If the crisis in Ukraine was the plot of a film, you would expect a Hollywood hero to come to the rescue. The tension is all too real but that hasn’t stopped action man Steven Seagal wading into the debate.
In March, an interview with Russian newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta saw him attacking the West’s “idiotic” foreign policy, while hailing Putin as a great world leader and suggesting he may follow in Gérard Depardieu’s footsteps and pursue Russian citizenship.
But maybe something was lost in translation. An angry statement appeared a few days later on Seagal’s website clarifying some of the quotes: “I have never said that President Putin was the ‘World’s Greatest Leader’, what I DID say was that President Putin was ONE of the World’s Great Leaders.”
Putin and Seagal have history. A year earlier the Russian President invited Seagal to tour a Moscow gymnasium as he reinstated a Stalin-era programme called Ready for Labour and Defence, encouraging Russians to keep fit, and he has talked glowingly about the man he would like to think of as a “brother” on Russia Today.
Besides his efforts as international diplomat, the actor, director, producer, writer and reserve police deputy promotes products ranging from his own energy drink – Seagal’s Lightning Bolt – to sniper rifles sold by weapons manufacturer ORSIS.
He is also a musician. According to stevenseagal.com: “Steven is an accomplished guitar player and his style of classic and modern blues is personified in a way that only Steven Seagal can accomplish.”
We rang Mr Seagal to ask about his music, film work and to see if Under Siege 3 could stop World War Three. To make sure no quotes are taken out of context, here is pretty much everything that was said…
How are you? Good sir, how are you?
I’m alright but I twisted my ankle yesterday and it really hurts. You must have had to deal with a few injuries, how can I stop the agony? Because I’m a fighter and a guy who does lots of physical stuff I put oils on that help fight the pain and keep the swelling down. I don’t want to prescribe anything to you but icing is a good idea.
I’m not a fighter, just clumsy, but I’ll see what oils I have in the kitchen. Where are you in the world at the moment? I’m in America.
Which state roughly? Arizona.
You’re getting ready to go on a big tour. For people who don’t know that you’re a musician, what kind of music do you play? I play blues, Americana, country. Mostly blues.
Is that the kind of music you like most? Yes sir.
Is blues a specifically American kind of music? No question about it.
Is it rock’n’roll in its purest original form? I don’t think so.
Do you like being on tour? It’s a lot of work.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
Do you like to work hard? You’re maybe not someone who wants to take it easy. I like a lot of work until it gets to be too much. Hopefully it’ll be just right.
Are the audiences people who know your music already or people who are more familiar with your film work? I’d say it’s both.
Playing music is one of several careers you have. How do you manage to juggle them all? Busy people always find time.
You always play the good guy in films. I do prefer being the good guy, yes.
Why is that? Because you believe in justice? Yes.
Why have you never been in an Expendables film? I just didn’t like some of the people involved.
The cast is made up of so many people I guess you couldn’t like all of them. Life is too short to work with funny people.
Would you like to name any names? Of course not. There’s good and bad people everywhere and a lot of people in The Expendables I like too. So it’s okay.
The chances would be good that I’ve never acted with anyone I would not have a tremendous advantage over in a fight
Have you thought of assembling your own team and taking them on? That might happen.
Who would be on your dream action team? I like Jason Statham. I like Jet Li, people like that.
Would you have to be the leader though? No I don’t care, I don’t have any ego about that. I’m just a simple country boy.
Have you ever acted with anyone you couldn’t beat in a fight? It’s hard for me to answer questions like that because they can be taken wrong, but I am a professional fighter – I’ve been doing martial arts all my life so the chances would be good that I’ve never acted with anyone I would not have a tremendous advantage over in a fight. Quite obviously.
Hollywood is making lots of superhero films full of special effects instead of straight action films. What are your thoughts about that? Times change. There are a lot of different methods of making movies now. They use a lot of special effects. People don’t have to be an action guy or a hero or a martial artist, they just get up there and let everybody spend the money and the time with special effects. Look at Liam Neeson. He can’t fight, he’s not an action guy at all and he’s getting action movies now, so that should tell you something. He’s a great dramatic actor, a great guy. Is he an action guy? No. Is he a great fighter, a great warrior? No. Let’s be honest.
How do you get from Schindler’s List to Taken 2? It’s a strange journey. It’s just really, really odd. Just odd.
Will there one day be a reaction against all the special effects and a return to real action? God only knows.
Under Siege was set on a boat, Under Siege 2 was on a train, if they made an Under Siege 3 where would it be set? I would set it in Russia.
I think that America and Russia should be great allies and great friends
It seems like Russia has been Hollywood’s default bad guy forever. I sorta think the opposite. I think that America and Russia should be great allies and great friends. And can be. What I want to do is write a movie, which I’ve sorta already done, where Russian special forces and American special forces work together to combat terrorism. The only way for us to prosper as a human race is for us to get along. There are hundreds of millions of people that want that.
Do you feel you have a responsibility to help if you can because you have a platform in both countries? I have been trying to do that. I have been praised by some and some have tried to cut my feet off.
I see on your website there’s a statement about how you were disappointed about being misquoted. Do you think the media tries to provoke when it should seek to resolve? It’s not like I’m a stranger to immoral, unethical journalists because most of them are immoral and unethical. Probably five to 10 per cent are good and the rest of them are just concerned about how they can spin it to make more money and more controversy.
I hope I am in the five to 10 per cent but who knows? Are you still doing shifts as a reserve deputy sheriff? Yes. I am.
How often do you do that? Whenever I can.
What are the reactions when you catch criminals and they see that it’s you? Usually people are too worried about what’s going to happen to themselves to be worried about it.
You are a man of peace but make violent films – how do you resolve those two things? There’s no resolving. I’m trying to help people and protect people and save people. A real warrior is a warrior who protects the peace. I’m just trying to get out there and make movies that try to tell a story and bring people joy and make the world a better place.
After your tour what films do you have coming up? I’m trying to do Under Siege 3, which is the plot that I told you. I’m trying to do some martial arts films in China. I have a lot of different scripts and ideas.
So Under Siege 3 will happen? Sure hope so.
Would it be on a boat or a train or would it be about something bigger than that? I don’t want to make it too big. I don’t want it to look like Die Hard 47 or something like that. I’d like to make it a bit more realistic if I can.
The last Die Hard film was set in Russia. The statement on your website said you don’t intend to give up your American citizenship… You know no one on Earth ever said that. No one. The only one who said that is a lying, conniving scum who is calling himself a journalist. No one. Ever. Said. That.
Was there a quote that was taken out of context? There was no quote, they made it up!
And the Gérard Depardieu comparison? I don’t really care. They made that up. No one ever ever talked about me giving up my American citizenship. Ever. It never came out of my mouth. Ever.
I know you’re fond of animals. Do you have lots of pets in your house? We have three dogs.
Great, well thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Hope to see Under Siege 3 very soon. Okay my friend, thank you very much.
Steven Seagal and his Blues Band tour the UK from July 17