By TIM WALKER
He wouldn’t be the first 1980s action star to campaign for political office, but he might just be the toughest.
Steven Seagal, who rose to fame with such films as Above the Law, Hard to Kill and Under Siege, has told a Phoenix TV news station that he would “remotely consider” a run for the role of Governor of Arizona.
The 61-year-old actor, director, writer, martial arts expert, blues musician, Buddhist and reserve deputy sheriff revealed his potential political ambitions during an interview to promote the latest series of his reality TV show, Steven Seagal – Lawman. Seagal, a Republican, said he had discussed the possibility of a run at the state’s highest office with Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County. Mr Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America”, leads a volunteer “posse” of more than 3,000 which the actor joined for the duration of the series.
In February last year, Seagal and Mr Arpaio’s posse found themselves at the centre of a controversy after filming a simulated school shooting incident and their proposed armed response. The posse had begun patrolling Maricopa’s schools following the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. One Arizona politician described Seagal’s participation as a “mockery”. Seagal responded by calling his critics “an embarrassment to the human race”.
Though the actor did not disclose any significant policy details in the interview with KNXV-TV, it is possible to discern from his past utterances what a Seagal governorship might look like. For example, Governor Seagal would undoubtedly be an immigration hawk: he told his interlocutor that he believed the biggest issue facing the US today was its open borders. Mr Arpaio’s posse has enthusiastically targeted undocumented immigrants.
Mr Arpaio also launched an infamous investigation into President Obama’s birth certificate, and while Seagal may not be a birther, he is certainly no friend to Obama, whose administration he has accused of manipulating the media. By contrast, he holds great admiration for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a personal acquaintance and fellow martial arts enthusiast, whom Seagal recently described as “one of the greatest world leaders, if not the greatest world leader alive today”.
Seagal made the comments in an interview with Russia Today in November, while on a visit to Moscow to attend a gun show, where he announced he was co-designing a long-range rifle with a Russian arms manufacturer. A keen marksman, Seagal is also a staunch second-amendment supporter, saying, “Guns don’t kill people.”
Yet Seagal’s environmental views run contrary to the Republican consensus, as proved by his 1994 directorial debut On Deadly Ground, in which he foiled an oil company’s plan to ravage the Alaskan wilderness. The film concluded with Seagal’s character delivering a stirring speech about the evils of fossil fuels.
The actor has also campaigned for animal rights, though in 2011 he was criticised for his role in a police raid that resulted in the death of a puppy and at least 100 chickens. While filming Lawman, Seagal participated in the raid on the home of 43-year-old Jesus Llovera, who was suspected but later cleared of cock-fighting. The puppy was killed in the raid, for which Seagal and his colleagues used a SWAT team and an armoured tank.
Seagal boasts several alleged qualifications that would surely help him in any political campaign. He has said, for example, that he can speak at least four languages fluently. While running an aikido dojo in Japan during his 20s, he claimed to have been an adviser to CIA agents operating in the Far East. He has also suggested that he attended a police academy in Los Angeles prior to his acting career, though officials in California say they have no record of Seagal’s training or certification.