NORMAL Written and directed by Carl Bessai, with Carrie-Anne Moss, Kevin Zegers and Callum Keith Rennie. 100 minutes. A Mongrel Media release. Opens Friday (February 8) at the Carlton. Rating: NNNNN
Most actors fight for more lines in a script. Not Kevin Zegers. In fact, he often fantasizes about acting without speaking a single word of dialogue.
“I’m a huge fan of silent film acting,” he says, sprawled out on a sofa in the Intercontinental Hotel during the Film Festival. “Or look at someone like Johnny Depp, whose face says so much. I’m not the best talker in the world, but I think I project the way I’m feeling through my eyes and face.”
Right now, those blue eyes and that impossibly beautiful face are the focal point of pretty much everyone in the room – at least all the straight women and gay men.
Zegers pretends not to notice. He’s here to talk about Normal, Carl Bessai’s nice-looking if predictably earnest drama about a group of people in Victoria coming to terms with the accidental death of a young man.
Zegers is in three movies at the festival. In each he plays a variation on the theme of the troubled young pretty boy, which is essentially what he played in his breakout role as Felicity Huffman’s self-destructive son in Transamerica. So what is it about him and trouble?
“People tend to see me as a little more troubled than the character may have been written,” he says. “I create these weird backstories. It’s so much more interesting to look at somebody and not get them right away. I feel like my job is to want to make people dig and figure out what’s going on.”
He based his character in Normal on a friend who’d experienced a similar tragedy.
“I know that damaged look – it’s good to have weight in your eyes.” And here he drops another shocker that smashes the stereotype of the typical hot young actor.
“The biggest compliment I could ever get is for people to tell me I look like I’m in my 30s. Most people would think that’s a bad thing, but it’s great. My eyes are saying I’ve seen a lot of stuff.”
What he has seen, since much of his Woodstock, Ontario, childhood, is a lot of TV and movie sets. He did time guesting on TV series like Street Legal and Road To Avonlea and had a recurring role on Traders before making the move to features with Air Bud and Dawn Of The Dead.
He shrugs off a question about whether he ever went through a pimply, awkward stage – “High school wasn’t a great time for me” – then segues into a talk about his looks.
“Everyone looks the way they look,” he says. “You can’t do anything about it. I’m not going to be self-deprecating. I’m not going to gloat. If anything, I feel I have to work harder to make people pay attention to the fact that I’m an actor.
“I don’t want to think I can get by because people will think I’m charming. That’s death for any actor. A lot of actors who are unattractive get by on being goofy-looking. No one ever asks them about that.”
Then something happens that only happens during the Film Festival – or in L.A. Actor Ryan Gosling enters the room, eyes move toward him and Zegers jumps off the couch to chat up his fellow Canuck star and sneak in a photo op. Smart move.
“Ryan’s doing what I want to do,” he tells me afterwards. “He’s a smart dude and doesn’t give a shit about what anyone else wants him to do. I like that about him.”
He pauses and reflects on his strong pack of acting peers.“Look at Ryan or Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Emile Hirsch,” he says. “I’ve lost out on jobs to some of them and got jobs that they were after. The quality of young actors is really rising now. Who knows who’s going to be the next Jack Nicholson or Sean Penn? Let’s start applauding the young guys who are blazing their own paths now.”
See review of NORMAL over here.