THE COLONY directed by Jeff Renfroe, written by Renfroe, Patrick Tarr, Pascal Trottier and Svet Rouskov, with Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton and Kevin Zegers. An eOne release. 93 minutes. Opens Friday (April 26). For venues and times, see listings.
Not even the endless series of snowstorms could keep Kevin Zegers from returning home to Canada for a frost-bitten movie shoot last year.
The young Woodstock native (and Gossip Girl star), who hit it big with the financial success of the Air Bud franchise and then the critical acclaim of Transamerica, has lived in L.A. since he was 17. But the wintry North Bay, Ontario, shoot of The Colony, a homegrown post-apocalyptic thriller set in the next ice age, brought him back.
"It was minus-40 or -50," Zegers recalls during an interview at the (well-heated) Trump Hotel. "So cold the camera lenses were freezing."
Looking comfy in a black T-shirt and jeans, the former model has a face that could make a straight man gush: it's even more chiselled in person than it is onscreen. But he also exhibits the kind of wisdom at 28 that I'd only expect from a seasoned actor in his 40s.
In the movie, he plays a mechanic in an underground sanctuary who is called upon to march through snowmageddon to investigate a disturbance at a neighbouring colony. It turns out to be some frightening cannibals similar to those in Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
Zegers jumped at the role on the strength of The Colony's script and the chance to star alongside Laurence Fishburne - not because he felt any obligation to make a Canadian movie. Although he is a proud Canuck who sports the maple leaf on his golf bag, he's uncomfortable with the idea of making a homegrown film out of some misguided sense of national pride.
"I sort of feel like it's a disservice," he says. "I feel like Canadian movies should be as good or better than the competition because of the talent we have here. Someone like Ryan Gosling shouldn't have to come back here because it's a Canadian movie. He should want to come back because some of the best movies are being made here."
But Zegers acknowledges the other benefit of shooting a movie in Ontario. He got to spend weekends with his family, a welcome relief in a profession that keeps you on the road, leaving you without structure and inherently alone.
Weathering the L.A. lifestyle from a very young age took Zegers to some dark places. He says there are many celebrity casualties, and Lindsay Lohan is just the one we hear about.
"The human side of doing what we do can be a tough racket," he says. "There's a lot of travelling, drugs, alcohol and chicks. When you're 22, living in L.A., making money but only working four or five months out of the year, there's a lot of time for all that other stuff."
Zegers has been sober for a few years, proactively changing his habits when they began to affect his life. He credits his solid family, long-term professional relationships and age with helping him prioritize and turning things around.
Now he's looking forward to launching both The Colony and upcoming franchise The Mortal Instruments. The latter is the latest in the young-adult craze, adapted from popular novels about teens fighting demons. The first instalment, City Of Bones, which opens in August, helped Zegers realize a childhood dream of becoming an action star. He has more entrepreneurial reasons, too, for enlisting in a long-term franchise.
"If [Twilight's] Robert Pattinson wants to get a small script made, he can just because of his foreign value," says Zegers, describing how even indie projects need recognizable names to get financing. Zegers is counting on Mortal Instruments to raise his stock and afford him the freedom to pursue passion projects.
"Let's say they want to continue those movies. It's going to become a lot easier for me to find the money to make a script I love that may have a harder time getting made."