| Kevin Zegers, Actor
by Kevin Maher
Photography by Todd Cole
[NOTE by cpps90: Kevin Zegers was 19, not 21, when he filmed Transamerica. Filming took place May - July, 2004.]
"That's what's so disarming about this movie," says Zegers today, referring to the abovementioned diner-pick-up scene, one of the many little bold narrative bites sprinkled throughout his breakout movie Transamerica. "It first allows you into the central characters, you get to like them, and then, scene by scene it starts to show you the ugly bits." In this startling film the Canadian-born Zegers, formerly known as the child actor uber-moppet in the incomprehensibly successful Air Bud movies, plays a New York hustler who's driven across America by a soft-spoken pre-operative transsexual (played by Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman) who also happens to be his undercover long lost father (don't ask - it'll all make sense in the cinema). It's a smart, sensuous turn from Zegers, very rough trade, very Private Idaho ("I watched a lot of River Phoenix before doing this part!", and his willingness to embrace the role's edgier aspects (nudity, bisexuality) has already immensely increased his actorly cache within the Hollywood community - "I meet with directors now," he says, "Rather than just going to endless auditions."
And yet, Transamerica wasn't an easy catch. Repeatedly Zegers was told by producers that he wasn't right for the movie. He was, well, too pretty. "You're not our guy," they said. "Our guy is supposed to look beaten up. You're just too good looking!" "It's the story of my career," says Zegers, who was raised in Woodstock, Ontario, the son of a hairdresser mom and quarry-worker dad, and who began acting at the age of 6. "It's the way I look. The kind of roles that people want to give me are the college star quarterback kind of guy roles. And it's easy to play these roles, the ones that are based on the fact that people find me somewhat attractive. I could just about get by doing that. However the reason I went for Transamerica was precisely because I didn't have to be good-looking or average looking or anything in this. It just didn't matter at all!"
Despite the initial rejection, Zegers immediately made an audition tape and began hounding the film's producers, including co-star Huffman, who watched it and eventually gave him a shot. The rest, is the beginning of screen history for the would-be megastar who can't even remember why he started acting. "I was just a kid. People thought that it was cute, and it made my parents happy. So it started from there." He subsequently racked up an impressive 22 screen roles, including four Air Bud movies, the John Carpenter horror flick In The Mouth of Madness, and the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead. And after a co-starring role in the Superman spin-off TV series Smallville, was there even some rumblings that he might've been cast in Bryan Singer's big screen blockbuster Superman Returns?
"Well, I know Bryan Singer quite well," he says, hesitating. "And, er, that's not the particular project we want to work with each other on." He pauses for another second or two, cracks, and then the 5'9" actor confesses, "To be honest, I wasn't tall enough for Superman."
Transamerica is released on March 10.