naz on the rental, masochism, and much, much more
if you're of a certain post-tumblr demographic, it's easy to feel like you know nazanin esfahani. self-described in a deadpan as a "social media cinderella story", the 29-year-old pop songstress has been cultivating a presence in cyberspace since the late aughts. via facetime, we chat with the singer turned actress about her new film the rental, her upcoming or "never coming" album, the fans she's had since she was meticulously curating a top 8, her social media woes, and the unexpected turbulence that comes with sharing your life on the internet.

so i was looking over your imdb today and for the first time i realized you work mostly in genre films. do you have scream queen apsirations?
do i have final girl energy? you have to understand all the acting i've ever done has been either accidental or coincidental, like aside from a girl walks home alone at night which was written for me, every job i've gotten has been by virtue of like... knowing someone. i made creep 2 because i met mark duplass at a dinner party and he said, "hey, you wanna come do this thing in the woods for a month and it'll pay almost nothing but the acid'll be free?" and i was like, "sure, cool, i love astrally projecting with a bunch of fucking middle aged strangers." so i felt really lucky to do that, and then i mean... i did a two minute cameo in twin peaks because david [lynch] and i are friends, he's a fan of my music and i'm a fan of his whole existence, i was in the twilight zone for maybe thirty seconds because ana lily amirpour [director, a girl walks home alone at night] thought it'd be fun to have a little throwback to our work together. we were fighting for a long time before that so it was - i mean, it's just all been coincidental.

hang on, i have to rewind a little here, fighting about what?
oh, i hated... i really hated the bad batch and i needed her to know it, like that i felt personally wronged by that film, and in the end it wasn't about me at all and we kinda got over it but it took us years. so the twilight zone was like, the final twig of an olive branch, so to speak. it was nice to do. i think she got a rush out of seeing me hit by a terrible cgi bus. i'm sure there was some catharsis in that for her.

what'd you dislike about the bad batch? i actually never saw it.
no, neither did i. at the time, i mean, like i've seen it since then. my problem wasn't with the film - it was - there's a part of me that regards the experience of being - you know what, i actually don't want to talk about it. is that cool? there's no way to talk about it without sounding like an asshole. i'm trying this new thing where i say less.

of course, yeah. so back to the the rental, right? how'd that film come about?
my friend roy sommer was cast before i was, and dave [franco, director] was very specifically seeking out someone middle eastern, and roy was like, "hey, i know a middle eastern hottie with a body who's willing to get banged out on film," and dave had seen a girl walks home alone and the power of christ compeled him, so like, he called me and we talked a lot, a lot, and i asked if i had to audition and he said no and that was kinda it. i don't audition, just as a rule. my agent - i fired my agent a couple weeks ago actually - but at the time she was like, trying to send me on a lot of auditions that were very large, just like, me sitting in a room with a hundred girls answering a casting call for "ethnic ambiguity" so it was refreshing to speak to a director who was like, "absolutely, this character is iranian-american. no fucking problem." in this industry especially it's very nice to feel seen, because i've had a lot of experiences with directors where i'm being asked to play a different... you know, people want me to be italian or spanish or something. but dave was like, "her name's mina mohammadi," and i was like, "this guy fucks."

so dave was --
can i just say i love my former agent and i didn't fire her because she's a bad agent, i fired her because... i really have no use for an agent.

absolutely. so like i was saying, dave was someone you trusted on set? how was he as a collaborator?
i always appreciate when a director is explicit in their vision, and it was dave's first gig but he was really, really assured, i'm sure just from being on so many film sets. we had, i mean, one or two disagreements? but if i spend enough time around anyone i tend to find an excuse to disagree with them or else my head starts swimming, it's a personal problem. i have nothing bad to say about him, he's a lovely human being, so super kind.

it's interesting that the film is being marketed as a horror because i'd say the first half is very much a relationship drama.
oh, for sure, but that's the beauty of it. because you're slowly getting invested in these people just as people, right? and then like, blammo, time to get axed. not literally. that wasn't a spoiler. but i think one of the reasons i sometimes feel distant from horror films is because there's an air of like, here's a body count. here's the gruesome kill you wanted. time to get bisected. time to get flayed alive. i'm thinking of martyrs for some reason, which is silly because i really loved martyrs. but i like tension, and i liked that it felt very true to reality.

something else i noticed about your scope of film work is that it's been minimal, of course, but you've amped it up these past couple years. has that been more of what you referenced before, a coincidental happening, or more purposeful?
killer question. so yeah, these past couple years i've been like, "oh shit, i'm broke!" which is only halfway a joke, because the work i've done has been very um, i mean shirin neshat wasn't paying the big bucks, that was for the love of art, most of the things i do are because i genuinely love whatever's being --

gucci must've paid though, right? you worked with ilias lambrou on a gucci short.
sure, that paid-ish. the thing people have to realize is you don't get a pay raise because you were sucking the director's dick at the time. was that crass? sorry. oh my god, your face. what i'm saying is i'm not some supermodel, it was more of a like, honestly i'd call it a favor from him. to cast me at all. because no one on set was like, "we have to get naz esfahani," it was like, "roy sommer is here and rainie is here and lots of beautiful models from the top 50 are here, and oh the director's girlfriend is here too i guess, that's nice." i think it's always important to be aware of why you're where you are, and lots of times i've been where i am because i've tricked someone into liking me. in that sense i guess i never get too comfortable, because any second someone could stop liking me, and then i'm gone. people will sometimes say to me like, "oh you're so self-deprecating, you're so talented," but the thing is that so are a billion other people, so are any of us really, really special? most of us in this industry are fucking lucky, or we're well-connected, or both.