Steven Seagal was born on the 10th of April 1951 in Lansing Michigan. Steven's mother was a medical technician and his father was a high school math teacher.
When Steven was five his father moved them to Fullerton, California, and at the age of seven he began to take an interest in the martial arts. He enrolled at an Aikido dojo in nearby Garden Grove and from all reports led a normal life for most of his childhood and even attended Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and Fullerton College before leaving the United States for Japan in 1971 at the age of twenty.
His wish was to study Zen Buddhism and Aikido from the Japanese masters. Unfortunately he arrived in Japan too late to learn from the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, who had succumbed to old age two years before Seagal's arrival.
In 1975, Steven married Miyako Fujitani and shortly after inherited the Aikido Ten Shin Dojo of Osaka from his new father-in-law. Steven was the first westerner to own and operate an Aikido dojo in Japan. He honored his new family and their gift by adopting the Japanese name, Shigemichi Take.
It was during his time in Japan that Steven has made claims that seem more preposterous than the fiction of his films. Clearly he was an accomplished martial artist in his youth, yet it's doubtful that he was a Tibetan Freedom Fighter. He seems to delight in cryptically mentioning his shady past and the security jobs he did for the likes of the CIA, Anwar Sadat, the Shah of Iran and even Bishop Tutu. Unfortunately for him, and perhaps expectedly, no one can verify these exploits.
Many of the people he claims to have associated with vehemently deny any collaboration with a man so easily goaded into boasting. His interviews almost seem like the kind of self-inflated, boisterous humor that some people use to crack the ice, until you realize that he's serious. When asked about his role in Above the Law he stated, "I was lucky that I got to play me." He once told a reporter, "I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol." All of this from a man who clearly attended college to avoid selective service during the Vietnam era and then fled to Japan when his number was called.
In 1987 he returned to America and setup a Ten Shin Dojo in west Hollywood, catering to the rich. It was at his dojo that he met big time agent Michael Ovitz and began moonlighting as his bodyguard. Ovitz was so impressed with Seagal (and no doubt his stories) that he was able to get him his first movie role in 1988's Above the Law.
Steven not only acted in Above the Law, he also co-produced, co-wrote and choreographed the fights. Above the Law was a big success. The film had been made on a shoestring budget and was one of the run away successes of that year. Several films followed with essentially the same plot. Seagal always played the rogue cop with an attitude who insisted on brining in people with no respect for the law, while ironically showing little regard for the same law himself.
By 1996 his popularity was beginning to plummet. His weight gain made his fight scenes seem improbable and you could almost sense that the cameras were turned off after every cut so that he could get his wind back. In a desperate gamble to increase his waning support he revealed that he was, wait for it... an accomplished blues musician. He even went so far as to write and perform two tracks from the soundtrack for The Glimmer Man, a task he would repeat for the abysmal Fire Down Below.
The Official Steven Seagal website claims that he has been playing the guitar since the sixties and that music is an important role in his creative process. He has even performed with the back up musicians for some of the most renowned performers in America, or so he would have you believe.
After Glimmer Man, his films went downhill, fleeing from formulaic tripe and running smack into hackneyed crap. His ego remained constant though. In the 1997 film Fire Down Below, which despite the title is not a porno, he employed a body double for long shots that was easily a hundred pounds his lesser, leaving the viewer with an uncontrollable urge to guffaw during frame changes.
In 1998 he hit rock bottom and released The Patriot, a laughable and thinly veiled environmental message about the purity of natural Asian medicine and the wisdom of old Indian men. A detailed plot synopsis would be: CDC surgeon Wesley McClaren uses Indian herbal tea dropped from helicopters to antidote a genetic weapon released by militia men who inexplicably defeat the United States Army. The film went straight to video because no studio would touch it after the embarrassing On Deadly Ground. Seagal's publicists like to say that it was an independent film.
Things started to turn around for Steven with the release of Exit Wounds in 2001. He lost weight and returned to his tough cop working outside the rules role and the audiences seemed relieved that there weren't any overindulgent environmentalist pleas. The film spent two weeks as the number one film in America. Having popular rapper DMX as a costar probably didn't hurt either.
Seagal has been married three times, once to model/actress Kelly Lebrock. His youngest daughter with LeBrock is named Arrissa after the couple's nanny, whom Seagal later had an affair and a child with.
My thanks to IMDB.com, movieseer.com, stevenseagal.com and Wharfingers E2 List Formatter.