Our Ziggy's Stardust Begins To Shimmer

Kevin Zegers is a good actor, grounded and easy on the eyes. Good thing his manager thinks he sucks sometimes, finds Rita Zekas. (Photo by CRAIG GLOVER/TORONTO STAR)

Jan. 1, 2006. 07:16 AM
Rita Zekas, Toronto Star

In the not too distant past, everybody was getting jiggy.

Now, as we are drop kicking another year to the recycle bins, I predict that everybody will be keen on getting Ziggy.

Ziggy, not as in Marley. Ziggy as in the nickname for Kevin Zegers, my prediction for the hot breakout actor of 2006.

Last year, I predicted Rachel McAdams would be the It Girl for 2005. Eat your heart out, Wiarton Willie. Last year, McAdams was incandescent in The Notebook. This year, she was the icing on the wedding cake in Wedding Crashers and is giving Sarah Jessica Parker grief in The Family Stone. She's even being touted as the new Julia Roberts.

Right now, anyone who has seen Transamerica can't stop raving about Zegers, 21, who hails from Woodstock via Ingersoll.

The camera loves Zegers. He's a hottie. You can't take your eyes off him and not just because he looks eerily like a young Johnny Depp. He also has major acting chops.

In Transamerica, he plays Toby, a troubled street hustler who goes on a road trip with Felicity Huffman's character Bree, a man waiting for the final snip of his sex-change operation. Toby thinks Bree is just this weird reject from the black lagoon with a do-gooder complex who bailed him out of jail. He doesn't know Bree is his father.

The film is generating great buzz and Zegers is getting attention from the right people.

"People I never dreamed of meeting," he says from Woodstock, where he is spending the holidays with his family.

"Harvey Weinstein sat down with me and Spielberg's company is taking meetings with me. I'm being considered seriously for Ryan Gosling jobs."

Zegers remains refreshingly unspoiled by it all. He even blew off the Elton John/David Furnish nuptials because his sister Katie, also an actor, was pregnant and it was approximating her due date.

(He has two sisters, Krista and Katie, who already has identical twin girls just over a year old.)

"I hadn't seen my family for a long time," he says. "I love being Uncle Kevin. I can't stand the thought of not being with them."

Besides, he'd already spent two weeks with John and Furnish in their digs while shooting the London leg of It's a Boy Girl Thing, a U.K./Canadian collaboration produced by Furnish and shot principally in Toronto.

"I stayed at their house in London for a couple of weeks," Zegers says. "I would consider them good friends; they are two of the nicest men I've ever met and really private about their personal life. We hung out, but I was mostly working. (He is the male lead.) We had dinner every night at their house, which is called Windsor Castle."

Boy Girl Thing marked Furnish's debut as a film producer.

"It's a romantic comedy about switched identities but is much less silly than the usual ones," Zegers says. "It's about two kids who grew up together really hating each other and always messing with each other. They wake up in each other's bodies when they are 18 or 19 years old. It is a body-switch movie but more of a romantic comedy than the high school ones: it's When Harry Met Sally for kids.

"David is from here and proud of it. He used to be on set every day; he is a really good people person. If I had a problem, I'd go to David. As an actor, you feel out who you can talk to. He wasn't just sitting with the suits on-set, he dealt with all the `personalities' and he became a friend."

Though Zegers had worked in four Air Buds, MVP: The Most Valuable Primate and co-starred with Katie Boland in the coming-of-age film Some Things That Stay - he had never done a straight comedy before.

"It was a little weird at first; it was about not wanting to make an ass of myself. But you close your eyes and forget that you look like an idiot to 80 people on the set. You go full bore."

Zegers has lived in Los Angeles for the past four years. He started acting at age 6.

"I grew up in Ingersoll and moved to Woodstock," he says. "I never lived in Toronto - my mom drove me back and forth. I just remember always doing it (acting).

"There was never a moment of 'Omigawd, I want to do it.' I had this knack. I did stuff in London (Ont.), graduated to working Toronto - it was an hour-and-a-half drive each way."

In addition to his siblings, nieces and parents, Zegers is at the family homestead with his lady, Marisa Coughlan from Boston Legal, and her mom.

"A friend of ours set us up," he says. "We've been together a year and a few months."

Zegers plays hockey in L.A. in Jerry Bruckheimer's celeb league made up mostly of Canadian actors and Denis Leary. He loves a cold beer and has two dogs named Walter and Willis. And a shoe thing: he told Teen Vogue mag, "I have 15 pairs of jeans and 30 pairs of shoes. I'm a total metrosexual."

He admires designer Tom Ford's style and narrowly missed working with him. Ford is guest editor of the "Young Hollywood" edition of Vanity Fair, the one in which Rachel McAdams famously refused to pose nude, then relented. Hey, it's Vanity Fair.

Zegers was almost in that issue. He recently had a meeting with Katie Smith, Vanity Fair 's L.A. editor. "They had already shot the issue," he says.

Zegers may not have had the opportunity to show any skin in Vanity Fair this year, but there is plenty of Zegers dermis in Transamerica. He insists there was no "Whoa, dude!" moment when he read the script.

"It is all necessary," he says. "Nothing in it is gratuitous. I thought it was all necessary to tell the story. I knew this movie was going to do well when I read the script and I don't know anybody in town who didn't want to do it."

So how did he win the brass ring? "I stalked the director," he says. "I wasn't a shoo-in; they saw everybody between 15 and 25. I'm sure some big names went for it. Friends of mine and sought-after actors did. It is 95 per cent luck. You just hope you don't screw it up."

He shot the film two years ago [May - July 2004]. It was screened at the film festival circuit, including the Toronto International Film Festival and Tribeca.

"Sundance passed on it," Zegers says. "It was screened at the Elgin in Toronto and my whole family saw it. They loved it.

"Toby is a screwed-up kid and I think audiences respond to that. Toby and Bree have commonality with the rest of the world: everyone feels like a freak at some time and I was using the crap I feel about myself. They are socially uncomfortable and it makes them stand out like sore thumbs. Toby feels weird in his own skin."

Hard to believe Zegers ever felt socially inept.

"I was 19, living in L.A. by myself," he says. "I was as lonely and depressed as any young person in the midst of feeling out what works and what doesn't. It was an idea I could relate to. Toby used his physicality and sexuality and everyone is guilty of that. He was hustling on the streets of New York - which was not something I do. He makes a pass at Felicity's character but not because he lusts after her. It is the only way he knows how to show affection. It's like a first hug."

He has nothing but great things to say about Huffman.

"She works really, really, really hard. Not to say that I'm lazy but I used to do enough to get by. I'd do that at school. My mom said, `You need 80 per cent to get an A.' I'd never max out my potential. Felicity did everything in her power for two and a half months to go full bore. We had this discussion that if either one of us is off in this film, it won't work. `We need this to work or you and I won't be good.' We were on the same page."

And in the same car for 2 1/2 months.

"In a car without air conditioning driving through Arizona," he says. "If I look really sweaty, it's because I was pouring sweat. I lost a lot of weight for that movie. I am a well-fed Canadian boy; Toby was on the street doing heroin and frail. I'm 21. I had a fairly developed body: I've worked out since I was 16. I ran and did cardio."

Changing his body should not be troubling to an actor like Zegers, who aims to emulate that most talented of chameleon/pinup boys, Johnny Depp.

"We're going to do the whole award season - we have two Golden Globe nominations and I'm going," he says. "Yes! Hopefully I'll get to meet people like that. Not that I'm starstruck - everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. It's more like sit down and have a chat."

He mentions meeting Wayne Gretzky at a golf club. "You can talk to him. He said, `It's cool that you are doing well.' I said, `It's cool that you are Wayne Gretzky.'"

Paul Nicholls, his L.A. agent, says Zegers appeals to both men and women. "That's what people saw in Tom Cruise in Risky Business and Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise."

So with talk like that starting to circulate, how does Zegers avoid swollen-head syndrome?

"Kevin did a press junket and the journalists asked him the same thing: `You're so grounded.' Know what he said? `Every time I do great, my manager reminds me I suck just as often.'"

Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt should remember that, too.

He would like to thank all the little creatures who helped him get where he is today
Jan. 1, 2006. 01:00 AM

by Garnet Fraser, Toronto Star

(NOTE: Kevin is referring to the animal actors in Air Bud, not his human fans.)

The old adage about how long it takes to become an overnight sensation holds true for Kevin Zegers.

Though the hype is arriving at the still tender age of 21, it has waited until his 22nd movie, after years of befriending animals (Air Bud, Virginia's Run) or fleeing them (Komodo) in lesser projects.

So he's no big-screen rookie; in fact, he's already whittled down his degree of Kevin Bacon connection to just one intermediary. (Zegers made a little-seen film The Acting Class in 2000 with Benjamin Bratt, who last year starred in The Woodsman with the Secret Locus of Tinseltown.)

And his quietly impressive young resumé hasn't all been built on the big screen. Here are some other things Zegers got up to on TV on his way up.

You may have seen Zegers but missed the name when he:

Developed stigmata on the X-Files in 1995;

Turned invisible on Goosebumps in 1996;

Played the young version of a future washed-up drunk in Twice in a Lifetime in 1999;

Wielded magnetic powers and stole Superboy's girl on Smallville in 2003;

Contracted a deadly disease after sex on House in 2004;

Suffered a dislocated shoulder in Road to Avonlea in 1995.

This information is culled from Zegers' fan sites, which are surprisingly numerous for an admittedly striking young actor who has never really had a hit movie (though the Air Bud franchise must have been doing something right).

But this seems to be Zegers' moment, or at least his first: he's currently on the cover of the gay magazine Out and is getting profile treatment in Toro and Vanity Fair.

He seems to be aware of the importance of this point in his career; in the summer he told Interview magazine that he would choose his next movie after Transamerica with care. "There's a small window for an actor to build up heat, which I don't want to waste," he said, before signing on for A Boy Girl Thing.

Along the way to this sudden recognition, he got to work with Michael J. Fox (Life With Mikey), Gena Rowlands (The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie), Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead) and Louie the chimp in MVP: Most Valuable Primate.

Which, come to think of it, means Louie has easy ties to Bacon, too.