The transcript below is from the video “How Steven Seagal LOST IT ALL” by Steven Strangles People.

Steven Strangles People:

On June, 2002, Anita Bush walked to a car like on any other day. When she got there she found that her windshield had a bullet hole in it, along with a dead fish and a rose that had been placed on the car with a sign. On the sign, there was a single word – “stop”.

A few months later, two men in a Mercedes would try to run her down right outside of her apartment. Bush was a Los Angeles Times reporter at the time and this seemed to make it clear that she was close to something major, something very powerful people didn’t want to see come out in the public eye. But she was working on two stories that seemed like they could warrant the response and wasn’t sure which was the cause.

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One was a story about the life and career of Michael Ovitz, who had become one of the most powerful Hollywood agents in town after founding the CAA, and his engagement in shady practices, like having a fixer and private eye for dirt on rivals. The other was a story about organized crime in the Hollywood industry. Mob ties had long been suspected with actors, producers, directors, and writers within the industry. But Bush was specifically investigating the ties into a specific figure-action film actor, Steven Seagal. As it turned out, the two stories were more connected than they would seem at first glance.

Rewind back to 1990. If you’re a fan of movies, throughout the year, you might have gone to see Total Recall, Die Hard 2, Pretty Woman, or Home Alone. Among all these though, you might have seen not one, but two movies starring up-and-coming action star Steven Seagal. The self-proclaimed actor, martial artist, CIA agent, Russian envoy, and Tibetan deity had an undeniably massive year in 1990, with both of his films released ending up in the top 30 highest-grossing films of the year. He had his oddities and a large ego but nothing that would immediately signal him as someone legitimately dangerous, harmful, or abusive. And yet, in a little over a decade, Seagal would drop off the map as an action star and be remembered and considered only for ties to controversies and scandals. How does an actor, once compared to the likes of action stars like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, end up investigated for mafia ties and tied up in multiple FBI investigations? What really happened to Steven Seagal?

Steven Strangles People:

The Downfall of Steven Seagal

Born in Michigan, on April 10, 1952, Seagal moved to Japan sometime in the early 1970s. After training in the martial art of Aikido under its original creator Morihei Ueshiba and becoming the first westerner to run a dojo in Japan, he returned to the U.S in 1983 to open an Aikido dojo in North Hollywood. At least, that’s what Seagal would have you believe. In actuality, the dojo he worked at while in Japan was in fact owned by the family of his wife Miyako Fujitani. And though he claimed to be trained by the founder of Aikido himself, Morihei Ueshiba passed away in 1969, and Seagal’s college enrollment records indicate that he didn’t go to Japan until at least 1971, making the claim slightly difficult to believe. These were far from the only exaggerated accounts of his life that Seagal would go on to tell over the course of his career.

In 1987, he started filming his first film Above the Law, in which he plays an ex-CIA agent trained in Aikido. As far as Seagal was concerned, the role was almost borderline biographical since he claimed to be connected to the CIA when he lived in Japan. He often told stories of meeting agents in the field, meeting powerful people through his field agent investigations, and claimed to have worked as the advisor or a security detail for the Shah of Iran, Egyptian Prince Anwar Sadat, and archbishop Desmond Tutu. Additionally, when asked about a moment in Above the Law, in which an agent is injected with a truth serum, he said “that’s not made up. That’s something that really happened”. While CIA policy is to not comment on the identity of operatives, nearly everyone close to Seagal has declared these claims unlikely.

Steven Strangles People:

Adding to the oddity, that was Seagal’s persona as a rising film star. Rumor spread that the only reason Seagal managed to make his way into being in the film at all was due to his connection with Michael Ovitz, the superstar Hollywood agent who seemed to take a strangely personal stake in Seagal’s film debut. Terry Semel, Warner Brothers’ president at the time was quoted saying, “Michael has been one of Steven’s major supporters. He went far beyond the role of just being Steven’s agent. In fact, with the type of superstar client list Michael has, you wouldn’t normally see him work so closely with a first-time actor”. Seagal would say of the relationship, “Michael and I are very close. We love each other. I’m like a guru to him”.

The film also had Julius Nasso attached as a producer, a man who would go on to serve as a producer for Seagal for many years. Seagal’s relationships with both Nasso and Ovitz would go on to end in a manner that could only be considered disastrous. But in 1988, Above the Law was a hit and Ovitz, Seagal, and Nasso were all riding high. Seagal quickly developed a public reputation for arrogance and poor professional relations. A few cast members of Saturday Night Live declared him the worst guest they had ever had. A view series producer Lorne Michaels himself would go on to echo years later. He also developed something of a rivalry with Jean-Claude Van Damme, vocally dismissing the actor in interviews.

This was all in addition to accusations of Seagal’s poor treatment of stunt workers, which would follow him throughout his entire career. Regardless, Seagal would go on to have a string of hits in the 90s and Julius Nasso attached his producer most notably, Under Siege, Marked for Death, and Fire Down Below. There’s a lasting idea of the Hollywood star being untouchable as long as they make money for the executives and it seemed to hold true for Seagal, at least for the time being. The pair released the films under their own production studio, Seagal-Nasso Productions but it was this very same relationship that seemed to serve as the beginning of the downfall of Seagal’s career.

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Dark Territory

Steven Seagal has identified as a Buddhist for most of his life, including before he met Nasso and started making movies. In fact, in 1997, he was declared a reincarnated lama, a sacred vessel in Tibetan Buddhism by a Buddhist spiritualist teacher, and a move that made many Buddhists question if he had “bought the title” through his extensive financial contributions. Around the same time, Nasso claimed that Seagal’s spiritual guru had questioned his decision in making such violent action films and advised against it. In 2000, Seagal seemed to take the advice seriously and decided to sever his relationship with Nasso. Nasso, however, had already prepared four other action projects for Seagal and saw his move as

an unacceptable breach of contract. So he decided to call up some of his friends to persuade Seagal. Some friends in the New York Mafia. As it turns out, Nasso had connections to the Gambino crime family, one of New York’s five major crime families.

In 2001, Seagal was forced into a car by reputed associates of the Gambino family, including Julius Nasso and his brother Vincent. They were taken to a restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn and greeted by the famed captain of the Gambinos himself, Anthony Ciccone. In an FBI wiretap recording, Ciccone could be heard laughing and bragging about scaring the action star, wishing that he had a gun out so that it could be more like the movies.

Steven Strangles People:

A month later, Seagal was visited by more Gambino family associates at his home. He reportedly paid out $700,000 to Ciccone and Nasso. Nasso later pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy in 2003 and was sentenced to one year in prison. Seagal would later go on to support a presidential pardon for Nasso but never worked with him again professionally. Seagal’s relationship with Ovitz around the same time didn’t seem to be faring much better. Michael Ovitz had resigned from the CAA in 1995 to become president of Disney under chairman Michael Eisner. He was let go in 1997 after personal frustrations and rough company performance. He would go on to form the investment group CKE Associates, growing increasingly concerned about his rivals in companies such as Universal, all setting the stage for resident Hollywood fixer and the bullet hole through Anita Bush’s window.

In November of 2002, the FBI raided the office of one Anthony Pellicano known as the “sin eater” for his ability to make problems vanish. Pellicano was a notorious figure in Hollywood, a private investigator who was more than willing to resort to wiretaps, identity theft, and fraud for his clients of which there were many. The raid was a response to the vandalized car of reporter Anita Bush, for which Pellicano was suspected for being responsible. The suspicion was correct. In the raid, the FBI found homemade bombs and military-grade C4 that Pellicano pleaded guilty to possessing illegally. The incident snowballed massively from there, all the way up to 2006 when Pellicano will go on to be indicted on 110 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, wiretapping, witness tampering, identity theft, and destruction of evidence. His clients included the likes of Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, John McTiernan, and Garry Shandling, along with Michael Ovitz. And what’s more, Michael Ovitz himself implicated none other than Steven Seagal as another client in his filed court documents.

Ovitz would later admit to paying Pellicano at least $150,000 for information he could use to his advantage against figures such as Universal Studio’s president Ron Meyer Dreamwork’s co-founder David Geffen and Anita Bush. Michael Ovitz was sued separately to Pellicano by Bush. Though the trial never made it to court, the court documents that Ovitz filed detailing his potential defense made it clear that he would argue that it was in fact Seagal who had orchestrated the dead fish threat on Bush’s car and Ovitz intended to make that part of his defense to deny his responsibility in the act. It’s unclear what Ovitz and Seagal’s relationship is currently like but given that Ovitz seemed completely willing to throw Seagal under the bus to save his own skin, it’s not difficult to make a guess.

Steven Strangles People:

Steven Seagal: Lawman

By this time, most would consider Seagal’s career to be dead. he disappeared from the public consciousness after a short stint in the 90s and it’s true that he would never have a theatrical hit film again. However, he continued to have a prolific film career in the form of direct-to-video films and even reality TV series. He starred in the TV series Steven Seagal: Lawman, where he served as a deputy in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office and while he hasn’t released in the past few years since 2019, he had released over 20 in the decade prior to that, including seven films in 2016. Two of his films since 2000 have 0% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. While most don’t even have enough reviews to even have ratings, he does have at least one fan though – Vladimir Putin.

In fact, after years of praising the Russian government, Seagal was granted Russian citizenship by Putin. In 2014, he called Vladimir Putin “one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader alive”. Today he also made a statement declaring that he considered the annexation of Crimea by Russia to be a totally reasonable act. He was a guest at Russia’s 2015 Victory Day parade and visited Belarusian president

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Alexander Lukashenko. In 2018, Vladimir Putin declared Seagal a cultural envoy to ease tensions between the United States and Russia. Suffice it to say, I think he’s been unsuccessful so far. It’s not entirely clear what the cultural envoy role is supposed to be, except whatever this means – “to kind of try to get people to have meaningful conversations and meaningful meetings where we’re open to at least try to communicate in a fashion where we can get closer and closer together and not further and further apart”.

Seagal also fled to the country from the United States to avoid paying a $330,000 fine to the securities and exchange commission for failing to disclose that he had paid to promote a cryptocurrency Bitcoiin 2-Gen. The fleeing was ultimately unsuccessful as a method of avoiding the fine and the individuals behind the currency were charged with fraud. It’s easy when discussing Steven Seagal to fall into open silly mockery. At first glance in many ways, Steven Seagal seems like something of a harmless source of entertainment, a kind of crazy nut that everyone seems to have a fun story about, like one of many other quirky weird actors in Hollywood. But the truth about the man appears to be much more sinister according to dozens of accusations against him. His ridiculous claims of assertions painting him as some one-of-a-kind adonis, when contrasting with the reality of his accomplishments, paints an amusing picture of delusions of grandeur and one hell of an insatiable ego. But Seagal’s history is in many ways indicative of all of the rampant abuse and mistreatments Hollywood exemplifies, fosters, and allows in the name of the bottom line. And treating Seagal purely as a punchline, like so many do, can often obscure a lot of the more horrifying details about him and ignores the real harm that he has caused.

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For the series Steven Seagal: Lawman, Seagal worked with Sheriff Joe Arpaio to conduct a raid on the home of a man suspected of running a cockfighting ring. He did so by driving a tank through the man’s front gate, accompanied by police in full riot gear even though the suspect had no history of weapons ownership and was alone in the home. Over a hundred chickens were euthanized on the spot and the suspect alleged that Seagal killed his family’s puppy during the raid. In addition to thousands of dollars in property damage and the cost of the mass raid operation itself, interestingly, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, himself a bit of a controversial figure, was not Seagal’s usual collaborator on the series. That would be Sheriff Newell Normand of Jefferson Parish, who Seagal worked with as a deputy for the majority of the series.

According to Seagal in an episode of the reality series, he was “on the loan from Louisiana for Sheriff Arpaio”. In actuality, however, Seagal had recently resigned from the Jefferson Parish police force. The cause of his resignation – the lawsuit filed by Kayden Nguyen, accused the actor [inaudible] and attempting to keep Nguyen, who had applied to a job as his personal assistant [inaudible]. She alleged that he kept other personal assistants at [inaudible] in a secluded house and that she was repeatedly discouraged from leaving the home, including at gunpoint. The lawsuit was later dismissed but Seagal chose to resign from the Jefferson Parish Police rather than face an internal investigation.

Steven Strangles People:

Above the Law

As it turns out, the lawsuit is consistent with a long list of [inaudible] allegations that span nearly his entire career and almost all tell a similar story. Actress Katherine Heigl spoke about an encounter with Seagal when he claimed to have underaged women as girlfriends seemingly as a poorly veiled proposition to her. Later, an image was shown of Seagal seemingly posing while touching Heigl’s breast. She was 16 years old at the time. In 1991, he was accused by Warner Brothers employees Raenne Malone, Nicole Selinger, and Christine Keeve of [inaudible], leading to an out-of-court settlement.

Jenny McCarthy recalled Seagal asking for her to undress during an audition for Under Siege 2. She stated that when she pointed out that the role had no nudity, he remarked “there’s off-camera duty”. When she began to cry and ran out, Seagal followed. He reportedly followed her all the way to her car, warning her not to tell anyone of what she had just witnessed. She later remarked of the experience “I was the last girl he saw that day. How many girls had to take off their clothes? How many girls had to do more?”

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Actress Julianna Margulies alleges she was contacted by a casting agent when she was just 23 years old and told to meet Seagal in his hotel bedroom. She was told that the casting agent would also be present. When Margulies got there, however, it was only Seagal. When she sat down to discuss the scene, he pulled out a gun from under the cushion. After a brief uncomfortable conversation, she ran out of the room. “He read my palm and told me that he was a healer and that I had weak kidneys. It was so awful and hilarious that I just sort of stood up and I went, well, that was fun. Thanks about the kidneys. Gotta go. And I just ran for the door.” She credits the experience with educating her enough to avoid a similar encounter with Harvey Weinstein years later.

Portia de Rossi had a chillingly similar account when she accused Seagal of exposing himself to her during the so-called audition in his office in 2002, saying that, “he told me how important it was to have chemistry off-screen as he sat me down and unzipped his leather pants.” When she ran out and told her agent the story, her agent just responded, “Well, I didn’t know if he was your type.” Her experience details an industry problem where [inaudible] was treated as an accepted hurdle of reaching career goals and her own agent, the person supposed to be on her side in the industry, didn’t even have the decency to warn her about what could happen.

Steven Strangles People:

The accusations against Steven Seagal paint the consistent compelling picture of persistent [inaudible] spanning years. There are repeated stories of him using the guise of auditions and chemistry as tricks to draw women into isolated locations that he could use to assault them. For a lot of his career, he served as lead actor, producer, and sometimes director of his own projects, leading to a massive amount of control over productions of his films and as a result, a massive amount of power over aspects of the film such as casting. This allowed him free reign and centralized power that he allegedly exploited for decades to assault dozens of women. As more and more cases about [inaudible] rampant corruption and criminal dealings are exposed in Hollywood every year, one thing is abundantly clear, Steven Seagal is far from alone in his actions or connections. Seagal may have tied himself up with Russia but many of the people he was once involved with, are still very much in Hollywood.

Michael Ovitz now works as an advisor to companies in Silicon Valley. Julius Nasso was still producing films as late as 2019 and Anthony Pellicano was himself recently released from prison in March 2019. He reportedly had a slush fund in the six-figure range from former clients provided as payment for silence. He’s now back in business as a fixer or as he calls it, “crisis manager”.

In one form or another, all of the players that form the conspiratorial web are still around and most of them are back doing almost exactly what they were doing before. Consequences for the wealthy were, as always, at worst, non-existent and at best, temporary.

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