Movie buffs might assume that '90s action star Steven Seagal's career took a nosedive due to changing audience tastes, the emergence of younger muscle-bound actors or that his acting was less than Oscar-worthy.
Well, you could be mistaken.
According to Seagal, it's the FBI's fault that he now stars in low-budget movies that go straight to video. And he wants an apology from the bureau.
The 56-year-old pony-tailed martial-arts expert broke a long silence today to complain that his career was devastated by an FBI affidavit in 2002 that described allegations that he was involved in a plot to intimidate two journalists out of writing stories about him.
"False FBI accusations fueled thousands of articles saying that I terrorize journalists and associate with the mafia," Seagal told the Los Angeles Times. "These kinds of inflammatory allegations scare studio heads and independent producers -– and kill careers."
According to allegations detailed in the affidavit and a subsequent affidavit, Seagal hired infamous private eye Anthony Pellicano to frighten Times reporter Anita Busch and Vanity Fair writer Ned Zeman. In 2002, someone shot a bullet through the windshield of Busch's car and left a dead fish with a rose in its mouth and a sign reading "Stop" on top of the vehicle.
Zeman said an unidentified man pointed a semiautomatic pistol at his head and said, "Stop!" before pulling the trigger. Luckily for him, there was no bullet in the chamber.
Seagal was never charged in the case and the investigation quickly changed course, focusing on Pellicano, who now sits in federal jail awaiting trial on wiretapping and other charges. But the actor has still not been publicly cleared by the FBI.
"We have received no apology from the FBI or Department of Justice," Seagal lawyer Jan L. Handzlik tells ABCNEWS.com. "In fact, Steven was left hanging for several years while story was reprinted over and over again. And the damage to Steven's career was substantial even though these allegations are not true."
Seagal's action movies peaked at the box office in the mid-1990s and his last hit was "Exit Wounds" in 2001. More recently, he was cast as "Cock Puncher" in the "Untitled Onion Movie," the much-delayed film from the creators of the satirical newspaper.
Handzlik also claimed that Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel A. Saunders, a lead prosecutor in the case, turned down several offers Handzlik made in late 2002 and early 2003 to have Seagal come in for questioning.
Seagal claims that prosecutors and the FBI didn't accept the offer because they knew the allegations were false.
"The FBI didn't want to know," he told the Times. "It would've been very easy to prove if Pellicano was calling me or if I was calling him. The FBI subpoenas phone records every day. Why not mine?"
Handzlik claims that Seagal hasn't talked to Pellicano in over 14 years since the actor hired the private eye for a "routine job." Seagal reportedly wasn't happy with the detective's work on the job or his fee.
And another of Seagal's lawyers, Carmen A. Trutanich, claims he arranged for the actor to take a polygraph on Sept. 27, 2004, to prove he was telling the truth. "According to the polygraph, there was no deception involved," said Trutanich.
A spokesperson for the FBI didn't return calls seeking comment.