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Playing a daffy dad comes naturally for Steve Zahn

DF-01781 - Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordleft) doesn’t share his dad Frank’s (Steve Zahn left) enthusiasm for camping trip thincludes Rowley

DF-01781 - Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, left) doesn’t share his dad Frank’s (Steve Zahn, left) enthusiasm for a camping trip that includes Rowley (Robert Capron) and Troop Master Barrett (Frank C. Turner)

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Updated: August 30, 2012 6:15AM

Steve Zahn is not a wimpy dad.

The laid-back actor is the type who will make spur-of-the-moment parental decisions that turn into lasting memories.

“One day when I wasn’t working and there was nothing going on, my wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s just go. Let’s do a road trip,’ ” says Zahn, 44. “We got in the car clueless and went to the first place that came to our minds.”


“We said, ‘OK, we’re going to Gettysburg,’ ” Zahn says with a laugh.

“We just drove off and stayed in motels along the way. My kids were like, ‘Wow, Dad, you got us a room with two beds, a falling-apart balcony and a vending machine outside our door? This is awesome! This is the best hotel we ever stayed at in our whole lives!’ ”

Zahn, who stars in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” (opening Friday), dispenses this parental advice: “At that moment when my kids fell in love with a stupid vending machine outside the door, I knew they were going to be OK in life. I want to raise them without expectations, so they won’t feel like they’re entitled to things.”

In the newest installment of the “Wimpy Kid” series, school is out for summer and Greg’s bored.

“What’s so cool about making kids’ movies is that they kind of live on forever. You’re always in somebody’s subconscious,” Zahn says.

“It can also be weird. I went to a bar in New Orleans and some guy bought me a shot. He lifted his glass and said, ‘Here’s to ‘Daddy Daycare,’ man!’ I thought, ‘Right … you’re older now. I’m older now. It’s been 10 years since that movie, so it’s OK that you’re drinking.”

With the “Wimpy Kid” films, Zahn says he got full family approval.

“When I got the script for the first film and tossed it on the kitchen table, my own son freaked out. He loved those books so much,” he says.

“Now, my son is 12 and he’s reading Common Sense, which shows how much he has evolved. But the good news is that he gets to have a screening of Dad’s film and is going to invite all of his friends.”

Zahn hangs out with grown-ups on his HBO series “Treme,” which is in flux right now. “I just finished the third season of ‘Treme’ and I really like doing that show. It’s smart, different and unique,” he says. “It’s the little show that could.

“We’re still on the fence about a fourth season.”

In his spare time, the Minnesota native is a hands-on dad, which includes driving his daughter around to her dance lessons.

His wife is Northwestern grad, former dancer and writer Robin Zahn.

“She trusts me with the dance stuff. I can even do a bun in my daughter’s hair,” he boasts. “It’s not perfect, but I’m there in an emergency situation to roll that bun thing up and put some bobby pins in it.

“I’m a Renaissance man,” Zahn jokes.

Big Picture News Inc.

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