Zegers Tackling Zombies In Dawn Remake

Geoff Dale, CityMedia.ca/Info Group 2003

March 13, 2004

LOS ANGELES - Kevin Zegers wasn't even born when a crazed horde of flesh eating zombies invaded a mega shopping mall in George Romero's 1978 apocalyptic horror classic Dawn of the Dead.

"Not even a twinkle in anyone's eye," said the affable 19-year-old London-area actor from his sunny digs in Los Angeles.

On March 19 in theatres across North America Zegers, raised just down the 401 in Woodstock, gets his shot as a mall security guard (Terry) battling another motley crew of zombies in Universal Pictures' updated Dawn of the Dead, directed by Zach Snyder. Along for the bloody clash with the undead are Ving Rhames and fellow Canadian Sarah Polley.

Out of respect for the 1978 film - the second in Romero's Dead trilogy (with Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead), Zegers sounds a note of caution about drawing too many comparisons with a cult favorite that even drew a thumbs up from venerable critic Roger Ebert.

"I watched the first one," he said. "We all sat back and discussed this before we began filming. It is called Dawn of the Dead and the general premise is from that movie. But we didn't want to make a film totally similar to the original. We didn't want to mess with it because it was a great film held in high regard by so many people.

"The general concept is there but I think there is more here about the characters. With great actors like Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, I'm sure we'll pull it off. You'll see them trying to deal with what is possibility the end of the world. It's not just running around and killing zombies. The zombies are a lot faster than the slow methodical ones in the first film."

Nonetheless Zegers admits he had to be in good physical shape to handle what turned out to be an often strenuous three and half a month shoot , filled with 18-hour-days in a totally restored vacant mall in Thornhill (substituting for the heart of Wisconsin).

An avid sportsman dating back to his days in Woodstock, he still plays the occasional hockey game and hits the links for a round of golf but Dawn of the Dead required him and some of his colleagues take gun training to ward off those aforementioned zombies in authentic fashion.

"I always try to stay in shape regardless," he said. "Unless the role calls for you to put on a lot of weight. But usually you stay in the best shape possible because looking good and taking care of yourself is part of the profession. This is my job."

With more than a hint of his characteristic Southwestern Ontario modesty, he says his career has "gotten off to a good start", leaving him in a position where he can now make careful choices instead of simply working for the sake of working.

It's a career that begin with a six-year-old Zegers flogging Cheerios in a TV commercial, debuting on the big screen in the 1993 Life with Mikey and sharing the spotlight with a golden retriever in the highly successful Air Bud films. In more than 30 films and countless TV appearances, he's walked the plank alongside Oscar winner Jack Palance in Treasure Island (1999), co-starred another Londoner Lolita Davidovich in 4 Days (1999) and made the leap to prime-time soap with Yasmine Bleeth (Baywatch) and Victoria Principal (Dallas) in Aaron Spelling's short-lived Titans (2000)

With at least two more 2004 movie releases (Some Things That Stay and The Hollow) and, after a brief absence from film, the pace is heading back into high gear.

"I don't know when Some Things That Stay will be released," he said. "Right now they're looking for domestic distribution. That was a film - a sort of coming of age drama - I did at the same time as Dawn. I'd be working long days in Toronto and then I'd jet off to Hamilton for three or four weekend shoots.

"We would wrap at four or five in the morning on Saturday, from starting on Friday morning. After an 18-hour day, I'd head to the makeup trailer and clean all that stuff off my face...every little trickle of blood that took hours to put on. Then it was off to Hamilton. I was tired and a bit stressed out at the time but looking back, I'm glad I did it. Besides, I went home to visit my friends and family (parents Jim and Mary Ellen and sisters Katie and Krista)."

The Hollow, featuring Zegers in the lead role of Ian Cranston, the great-great-grandson of Ichabod Crane is tentatively set for a October 29 release. Also in the cast is former Back Street Boy Nick Carter, now counted among his good friends.

"I'm in the midst of two or three projects that I'm about to commit to," he said. "However, I don't have any details yet but within the next couple of months there will be some film work and maybe some TV. I just saw a finished cut of Dawn of the Dead.

"I'm generally pretty unimpressed with the things I do but this is one of the first movies that I've come away thinking this is really super cool.

Even if I wasn't in it, I would be interested in seeing it. There's not a lot of special effects but some great makeup. It's really quite graphic...the kind of movie that will kind of blow your hair back. That's the feeling I had."

In the middle of the cinematic hustle and bustle, Zegers still talks about home and other aspects of his Canadian Connection.

"Growing up in Woodstock helped me appreciate things more," he said. "That's why I'm friends with Nick Carter. He came from a similar middle class background with hard working parents. He's acquired a lot of wealth but he realizes there are other more important things in life. I loved growing up in Woodstock and love going back as often as I can.

"I also got to be close with Sarah (Polley) and we still talk quite a bit. I live with another Canadian in Los Angeles and most of my friends are Canadian actors. There is a certain unspoken perspective with them, an easy going quality which is a nice change of pace here in LA."

Meanwhile, Dawn of the Dead officially premieres March 10 in the three level 876,000 square foot Beverly Center Mall in Beverly Hills, closed down to accommodate the invited crowds, including his proud parents and, of course, a smattering of zombies making their way through the proceedings.

Only this time around there will be no pot shots taken at the flesh hungry undead....certainly not with a sharpshooter like Kevin Zegers around.

Copyright © CityMedia.ca/Info Group 2003