by Jim Merk
The enlightened action hero rarely lets his guard down. Could the Weekender make him laugh?
Steven Seagal greets me at the door. He is much taller than I expected and he looks at me with intense eyes, extends his massive hand, and holds on after we finish shaking—the show has started.
He leads me into the suite and I sit next to him on a couch. He immediately begins to move his prayer beads while he lays down the ground rules. “You cannot tape the interview and we cannot talk about the legal proceedings I am now a part of.”
He speaks like a mystic and plays with a calm demeanor. Well, I thought, there goes some of the more interesting stuff to talk about. I immediately decide I must get this man to laugh, perhaps then he will shed some of the protective clothing, if you will. I open my computer and begin typing notes.
Jim Merk: So, what are your plans for Japan?
Steven Seagal: We plan to bring the expertise of film editing and design from Hollywood to Japan. Hopefully, we can do this without the shallowness that is so typical of that town.
JM: Do you dislike Hollywood for that reason?
SS: Well you really have to assume that everybody has a secret agenda; it is tiring.
JM: Yeah, that must be tiring. We don’t get much of that back in Ohio.
SS: Well, I am just a simple guy from Michigan; we don’t get much of it there, either.
JM: Michigan! Well, I am sorry our Buckeyes beat your Wolverines this year.
SS: Things happen.
JM: Yeah, well, you guys had enough years kicking our hind ends.
SS: Ha ha ha
The first laugh. It was a ripple through his body and left quickly to be replaced by his posture of a mystic again. I need to get another chuckle.
JM: Is Japan ripe for Hollywood-style production?
SS: I think so; we want to make a bunch of money.
JM: You had a commercial run here not long ago and you will follow up with a movie release. Will you leverage your pop status to attract clients?
SS: There are lots of possibilities.
JM: You are here in Japan to perform at a charity event. How important is this to you?
SS: I love doing these things. I love life. Life is so, uh, so, big, so important in all of its many, uh, guises.
JM: Did you learn that from your religion?
JM: Tell me about these beads.
SS: They are prayer beads.
JM: How do you use them? Is it similar to a rosary?
SS: Well, you pick a god from the pantheon before you and you meditate on his particular message. Charity and charitable works come from this type of meditation.
JM: So you will play some blues to raise money for needy kids. Tell me about your music.
SS: (shouting) Steve (not his real name), bring me the CD! (To me) Here, let me play some for you. I would characterize my playing as old school.
We spend the next several minutes listening. He is enrapt in his music and shushes me when I try to ask the next question. I am surprised by what I hear, especially his singing ability—it works.
JM: So who is your biggest guitar influence?
SS: There are many… so many.
JM: Well, in the pantheon of guitar gods who do you like the best?
SS: Ha ha. I get it. I say pantheon so you use it too.
It is the second laugh. Harder than the first; with less recovery back to the serene mode. I find that I like to see him laugh; it removes the sheen and makes me think of him as a regular guy.
JM: Do you have any plans to put your own music on a movie soundtrack?
SS: As soon as I can.
JM: Of the performers joining you at the charity, is there one who you are really looking forward to hearing play?
SS: No, not really. I have already heard most of them and I am more into the blues.
JM: Thank you for your time; shall we get to the photo?
SS: Sure, I would like to pick the final shot.
JM: Of course.
He did pick the photo above; it was the second shot. I managed to get another laugh during the session and it con-firmed my feeling that he should laugh more. He can call himself a reincarnated monk, but it doesn’t wash. The clothes don’t really help. I mean, an ex-CIA man, a Hollywood action hero, who walks around in jeans and silk tops? What is he thinking?
I leave wondering what will happen to him, hoping that he will laugh a bit more and try the regular guy approach. Not holding my breath on that one.