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From ‘Brick’ to ‘Knives Out’: Charting the bromance between Rian Johnson and his lucky acting mascot

Since Rian Johnson’s feature debut Brick was released in 2005 he has proved himself time and time again as a truly talented filmmaker. Granted his take on a Star Wars film divided the hardcore franchise fanatics, but he’s consistently created films that capture the audience’s imagination and have everyone talking about them. His new film Knives Out is no exception and sees Johnson wrangle what is potentially his starriest cast yet as he directs the likes of Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, and Christopher Plummer.

Also included is actor Noah Segan. Segan has been acting since he was very young and starred in episodes of The Babysitter’s ClubDawson’s Creek and the Foo Fighters music video The One amongst other things. He then agreed to appear in Johnson’s debut feature Brick, and the pair struck-up an immediate friendship. Over the years the duo have worked together (in some capacity) in everything that Johnson has created, even appearing in one of the three episodes of Breaking Bad that he directed.

With Knives Out now finally in cinemas, we take a look back at their collaborations, which proves that they’ll be friends till the end.

Brick (2005)

The bromance between Johnson and Segan began back in 2005 on the set of Sundance smash Brick. The film, in many ways, could be seen as a prototype for Knives Out, the film also being a murder mystery. Brick though is more of a teen noir than a spin on Agatha Christie and Clue. It’s also, no offence to Knives Out, the cooler of the pair. This is primarily due to the slick and stylised way in which the film is shot, coupled with its own quirky language. Brick‘s vocabulary was so intricate that viewers to early screenings were given a dictionary to decipher the phrases used by on-screen characters.

The story follows Joseph Gordon Levitt as Brandon, a young high-school student whom, after receiving a panicked call from his ex, Emily (Emilie De Ravin), finds himself investigating her murder. Along the way as he stalks the hallways of the school, he crosses paths with all the cliches of his classmates, before coming face-to-face with the mythic Pin, a local drug-dealer. Also looking for justice for Emily is Segan, whom stars as Dode, the guy Emily left Brandon for. The Dode and Brandon dynamic is brilliant, neither trusting the other, both thinking them capable of hurting Emily. It’s only the start of Levitt and Segan’s on-screen rivalry as we’ll discuss later.

The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Johnson followed Brick with the underrated The Brothers Bloom. The film followed brothers Bloom (Adrien Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), two career con-men whom embark on one last score. Their latest target however, the eccentric heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz), proves to be much more than they bargained for. Segan’s involvement is minimal, the actor appearing as one of the brother’s earlier marks, The Duke. It wasn’t just Segan that returned though, as several other Brick cast members featured in the same bar sequence. If you pay close attention, you’ll also spot Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Looper (2012)

The third collaboration between Johnson and Segan was extra special as Johnson wrote the part of Kid Blue especially for Segan. By that time the two had obviously formed a close bond, and during the writing process Johnson needed a character for Levitt’s Joe to butt heads with. Given how well they played against each other in Brick, Johnson opted for Segan and even named the character after Segan’s social media handle.

Up until Looper, Segan had primarily been working within the world of indie horror, but as Kid Blue he finally got to show off his comedic talents. Kid Blue is the cocky but clumsy ‘Gatman’, with daddy issues. Alongside the almost slapstick moments of humour, Kid Blue also has an interesting amount of complexity to him. His relationship with leader Abe (Jeff Daniels), whom he sees as father, and his jealousy over Joe being Abe’s apparent favourite, is one of the best plot strands within Looper.

Looper also gave Segan his opportunity to live out his dream of being a gunslinger; Segan spent hours learning how to spin a pistol on his finger. He had the trick nailed, and yet Johnson decided to use the take where he dropped it in the film as the fluff perfectly encapsulated the character.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)

Now, when Johnson landed a Star Wars film with the institution of the House of Mouse, one could be forgiven for thinking that the bromance between Segan and Johnson would be put on hold. That wasn’t the case though as Johnson made sure to squeeze his friend into the epic production. Segan was flown over to the UK to appear on screen fleetingly as X-Wing Pilot Starck. Sadly, he was one of the many that was massacred so don’t go expecting him to appear in episode 9.

Knives Out (2019)

Knives Out sees Johnson return to his murder mystery roots, though the setting has changed somewhat. Johnson switches up from high school to high society, the murder victim being celebrated crime fiction writer and wealthy patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). The plot thickens as the suspects are all members of his family. Can legendary super sleuth Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield), and Trooper Wagner (Segan), work out whodunnit?

As in Looper, the Knives Out Segan’s character, Trooper Wagner, feels authentic. There’s something really natural about his character’s charming goofiness that makes him stand out from the rest of the cast. That’s no mean feat when you consider he’s acting alongside the likes of Michael Shannon and Toni Collette, and yet Wagner is the character that seemingly steals the film. Horror fans should keep their ears out for a sneaky Ring reference, as in addition to being a fan of Harlan’s novel, Wagner also seems to have a penchant for Asian cinema. For the screening I caught, said reference had the audience howling, and his performance proves once more than he is consistently Johnson’s MVP.

Knives Out is in cinemas everywhere now. 


Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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