Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Steven Seagal Facts That Are Worthy Of A Black Belt

In 1992, Steven Seagal starred in "Under Siege," an action flick that grossed over $150 million worldwide. In 2003, he played in "The Foreigner," a movie with a 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But the ups and downs of Seagal's filmography only tell one part of his stranger-than-fiction story. If you've followed him at all over the years, you know there's a lot to talk about — basically, this guy has come a long way, much of it down, since the 1990s. 

In addition to some of the messes surrounding his still-prolific movie career, Seagal has been involved in a long string of scandals featuring the likes of Sean Connery and Vladimir Putin (yes, that Vladimir Putin). He's taken a stab at reality TV, real-life law enforcement, various licensed products, and a recording career. The guy has even gone up against the mob and the FBI! While his career is often derided by critics, there's no denying Seagal lives life wildly.

He's incredibly difficult to work with

According to multiple actors, Seagal is an incredibly difficult coworker. While filming "Executive Decision," Seagal got angry with his costar and allegedly shoved Leguizamo against a wall.

Seagal also made life hard for the "Saturday Night Live" cast. While hosting the show in 1991, he was "very critical of the cast and writing staff." According to Tim Meadows, Seagal "didn't realize that you can't tell somebody they're stupid on Wednesday and expect them to continue writing for you on Saturday." David Spade said that in his six years on the show, Seagal was the absolute worst host, which probably had a lot to do with the aikido king's taste in comedy. According to Julia Sweeney, Seagal wanted to perform a sketch where he played a therapist who wants to sleep with a rape survivor. Evidently, he was banned from ever hosting again.

In "The Glimmer Man," Stephen Tobolowsky played a serial killer — naturally, Seagal was supposed to defeat him. But Seagal decided it was "bad for his karma" to keep killing people on-screen. Thinking on his feet, Tobolowsky explained that his character was trapped in his own private Hell. By killing the villain, Seagal would be allowing the bad guy to reincarnate as a more peaceful being. Seagal agreed, and the scene went on as scripted. Unfortunately, Seagal later ad-libbed the line, "Thank God, I didn't kill that guy..." Tobolowsky then had to record a few lines to make it seem like his obviously dead character had survived like a bad horror movie monster. According to IMDb, however, those lines didn't make the final cut.

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).

Reincarnation controversy

Hollywood is home to several famous Buddhists, including Richard Gere and Keanu Reeves. But the most powerful celebrity Buddhist practices aikido and sports a ponytail. But his rise to the top has drawn some criticism from his religious peers.

In 1997, Penor Rinpoche, the Supreme Head of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, announced that Seagal was a tulku: a reincarnated Buddhist master who has "vowed to take rebirth to help all beings attain enlightenment." Rinpoche believed that in the 17th century, Seagal was Terton Chungdrag Dorie, a renowned translator who opened a monastery and found several powerful relics. Thanks to this spiritual "history," Seagal was declared a lama (a venerated teacher in Tibetan Buddhism). According to The Guardian, that means "he is just a notch down from the Dalai Lama himself." During his inauguration, Seagal pledged to help ease suffering across the globe. Since then, he's given seminars on compassion at New Age retreat centers.

However, several people are skeptical of Seagal's spiritual status. Since he's been accused of sexual harassment, some have questioned his moral character. Even Gere expressed some doubt, saying, "If someone's a tulku, that's great. But no one knows if [Seagal's claim] is true." Others allege that, before he was a tulku, Seagal donated quite a bit of cash to Rinpoche's school, which might explain his conveniently glorious past life. It's all especially weird considering these reincarnated teachers are generally discovered as children.

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 weird relationship with the UFC

In February 2011, UFC fans watched middleweight champion Anderson Silva face off against Vitor Belfort. At the time, Silva was considered the greatest mixed martial artist on the planet. In round one, he knocked Belfort out with a front kick to the face. It was one of the most iconic moments in UFC history. Days later, Seagal took all the credit.

According to Seagal, he taught Silva that kick. He even claimed that he'd invented that kick. While many assumed Seagal was lying, the actor had escorted Silva to the ring that night. A few events later, Lyoto Machida knocked out the legendary Randy Couture with a "Karate Kid"-style crane kick. Once again, Seagal took credit for the movie while on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

While Silva seemed to enjoy the joke at first, the champ eventually spoke up. He said he'd been practicing that kick before he met Seagal. Silva admitted, "Seagal is a good man. No coach. No train me. Is a good man. Is a good person. That's it."

Other athletes are far less polite. When Seagal tried to go backstage at UFC 135 to advise light heavyweight champ, Jon Jones, the fighter turned him away. Ronda Rousey claimed she could "beat the crap" out of the actor. Seagal challenged two-time ex-champion Randy Couture to a fight. When asked about the matchup, Couture said he wasn't surprised Seagal wanted to fight "in a private, remote location where nobody could see it happen."

Steven Seagal versus James Bond

Seagal has done quite a bit of fight choreography. Most of the films he's choreographed are his, but in the early '80s, Seagal worked on the James Bond film "Never Say Never Again," teaching Sean Connery martial arts. Connery was already well-versed in karate. While preparing for 1967's "You Only Live Twice," the actor was awarded an honorary third-degree black belt. But for his seventh outing as Bond, Connery needed to learn a little aikido. Seagal taught Connery how to throw opponents and manipulate joints.

At first, the lessons seemed to be going well. As Connery put it, "I got a little cocky because I thought I knew what I was doing," and then an irritated Seagal allegedly grabbed Connery's arm and broke the actor's wrist. While he was undoubtedly in pain, Connery kept training. He didn't realize Seagal had snapped his wrist until the late '90s. That must've been one slow-healing injury.

Of course, Seagal can take a bit of pain as well. While working on his breakout film, "Above the Law," actor Henry Silva broke Seagal's nose with an overzealous punch. Knowing the show must go on, Seagal stayed up late that night, icing his battered face so he could shoot the next day.

Steven Seagal versus the Dirty Dozen

In his heyday, Seagal was the biggest martial arts star in Hollywood. But that doesn't mean he could fight in real life. Seagal is a seventh dan in aikido, a martial art that relies on joint locks and the redirection of momentum. Seagal was the first American to teach aikido in Japan. But aikido is worthless when it comes to self-defense. According to fight analyst Jack Slack, aikido only works if your "opponent is running straight at you" — something most smart fighters never do. As UFC commentator Joe Rogan explained, aikido "would never work against a trained fighter."

Nevertheless, Seagal claimed he could beat anyone, anywhere, anytime. Worse, Seagal made some controversial comments about Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and full-contact karate. This didn't sit well with Bob Wall. An actor and high-ranking black belt with plenty of tournament experience, Wall was friends with Norris, worked with Lee, and didn't care for Seagal's attitude. Wanting to teach Seagal a lesson, Wall assembled the "Dirty Dozen," a group of kickboxing and karate champions like Benny Urquidez, Bill Wallace, and Howard Jackson. Some wanted to show Seagal was a fake. Others were upset at his comments and wanted to avenge some stuntmen Seagal allegedly injured.

Wanting to get the actor's attention, the Dozen appeared in magazines like Prevue and Black Belt. Despite their efforts, there was never any showdown. When Seagal finally met Wall, the movie star supposedly apologized for what he'd said.

The time Steven Seagal got choked out

While Seagal never faced off with Wall, some claim he squared off with "Judo" Gene LeBell. A martial arts pioneer, LeBell has studied almost every fighting style imaginable — from taekwondo to boxing. But LeBell was particularly fond of grappling, excelling at judo and jujitsu. A two-time national heavyweight judo champion, LeBell taught Bruce Lee how to grapple and mentored UFC megastar Ronda Rousey. In 1963, LeBell competed in the first televised MMA fight in American history, where he used his ground game against boxer Milo Savage.

LeBell also worked as an actor and a stuntman, appearing in over 1,000 films and TV shows. He was the fight choreographer on "Out for Justice," an action movie starring Seagal. During filming, Seagal allegedly said no one could choke him out, claiming he had a special move that prevented anyone from putting him to sleep. Naturally, Gene accepted the challenge, and the two guys fought. Within seconds, LeBell had Seagal in a rear-naked choke. That's when the aikido master supposedly pulled out his super-secret move — a karate strike to LeBell's genitals.

Despite the (literal) low blow, LeBell held on and Seagal passed out. On top of that, the actor reportedly had a bizarre reaction to the event. According to LeBell, Seagal must've had a big meal before the match, because the unconscious star soiled himself. Seagal denies the fight ever took place, but according to the "Godfather of Grappling," Seagal was a crappy fighter.

Steven Seagal versus the mob

Seagal has battled all sorts of bad guys on the silver screen, from terrorists to the yakuza. But Seagal has also faced some villains in real life — like the Mafia. In the '90s, Seagal teamed up with producer Julius R. Nasso and the duo made a string of hits. However, their relationship soured in 2000. But things took a dark turn when the Gambino crime family got involved.

One day, Seagal was escorted to a Brooklyn restaurant, where he met an alleged Gambino captain named Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone. According to Seagal, Ciccone ordered him to start working with Nasso again. He demanded that Seagal fork over $150,000 for every film he made. Evidently, Seagal was so shaken that he gave the gangsters $700,000. The martial artist had every reason to be afraid. As he left the meeting, someone supposedly told Seagal, "If you would have said the wrong thing, they would have killed you."

The scandal came to light in 2003, when the government indicted alleged crime boss Peter Gotti and 16 others for a host of crimes. In addition to Seagal's testimony, the government had recordings of several individuals — including Siccone and Nasso — discussing how they would intimidate Seagal. They even laughed about how they scared the movie star. Nasso defended himself by saying Seagal had backed out of several movie deals, owing him $500,000. Regardless, the producer was sentenced to one year in federal prison. But Nasso wanted his cash and sued Seagal for $60 million. After the producer got out of jail, he settled with the actor for an undisclosed amount of money.

Steven Seagal versus the FBI

While never a critical darling, Steven Seagal used to pull in some impressive box office numbers. But these days, his films go straight to VOD. So what happened to Seagal's career? Well, he blames his decline on, of all things, the FBI.

In 2002, Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch was investigating Seagal about Julius Nasso. One morning, she found a dead fish, a rose, and a sign that read "Stop!" on her windshield. Plus, there was a brand-new bullet hole. Afraid, Busch informed the FBI, and the feds began investigating Seagal. At first, the FBI thought the actor had hired a detective named Anthony Pellicano to intimidate Busch. They also suspected Seagal of hiring a thug to scare Vanity Fair writer Ned Zeman with a gun.

But after digging deeper, the FBI concluded there was no evidence against Seagal. Instead, they focused on Pellicano, the private eye who illegally spied on celebrities. The FBI never charged Seagal, but they didn't exonerate him either. The actor believes all the notoriety from the Pellicano case majorly harmed his career. According to one Hollywood publicist, "Steven Seagal was no Harrison Ford when this [scandal] happened. But these accusations certainly hastened his decline." So it only makes sense that Seagal wants an apology from the FBI.

Seagal's insane raid

In addition to his love of blues music and ornate saddles, Seagal is fascinated with law enforcement. Seagal actually served as a cop in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, for about 20 years. In 2009, Seagal took things to the next level by starring in a reality show called "Steven Seagal: Lawman." In the third season, Seagal moved to Arizona and teamed up with the controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County. Arpaio is also known as something of a media hound, so when Seagal showed up with a camera in tow, the Maricopa cop decided to put on one wily show.

In 2011, Arpaio orchestrated a raid against Jesus Llovera, a local suspected of cockfighting. When the cops arrived, they had more than just a warrant. There were up to 40 SWAT officers, a bomb squad, K-9 units, armored vehicles, and Seagal riding on top of a tank. During the raid, parts of the suspect's house were damaged. Seagal's tank tore down the gates to Llovera's property. After arresting Llovera, Seagal and Maricopa officials found themselves faced with another problem: Llovera owned over 100 roosters. Well, they did what any humane law enforcement officer would: they decided to euthanize them all. Worse, Llovera claimed the police killed his 11-month-old puppy.

Furious, Llovera started a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and demanded an apology letter from Seagal. But after pleading guilty to cockfighting, the lawsuit was dropped. Fortunately, the bonkers Arizona raid never aired on TV.

He's pretty tight with Putin

Most people agree that Vladimir Putin is a bully, a dictator, and a human rights violator. Seagal is...not most people. On the contrary, Seagal thinks Putin is "one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader, alive today." He considers the ex-KGB agent "a friend" and "a brother," and described Putin's actions toward Ukraine as "very reasonable." While Seagal isn't the only celebrity who supports Putin — there's also Mickey Rourke and Gerard Depardieu — his relationship with the Russian president is something unique.

The two bros met in 2003 while Seagal was at the Moscow Film Festival and quickly hit it off — probably thanks to their shared love of martial arts. (Putin is an eighth-degree black belt in judo, though it's admittedly easy to rise through the ranks when you can have your sensei killed if they fail you.) Soon, they were dining together, visiting dojos, and promoting old Soviet exercise programs together. They even visited the Russian judo team as they were preparing for the 2012 Olympics.

In 2015, Putin asked President Obama to make Seagal an honorary consul of Russia. That way, the actor could serve as a go-between for the two countries. Needless to say, Obama vetoed that idea pretty quickly. While he isn't running messages from the Kremlin to the White House, Seagal visits Russia frequently. He's given aikido demonstrations to Russian crowds, visited the factory that produces Kalashnikov rifles, attended a parade on the 70th anniversary of the Nazi surrender to the USSR, and played a concert for pro-Russian separatists in the Crimean Peninsula.

He's a Russian citizen who's banned from the Ukraine

It's one thing to admire Putin, but quite another to love him so much that you move in with the guy. That's (kind of) what Seagal did in November 2016, when he officially received a Russian passport and became a citizen of the Motherland. What's more, Putin signed the passport, claiming he hopes that the "Under Siege" guy being a Russkie will help to promote the "gradual normalization of the relations between Russia and the United States."

But it appears the Russian citizen is already grinding other countries' gears, as Ukraine announced in May 2017 that Seagal would be banned for five years. According to the Ukraine Security Service, the ban was implemented "on the basis of Ukrainian national security," likely due to Seagal's admiration for Russia's aggressive tactics in the region. (Think of the Crimean Peninsula, which Ukraine would very much like back.) No word yet on whether Seagal's movies are banned, too. Let's hope his films stay — we wouldn't want an entire nation to have to go without witnessing the magic that is "Born To Raise Hell."

He loves animals, especially mystical ones

For a guy so famous for breaking bones, Seagal is surprisingly gentle and loving toward animals. He's a vegetarian who prefers "shaming companies into changing." Seagal says he sees himself in all God's creatures. As he explained, "When I walk into a room some people see a dog, some people see a cow. I am all of what they see. It is their perception."

In 1999, Seagal worked to force South Africa to stop exporting baby elephants to Japan and received a PETA Humanitarian Award for it. Four years later, he wrote to the government of Thailand about getting them to stop torturing baby elephants. According to his website, he "singlehandedly" made change happen there. He's also attempted to shame India into being better to cows. (Maybe that's why Rob Schneider filmed "The Animal," so Seagal would stop being so weird around him?)

But his favorite animals of all are the soothsaying ones. During an interview with PETA, Seagal claimed when he was a young buck just learning Aikido in Japan, a white dog greeted him. After a few days, the dog started barking at the future master, telepathically warning Seagal that his dojo was on fire. And it was on fire! Seagal put the fire out, and the dog disappeared, never to bark again. PETA, upon hearing this "magical ESP dog" story, gave Seagal an award anyway.

He's a guitar-slingin' singer-songwriter who loves the blues

Seagal's hands aren't just for breaking people's bodies — they're also for making sweet, sweet music. Yes, Seagal is a long-time musician who loves some blues.

The actor has been playing guitar since age 12 and heads the Steven Seagal Blues Band. However, it wasn't until 2005 that Seagal released his first album, "Songs From the Crystal Cave." If Bruce Willis' blues career got your mojo running but you need something fresh, you might dig this. Overall, it's straightforward blues, though not nearly as grimy and soulful as BB King, Buddy Guy, or John Goodman. SputnikMusic called it "the 'Plan 9 From Outer Space' of records," probably due to the lethal combination of Seagal singing like he speaks (mumbly), six-string noodling that's only slightly more impressive than a tween playing "Louie Louie" at Guitar Center, and lyrics like: "You're like a ghost. The more you eat, the more you're hungry. A hungrier ghost."

But don't take our word for it — just listen to the music. Here's "Music," which we put in quotes because that's the title, not because it barely qualifies as music. Here's "Girl, It's Alright," which sounds like the first song Jack Johnson threw in the trash. Finally, enjoy "Jealousy," the hungry ghost song. It's a great high-school-yearbook-quote tune, at the very least.

Is that a gun in your couch or are you happy to see me?

In 2018, Emmy-winning star Julianna Margulies ("The Good Wife") was a guest on "The Katie Couric Podcast," where they discussed the #MeToo movement and how actresses are speaking up about gross and creepy encounters they've endured. Margulies remembered a "horrific" hotel room meeting she'd had with Steven Seagal in the early '90s. 

When a casting director told her Seagal wanted to go over a scene with her in his room, she went — assuming that the casting director would also attend. "I walked in and I sat down and I jumped right back up because there was something very uncomfortable and hard in the couch," she recalled. "He laughed and said, 'Oh, sorry, that must have been my gun. He lifted up the cushion and he took out his gun." When Margulies grew nervous, Seagal explained he casually packed to protect himself from "all the crazies that are out there.

Seagal claimed to be a "healer," and asked to read Margulies's palms. "He told me I had really weak kidneys," she continued. "As a New York girl, I started laughing inside." Shortly thereafter, Margulies said she "squirmed" out of the room. But then she realized she hadn't received the cab fare she'd been promised, so she went back and asked for it. She got the cash, as well as the part in "Out for Justice." However, she demanded never to be alone with Seagal on set.

A real-life Karate Kid

Before Seagal became a major star in the 1980s after the success of flicks like "Marked for Death" and "Out for Justice," his life story was inspirational. Born in Michigan, Seagal moved with his parents to California, where the frail and asthmatic boy found obsessions in rock and roll and martial arts. He learned Aikido under the tutelage of an older man of Japanese descent and spent some time in Japan before returning to the U.S. to open a chain of successful dojos. His life story was so ready-made for Hollywood that the movie industry had already told versions of it. Several of his biographical details bear a strong — albeit coincidental — resemblance to the 1984 inspirational sports flick, "The Karate Kid," and its 1986 sequel.

Even if Seagal's journey to becoming a warrior was Hollywood fodder, it wasn't necessarily the image he wanted to project. Often in interviews, he would foreground his family's roots in Brooklyn, presenting himself as a kid from the block who made good. That particular bubble was burst in, of all places, a 1990 People magazine profile by Seagal's mother Pam. "He was a puny kid back then," she noted of his childhood in Michigan and clarified that his Brooklyn upbringing was limited to a handful of family visits.

Was Seagal a company man?

That People profile punctuated Seagal's self-promoted image as a New York kid and took aim at one of the star's tales about his pre-Hollywood life. He claimed that while living in Osaka in the 1970s with his first wife, Miyako Fujitani, he performed training and consulting work for the CIA. This bit of unverified history began circulating in 1988, during the promotion of his feature debut, "Above the Law." The film's plot follows rogue CIA operatives, and Seagal claimed a certain amount of expertise in the matter but suggested that the script came from his experiences as a company man. He told newscaster Jane Pauley: "There are certain parts of the movie that are very autobiographical."

Fujitani couldn't speak about her husband's clandestine activities during their ten-year marriage. However, she confirmed to People that there were long stretches of time when he was unavailable. She noted that while he could have been guarding the Shah of Iran or Bishop Desmond Tutu — as he claimed — it's as likely that he was a poor husband and absentee father. In the early '90s, he hired retired intelligence officer, Herbert Saunders, for security detail. In 2003, Saunders confirmed to the New York Post that Seagal pressed him to use his CIA abilities and access to do everything from stealing files from the Drug Enforcement Agency to killing someone. "I don't think he's able to sort out fantasy from fact," Saunders said of his former client.

Sensei to the stars

By the early 1980s, Seagal was busy with his Aikido dojos in Osaka (owned by his first wife's family), Taos, New Mexico, and Los Angeles. With his slick black ponytail and striking looks, Seagal and his North Hollywood dojo quickly became the talk of the town. In 1986, the Los Angeles Times wrote a glowing story about him, taking his bold claims about his mastery of Aikido and Japanese culture, in general, at face value. The outlet reported that his time in Osaka proved his mettle as a white martial artist and his disdain for impostor karate teachers.

Seagal's dojo attracted film industry luminaries such as James Mason and classic tough guy actor James Coburn, but his most significant student was someone less well-known to the public: Hollywood super-agent and future Disney president, Michael Ovitz. Taken with Seagal and his star potential, Ovitz arranged a martial arts demonstration for a group of Warner Brothers executives in 1987. While film studios had been sniffing around Seagal for a few years — the L.A. Times piece mentions Tri-Star Pictures wanting to stick him in a remake of "Seven Samurai" — Ovitz was the one who made it happen. He arranged for Seagal to star in "Above the Law" and gained a story and producer credit on the film, too.

Weird Science with the Woman in Red

Along with Ovitz, other Hollywood notables shaped Seagal's career at this nascent stage — including British actress and model Kelly LeBrock. She captivated audiences in the mid-1980s with roles in "The Woman in Red," playing the object of Teddy Pierce's (Gene Wilder) extramarital affections, and in John Hughes' "Weird Science," as a woman brought to life by teen dweebs. LeBrock and Seagal met in Tokyo, where LeBrock was shooting a fashion campaign. Their relationship gave Seagal a caché that he might not have had otherwise: The 1986 L.A. Times profile had Segal stating that LeBrock was "his reward for years of self-denial."

"Years of self-denial" would seem to be an odd way to describe a decade of marriage to Fujitani that produced two children. However, the profile makes no mention of them. The way writer Jeff Meyers eats up Seagal's myth of monastic martial arts study from the age of 18 onward, you might assume he was a virgin before meeting LeBrock. But he had been married twice before meeting LeBrock. In 1984, Seagal married actress Adrienne La Russa, despite still being legally married to Fujitani. Within a year, La Russa annulled their marriage. By 1987, Fujitani divorced Seagal. His marriage to LeBrock also ended less than amicably in 1996.

Drink like Seagal

Energy drinks boomed in the mid-2000s. With the success of Red Bull and Monster Energy, dozens of competitors flooded the market — often endorsed by celebrities and sports figures like 50 Cent and Julio César Chávez. Seagal got in on the game in 2005 with the release of Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt, a ginseng and goji berry-powered energy drink available in two flavors: Cherry Charge — and the more inscrutable and problematic — Asian Experience.

Seagal released a baffling two-minute commercial featuring himself and swimsuit models hanging out by a pool. The premise is Seagal is so enamored by his drink that he wants to swim in it. It's hard to decide which element of the ad is more offensive: ingredients with names like "Tibetan Goji" and "Asian Cordyceps" (as if they're some mystical cure-all), the bikini-clad actresses unable to fake chemistry with Seagal, or its nondescript blues guitar score. Reviews of the drink were less than appetizing — though cans are still available through eBay if anyone wants to try it.

Harassment and assault allegations

Seagal has dogged accusations of sexual misconduct throughout his film career, varying from harassment to assault and sex trafficking. Images surfaced of him groping a then-16-year-old Katherine Heigl on set. In 1991, actress Raenne Malone (Seagal's assistant on "Out for Justice") and three other women accused him of sexual harassment on set. Warner Brothers paid them $50,000 each. Incidents in 1994 involving optician Cheryl Shuman and in 2010 with model Kayden Nguyen briefly made headlines but resulted in no legal consequence.

Thankfully, the #MeToo movement in 2017 cast a light on serial predators in the entertainment industry who hid misdeeds with wealth and power. Suddenly, decades of allegations against Seagal couldn't be overlooked. Actors like Portia de Rossi came forward with casting couch horror stories, while model Faviola Dadis and actor Regina Simons accused Seagal of rape. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office investigated Dadis and Simons' claims in 2018 but no charges occurred. At present, more than a dozen women have accused Seagal of sex crimes.

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).

Steven Seagal, author

Seagal is a land of contrasts. He's a high-profile Hollywood Buddhist and supporter of environmental causes while simultaneously a champion of strongman regimes and the paranoid reactionary politics they traffic. In 2018, he took his first dip into literary waters with the release of his debut book, "The Way of the Shadow Wolves: The Deep State and the Hijacking of America," co-written by Arizona politician Tom Morrissey and with a foreword by disgraced Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

His story is a hodgepodge of Trump-era conspiracies surrounding the "Deep State," the supposed cadre of unelected bureaucrats plotting against the American people from deep within the federal government (and all under the sinister command of the former president of the United States, Barack Obama). Their master plan is to smuggle Middle Eastern terrorists through the Mexican border. The only thing standing in their way is Tribal officer (and shameless Seagal avatar) John Nan Tan Gode, a Mohawk (or Apache, depending on the chapter). He's a member of the Shadow Wolves — a real-life Indigenous patrol unit that works under the Department of Homeland Security. Seagal and Morrisey depict the Shadow Wolves as so morally pure and in harmony with the land that they have nearly supernatural abilities. His mysticism would be offensive if the writing wasn't so laughably bad. 

Curious minds can find the novel still in print and available for purchase. But you might be better off reading one of the many bewildered reviews published instead.

Steven Seagal vs. the SEC

Seagal is willing to lend his name and image to dicey projects. In recent history, there is perhaps no riskier project than the cryptocurrency bonanza of the late 2010s and early 2020s. In the first quarter of 2018, Seagal went to bat for Bitcoiin2gen, aka B2G, promoting it on his social media pages and allowing his likeness on official B2G branding. However, Seagal did not disclose that he had been promised $250,000 in cash and another $750,000 in B2G tokens for his endorsement, violating federal anti-touting law.

In 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission came down hard on Seagal for his violations, issuing fines of $157,000 in disgorgement and another $157,000 in penalties. Seagal paid $75,000 toward his $314,000 fine and then fled to Russia — hoping that his status as a Russian citizen and close friendship with Putin would keep the rest of his money safe. However, in 2021 a federal judge ruled that the SEC still owed its full penalty and could collect it through Seagal's business manager. B2G founder John DeMarr, who apparently didn't have the forethought to flee to Russia, faced fraud charges which led to a five years prison sentence in January 2023.

Joe Rogan's mistake

When assessing Seagal's legacy in the 21st century, there are a few elements to consider. For one, the last two decades of his career have been spent lackadaisically performing in a succession of increasingly obscure direct-to-video releases that are indistinguishable from each other. Secondly, he has spent many years proclaiming his broad (if not blind) support for Russian president Vladimir Putin and his various authoritarian projects, including the 2014 annexation of Crimea and his 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Lastly, Seagal has lapsed into a parody of himself, to the point that any headline bearing his name, no matter how outlandish, will seem possible.

These elements collided in February 2022, when a hoax article claimed Seagal had joined the Russian special forces in Ukraine and was stationed in Kyiv. The article went viral and was even supported by comedian-turned-massively popular podcaster Joe Rogan. He reposted the story — complete with a still photo of Seagal in military garb from his 2016 film "Cartels" — on his Instagram. Rogan, to his credit, took down the post within a few hours and copped to his mistake. However, he hedged his apology by noting, "It wouldn't be surprising if it was true."

Russian Order of Friendship

A year after Seagal rode into battle for Russia in meme form, he received the Russian Order of Friendship from Putin's regime, a civilian honor available to citizens and non-citizens of Russia. The metal cited his "great contribution to international cultural development and humanitarian cooperation." In 2022 a holding company co-owned by Seagal earned a parcel of land outside Moscow to build a martial arts center. Reportedly, the area was previously set aside for a children's hospital.

Seagal's cozy relationship with Putin aside, the Order of Friendship is no empty gesture. Established by former president Boris Yeltsin in 1994, the recognition has been bestowed on dozens of political and cultural figures, including chess master Anatoly Karpov, orchestra conductor Riccardo Muti, and Queen Elizabeth II's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, who gave his medal back in protest of the war in Ukraine. Canadian politician Adrienne Clarkson and Norwegian politician Rune Rafaelsen have also returned their Orders of Friendship since the start of the war.