Canadian actor Kevin Zegers was just a toddler when the bright lights shined down on him as cameras rolled. Starring in numerous commercials by the time kindergarten started, Zegers was a child actor who had the drive and internal flame for his craft and that drive to act is what kept Zegers in the theatrical game. Air Bud was a favorite of younger generations, as horror fanatics know him from the remake, Dawn of the Dead. The list of credentials in both film and television is a lengthy one but Transamerica is the film where he climbed to another level. Playing a tormented teen, Toby’s illogical stream of emotions began to unravel after a transgender woman enters his world. Taunting us with the layers of pain that peel away as he is forced to stand and face the reality he always ran from, Zegers powerful screen presence deserves special recognition. It is what kept him front and center while starring opposite Felicity Huffman’s exceptional role of a lifetime. Being a woman playing a man who wants to be a woman is what drew in our curiosity. However, Zegers never fell to her waist-side as just another “character side-kick” thrown into her mix. Instead, he brilliantly brought dimension to the story, sharing center stage with Huffman.
He found his niche in film – taking on the challenging characters that are harder to like and not the easiest to understand. Kari Skoghland’s Fifty Dead Man Walking is an example of that. Based on informant Martin McGartland’s memoir where he unleashes his story of making the “death-wish” decision to betray the IRA for the British police, “Fifty Dead Men”…was Zegers next target. Set in Belfast, Ireland, Zegers played the role of McGartland’s best buddy, Sean, a violent thug loyal to the IRA. With a thick Irish accent, Zegers nailed it after a few months practicing in local Irish pubs where the slightest mistake could land him in a bar room brawl.
“I like the idea of playing characters that are not much like me,” Zegers said. “The unfortunate part of this business, now more than ever, is that everyone wants you to do the sort of ‘appropriate thing — What you look like you should be like’ … This was an opportunity to do something different.
“To be totally honest, its [playing characters opposite yourself] that are the most fun. Taking a character and making him come to life out of nothing. It all becomes make believe!”
“Sean did awful things,” Zegers continued. “He was a drunk who wants to kill. But it’s my job to find that one thing that makes him human. Think about it, when there’s the dickhead in high school, it doesn’t always work in movies. There’s really no such thing as ‘that’ guy. You always find out later that the mean guy had a dad who beat him up, or his girlfriend was always cheating. As an actor, you have to realize that the audience still needs to understand you, whether you do bad or good things.
“Sean’s humanity came from his friendship with Jim. There’s nothing he wouldn’t have done for him. He would have died for him.”
Death looming is the central plot of director/writer Adam Green’s upcoming horror. Casting Zegers as one of the unfortunate three who unknowingly walks right into their “reaper,” Frozen begins with a fun getaway at a ski resort. However, when the trip’s end comes way too quickly, the couple played by Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) and Emma Bell (Bedford Diaries) and their third wheel (Zegers) pleads withone of the employees for one final ride up the mountain before closing time. Reluctantly, he finally gives in and as the happy threesome are lifted up, the resort staff passes along the final responsibility of the night to someone else. Instructed to shut everything down after “three people” leave, he does just that. Unfortunately, the group of three he watched exit the resort weren’t the ones 100 feet above. And with the slopes closed for a few days….slowly, the terror begins to seep in.
“It’s sort of funny at first,” Zegers said. “But, as ten minutes turns into hours turning into days with these people starving, freezing to death…it becomes a pretty gnarly story.”
Calling the way it is shot, “disgusting” and similar to a documentary, Zegers added, “faces falling off…it’s pretty bad and then it becomes a dramatic story about people who are about to die.”
Following in the footsteps of the film Open Water (think ocean, sharks, a couple and no boat), Zegers stated that, “for the entire movie…an hour and a half…we are sitting on a bench. For us, that was our challenge.”
And his current challenge is taking on the role of Clyde Barrow in The Story of Bonnie and Clyde opposite Hilary Duff. With an intrigue in the killing duo, Hollywood filmmakers have produced several movies about the tormented twosome including the famous 1967 version of Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
“I feel like it’s going to be a great movie,” stated Zegers. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think that way. There’s a whole other side to them [Bonnie and Clyde] that hasn’t been shown. It’s very much a relationship movie.
“The real thing that interested me is; ‘Why does this woman who has no invested interest other than loving this man go on this killing spree and do all this stuff, putting herself in a position where she inevitably dies? That, for me, was what was left to be uncovered. That’s what interested me about it. It’s a relationship story about how there’s one dominant presence in a relationship and the other person is just trying to catch up.”
Also starring Michael Madsen and Cloris Leachman, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde is in production and set to hit theatres in 2010. “We are filming in the South, Alabama, Tennessee…We start in New Orleans, make our way to Texas, Chicago…” said Zegers
“Traveling is fun, especially for work. I think all actors are trying to run from something so it’s a good way to do it.”