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Originally conceived as a "hardcore and ultra-action” trip into a wildly dangerous maximum-security prison, Half Past Dead writer and director Don Michael Paul ultimately created a film that was more "fun” than the typical action fare.

While the film's star, Steven Seagal, is known for hard-edged action, Paul purposely designed a departure from the extremes of the action genre. "Steven has done a lot of movies that were ultra-hard, and I tried to make a movie that was more fun, more theatrical in nature,” explains Paul. "The film walks a fine line between reality and a completely new world.”

The role of Sascha Petrosevitch in Half Past Dead fit Steven Seagal like a glove. A veteran of a 15-year film career, Seagal possessed the smoldering screen presence and action-hero authenticity to portray Petrosevitch, a man driven by the pursuit of justice for his slain wife.

"Sascha's different from other characters I've played in that he's more vulnerable and sensitive,” says Seagal.

Sascha's unfettered pursuit of justice is coupled with the complex measures he must undertake to bring down the man he feels is responsible for his wife's death. Sascha's fierce loyalty is also exhibited when he takes several FBI bullets meant for Nick, a criminal he has befriended, pushing him to the brink of death, and later into a maximum-security prison. Continuing his undercover work behind bars, Sascha's principles bring him face to face with a stone-cold killer who is threatening the life of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

"When you have a character with a very simple motivation, you need an iconoclastic figure, and Steven Seagal is the ultimate iconoclastic figure,” remarks Paul. "What the character really needed, and what Steven Seagal possesses, is that rare quality. You can look at him, and without saying a word, he is saying everything.”

"Sometimes I do have similarities with my characters,” says Seagal. "Sometimes it is hard to separate the specifics from the actor in the role.”

The story of Half Past Dead called for a talented actor to go head-to-head with Seagal and fill the shoes of Donny Johnson, a sociopath who stealthly transitions from an ambitious Federal Bureau of Prisons employee to the leader of the 49ers, a vicious band of mercenaries. Cast against type as Donny/49er One is Morris Chestnut, an actor who has displayed the range of his talents in such films as critically-acclaimed drama Boyz N the Hood and contemporary romantic comedies including The Best Man, The Brothers and Two Can Play That Game. Chestnut has also previously shared the screen with Seagal in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.

However dynamic his acting range has been in the past, Chestnut's fans have never seen him in a role like Donny in Half Past Dead. "My character at one point really had faith in the system, then he just loses faith and turns to his dark side, his bad side,” says Chestnut. In the film, Donny seizes an opportunity to break into the prison and realize a dream for financial freedom.

The actor maintains that his fans "know me as a good guy, kind of like an all-American cat. With this particular role, I had the opportunity to come in and play the bad guy and stir things up a little bit."

And stir things up he does. As Donny, Chestnut is a man who can kill a hostage as easily as he can crack a smile. While the role of villain is a departure for Chestnut, the director believed he was perfect for the role because of the very attributes that make him such a great romantic lead. "I think the audience will really be taken aback. Many of them will think ‘Wow, I can't believe that Morris is doing this.' But at the same time, Morris has a casual cool quality, and when you put that into a bad guy or an arch-villain, it's extremely interesting because

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