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Seth Becomes Him

By: Stephen SabanIt’s not easy being Seth Green. Sure, the small-framed,big-talking actor is extremely good–probably the best there is–atplaying clever sidekicks and snarky supporting roles. But whenyou’ve nailed the part as often as he has (e.g., thissummer’s hit caper flick The Italian Job), it canbecome as confining as a Mike Myers fat suit. So when Green, 29,was given a shot at a different kind of character–the dishy,swishy best friend of a club kid who kills his drug dealer–theAustin Powers costar was prepared to shelve his bags of shhhand get to work right away. “I felt like I’d won alottery,” he says. “Everything that I’d donebefore, no matter how dramatic or challenging, paled next to thescope of this.”

The film is this month’s Party Monster, and Green’s role is that of trust-fund celebutante James St. James. In 1996, notorious New York City club promoter (and St. James pal) Michael Alig brutally murdered and dismembered Angel Melendez. Three years later, St. James committed the grisly mess to paper in Disco Bloodbath, a memoir that formed the basis of Party Monster. As directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (the duo who also made a 1998 documentary on the subject), the story of Alig and St. James is both truly comic and profoundly disturbing, a buddy movie tarted up with false eyelashes and Special K. While Macaulay Culkin makes a convincing Alig, and the ensemble cast includes veteran gate-crasher Chloæ Sevigny (essentially playing herself) and Marilyn Manson (as the maniacal drag queen Christina), it’s Green’s balance of sass and sincerity as the imperiously arch St. James that’s the life of this Party.

“Casting Seth to play me was a no-brainer,” says the real St. James. “Nice legs, great ass, looks good in a wig. That’s all you really need.” Codirector Barbato was equally impressed by Green’s ability to transform himself for the role: “It was a little laugh and a flip of the wrist, and he was the complete opposite of the person we’d been talking to.” But after months of preparation spent reviewing the Alig crew’s home movies, the challenge for the film’s stars was shaking the affectations offscreen. “After Mac did an interview with Barbara Walters,” says Green, “everybody called me and was like, ‘Is Macaulay gay?’ And I said, ‘No, he’s just knee-deep in Michael right now.'”

The precocious Green was already acting at age seven. At eight, he was costarring in his first film, The Hotel New Hampshire, opposite a bear-suit-clad Nastassja Kinski; at 12, he played Woody Allen’s Mini-Me in the director’s autobiographical Radio Days. But Green’s budding stardom didn’t endear him to his grade-school classmates in Philadelphia–nor did his red hair, short stature, or comic verbosity. “I was aggressively friendly,” he says. “There were more than five occasions when an entire room of people focused animosity toward me.” The experiences gave him greater sympathy for the alienated lost boys depicted in Party Monster. “They wanted a place to fit in, where no matter how outrageous or creative you were, people applauded you instead of criticizing your lack of uniformity.”

Lately, Green has been spending time in Vancouver, working on the Scooby-Doo sequel, in which he playsa snarky supporting role. “I’m the traditional cartoon professor type,” says Green. “Tweed and corduroy jackets, glasses, rumpled hair, misshapen ties. It’s a fair-size part. Alicia Silverstone and I have about the same size roles.” And though his work has earned him a nice fan base, Green isn’t looking for an entourage of his own. “I’m trying to drive down the price of my autograph so I don’t get hounded,” he says. “I find the more normal I act, the less inclined people are to make a fuss. And when they do, I say to them, ‘Shhh. You’re yelling at me.’ It takes people back down to normal.”