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.