Noot Seear is sleepy. The model and actress has been living a peripatetic existence since being inducted into the cast of Twilight, the mega book-turned-movie franchise that is all the world seems to be talking about right now. Between filming in Vancouver and LA, acting lessons in New York and a modelling job in Morocco, it’s no wonder she is yawning and rubbing her eyes. Her Blackberry never leaves her side and while her hair and makeup are being tended to, she buries her head in a script.
But Seear isn’t all study and seriousness. She has razor sharp wit, a slightly sardonic drawl that comes with having lived a thoroughly adult life since her early teens. She has self-assurance by the bucket load, but it emanates as charm rather than ego. It turns out the ever-buzzing Blackberry is due to a male admirer, with whom she continues to play a virtual game of cat and mouse throughout the day, the corners of her eyes crinkling as she types. It wouldn’t surprise you to know she is a skilled chess player.
The Vancouver BC native was born Renata Seear. Noot came from a nursery rhyme her mother used to sing to her. When she moved to New York in the mid-90s a model at her agency had already laid claim to the name Renata and so Noot stuck. Like the starburst tattoo on her left forearm it’s something she’s not particularly fond of, but in a strange way it suits her.
On this particular early morning in a Brooklyn studio, Seear is wearing a tiny pair of pinstripe denim shorts. “I just found them at a thrift store, aren’t they great?” she says. Yes, they are, as only they could be on a toned, tanned, five-foot-nine (then) 25-year-old. Teamed with a pair of lace-up Repetto brogues, a soft black tee and a fine silver chain around her neck, her face scrubbed clean, they perfectly offset her rather otherworldly beauty.
With her aquamarine eyes framed by fine, straight brows, cheekbones carved far higher than most mere mortals, a delicate, straight nose and Sophia Loren lips, she is a stand-and-stare kind of beauty. It doesn’t take much to imagine her as a Volturi vamp, a possessor of “superhuman strength, speed and beauty,” as her character, Heidi, is described on page 483 of Stephanie Meyer’s sequel to Twilight, New Moon. It’s a similar set of qualities that had Seear cast as the Mona Lisa in YSL’s 1998 Rive Gauche campaign.
On set a freshly squeezed orange juice, a quick cigarette out the window and a slick of black liquid eyeliner soon perk her up. One thing that swiftly becomes apparent is that Noot Seear is a pro. She has work ethic. She works her angles in front of a camera. She finds her light. She gets into the rhythm of the early Madonna blasting from the speakers. The yawning has all but disappeared.
Seear is a girl who knows how to play her pieces. It took her a long time to select the right role with which to launch her movie career. Twilight, no doubt, is it. She is looking into independent movie projects as a follow-up. Something tells us, when it comes to success, she’s got all the right moves. After a day of shooting, a blizzard of Blackberry messages, a bagel break and more Madonna, RUSSH talked to Seear about show jumping, movies and a model’s fitness secrets.
RUSSH: What was little Noot Seear like?
Noot Seear: I was a scruffy little urchin who never brushed her hair and was only interested in sports, especially horse riding.
I heard you were a champion athlete...
My main sport growing up was modern pentathlon. At one stage I was junior champion in both the USA and Canada (I think I was about 10 years old and there wasn’t much competition at that age group). Modern pentathlon is made up of five parts: cross country running, swimming, épée fencing, pistol shooting and show jumping... It was all the skills needed by a cavalry officer in the old days. I was also [the Vancouver] BC Junior Fencing Champion and won quite a lot of show jumping competitions. I loved to ski in winter and the family used to hike a lot. Nowadays I downhill mountain bike at Whistler and I compete at speed chess. I also run every day.
When did modelling enter the picture, were you scouted?
[Yes], when I was 12 and still obsessed with horses and wearing sweatpants most of the time. I was approached about 12 times by strangers over the course of that year, all saying they were modelling scouts – I thought they were all nuts.
You dropped out of school at 13 and moved to New York to model. How did life change for you?
Life changed totally. Over night I had to stop being a teenager really, before I had even started. It was not always easy but the new life was very exciting. The life of a model can put you in the strangest of circumstances ... Right at the start of my career I went to Barrow Alaska. There the Inuit use a whale skin trampoline to toss a hunter into the air to look for whales. I was tossed up about 30 feet in high fashion clothes on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. That was a bit unusual.
You transitioned into a woman in an industry built on body image, yet you seem super healthy and confident in your own skin. What’s your secret?
Looking as good as possible has to be a total lifestyle: exercise every day, both cardio and weights, healthy food, lots of water, the right products, limited alcohol. And being happy and trying to be a good person is important too. Everything you feel shows up eventually on your face. The meat on a girl’s bones should be toned muscle not flab – the emaciated look is passé now thank god.
You have shot campaigns for YSL, Chanel and Calvin Klein, walked for Balenciaga and Lanvin, but you never became one of those over-exposed faces...
It’s important to have interests outside the modelling industry and be able to step back from it and into other roles in life. I spend a lot of time working for my charity – Rose Charities – and I think that has given me many unexpected gifts and helped me pace my modelling career.
Were you conscious of making the right debut for yourself as an actress?
I have been training with Alan Savage in New York for about three or four years. During that time my modelling was still keeping me really busy and Alan told me there was no need to rush into acting until I was ready to focus on it.
I love old movies. I was really inspired by Michelle Pfeiffer in Frankie and Johnny. My favourite movie growing up was Running on Empty. And I admire Amy Adams and her career.
How did the role of Heidi in Twilight come about?
The casting director contacted my agent and asked for me to audition for the part. I was in Cambodia at the time working with my charity, so it came as a bit of a surprise.