Writeup From: Elliott Altman
Few tough guy actors have as sketchy a reputation as Steven Seagal. From singing with Panda Bears to pretending to be a cop on a reality TV show, the man’s been a bit odd for years now. John Leguizamo famously included a bit in his standup routine about the movie Executive Decision he made with Seagal. He claims Seagal came onto the set and told everyone he was in charge. Leguizamo laughed because it sounded stupid and Seagal attacked him out of nowhere. Other stories also agree he’s a bit of a bully and is known to attack stuntmen without provocation by kicking them in the groin or dislocating joints to the point that they need surgery. So all of this proves he really is tough, if somewhat jerky, right? Well, maybe not.
Over the course of his career, Seagal has claimed to have trained CIA operatives, fought the Yakuza, and was trained by the founder of Aikido—a man who died in 1968 when Seagal was still living in California. But more than that, one story best exemplifies how Seagal’s career as a tough guy is mostly just bullying and bluster. That tale is the Gene LeBell story.
Legend has it that Lebell was a stunt coordinator on the Seagal movie Out for Justice. At this time, Seagal already had a rep as a guy who would kick you in the nuts without warning, so most people just didn’t like him. But he came on set one day and told LeBell, who was 58 at the time, that as an Aikido master he was immune to choke holds. Why? Who knows? Just tough guy talk. But LeBell took him up on it and promptly choked Seagal out on the floor. And not just that, he choked him out so badly Seagal lost control of his bodily functions. Ever gracious, LeBell refuses to talk about the story to this day—but he never denies it either.