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Two-word title twice as nice for Steven Seagal

Get ready for something completely different from Steven Seagal’s latest film.

Don’t worry, the movie, which opens today, still features many of the things–pyrotechnics, fights and shoot-’em-ups–for which the action star’s pix are famous. What’s different about this one is that it’s the first not to feature another well-known Seagal trademark, the three-word title.

While Seagal’s first four films–“Above the Law,””Hard to Kill,””Marked For Death” and “Out for Justice”–all featured catchy three-word monikers, his latest is simply titled “Under Siege.”

Seagal admits that it’s been an uphill fight getting the studio exex to change their minds and let him do things his way.

“I always hated the fact that the studios insisted on using three-word titles ,” said Seagal from his office on the Warners’ lot. “It was always their idea.”

Seagal notes that his last film for Warner Bros., “Out for Justice,” was originally titled “The Price of Our Blood,” until the Warner marketing department decided to change it.

“My original title was a real Mafia title and related to the film,” he said of the 1991 pic. “Then they decided to put the other title on it, which didn’t have much to do with the film.”

Rob Friedman, Warner’s president of worldwide theatrical advertising and publicity, refused to comment on the title-change situation. However, a source close to several of Seagal’s films explains that marketing exex at both Warners, distributor of Seagal’s first, second and fourth films and Fox, which released his third film, decided to stick with a successful formula.

“All of the titles had that certain Steven Seagal ring to them,” says the source. “As soon as you heard the title, you knew what you were getting. Studio marketing people always felt that this was one more way to sell one of his films.” For his latest endeavor, though, Seagal decided to break the mold. Oddly enough, “Under Siege,” which stars Seagal as a Navy cook forced to battle terrorists who hijack a battleship, was originally called “Dreadnought,” a term that refers to a heavily armored vessel.

According to film’s writer and exec producer, Jonathan Lawton, the original title didn’t test well and WB’s marketing department went to work overtime to find a new title.

True to form, they came up with “Last to Surrender,” which the studio started using as the film went into production. Seagal and others were less than thrilled.

“Steven and I both hated the title,” insisted Lawton, who says Seagal fired off a harshly worded letter to Friedman and other marketing exex, saying he wouldn’t stand for the three-word title.

“The marketing department felt that Steven was always in movies with three-word titles and they didn’t want to change,” said Lawton. “We really wanted to try something else.”

And in the battle with Warner Bros. over title changes, Seagal, as he has in all his movies, emerged victorious. “Steven really battled them on that,” said Lawton, “but the next thing I heard, it was called ‘Under Siege.’ “

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