Steven Seagal is known for delivering stylized brute force in action flicks like Under Siege and Executive Decision, but he’s also an actor/writer/producer/director with a considerable career. While we wait to be served by the action icon again in this week’s Absolution, we caught up with Seagal to learn what movies make him tick, and his Five Favorite Films demonstrate a solid foundation for the films in his repertoire. See the list here.
Just how reality can, in the blink of an eye, completely change somebody’s life. And the transformation. [Great] performances.
Once again, how lives can tremendously overturn one’s life and, you know, go from the sacred to the profane, the black to white. We as human beings are really merely passengers who think we have control over the vehicle we’re driving but… In terms of grandeur — powerful, you know, the ability to really reach down and really grab your entire essence and move you — I think that The Last Emperor was truly a masterpiece in every way.
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) 98%
I thought The Godfather I and II were spectacular examples of wonderful storytelling, evolution of great characters and drama, amazing directing, Carmine Coppola’s spectacular music — I’m also a musician so I pay very close attention to music. I thought everything about [director of photography] Gordy Willis’ lighting… Of course, if we want to talk about lighting, let’s talk about Vittorio Storaro [director of photography] for The Last Emperor, breathtaking. [The two films] are sort of bookends; one doesn’t work without the other. It’s kind of the left and the right hand. I couldn’t really say which one was better to me, although in terms of creating a foundation, I think [the first one] was, once again, a masterpiece.
Red Beard (Akira Kurosawa, 1965) 73%
If we now want to get into films that — I arrogantly didn’t ask you if you would know anything about them; I just assumed, and assumption is the mother of all f—ups. Me, I’m Asian. I was raised in Asia and, to be honest with you, my favorite films of all time are really [Akira] Kurosawa films. He was a friend of mine. Yojimbo, Akahige meaning “Red Beard,” [and] Shichinin no samurai meaning “Seven Samurai,” I would say those are probably my three favorite films of all time. Even though Shichinin no samurai is the more famous one, I would probably pick Red Beard and Yojimbo.Red Beard is one of the most important movies in my life because it’s… I don’t want to say a movie about me, but it’s a movie about someone I tried to emulate subconsciously — or accidentally I should say — in that I am a martial artist, I am a healer, and I am a warrior, and those are the three kind of components that really make up Toshirô [Mifune]’s kind of character, you know? So I particularly relate to that movie on a very deep level.
Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961) 95%
I also related to [Yojimbo
] too because he’s a samurai who doesn’t really have to give a f— — forgive my French — but he doesn’t really care. He has [some of] the morals that I do in the sense that… Kurosawa is brilliant. He doesn’t really come out and let the audience know what Yojimbo’s doing. You almost wonder if he’s immoral because he’s killing all these folks and you’re not sure why until the end. At the end of the second act, you’ll see. You realize that both sides are evil, the whole town is evil. He wants to kind of annihilate all of them [laughing
].RT: So it’s a question of morality and ethics.
Well Kurosawa wants you to believe that, but certainly, he wants you, in my opinion, to think that Yojimbo is immoral until the end of the second act, and then you’ll see that he, in fact, is just a great Samurai, with real ethics, you know? That’s the way I take it.
Absolution opens in limited release and on-demand on May 15.