Everyone’s least favorite ‘80s action hero turned internet meme Steven Seagal is back in the news, unfortunately.
Seagal recently resurfaced in an instantly viral Skype interview, calling in from Moscow to share his hatred of Colin Kaepernick and love of tiny spectacles with the English-speaking world. But anyone surprised Seagal might be a bad person doesn’t know anything about Seagal or Steven Seagal: Lawman, the actor’s reality TV take on law enforcement that was canceled then relocated to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County after a woman sued him “for allegedly trying to keep her as a ‘sex toy’ during filming, among other things,” as The Atlantic reported. Luckily, we now appear to have entered an age when serious sexual misconduct allegations can yield harsher consequences than having to move your sheriff LARPing show from A&E to Reelz. And Vladimir Putin’s pet action hero has quite the alleged track record.
Stories about Seagal's alleged sexual misconduct were shared publicly as early as 1998, when Jenny McCarthy told Movieline about her experience auditioning for Under Siege 2. “I was wearing this very baggy dress,” she recalled, “which I always wear to auditions, with my hair pulled back. I'm listening to [Seagal] go on and on about how he found his soul in Asia and is one with himself and whatever. When I said, 'Well, I'm ready to read,' he said, 'Stand up, you have to be kind of sexy in the movie and in that dress, I can't tell.' I stand up and he goes, 'Take off your dress.' I said, 'What?' and he said, 'There's nudity.' I said, 'No, there's not, or I wouldn't be here right now.' He said again, 'There's nudity,' and I said, 'The pages are right in front of me. There's no nudity.' He goes, 'Take off your dress.' I just started crying and said, 'Rent my [Playboy] video, you asshole!' and ran out to the car.” Seagal’s spokesman told the Daily Beast that McCarthy’s “claim is completely false.”
But more recently, the floodgates against Seagal have opened, with multiple women coming forward. Portia de Rossi tweeted about the actor in November, writing, “My final audition for a Steven Seagal movie took place in his office. He told me how important it was to have chemistry off-screen as he sat me down and unzipped his leather pants.” In January, actress and former Bond girl Rachel Grant told the BBC that she was flown to Sofia, Bulgaria in 2002 to rehearse lines for a role in Out for a Kill. Grant, who recalled being excited to meet Seagal, said he asked her to take her top off, which she refused to do. She continued, “I stood up to try to distract him. But he was able to tug down my top, which was strapless. My breasts were completely exposed and I was forced to cover myself…He pushed me on to the bed with force. Then he said, 'I suppose you want to see my private parts'—though he used a different word. I was looking up and he started to pull down his zip.” In a statement, Seagal’s lawyers insisted, “Our client denies having such contact with Ms. Grant and further vehemently denies any alleged assault at all, in particular, the alleged assault occurring in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2002.”
Also in January, the LAPD reportedly began investigating a 2005 incident involving Seagal. The Wrap further detailed the accounts of two women, Regina Simons and Faviola Dadis. Simons, who said she was 18 when she was an extra in 1994’s On Deadly Ground, alleged that the actor raped her. “He took me into this room and then just closed the door and started kissing me,” she told The Wrap. “He then took my clothes off and before I knew it he was on top of me, raping me.” Dadis, who claimed that Seagal groped her during a 2002 audition, recently filed a report with the LAPD, as did Simons.
Dadis and Simons appeared together in public for the first time on Monday during a press conference with attorney Lisa Bloom. Bloom, who appears to have rededicated herself to survivors after a brief but damning stint defending Harvey Weinstein, is representing Dadis and Simons pro bono. During the Monday presser, the two women read out prepared remarks. Simons went first, recalling her experience in excruciating detail while holding back tears. At one point, from across the room, Dadis reassured and encouraged Simons: “You can do it.” According to Bloom, Dadis and Simons had just recently met for the first time.
Simons spoke first, recalling Seagal’s invitation to attend an On Deadly Ground wrap party. “He was standing at the front door and greeted me,” she said. “He invited me in and immediately I asked him ‘where is everyone else?’ he replied that they had all left, and asked me to follow him…He took my hand and led me into an adjacent room which appeared to be a bedroom. He closed the door and approached me from behind. He started kissing my neck and taking off my clothes.” Simons noted that she was “completely caught off guard,” adding, “Seagal was more than twice my size and twice my age…I froze. I remember him taking off his robe and the next thing I knew he was inside of me. There was nothing consensual about this. I couldn’t move and I felt as if I was watching my body from above.”
She then recalled how Seagal “put his hand on the door and asked me if I needed any money,” continuing, “I said no and ran for the door, ran to my car and drove away. I cried the entire way home.” Simons claimed that Seagal made several attempts to contact her, but that she never spoke with him again. She continued, “I was traumatized and depressed. This completely changed the trajectory of my life. I found it difficult to eat or sleep.”
Both of Seagal’s alleged victims cited the Me Too movement as their inspiration for speaking out. Simons insisted, “I did not come forward with my story for money nor have I ever been paid a dime. I do not want fame; I came forward to heal from this trauma.” She concluded, “For the first time in 25 years I’ve allowed myself to process what happened and work through the pain. I pray that my abuser can also heal. I want him to be aware, I want him to acknowledge what happened and apologize.”
Dadis then read out her statement, in which she claimed that her alleged 2002 assault occurred when she was just 17 years old, saying, “I was still a minor when this horrible incident occurred.” The former model said that she was introduced to Seagal through a producer, recalling, “Steven was casting for a movie about Genghis Khan and I was beyond excited to audition for a role in one of his films.” Dadis had two meetings with Seagal, and claims that “following these two auditions, Steven and I developed a friendly relationship,” and that “there was never any indication that I should have cause for concern.” Seagal subsequently told Dadis that he “would like to evaluate my figure to see if I would be suitable for the role.”
She continued, “Steven requested that we meet at the W Hotel late in the evening.” Dadis was asked to wear a bikini under her clothing for the audition. Dadis recalled Seagal’s assistant, who accompanied her to Seagal’s room, telling her, seemingly unsolicited, that “Steven’s word is as good as gold.” Dadis said that, “In retrospect, I believe that that statement referred to, ‘If you sleep with him you will get this role.’”
When Dadis arrived at the hotel room, she recalled, she was surprised that there “were no other individuals present in the room.” Seagal asked her to take off her clothes “and do a catwalk.” He then proposed acting out a “romantic scene” together. Dadis felt uncomfortable doing so, particularly because she was just wearing a bikini. According to Dadis, Seagal proceeded to pinch her nipples and “[slide] his hand across my vaginal area.” Dadis “quickly yelled that this audition is over”—but it was only after Seagal motioned his security guard to step aside that he stopped blocking the doorway.
Bloom later emphasized, “There should never be any more meetings in hotel rooms, and there should always be other people present. No one should ever be blocking a door, especially when a minor is present.”
Dadis remembered feeling “terrified” to report the incident to police, “Because I thought that if I did so, my career would be over. Steven was a high profile celebrity, and I was just a model.” She claimed to have suffered depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress in the wake of the attack, explaining, “It is something that never goes away.”
Like Simons, Dadis referenced the Me Too movement and solidarity amongst survivors, saying, “I finally reported this incident to the LAPD in the hopes that my statement will provide support to other women.” Dadis, who is currently completing her PhD, emphasized that she came all the way from Amsterdam to attend the press conference. “I am here completely of my own volition. And while Lisa has generously taken on my case for free, this is costing me time and money.” She added, “I’m not driven by a desire to make money or have fame…This is about accountability, and the hope that this may help other women to have the courage to come forward.”
Lastly, Bloom approached the microphone. The attorney reiterated news reports about an open LAPD investigation into Seagal, adding that she and her clients planned to fully cooperate with that criminal investigation. Bloom also denied Seagal’s recent claim “that I am paying Faviola and Regina to accuse him,” adding, “In fact I am representing them pro bono because I believe in them, and neither of them has asked him for a dime.”
“Listen closely, Mr. Seagal,” Bloom intoned. “Some things are more important than money, and this is one of them.”
Bloom confirmed that there is “no lawsuit” at the moment, and emphasized that “all legal options remain open.” Citing both of her clients’ recent police reports, she added, “We will see this through to the end if a prosecutor would like to do that.”
When asked about Seagal’s denials of the sexual misconduct accusations against him, Dadis responded, “He’s well aware of what he did to us.”
Bloom concluded, “I do believe there are other accusers of Steven Seagal.” She elaborated, “One of the reasons why we do press conferences is to let them know that we are here, we are willing to help you…Almost every time I have a press conference additional accusers contact me.”