What Rian Johnson taught his favorite recurring actor about directing
"I’d love to direct a Star War."
— Noah Segan
Since his first film role in the 2005 thriller Brick, Noah Segan has shown up in pretty much every movie one of Rian Johnson's movies, including Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Knives Out. But in the new horror anthology film Scare Package, Segan steps up to the director's chair for the very first time.
Though his BFF Rian wasn't involved, Segan tells Inverse the celebrated Star Wars director did offer some advice that helped him look at filmmaking from a completely new angle — literally.
In Scare Package, a new comedy-horror anthology streaming now on Shudder, directors spoof their favorite horror movie tropes in fourth-wall-breaking segments that conjure equal parts thrills and chills.
In his segment "M.I.S.T.E.R.," Segan follows a lonesome man who joins a group of racist and sexist men who proceed to turn into werewolves. But this wolf pack becomes undone by an unforeseen enemy within their ranks.
Shot in late April 2018, Rian Johnson assisted Noah Segan in rethinking a specific sequence.
“The amount of help and advice he's given me on this is immeasurable.”
"There was a portion [in the script], what we see as a flashback at the bar existed as its own scene," Segan says "[Rian] was instrumental in giving me a note. What if you were to contextualize after it, so we can see where he's at and why he's there? It was a really simple, broad note, but it set me off in the perfect direction. He's the guy who can look at something holistically."
Adds Segan, "The amount of help and advice he's given me on this is immeasurable."
In an interview, Segan unpacks his exploration of toxic male masculinity, advice from Rian Johnson, and whether or not he intends to follow his friend's footsteps in directing a galaxy far, far away.
Minor spoilers for Scare Package ahead. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
"M.I.S.T.E.R." is about a guy who joins a support group full of shitty men with shitty opinions. What inspired you to explore this corner of the zeitgeist in a horror short?
I think that all horror films are about justice. That's usually the beginning, middle, or end of horror movies. And I believe that social justice is justice, and that's a really great way to maintain the spirit of the genre. I went into [this] looking for that. Frank Garcia-Hejl, who plays the main bad guy and is the co-writer [of "M.I.S.T.E.R."] and I wondered how we can apply that broad philosophy to an existing trope. I thought, what would be better than to roast a bunch of dummies out there talking shit? I thought of werewolves. Werewolves represent a sort of masculine, animalistic tone that I thought if we misuse it, we can get a lot of comedy and a great story out of it.
Having "dummies who talk shit" turn into werewolves, is that a new take on "men are dogs"?
You're 100 percent onto something. There's the idea of men's rights and toxic masculinity veering into this world of the "alpha." That's the term they use. The alpha dog, the predator, the "game" where you mistreat people on purpose to socially engineer something. That felt very connected to this primal thing. You start thinking of werewolves representing a primal side of horror.
The end of your short is an image of a "Live. Laugh. Love." sign hanging on someone's wall. What was the reason for ending your film on that meme?
I don't think when we shot this, "Live. Laugh. Love" was a part of the zeitgeist. I really do believe we were on the cutting edge of the memeification. At the very least we had a finger on the pulse.
What precipitated that was this idea that the big reveal isn't that we are toxic werewolves, the big reveal is that what matters to our hero is being good to his family. We reveal this wholesome but definitely "horror movie" Satanic cult, and to end on this wholesome "cult" of "Live. Laugh. Love." I thought it helped establish the humor. Horror movies can have a heart.
In preparing to direct your first movie, how did Rian Johnson help you prepare?
There's no single person I've learned about filmmaking from than Rian. I think he’s my dearest friend and the most generous person I know other than my mom and dad. He’s family.
The thing I learned from him was that genre movies are held together by a strict set of rules can and should be used to serve emotion. I think that's something every single one of his films does by design, whether he’s making a detective movie or a science fiction movie, a big movie or smaller movie. I think he’s there to maintain a sense of humanity through the lens of genre. That’s what great horror movies do. Other than him I work so much in horror films because I'm obsessed with that philosophy.
Rian is the best screenwriter I know. He has helped me learn that there is no substitute for a great script. I have learned that "If it ain't on the page it ain't on the stage." You treat your screenplay in an evangelical sense. It is the word. If there is something that doesn't work or your crew or cast don't understand, you have to go back to the script. The filmmaker's job is to protect the script and the crew's job is to rally behind the script. The script is the urtext. He’s got a keen eye for editing. It's really helpful in letting me unpack what I thought was a linear idea into something that would work in a nonlinear way.
So arranging that flashback scene was Rian's idea?
Yes, very much. He didn’t lay a heavy hand. But I think he saw it was an option and gave that perspective in a very generous way by asking a question. "Hey, can we accomplice this by looking at it from a different angle?" Literally and figuratively. Not only was it brilliant knowledge on his part but it was just great leadership.
Whatever your opinions are of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the conversation around that movie got ugly. Was "M.I.S.T.E.R." inspired in by the people online who came out against your friend's movie?
Men are shitty everywhere, right? I spend a lot of time on the internet so I see a lot of shitty men on the internet. I’m very lucky I live a life where I don't have to deal with shitty men on a day to day basis. But yes, of course. These guys are an amalgam of me and Frank and our wonderful comedic cast I was able to let loose to speak on this phenomenon of shitty men that has been going on for a long time but has taken on a very specific tone over the last few years. Yes, we wanted to speak on that. I can't point to specific shitty men because I don't know many personally.
What's next for Noah Segan now that you're a director?
I'm gonna direct a feature film! That’s the move. I'm really excited to continue to do it. I don't want to get into specifics before anything is ready to go. To be unfortunately obtuse I will say that working with one’s friends and working with people you have a shorthand with is truly the way to go. As I prepare to direct a feature film it is 100 percent with, by, and for the people I have been working with for a long time and love dearly, and I don't think will surprise anyone.
Would you ever want to direct Star Wars?
Of course! I’d love to direct a Star War. I understand why one wouldn't, different strokes for different folks. But I've talked with my close friends that we live in a world where there is a very viable path forward for telling stories that are within the context of the stuff we grew up loving. I've been playing Star Wars since I was seven years old. I'd love to continue playing Star Wars, superheroes, and westerns because these are things I've been with my whole life. Why wouldn't you?
Scare Package is streaming now on Shudder.