The first time I met Noah Segan was at Fantastic Fest 2010. He was there with Rider Strong promoting "Cabin Fever 2," where his performance stood out despite the film's mediocrity. I interviewed him shortly after the premiere, and our chance encounter turned into a Twitter friendship over the next few years as we discussed retro films, film festivals, music and various other topics that nerds nerd out over — in 140 characters or less, of course.
This dude knows a thing or two and can talk your ear off about repertory cinema, old film cameras, Sid Vicious, the migration patterns and mating habits of Great Horned Owls. Well maybe not the last one, but all that other stuff, definitely. It's rare these days you'll find an actor Segan's age (29) who can converse about cool trivia without looking it up on his iPhone or who actually understands his craft on this level. All trivia knowledge aside, this is the most impressive quality.
When the big announcement came that he was cast as Kid Blue (which not so coincidentally happens to be his Twitter handle), one of the villains in Rian Johnson’s highly anticipated "Looper," it felt like the time was right to sit down and put him on the record. So here we are, presenting one of those "top 10" lists. But don't scoff just yet. These are the ten really kick-ass things you should know about Segan before they become common knowledge or he ends up in a “They’re Just Like Us” page in US Weekly. After you read this, follow him on Twitter and ‘Like’ his Facebook page. Trust me, you'll want to be able to tell your friends, "I knew who Noah Segan was before it was cool."
Below are excerpts straight from the Kid himself, broken down into the best parts of our extended conversations. Enjoy.
He was the first to be cast in Rian Johnson's first feature, "Brick."
I ended up becoming friends with an actor who I looked up to and thought I had a lot in common with, and the guy suggested that I think about acting. He introduced me to a guy, who introduced me to another guy — being Hollywood, someone always introduces you to someone else, the nephew of someone else, best friends of the third person. Eventually, someone will send you on an audition, and if you're really lucky, it's an audition for "Brick" and you happen to meet Rian Johnson.
I was the first person cast in "Brick." Rian met with me, personally, privately, without an audition, before the audition, which is very rare for a young director to do and even rarer for someone who's never done a movie before. Having that opportunity, we both realized that we were going to get along. We met, hung out and eventually I had the audition, and he asked me to do it. We spent the better part of the year just hanging out being friends, watching the rest of the movie come together.
His role in "Deadgirl" won him the 2009 Chiller Award for Best Villain. The movie is about zombie rape, and is the same dope show that bonded him and Marilyn Manson.
About two years ago, I was at a party and I hear “Deadgirl!” across the room and then again “Deadgirl!” and lo and behold I look over, and the guy screaming is Marilyn Manson. He runs up to me and gives me a big hug, and we start talking. He's a fan of the film. He is a huge cinephile and into a lot of the same stuff I’m into — a lot of cinéma vérité, a lot of '60s,' 70s kind of off-the-wall stuff, and now we’re very close friends. He has so much respect for art that it engenders his art.
I appreciate what he did — he's the last rock star. He's the last guy to piss off everybody's parents. He's in a very exclusive club that the Beatles are a part of, that the Rolling Stones are members of, Alice Cooper, etc. [He has the] boundary-pushing mentality that is rock 'n' roll. Elvis did what he did. As we spent more time together and connected on the movies we both like, it made me really appreciate his music and his humor. I don't know if he's going to be upset when I say this, but mostly when we hang out we go to IHOP. We go to IHOP, get shakes and then go watch "Sons of Anarchy."
He takes impromptu trips to Vegas with Manson on Halloween. Mischief. Mayhem. Makeup. Tchotchkes.
Last Halloween, he called me up and said, "Let's get out of town. I got this gig — we are going to hang out at this night club. A couple of other friends are going to come out, too." A bunch of us got in this van, and we drove out to Vegas. We end up in Barstow, and of course, all we're doing is making Hunter S. Thompson jokes. Hunter was a good friend of Manson's. When people ask about Manson, I tell them, "He's more Thompson than he is Vincent Price." So we show up in Vegas, and we check in. It's Halloween, right? Of course, that's a very important holiday for Manson, it's a very important holiday for me — I'm a performer, I dress up for work too. I realized I didn't bring a costume. Manson is getting ready to go do his schtick and he says, "You need something, man. You can't go out there naked.” So we go into his dressing room and he says, "I'm going to do your makeup," and grabs me and starts putting eyeliner on me. I thought, "If anybody knows how to put eyeliner on me and do me up for Halloween, it's Marilyn Manson."
Also, we stopped at this gas station [on the way to Vegas], and there was this gift shop. They had all kinds of stuff — samurai swords, bottle openers, t-shirts, etc., all kinds of weird random stuff. Manson decides he wants to get a tchotchke. So I pick something out and he goes to buy it. He's a tall guy and he's got a sweat shirt on, looking like a normal person like you and I would going somewhere. He goes to buy the tchotchke and uses a credit card, and the cashier asks for an I.D. He doesn't drive so he doesn't carry around an I.D. or [he] forgot his I.D. We're trying to figure out how to buy this tchotchke — he's standing on principle and doesn't want anyone else to buy it. So I pulled up his Wikipedia page and show the clerk and said, "This guy is that guy!"
He also loves his mom.
His friend wrote his IMDb biography, and it's priceless.
"Noah's favorite actor is Warren Oates, who died, as Noah expects to do one day as well. Love and cherish him for this one reason." — Paul Sado.
My buddy, a screenwriter and filmmaker back in New York, Paul Sado, wrote it about 10 years ago, right before I did "Brick." One day, that bio popped up on what at the time was a rather infantile version of IMDb, the better part of a decade ago. We thought it was hilarious and kept it up, with Paul occasionally surprising me with a change here and there. Over the past few years, a handful of folks, mostly agent-types or producers, have suggested I change it, but I figure it's a good litmus test as to whether we're all on the same team. It's also a great homage to my buddy who is a brilliant writer and responsible for so much of my taste and humor. You've got to be able to laugh and be a little sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek. You've got to laugh at yourself and the whole circus. So that's my way of surreptitiously finding out if y'all get it, get it?
He comes from a line of prominent artists you'd want to hang out with.
My late grandfather on my mother's side was photographer Arthur Rothstein. He had a very prolific career beginning in his early twenties shooting Farm Security Administration. He, along with Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano and the people you've heard of, went around the country and photographed the Depression and the Dust Bowl. He documented this very important time in history.
My uncle Rob, "Rockin' Rob," as we call him, is a rock star. He's my grandfather's son, born Rob Rothstein. Sometime in the mid-'60s, he became Rob Stoner and started playing with the greats. He played with Bob Dylan for a long time, worked on Don McLean's classic "American Pie," Meryl Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis. He's a bass player by trade and was a great side man. The greatest gift I have is growing up in an environment where it was very realistic where you could make art and survive.
He's not your typical villain in "Looper."
The concept of the "villain" in "Looper" is a little more fluid than what we've come to expect from your average shoot-'em-up action flick. Nobody does the right thing. My character, "Kid Blue," is a "Gat Man," meaning he's a gangster, an enforcer, a right-hand to "Abe," played by Jeff Daniels, who runs the little town. The Kid, as we've come to call him, is the bulldog chasing after the two versions of "Joe," played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, who are stuck in a cat-and-mouse game. Everyone in this movie is looking for vindication, for a purpose, and The Kid won't stop at any cost to prove he can do his job, which is to catch the "Joe's". He's beaten, he's berated, he's begrudging, but he keeps going.
We tried our best to make that engender some sympathy for him, give the audience a sense that even though he's coming after our protagonists, he's human, he's diligent and he's willing to do anything to succeed. He's vulnerable and pretty pitiful. One savvy Tweeter made a comparison to "Dode," the character I played in "Brick," and I came up with an unfounded back story that The Kid is actually his grandson!
His character's name in "Looper" (and his nickname) is a reference to James Frawley's movie "Kid Blue."
When I was a teenager and discovering the movies that I really identify with, my friend Paul Sado, same guy who wrote his IMDb profile, was turning me on to movies. He was the guy who turned me on to all the '60s and '70s counter-culture cinema, the American New Wave, that I still hold close — John Cassavetes, Sam Peckinpah, Monte Hellman, movies with Warren Oates and Dennis Hopper, guys who I hold in high regard. Subversive and funny stuff. He took me aside one day and said, "There's this movie at Kim's [a legendary New York video store that was the go-to for movies freaks looking for esoteric films, bootlegged movies, arthouse goodies and anything else you could think of] called 'Kid Blue' from 1973 with Dennis Hopper, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Lee Purcell, Peter Boyle, and it's your movie." He told me that I'd find great inspiration in Dennis Hopper, from his acting to filmmaking to photography. The film's about an outlaw, a western gunslinger, who tries to go straight, but of course he can't and hilarity ensues. And Paul said, "That's you." So I go to Kim's and find a VHS tape taken from Spanish television [laughs] of this movie, and I watch it.
My buddy was right; it became my favorite movie. There's humor in the film, but it's about change, it's about adulthood and it stuck with me, and people started calling me Kid Blue. Rian [Johnson] sent me the first draft of "Looper" years ago. I opened it up and there it was on whatever page — "Kid Blue." I called him up, and I said, "What's that?" and he said, "That's you." It really works with this character. It's a guy who's sort of a bumbling diligent failure. In "Kid Blue," Hopper plays that up for comedy, and in "Looper," I sort of play up for pathos. I'm unimaginably trying to emulate Dennis Hopper [laughs].
For Segan, art is expression, but it’s also a legacy.
That's what's so important to me about photography and filming is that you're creating these hard documents, these entities that you send out into the world, and they exist long after you. They are a story with a plot and a character, or they're a documentary of where you were or what you did and who you did it with, or they're a mix. I truly believe that everything is subjective. Even a casual photograph is subjective. You hope that if you take a picture of someone doing something that it captures something about who they are or what they're doing. At the end of the day, whether it's acting in movies or taking some good pictures, I want it to be reflective of a story of times and places and people and experiences that make some sort of sense. [Laughs] I want to share that with people. All art is a diary — it's reflective of what you're doing at that time. It's exciting.