Interview: Steven Seagal

Trends & Culture - May 2nd, 2003
tokyoweekender_Steven Seagal2

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?

SS: Sure.

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.