Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Actor Steven Seagal and the Mob

The Pitch

If the tale of Steven Seagal's entanglement with the Italian-American Mafia were presented as a pitch for a movie, it would go something like this: Smart, good-looking, tall and trim HERO. A trained killer and former soldier of fortune, black belt in several deadly martial arts. Can kill with his eyelashes if necessary. Hero is targeted by MOBSTERS who try to shake him down for large sum of money. The mob's point man is a short, weasely JOE PESCI TYPE. But our hero is as righteous as he is taciturn. He tries to solve things peacefully by going to an HONORABLE OLD MOBSTER, but this man is an old-style "man of honor" and he can't talk reason with the gang of bad mobsters. After trashing and smashing a passel of mob underlings, the clever hero manages to outmaneuver the bad mobsters in court, using his quick wits and ingenious verbal combat techniques. The bad mobsters are found guilty and sent to jail for a very long time. Hero walks out of courtroom head held high, free from mob extortion and death threats. At the bottom of the courthouse steps, he links arms with the SHAPELY MOB PRINCESS who sees the shallow worthlessness of her former life and salivates to live in the Hero's righteous glow.

Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal

That's the movie version, and perhaps this is emblematic of the heightened reality that Steven Seagal lived during his Hollywood career. Yakuza, drug lords, CIA assassins, black ops, rogue cops — the screen versions blended and blurred with the "facts" that Seagal presented to the public. Then he got involved with the real deal and found that made members of La Cosa Nostra are not as romantic or honorable as their celluloid counterparts, and they don't take direction.

What Seagal failed to realize is that the Mafia is concerned with only one thing: money. They are not "men of honor," and they only do the right thing when it does right by them. As the FBI undercover tapes have shown, the mobsters were significantly less impressed with Seagal than he apparently was with them. Celebrities who pal around with mobsters for the bad-guy cache soon learn that this kind of friendship has a price tag, and often it's a running tab that's never satisfied. Fame means nothing to the mob, only fortune. Or as the fictional Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, says in the Godfather, "It's not personal... It's strictly business."

Jules Nasso is pressing ahead with his $60 million civil suit against Seagal.

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