Steven Seagal is The Final Option (Unreleased, Super Nintendo)
TecMagik Entertainment Ltd. of Redwood City, California first revealed its partnership with Steven Seagal in September 1993.
“There have been a lot of games based on movies, but not any that we know of based on a Hollywood celebrity,” Jeff Tarr, director of marketing for the game publisher, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
The entirely original plot involved Seagal teaming up with a mother to rescue her son while “battling all types of villains in the process.”
Even though the video game would prominently feature a Mortal Kombat-like graphical digitization of real people performing martial arts moves, Seagal surprisingly did not partake in any of the filming process.
Already the company was looking ahead to a long-lasting relationship with Seagal, guaranteeing that in upcoming CD games they “would work directly with Steven at that time.”
Seagal still “consulted extensively” on the project, according to Tarr, and the star received “a [combination] of royalties and guarantees” as his compensation.
The game would retail for between $65-$70, which Tarr admitted was “high-end,” adding, “but it’ll be a high-end game.”
The decision to go with Seagal in the first place was not based on box office numbers (TecMagik had signed the action star before Under Siege, his highest-grossing film, hit theaters) but rather on strong video rental sales. Tarr banked on the kids who rented Seagal’s movies to also buy his game, and predicted that Steven Seagal is The Final Option would become a “blockbuster, which in the cartridge realm would mean unit sales in the six figures.”
Confident in Seagal’s staying power, Tarr insisted that movies come and go but real stars never fade away.
“Celebrities are more stable than films,” he said, unconcerned about whether or not Seagal’s then-upcoming On Deadly Ground did well at the box office (it did not; the action movie with an environmental message debuted to bad reviews, and the $50 mil production domestically grossed only $38 mil [link]).
While The Hollywood Reporter profiled the business side of things, Daily Variety offered more of a look into the game’s motion-capture process.
“[TecMagik] shot much of the game at a Santa Monica studio using technology developed for compact disc platforms and a Hollywood-style production team that included a director/producer, actors, dancers, a choreographer and a costume designer. In four days of shooting, the company filmed more than 10,000 frames of Seagal’s aikido action.”
The Final Option’s release was slated for spring 1994. The game would appear on both the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis systems.
After missing that deadline, The Hollywood Reporter again covered the game in June 1994, updating the Super Nintendo release to “early 1995.” The Genesis version was not mentioned.
Sometime after that, TecMagik made the decision to permanently shelve The Final Option and started over on a completely new Seagal video game called The Deadly Hour for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. That, too, was eventually cancelled.
In 1997, TecMagik announced Roto Gunner, a Nintendo 64 arcade helicopter game, as its newest undertaking (link). That title also went under, and TecMagik as a company soon followed.
As the years went by, Steven Seagal’s popularity waned. The strength of his video rental sales that initially made him so attractive to TecMagik ultimately became the star’s downfall by pushing him out of the big screen and into low budget, direct-to-video releases. A video game starring Steven Seagal was quite literally no longer an option.
Although the Seagal Super Nintendo game would never make it to stores, a prototype containing a demo version emerged and found its way into the hands of a private game collector.
In 2008, Netherlands prototype enthusiast Niels Thomassen auctioned off most of his massive collection of unreleased games on eBay, including a Super Nintendo prototype of Steven Seagal is The Final Option. Thomassen purchased his copy from Jason Wilson, a former senior editor of Tips & Tricks magazine. Alexandre Fernandes of Portugal purchased Thomassen’s copy and held on to it until he offered to sell the game to me.
U1 4/8M EPROM (J)
U2 4/8M EPROM (J)
U3 4/8M EPROM (J)
U4 4/8M EPROM (J)
U5 4M EPROM (J) [Empty Slot]
U6 4M EPROM (J) [Empty Slot]
U7 4M EPROM (J) [Empty Slot]
U8 4M EPROM (J) [Empty Slot]
U9 16/64/256K SRAM
As a fan of quirky video games, not to mention a closeted Steven Seagal movie watcher, I could not possibly pass up this opportunity.
The Final Option in its alpha form is essentially a bloodless beat-em-up brawler. The goal is simply to reach the exit and advance to the next level.
Decked out in his trademark leather jacket and blue jeans, Steven Seagal infiltrates the evil Nanotech’s laboratories and reactors in six dangerous missions, three stages per mission (stage 18 repeats).
He can unleash Aikido chops and crotch kicks to anyone dumb enough to get in the way, or play really dirty by tossing an infinite supply of throwing knives (with the L button) or by pulling out a handgun (with the R button) when the action gets to be too much to handle. Seagal can also perform a combo move (A+X) to throw thugs.
Health and more knives and ammunition can be picked up off the ground.
Seagal’s trademark fighting technique of standing in one place and waiting for punks to run into his fists has translated well into the gameplay. Lab technicians and crooked cops will dutifully form organized lines to receive their deserved beatings.
Enemy attacks range from kicks and punches that do minor amounts of damage (and can be blocked) to bullets that can take Seagal down with one hit. The player is given unlimited lives in the prototype, so difficulty is not an issue. (In fact, the only way that Seagal can lose is if he deliberately stays too long in one of the gas-filled rooms that have timers; that will result in a TIME UP.)
What is an issue, however, is Seagal’s inability to jump, as the big lug can only “crouch hop” short distances. Every stage has platforming or obstacles that need to be leapt over, but the best that Seagal can hope for in most cases is to let out a high-pitched yelp as he plummets down ditches, burns alive in fire pits, or disintegrates while drowning in pools of glowing-green acid.
Fortunately, to compensate, the player can navigate a cursor around to place Seagal back on safe ground after falling. During some especially dicey moving platform sections, the player will have to repeatedly resort to doomful diving in order to move forward. Seagal was never known for overly exerting himself in action sequences, and again, this game strives for realism.
The soundtrack can be summed up in three words: pure ’90s rock. Brothers Fred and Cory Porter of Porter Sound in Tuscon, Arizona have composed one adrenaline-filled, foot-stomping anthem after another.
The prototype exhibits a very early state of development, and levels typically stop at dead-ends. To experience the other areas, a level select option can be accessed by pressing Select before a stage begins.
In between all of the killing and the falling, Seagal will occasionally stumble upon flashing computer monitors called “terminal screens” that in the final game would have given clues to tell him where to go or what to do. In the prototype, they all say the same thing, “TERMINAL SCREEN GIVES CONTEXT-SENSITIVE HELP.”
The terminal screen writing may be missing, but I scoured the game code and found other hidden text, including the full storyline.
STEVEN SEAGAL IS A LEGENDARY RUNNER, BUT COMMANDERS DISLIKE HIS LOOSE STYLE AND CONTEMPT FOR RULES. HIS PARTNER, JACK FREMEN, WAS KILLED ON THEIR LAST MISSION. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT, BUT MANY WONDER IF HE MIGHT STILL BE ALIVE HAD SEAGAL FOLLOWED ORDERS.
TRISH MORGAN, ANOTHER VETERAN RUNNER, HAS BEEN ASSIGNED AS HIS NEW PARTNER. SHE’S TOUGH AS ANY BUT HAS THE ATTITUDE THAT COMMANDERS LOOK FOR.
NOW, THE REBELS WILL ATTEMPT THE ULTIMATE MISSION: AN ASSAULT ON NANOTECH’S MAIN CAMPUS.
HIGH COMMAND NERVOUS ABOUT SEAGAL–THEY KNOW HE’S OUT TO AVENGE FREMAN’S DEATH. BUT HE’S THE BEST CHANCE THEY HAVE.
HE’S THE ONLY CHOICE…
As I mentioned before, none of the levels can be completed, but a briefing of each mission can still be accessed in the game code.
YOUR FIRST TARGET IS NANOTECH’S UNDERGROUND MUNITIONS DEPOT.
FIRST MISSION COMPLETED
YOUR NEXT MISSION IS TO SHUT DOWN THE ALLOY PROCESSING CENTER TO HALT ALL WEAPONS PRODUCTION.
SECOND MISSION COMPLETED
DESTROY THE CRYOGENICS RESEARCH LAB TO CUT OFF POSSIBLE ESCAPE INTO THE FUTURE.
THIRD MISSION COMPLETED
SHUT DOWN THE IMPLANT CENTER TO LIBERATE NANOTECH SLAVES AROUND THE GLOBE.
FOURTH MISSION COMPLETED
DESTROY THE MOLECULAR RESEARCH CENTER TO KEEP NANOTECH FROM DEVELOPING ADVANCED WEAPONS.
FIFTH MISSION COMPLETED
YOUR FINAL MISSION IS TO DESTROY THE NUCLEAR FUSION FACILITY WHICH POWERS NANOTECH’S WORLDWIDE NETWORK.
SIXTH MISSION COMPLETED
The credits can be uncovered with some more digging. Entering the following Pro Action Replay codes will force the ending to appear when the player starts a new game:
JOB WELL DONE YOU HAVE COMPLETED YOUR MISSIONS
DESIGNED AND DEVELOPED BY RSP, INC.
PRODUCED BY VINCE DESIDERIO
MUSIC AND SOUND EFFECTS
SOUND DRIVER BY CHIP LEVEL DESIGNS
The Options screen shows a password system where the “Access Codes” are entered.
“MORGAN,” the name of Seagal’s female sidekick, is buried in the Options menu text, as well. The Final Option was designed as a two-player game, so I can only assume that the second player would have controlled her character. She is not accessible in the prototype, but three unused female sound effects can heard via the sfx test: (1), (2), (3).
Lastly, the Game Over screens also exist within the game code.
NANOTECH WINS YOU HAVE FAILED
THE WORLD IS DOOMED
TIME IS UP
To get to the bottom of this game and solve its many mysteries, I reached out to Steve Wik of Running With Scissors, the makers of the controversial Postal series. RSP morphed into RWS by the end of the 1990s. Wik worked extensively on Steven Seagal is The Final Option as a designer.
Steve, thank you for giving me your time. I truly appreciate it. Before I begin, could you tell me a little bit about your background and how you started out in the gaming industry?
Back in 1992, I was working at the local comic book shop when one of my customers informed me that a video game company had moved to town and needed artists. I threw my portfolio together and applied, and a week later I was in! RSP was doing SNES and Genesis and PC edutainment titles at that time, and had done many other games for many other platforms before that. RSP was responsible for the original Spy vs. Spy game that originated the split-screen format, as well as the first NES game with recorded dialogue.
How did you become involved with Steven Seagal is The Final Option? When did work on the game begin?
Final Option was probably the third game I worked on at RSP (it’s a little hard to remember because we often had multiple overlapping projects going). But it would have to have been early ’93, just after our nine-month stint blasting out Tom & Jerry and Hunt For Red October.
The game’s credits list you as an artist. What exactly were your duties?
Actually, I had more to do with the game design than the art. On the art end, I was the one who put together the animations from frames captured from laserdiscs of the actor footage. On the design end, I had key input into the whole concept of the game that would have involved optionally using stealth and distraction to sneak past enemies rather than just the standard walk-to-the-right-punching-endless-waves-of-guys kind of game. I was simultaneously working on cinematic screens for Bobby’s World and also leading the design for a math-oriented edutainment title I’d created, that we’d sold to Phillips Interactive for their CD-I platform. We were keeping a lot of plates spinning in those days!
Jeff Tarr, director of marketing for TecMagik, admitted to The Hollywood Reporter in 1993 that a Steven Seagal look-alike was used in the game instead of the actual actor because gamers would not be able to tell the difference. Tarr still insisted that the star “consulted extensively” on the project, having “input into plot progression” and final approval. How involved really was Seagal in the making of this game? Did you ever get to meet him or talk with him?
As far as I know, Seagal had no interest or involvement in this game. The real reason Seagal did not appear in the game was that TecMagik was too cheap to pay him! (laughs) I never heard about him having any sort of approval on anything. As far as I was ever told, he sold his name and likeness, and that was the end of it. We certainly never had to pitch our design to him and never saw any feedback from him about it. But I suppose that could have come later, after the prototype stage?
I understand that much of the game was shot at a Santa Monica studio. A director/producer, actors, dancers, a choreographer, and a costume designer were hired, and 10,000 frames of Seagal’s look-alike were filmed. Were you present during any of this? If so, could you describe the scene and what that whole process was like? It would also be interesting to know more about the actor who played Steven Seagal.
The actor who played Seagal was just some guy we found at the audition. He was tall enough and knew something about Akido. But I’d need to see the prototype you’re looking at, because at first we were using footage of our art director Randy Briley, who used to compete in martial arts competitions and knew Akido. I don’t know for sure when or if the final Seagal footage got implemented.
I helped design the character moves and actions, but I wasn’t at the shoot. The choreographer would have been Randy Briley. There were actually two shoots, and the explanation is kinda meandering and lengthy, but amusing:
When the project began, we were presented with a really terrible design that TecMagik had paid some other company to write up. It was based on a driving game engine that TecMagik happened to have access to. Yes, it began as a driving game! (laughs) After some brutal jokes about how would you even know it’s Seagal–have his ponytail flapping out of the side window–we made short work of destroying that original design and convincing TecMagik to let us start our own from scratch.
The first producer TecMagik gave us was a woman who we were told got her job because she’d “graduated from Harvard School of Business” and “was formerly a bank manager.” Pretty much the first thing she made clear to us was that she’d never played a video game in her life. We foolishly thought that would work to our advantage and lead her to trust our knowledge and design instincts, but that wasn’t to be the case. In the end, she looked at our design with all the stealth mechanics and said, “Why are you doing all this? Why don’t you just make it like Streets of Rage 2? That game sold a million units, clearly it’s what the kids want!”
But we fought that battle and got to keep our “unnecessarily gameplay-filled” vision of the game. Relations with that producer got so heated that TecMagik switched her to a different project and gave us a new guy they’d just hired. He was introduced to us via conference call and there was an audible groan in the room when he said: “I’m really excited, guys! You know, I’ve never played a video game in my life! I think I’ll go right over to the arcade and do some research!”
This new producer apparently got hired because he and some friends had developed some sort of strip poker game for PC. Anyway, this guy turned out to be even worse than the previous producer, and at one point he started criticizing the character designs in the footage, which we had already been using for months. He felt the characters needed to be more wild and freakish. Which is certainly true if you’re hand-drawing them, and we didn’t necessarily disagree with the idea of improving them, but doing the digitized Mortal Kombat thing is a different story, as he was soon to discover.
While the owner of TecMagik was out of town, this producer authorized, on his own, a new shoot for the enemy characters and supposedly paid his strip poker buddies and girlfriend a few grand in TecMagik money to do it. Unfortunately, he had absolutely no idea what he was doing and the footage we got back was utterly laughable.
First, the thing was clearly shot in someone’s garage. There was no green screen! The camera angle, distance to the character and lighting often changed per shot so nothing could possibly have been matched up. He had characters doing dive rolls and falls and jumps where they’d actually go partially out of frame! In some shots, lights and other items actually blocked the view of the characters. I’m pretty certain I remember at least one character death, where not only did he end up with one leg disappearing off the edge of the frame, but the cameraman got artsy, and actually moved closer and angled down to almost a top-down shot as the guy fell. It was a nightmare. Hilarious, though.
Additionally, despite our best attempt to educate him about the potential pitfalls in putting together character costumes for digitized sprites, the guy had made some truly bone-headed character design choices. He had one guy with a sort of exaggerated Bart Simpson hair style that shot straight up. Of course, when reduced to proper in-game size, the guy just looked like he had a yellow cylinder on his head. He also had a Freddy Krueger glove on, and when reduced, the narrow finger-blades disappeared entirely. He also had his girlfriend in some sort of bondage gear, but the silly girl couldn’t actually walk in the stiletto heels, much less throw kicks or do anything else in them, so she just looked ridiculous struggling to maintain her balance. Plus, the stiletto heels also vanished when the footage was reduced. And these were all things that we had warned him about in advance, since he wasn’t going to have us involved with the actual reshoot (he reassured us his buddies were “pros” at this stuff)!
Then he had the guy that was supposed to be an android, but even at his reduced size looked exactly like a guy wearing a football helmet with duct tape and one of those tinfoil TV dinner trays stuck to his chest.
Good times… good times… (laughs)
I read that the game’s story used to be Seagal teaming up with a mother whose son was kidnapped. The story found in the prototype, however, is much different. Set in the future, Seagal is referred to as a “legendary runner” whose “loose style and contempt for rules” might have caused his partner, Jack Fremen, to be killed in action on a mission against Nanotech. Seagal and his new partner named Trish Morgan are chosen to lead the assault on Nanotech’s main campus. Can you talk a little about how the game’s story came to be, and maybe help me understand more about “runners” and “Nanotech?” Was there a reason for setting the game in the future?
I’m actually not sure about the story, where I was involved we were only concerned with the actual gameplay. I suspect that some elements were retained from the original TecMagik design and then Randy Briley and Mike Reidel added to that. Trish Morgan hadn’t been developed in much depth, I think the plan was to get beyond the prototype stage before putting effort into her. We were focused on getting Seagal himself playable.
The reason for setting the game in the future was simply to allow for more interesting concepts and environments to be used. We didn’t want to get bogged down with having to try and recreate real environments or be stuck with Russians or Mobsters as enemies. It was an entirely self-serving decision!
The prototype does not have Trish Morgan in it, but I assume that she was supposed to be controlled by the second player. Do you remember anything about this character, what she looked like, her special abilities, etc.?
Trish would have been very similar to Seagal in terms of abilities, weaker in hand-to-hand, but with more powerful weapons to compensate. We never got around to fleshing her out.
The prototype is an early build, so all of the computer monitors say the same thing, many dead-ends block the way, and none of the levels can be completed. Could you go into some detail on how the final game would have played? For example, would Seagal have battled a boss at the end of each stage?
The idea was that there would be multiple paths for replayablilty. The level layouts would offer spots where the player could move into the background and sneak around in shadows as an option to combat. Blackthorne would eventually do something similar, though in our version you could still move right or left while hiding. We had ideas for situations like being able to kick one of those typical office chairs and make it roll past an enemy, which would distract him so you could get by or attack him from behind.
The boss events would have been more like Contra, with static emplacements launching projectile and beam attacks while enemies also came out to attack you and an occasional “super” version of an enemy type as a midboss. I don’t think we’d designed a final boss yet.
Probably the most distinctive sound effect is the screaming that’s triggered whenever Steven Seagal falls off a platform. It’s high-pitched and rather drawn out. Do you remember how the effects were created? Were there ever any plans to actually record Steven Seagal and use his real voice?
The project really never got that far, but I doubt we’d have been able to get Seagal’s real voice, I’m sure it would have been a stand-in. As for the other audio, anything in the prototype was all placeholder stuff we scrounged. The Seagal death shriek was just a joke we threw in because it made us laugh and laugh to hear that girly shriek over and over…
My prototype runs on the Super Nintendo, but apparently there were also plans to release Steven Seagal on the SEGA Genesis. Is that true? If so, was the game ever up and running on the Genesis?
Well, this calls for another lengthy and meandering answer… While we were developing the SNES version, another company was hired to develop the Genesis version semi-independently. The deal was we’d share the character footage with them, but beyond that, I think they were pretty free to diverge from our design at will.
Unlike RSP, which was in Arizona, the Genesis dev company was located literally across the street from TecMagik in San Francisco. As we discovered later, this provided them with lots of opportunity to play weird politics against us. The closest thing there ever was to a Genesis version up and running was the utterly bogus “prototype” they put together to show, I think, at CES. Basically, what they did was take the raw Seagal walking animation frames and put him on a black background. He was much larger than our working prototype version and had the benefit of all of the Genesis’ RAM and color palettes being applied to him. So, basically, he looked great, but anyone with the slightest clue knew there was no possible way he could look like that in a real game. The sample environments they showed were done the same way. They looked terrific, but that was because they were using all of the system’s resources to display a single screen image with no characters or anything else going on. It was totally fraudulent!
But this unscrupulous developer used it as a wedge to show how much “better” their team was. I think the guy was trying to get them to pull the project from us and give it to them. I have no idea how he would’ve eventually explained why the game ended up looking so much crappier than their “prototype.” We were never into playing that kind of bogus self-promotional game, we were totally focused on putting together functional gameplay. We clearly had no idea how things were done in the real world! (laughs)
Was the game always called Steven Seagal is the Final Option? Years ago some prototype designs popped up online, and TecMagik referred to it as Steven Seagal Under Pressure. Was that once a working title? Were there ever any other names thrown around?
The original design document we got from TecMagik was called “Steven Seagal Game” or something. Everyone was constantly brainstorming names! Since TecMagik had only licensed Seagal himself, it didn’t have the rights to any of his movie titles. We threw around tons of ideas, my favorite being: “Steven Seagal is Silent But Deadly!” (laughs) That one was what we called it around the office, but TecMagik opted for “The Final Option.”
It’s been said that if the game had been released it would have retailed at a higher cost, somewhere in the range of $65-70. Was there any reason why TecMagik was going to charge more? At one time, they said they were confident that the game would have unit sales “in the six figures,” so they must have thought that the price wasn’t an issue.
I don’t know anything specific about that stuff, but I think it came about after they saw what our digitized sprites were going to look like. You have to remember that this was pre-Mortal Kombat 2, so compared with the Mortal Kombat SNES sprites, our game was a graphical revolution! (laughs)
The game was originally slated for a spring 1994 release until it was delayed to early 1995. Then it kind of disappeared. When was the game officially cancelled, and can you provide any insight into why development was finally shut down? Did you hear about or personally experience any problems related to the game’s development?
My understanding was that TecMagik simply ran out of money, but there may be a more interesting story about what was going on there. Publishers went out of business all the time, so we just kept rolling with our other projects.
Another video game starring Steven Seagal called The Deadly Hour was announced by TecMagik for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, but that, too, was eventually cancelled. No prototypes or even screenshots exist of the game. Were you or RSP involved with the making of The Deadly Hour? If so, could you tell us more about it and the reasons behind its cancellation?
No, I never heard about that! I didn’t think TecMagik was still in business by the time the PlayStation was released.
Do you have any additional information or stories about Steven Seagal is the Final Option that you could share?
I’ve already relayed all the interesting stuff that I can recall, but I do remember the whole team sitting around a TV, watching the character audition tape. What a motley crew of martial arts wannabes! Several people actually injured themselves on camera, and many clearly had no knowledge of martial arts, but gave it a go anyway! That tape got pulled out routinely at company get-togethers. (laughs)
We also heard a story about the guy who played Seagal, who apparently actually ran into the real Seagal at a convention or something and told him, “I’m playing you in a video game! I’m an Akido expert!” and Seagal said, “I’ll be the judge of that,” and twisted the guy’s arm around until he cried like a girl. That’s probably too good to be true though.
Do you happen to recognize my prototype cartridge? I’ve been trying to figure out where it originated.
[The game] never got developed much beyond that prototype. As far as I know, only two or three prototype carts were made by us, for in-house testing and for TecMagik to show at trade shows. I’m not sure if anyone but us ever made any, but I suppose copies could have been made by others later.
If you’d like to take a stroll down memory lane, I could send you a back-up of the prototype to play on an emulator.
Oh, wow, yes, I would love a copy to play in ZSNES! That would be awesome!
I’m curious to hear your impressions of the game after all these years.
Yeah, the game works great! Thank you! (laughs) I have no idea where we got that cheesy music from…
About the music: I believe Fred Porter did the soundtrack. [He’s also credited for composing Beethoven’s 2nd for the Super Nintendo.]
Right! Fred Porter! I remember now! I wasn’t sure if we had recycled something that we’d used in another project as placeholder or not. Gotta love those old SNES soundtracks!
Do you know if this was the last build? How was this particular demo used?
This looks like the last build that I remember. I think it may have been shown at CES or some such. I’m not sure it was shown more than once though.
Thanks again for your time, Steve.
And thanks to the other Steve, too, for providing me with countless hours of bone-breaking entertainment (and the occasional eco-friendly speech on why the plankton is dying).
Greg Goldsholl, a teacher of women’s self-defense and the Steven Seagal look-alike who was featured in the game, is back with a vengeance. Among other things, Goldsholl wanted to go on the record to say that the real Seagal did not, in fact, make him cry like a girl.
Greg, this is a very nice surprise. Thank you for taking the time to contact me. How did you manage to find the article?
Several years ago I searched for and found information regarding the game online. The article I read then stated that Seagal was played by one of his stunt doubles or something. I laughed about that. Don’t know what prompted me to look the other day, but I was really surprised to see so much about the game. How did I find it? Just Googled “Steven Seagal video game.”
On The Last Resort’s Women’s Self-Defense site, your bio says that you hold two black belts and 35 years of Martial Arts experience. Could you go into a little more about your background?
I’ve always been a Karate guy. Student and teacher (always a student). The video game was just something I heard about. I had already been teaching The Last Resort Women’s Self Defense with my brother Sean. At the time of the audition, I was teaching 5-to-15-year-old students (several hundred of them) in Santa Monica, Monterey Park, and three locations in Canyon Country. That’s why they had me shoot separately. I told them I could be there after my Saturday class. I don’t know why I remember it being Saturday, but it was. My formal training has been in Isshin-Ryu under Shihan Ed McGrath (he was the flying side kick on the old Hai Karate Cologne), American Karate under Ed Deitch, Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do under Master Duk Sung Son, Shorin-Ryu and anything anyone else would teach me. The list continues to grow… There’s just too much good stuff out there that I don’t know.
What drove you to the project? Were you a fan of Steven Seagal beforehand?
It’s been a long time and I don’t remember how I heard about the audition. I can tell you that they shot me on a separate day from everyone else because I was teaching and was not going to cancel a class. Meeting Seagal was completely unrelated. I have always been a fan of his. Not for the acting, but for the Martial Arts. A good friend of mine heard about and signed us up for a seminar Seagal was putting on in Oxnard, California.
How did you go about “becoming” Seagal? Were there any wardrobe, props, make-up involved? Any additional research or training?
I already looked like him. I didn’t have any formal Aikido Training. I have picked up some techniques over the years, prior to and after this shoot. Not for the “role,” for the knowledge. They told me to wear jeans and a white t-shirt. It might have been my leather jacket, and they gave me some black shoes to wear–like walking shoes–which they let me keep. No additional research or training. It wasn’t like that.
Besides knowing that you were going to play Seagal, were you privy to anything else, such as the storyline or what the game was going to be like?
All I was told is that it was for a Steven Seagal video game and I would be playing Seagal. That’s it.
Could you paint me a picture of what you saw or heard at the shoot? Do you recall any interesting stories?
Everyone was really nice at the shoot. They had to tell me to slow down my techniques. I remember one of the people saying, “Holy crap! You gotta see this!” [and] then called the other people there to look at the monitor they were using. They said it was too fast and made reference to the memory. I thought that was funny. I was the only one shooting that day so it was production people they called over to look at the monitor.
Were you performing your moves in front of a green screen of some sort? How were they filming you?
It may have been a green screen. I’m not really sure, but I do remember throwing the knife at what could have been a green screen. It wasn’t a real knife, though I do throw them. I’m pretty good if the stars are all in alignment and the wind is at my back.
Was the filming process fast and easy, or slow-moving and chaotic? What were you asked to do? How were you directed?
Fast and easy. “Can you do a punch? Kick? Jump?” They did want me to keep the gun in the inside jacket pocket, which I had to let them know wouldn’t be kept there, so they told me to put it wherever I would keep it, which I did (small of the back). The redirection moves (throws) were done with their Karate guy (nice guy). He had some injury at the time, but did the falls. I thought those were going to be used for some trailer or something but I guess they made it into the game.
I have to ask you about that jump. It’s a particularly cumbersome move in the game. Obviously, you had no control over any of the programming aspects, but were there any difficulties relating to capturing your jumping?
The jump was a couple of takes, I believe, off a small box or something. There were some difficulties at first with the punches and kicks. They had me slow them down and I remember something being said about the speed of the punches taking up too much memory.
I don’t consider myself an expert in any Martial Art. I have been training since I was 4 1/2 and have realized that there’s just too much good stuff to learn so I’m just scratching the surface. The punches and kicks were really Isshin-Ryu (Okinawan). The vertical fist is used in that style and would be used, as I understand it, in hard-style Aikido. I have a working knowledge of Aikido, so the redirection moves have that flavor.
Money was the biggest reason why Steven Seagal did not participate in the shoot, himself. His appearance would’ve been too costly. If you don’t mind answering, how much were you compensated for your involvement?
I was paid a couple of hundred dollars for the day… more like three hours.
The whole shoot lasted for four full days, but you were only required to stay for three hours? When you left, did the production crew ever contact you again?
The reason my shoot was so short is I had a class to teach and couldn’t be there when they wanted with everyone else, so they shot me separately. I don’t recall them ever contacting me again.
Do you remember seeing any of the other performers at the shoot (lab technicians, police officers, etc.)? Or any of the costumes or props?
I never met any of the other cast. There were only production people when I was there.
What was your impression of Seagal when you met him? Did you tell him that you were playing him in a video game? If so, how did he respond?
Seagal has the aura of an old-time Sensei. He’s very good at what he does, and I can tell you without reservation that he was there for the students that day. I was there to learn and he was there to teach. He was very hands on, available for every question I had and worked with me throughout the day. I was very impressed with him for that reason in addition to his skill level. Yes, I told him I played him in the game. He said he hadn’t approved the game and they weren’t supposed to do it. I said that had nothing to do with me and I was just letting him know. It was left at that.
Separated at birth?
No, he didn’t twist my arm or wrist until I cried like a little girl (although that would have been funny). He did “dump” me several times, at my request, because we were working on techniques and I saw that, although I was making them work, I was off a bit. In fact, I remember needing his help, but he was speaking with a photographer or spectator who wasn’t in the training. I walked up and said, “Shihan, I’m getting this but I know I’m off a bit on the technique, will you help me?” He didn’t skip a beat, didn’t even excuse himself from the other conversation, came right over and worked with me.
The Sensei shares with his student.
That is what supports the whole “he was there to teach” statement I made earlier. He was right there to share the knowledge and that’s what he was there for.
Seagal (left) demonstrates a dumping technique on Goldsholl (right) at the Oxnard seminar.
Yes… I got the technique down.
Seagal hadn’t approved the game? I was told that he was paid by the publisher.
No idea why he had that response, either.
Did you ever get a chance to test drive the video game? If so, what did you think of it?
Never played the game. Didn’t even know it was completed.
And, finally, I just can’t resist asking this… The ponytail: The real deal or a wig?
The ponytail was all me.