In our series The Tunnel Talks With… we go head to head with people in the news.
Or, in this case, with action film star and martial arts hero, Steven Seagal.
Tunnel: Welcome Down Under and thanks for talking with The Tunnel.
Seagal: Are you making fun of me?
Tunnel: We wouldn’t dare. You’re in Australia to make a movie. Tell us about it.
Seagal: Well, sir, it’s a serious film about serious issues. I play a man from Afghanistan trying to find a better life for his beautiful wife and even more beautiful child. I pay people smugglers to bring us to Australia but we get double-crossed and I end up in a detention centre. But what everyone doesn’t realise is I’m actually ex-military special ops. I escape from the detention centre and I’m on the run. I’m trying to save my family and I get chased by everyone – by the government, the navy, the people smugglers and even a pod of sharks that’s been terrorising the coast of Western Australia. And I beat them all up, including the sharks. There’s obviously more to the film than that but you get the picture.
Tunnel: And what’s the film called?
Seagal: Direct Action.
Tunnel: Interesting title. Direct Action has a lot of critics in Australia.
Seagal: Not after I get through with them.
Tunnel: Have you seen many Australian films?
Seagal: Nothing comes to mind. But I did see an ad for one at the hotel and I’m really looking forward to seeing it while I’m here. It’s called One Punch Can Kill. Great title.
Tunnel: Um, that’s not a movie. It’s a public awareness campaign.
Seagal: That’s perfect then. I’ll take the title for myself. Imagine the sequel: One Punch Can Kill Two! That happens in Direct Action a lot, by the way.
Tunnel: Tell us about your acting. You approach your characters in a very unorthodox way. For example, you often portray a multi-dimensional character as a one-dimensional automaton. How do you achieve that? Is there a special technique or process that you use?
Seagal: I try not to break the whole acting thing down too much. It’s a bit like asking a moth how it flaps its wings. If it thinks about it then it stops flapping and falls down to earth. I remember when I first started out, I was shooting a deodorant commercial with a young Adam Sandler and he offered me some words of wisdom. He said to me, ‘Steven, you’re over-acting. You’ve got to learn to relax and just be yourself’. And I’ve always remembered those words. Always.
Tunnel: But is it fair to say you’ve taken that advice a bit too literally in the past few decades?
Seagal: Listen, I saw part of a Cheryl Streep movie once and-
Tunnel: You mean Meryl Streep?
Seagal: No, I’m talking about Cheryl Streep. Maybe they’re related, I don’t know. Anyway, she was being all emotional and stuff and there was way too much acting going on there. I draw my inspiration from the modern day masters. You know, the Cages, the Sandlers, the Van Dammes. And from myself, of course.
Tunnel: You also help write the scripts for some of your movies.
Seagal: The good movies, yes.
Tunnel: So what, to your mind, are the ingredients of a good story?
Seagal: Obviously all the great stories have fights in them. You start by working out all the fights you want to have and then you kind of make up the story to join all the fights together so they can hopefully relate to each other in a meaningful way.
Tunnel: Sounds just like what Tony Abbott does.
Seagal: I have no idea who Tony Abbott is. But he sounds like my kind of guy.
Tunnel: He’s our Prime Minister. And I’ve heard he really hates your guts. And your films.
Seagal: Hates my films? Well, sir, I hope I meet this Tony Abbott very soon.
Tunnel: So do a lot of Australians. Steven Seagal, thanks for your time.
Seagal: (smacks fist) I’ll show him Direct Action…