direct-to-DVD film "Out to Kill." Originally cast to co-star was Rachel Grant — a Bond girl in "Die Another Day" — who made the charge that Seagal didn't just engage in lewd behavior or expose himself on-set, but physically forced himself on her while alone in a hotel room during the audition process.

While Seagal demanded that she remove her top for the audition, Grant tried to avoid the situation. "I stood up to try to distract him. But he was able to tug down my top, which was strapless. My breasts were completely exposed and I was forced to cover myself," she said in an interview with the BBC. "He pushed me onto the bed with force." As Grant detailed, Seagal claimed he liked to date the women he cast in his movies to make their chemistry on-screen more believable. But that was no comfort to Grant, who had to endure his assault: "What actress should be brought to someone's bedroom on the first meeting and then be told to take their top off?" 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).