Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, while rehearsing for Grumpy Old Men, wound up running into a Grumpy Young Man in Steven Seagal.
A few months ago, a terrific book about the golden age of action stars called “The Last Action Heroes” came out (buy it here). Written by Nick De Semlyen, the book takes a very affectionate look at all of the icons we grew up with in the 80s and 90s, with one notable exception. Steven Seagal does not come off well in the book – at all. One of the wildest stories from the book recounts a time when Seagal grew outraged over the fact that a meeting room he wanted was being occupied by the legendary Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
The two actors, who would have been in their late sixties then, were participating in a read-through for their hit comedy Grumpy Old Men. According to the book, the vibe in the room was light, with the two old pros cracking up their director, Daniel Petrie and assembled guests. One of them was William Osborne, writer of Twins (and – well – Stop or My Mom Will Shoot), who said the read-through was interrupted by a loud thumping at the door. In walked Seagal, who thundered at the director Petrie, “What’s going on?” Petrie answered that they were trying to do a read-through with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, to which he responded, “Well, I don’t care. I have the room.”
As Osbourne remembers, “It was just classic Steven Seagal. He finally stepped out and closed the door. But he was an absolute nutcase. He made those absolutely banging early action films and then went completely batsh*t crazy.”
While it’s pretty funny to think of what Lemmon and Matthau must have thought of the pony-tailed Seagal yelling at them must have been like, there’s a tragic dimension to this story. As Osborne states, those early action movies he made were total classics. I’d wager his first five films, Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Out for Justice and Under Siege (in which his screen time is surprisingly limited), are all action classics. Yet it was all downhill after that as hubris took over. For a more positive look at Seagal, check out his fantastic interview with fellow action star Scott Adkins. It’s Seagal at his best rather than his worst.