How Noah Segan Became THE LAST JEDI's Stomeroni Starck - Nerdist
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How Noah Segan Became THE LAST JEDI’s Stomeroni Starck

Since Rian Johnson‘s debut film Brick, he and actor Noah Segan have enjoyed not only a fertile creative relationship but a terrific friendship. Johnson has brought the gifted actor along for all of his subsequent projects in one form or another, and Segan has rewarded his loyalty with some memorable performances. But when time came for the writer-director to make The Last Jedi, the second installment in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Segan wasn’t sure if he’d get to go along for the ride. Nerdist recently sat down with Segan to discuss the circumstances that led him to play Rebel pilot Stomeroni Starck in Johnson’s film, an experience he characterizes as “like stepping into seven-year-old me’s best day.”

The Last Jedi..L to R: Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Director Rian Johnson.

Lucasfilm

Segan’s introduction to the production took place in November 2015, when he visited Johnson for their annual Thanksgiving dinner—a tradition started on Brick when they banded together to celebrate while languishing on location away from their families. He said that experience was almost as special as when he got his role. “I remember getting a tour of Pinewood and going into the room where they kept the Chewie costume,” Segan told Nerdist. “I went up to the Chewie costume and I hugged it and I cried. When I looked back and my friend who was one of the producers giving me the tour, he said, ‘Don’t worry, everybody does that.’”

Segan had joined previous Rian Johnson projects early in the process, sometimes reading multiple drafts as they evolved. But the actor said he read the Last Jedi script only after preproduction had already started, when Johnson spotlighted a role he thought would work for his repeat collaborator. “He said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this Starck role?’” Segan said. “Starck is a name that exists in a lot of his screenplays; it’s the name of his uncle. And I always really liked Uncle Starck and I liked that role.”

Segan added, “The idea of being an X-Wing pilot was really exciting to me, because I had dressed up as an X-Wing pilot for Halloween as a kid. So it was truly a dream come true. So I came back in [spring 2016] and I was there for a week.”

Director Rian Johnson on set with John Boyega (Finn) and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron).

Lucasfilm

The actor knew he’d play only a small part, but happily arrived on a set that was not only bigger and more detailed than he imagined, but bustling with activity from cast and crew alike. “Mostly it was about being present during that hangar sequence that I think is mirrored a little bit in Empire, where they’re in the hangar and you almost spend a little bit too much time kind of watching them re-up their s***,” he remembered. “But what’s incredible about that set is that so much of it was functional. All of the creatures and aliens were fully articulate.”

“They were either wearing prosthetics that were so sophisticated that it allowed them to walk and talk and do whatever it was that they were doing, or they had teams of guys and girls doing the finagling,” he continued. “And they would do it in the background, even when it wasn’t their coverage. It was just like playing in any normal scene, except you had hundreds of different people all sort of choreographed in this big wide hangar.”

Segan said he was thrilled by the chance to sit in the cockpit of an X-Wing, an opportunity that felt all the more real because of the details literally built into its design. “All the buttons worked,” he revealed. “You could press the buttons and then it would light up and do shit. The only weird thing is that there’s a dead man’s switch under your seat you have to hold for the canopy to go down because they don’t want to chop off your fingers.”

Despite the enormous scale of the production, Segan indicated that shooting his scenes, and even being on set, felt just like it did on the smaller movies they’d made together. “There were more people, but just like on Brick, they were all really nice and super helpful and liked each other,” he said. “There wasn’t a bad apple. Rian was the new guy to John, Oscar, and Daisy.”

Benit Banc (Daniel Craig), Lt. Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) search for evidence in Knives Out.

Lionsgate

That said, Segan observed that filming on Star Wars is more or less the same as on any production. “The physical set can be bigger and there can be more crew, but the basic core group of an actor, director, cameraman, maybe a producer, some hair and makeup people and a lighting person, it’s not a laundry list when you start getting into who you are shoulder to shoulder with,” he said. “So you may be on a stage dressed up to look like the hangar of a spaceship with full size X-Wings and there are people dressed as crazy aliens in the background. But for the most part, if you’re working on a shot, you’re there with a half dozen other people and you’re incredibly close to them, and it’s a real test of whether you like each other and can work together or not.”

When time came to play Stomeroni Starck, Segan said that Johnson’s script gave him exactly as succinct a sense of the character as he needed for the amount of screen time he’d receive. “Rian does something that I really appreciate. He gives a one-line, one-adjective [description] for a role, and Starck’s might have literally been, ‘Hot shot pilot,’” he recalled. “And if you watched a Star War, the trope of the hot shot X-Wing pilot, if you’re an actor, you should be able to hit that mark. That’s pretty iconic. It’s a solid archetype we all want to play with.”

“When I was starting to go in there and yuk it up between takes with Oscar Isaac on that, it became apparent that I did not need to do as much work, even to just sit in that f***ing thing and get blown up.”

Rian Johnson shepherds Daisy Ridley through a shot in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Lucasfilm

After years of working with Johnson, Segan also said that he was careful not to let his familiarity with the filmmaker, and the intimacy of their friendship, overshadow his responsibilities as an actor on set. “Hopefully I was able to maintain a modicum of professionalism, even though I was surrounded by my friends and even though I didn’t exactly have soliloquies to memorize,” he said. “I still wanted to not require too much attention or get in trouble for taking selfies or whatever you would do if you were not ready for primetime.”

“But every single place you would go, you’re looking at things from your childhood and you’re looking at this sort of magical realm,” he admitted. “And in a very tiny way, you’re a part of that. And then you go to the bathroom to take a leak and you look in the mirror and you’re and X-Wing pilot. That’s not never magical. It’s as special as you think it is.”

Longtime fans, especially those who collected the expanded universe of action figures and characters explored in other canon texts, know well the small characters that fill out the periphery of the Star Wars universe. Segan said he didn’t aim his sights too high on how well he’d be remembered. “Who can really go for Ackbar level? I think I was going for Willrow Hood,” he joked, referring to the background player witnessed carrying what looks like an ice cream maker during the evacuation of Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. “I was going for a Willrow Hood-type of situation.”

Benoit Blanc mounts his theory about whodunit - and why - as Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) and Lt. Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) look on in Rian Johnson's Knives Out.

Lionsgate

When Segan finally saw the finished movie, he said he forgot completely about himself as the character and watched the movie like any other Star Wars fan. “Luckily, because in the movie I have three or four shots, I’m able to enjoy it in abstract as opposed to a movie like Looper or Knives Out. The first couple times I watched those movies I had to spend the entire time criticizing myself and asking tough personal questions of myself about whether I had done the right job or not,” he admitted. “But all of that is also very theoretical, because what am I going to do about it? I didn’t direct the f***ing thing.

“When I leave for the day, my job is done,” he continued. “I don’t have to do the hard part of putting it together and making it all make sense. But I’d like to think that especially with the work that I do with Rian, it does at the end of the day feel like something I’m very proud of. And in Star Wars, that’s in the abstract because I’m not in too much of that movie—so I can sort of enjoy it as a movie, and celebrate all the people who are my friends who worked on it.”

Stomeroni Starck has since earned his place in the Star Wars canon, becoming a favorite among fans not only of the franchise, but Rian Johnson’s films and of course Segan’s own. But after hugging Chewbacca, refusing to leave the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon (“I was like, can I just stay here for like 45 minutes?”), and finally, seeing himself on screen in a film emblazoned with the iconography of one of the most famous series in cinema history, Segan said that appearing in The Last Jedi highlighted everything about Star Wars he loved as a kid—including what made him become an actor in the first place.

“It was a series of ‘pinch me’ moments,” Segan said. “It’s just being tangentially present for this thing that predates all of the artifice in terms of making movies and box office and getting jobs and all of the bullshit minutiae that goes with our job.”

Segan added, “What is the thing that made you love stories and characters and adventures? For me, and I think for a lot of us, that is Star Wars.”

Featured Image: Lucasfilm