You don’t know this Zac
Teen star attempts to shed Disney image with edgier films
The first thing you see in 17 Again is Zac Efron — Hollywood heartthrob, star of the High School Musical franchise, bedroom wall decoration for girls the world over — sweaty and shirtless, landing three-pointer after three-pointer in an empty gym.
The filmmakers obviously know how to play to their base.
But after the opening — followed by an impromptu dance routine by Efron to Bust a Move — the story gets underway, and the Disney teen star gets his first real chance to stretch himself, to break out of the Tiger Beat ghetto.
“When I read the script, there were a million different things to play,” Efron says. “Playing that kind of complicated character held a lot of opportunities.”
Ask anyone involved with the production about Efron, and they are quick to commend his work ethic. Even after suffering from appendicitis during production, the actor was back at work the next day — and even called his co-workers to apologize for delaying filming.
“I could’ve ruined the movie,” Efron explains, deathly serious.
Efron has been keeping a much more watchful eye on his future career development. His next film, Orson Welles and Me, is a period drama about the Victory Theater.
He even considered a cameo in Gus Van Sant’s Oscar-winning Milk, but scheduling conflicts made it impossible.
Perhaps the surest sign that Efron is looking to broaden his resume and get away from the lighter material is his recent decision to opt out of a musical remake of Footloose. But Efron insists it has less to do with typecasting than it does with personal and professional growth.
“Since I was young, I’ve always loved trying new things and acquiring new skill sets,” the actor says. “I’m ready to try something else, a new challenge. I want to move forward. To be stagnant right now just is not in my heart.”
Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
Zac Efron graduates to 17 again from High School Musical
As in: “17 again? Now that I’m in my 20s, surely I can ditch the high school films and graduate to college?”
If that is how things played out, which, given that people rarely converse in film titles, is unlikely, then Efron isn’t letting on.
“Truthfully, in 17 Again, although it takes place in a high school setting, the character is very removed from a high school,” says Efron, who is best-known as the star of Disney’s High School Musical franchise.
In the tradition of body-swapping films, including Big, Freaky Friday and countless others, 17 Again tells the story of Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry), a 37-year-old who falls into a river during a mid-life crisis and is transformed into his 17-year-old self (played by Efron).
“Adam Shankman, who directed me in Hairspray, came up with the idea and he asked
me about it,” Efron says.
“I was intimidated at first – I didn’t know what to think. I was scared to play a 37-year-old guy who’s pretending to be a 17-year-old because it was confusing.
"I couldn’t even wrap my own mind around it. It wasn’t just another high school romance.”
Twenty-one-year-old Efron isn’t exaggerating about the romance element. His character has to dodge the advances of his own daughter while trying to woo his estranged wife Scarlet (Leslie Mann), who can’t work out why she’s drawn to a 17-year-old and finds it quite creepy.
Efron says he was initially daunted at the prospect of romancing Mann.
“On paper I was,” he says.
“But when it actually happened, when we actually started filming, the closer I got to Leslie the easier it was. It felt very natural.”
Fortunately he already harboured a soft spot for older women. “I think I definitely have a crush on Leslie. She’s very sweet, very pretty and her personality shines,” he says.
Efron was propelled into a level of fame that few people experience due to his role in the High School Musical films.
Emerging as a stand-out star of the franchise, Efron cannot travel to many places on the globe without attracting hordes of screaming girls.
“With High School Musical it was difficult to talk about the process or the filmmaking and it was much easier for journalists to talk about the popularity of it and popularity is a difficult thing to talk about,’’ he says.
“Not that it’s a sore subject or anything but what can you say? Personally I think that when anyone talks about it no matter how popular they are it always comes across as gloating.”
While he is grateful for the leg-up High School Musical has given him, he is intensely focused on making the transition from tween idol to serious actor.
He names Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp as role models.
“Since I was young it’s been my goal and my priority to always challenge myself to the fullest,” he says. “I think I see that in Leo, I see that in Johnny, I see that with a lot of great actors.”
Efron says “it’s incredibly easy to do what’s comfortable”, which might explain his decision to drop out of the Footloose remake.
“It was more along the lines that I was looking for a new challenge, and this was another musical,” Efron told US Weekly.
Whatever Efron decides his next move will be, it is not a decision he will take lightly.
“Every time I think to myself, ‘Man, I wish I could go back and just miss that (High School Musical) audition. Life would be so much easier right now’.
“But then I visit my friends who are in college and they are every bit as busy as I am. Every time I think I’ve got it too rough or I start to feel sour, I remind myself I could be taking mid-terms right now.”
The Age (AUS)
Focused on the big picture
An 'old fart' at heart, tween idol Zac Efron attributes his success to hard work, writes Jim Schembri.
TO LOOK deep into the eyes of Zac Efron is to see ... what? Bright young actor full of promise? Fluke superstar with more luck than smarts? Another fleeting celebriteen flashing on the veneer of pop culture before he promptly recedes into oblivion?
Upon instruction, Efron has leaned forward and obligingly pulled back his boyish fringe so we can stare right into those peepers. He doesn't flinch.
This guy is not the pop sensation from High School Musical. He owes those films his career, but his eyes are fixed beyond them now, beyond all the cheesy Disney merchandise and the screaming tween girls who line every red carpet he walks down.
Efron is 21 and wants to be his own man. So, with our eyes locked, we ask: "What do you want to do with your life?" He sits back, allows the fringe to drop back, and thinks.
"I never wanted to be famous, that has never been what's driven me to do my work," he says. "I never saw myself being here. This isn't what I dreamed of when I was a kid. I found what I loved to do and that's what I'm here for; to put in good work and to continue to challenge myself with every role, and to grow. I'm not doing this for attention. It has never been about that."
Here today, gone later today. Efron knows that. Intimately.
"That's what I always say. It's actually nice hearing you say that, but that's what I say in every interview, (yet) people still seem genuinely surprised. Before I was ever here I recognised that all this is supposed to be gone, this is not ..." he interrupts himself.
"It's a losing battle. Ninety-nine per cent of people fail. That's been in my head before this. I take the criticism better than I take the credit or the acclaim." Or the adoration. "Exactly. I've always been that way."
In his new Disney-free comedy film 17 Again, Efron plays Mike O'Donnell, a discontented man of 37 who awakens one morning to find he has the body he had when he was 17. So he re-enters high school to keep an eye on his troublesome daughter.
The film obviously plays to Efron's tween fanbase, but "I really want dads to enjoy this movie. That's what I'm going for," he says.
He also likes old-school values to drive his work.
In one memorable scene he lectures a trio of promiscuous girls about self-respect. Efron liked serving up this backhander to teen raunch culture.
"It's so true, that is close to my honest opinion," he says. "I'm like an old fart, I guess; I'm kind of like a dad in that situation." Zac Efron, an old fart at heart? "Sure. That has a ring to it."
That's part of his appeal, he adds. "It's been so trendy to rebel for the past couple of years. Not that I'm going to play it safe my whole life, but you don't have to be a badass to win. There's a way to be genuine and play real people, and that's what I'm looking for."
With popularity comes power, but as Alicia Silverstone (Clueless), James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek) and countless others have shown, to mishandle it is to lose it. Efron pauses before replying.
"It's very important to remember to take your time. Take your time and make smart choices, do what's in your heart. Everyone says that, but that's the truth. At this particular moment there's a lot that is available. That all sounds ..." he trails off. He sounds worried.
"I don't know," he says. "I'm willing to put in the hard work and to find what's right to do, not what's most profitable. I really want to make great films."
And he's proved good to his word. After two years of being attached to the much-feared remake of the 1984 Kevin Bacon film Footloose, Efron walked.
Saying no to big money and bad ideas in Hollywood. It doesn't get any harder than that.
His work ethic kicked in early at school. Quite the little swatty, was Zac.
"It was not hard to get good grades, it was not hard to apply myself. In fact, I found that fun and I was very hungry to do it. Kids always said 'Man, why do you work so hard? Do you really have to get straight As?' And I'd always say: 'Yeah. My parents like it,' but, truthfully, I didn't find it hard, and I enjoyed that challenge.
"I mean, if that's the hardest it gets in life, f---, bring it on."
Straight (Vancouver) with Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry walks the teen beat in 17 Again
LOS ANGELES—For just a moment, in the middle of a news conference in a Los Angeles hotel room for the movie 17 Again, Matthew Perry appears to be channelling Chandler Bing. His Friends character, a master of the smart-aleck one-liner, was always happy to hit an easy lob out of the park. In the film, which opens April 17, Perry plays a 37-year-old man who was a basketball star in high school but gave up scholarship opportunities to marry his pregnant high-school sweetheart. Twenty years later, the baby is graduating and he feels he has wasted his life. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he becomes his younger self again (played by Zac Efron) and gets the second chance he has always wanted.
A reporter asks Perry if he’s done the math and would agree that his character’s daughter should be in college by now. The actor shoots back with faux incredulity, “That was the only logic problem you had with this movie?”
Since Efron and Perry play the same character at different ages, it made sense for the film’s director, Burr Steers, to ensure that the audience could see something of one in the other. Efron was particularly interested in studying Perry’s moves, and Steers has said in interviews that the younger actor watched old episodes of Friends and Perry’s short-lived series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Perry was less enthusiastic early on. “I finally realized on day five of rehearsals why he was looking at me so much,” he says. “But Burr is a very smart guy. He felt that it would be a good idea for us to rehearse together and to read each other’s lines for each other and that was a big part of the rehearsal process. Zac would say, ‘How would you read this?’ and I think it ended up being a cool part of the movie.”
Perry’s own teenage years were somewhat complicated. He grew up in Ottawa and was a top-ranked Canadian junior tennis player when he was sent to Los Angeles at the age of 15 to live with his actor father, John Bennett Perry. He says that high school was fine but recalls that he took things too seriously. While he has developed a reputation for playing characters who make light of almost everything, he admits to having some regrets.
“I went to a high school that didn’t have many people in it,” he says. “There was a group of cool kids and a group of dorky kids, and I was probably the coolest of the dorky kids. But I am much happier now than I was at that age, and I think things get better. I think it has to do with taking things too seriously when you’re younger. I think you get a little lighter as you get older, so it takes care of itself and it gets better. I guess if I had one wish it would be that I could go back and not take everything so seriously.”
AZCentral with Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry's high school reunion
HOLLYWOOD - Much like the Chandler Bing character he played on "Friends," Matthew Perry has a self-deprecating, wisecracking sense of humor.
In his new movie, "17 Again," Perry plays a frustrated suburbanite who gets a chance to relive his youth. His younger self is played by rising star Zac Efron.
"I would love to be 17 again if I looked like this dude," the 39-year-old says in his low-key way.
Although the actors have no scenes together in the film, Perry and Efron enjoyed a different kind of collaboration since they essentially play the same part. At the urging of director Burr Steers ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"), they rehearsed together, sometimes reading each other's lines and other times simply observing each other.
"I finally realized, like on day five, why Zac was looking at me so much," quips Perry.
"Matthew shot a couple of days and then I'd come in and shoot," recalls Efron ("High School Musical"). "Most of the work we did together was figuring out our character in rehearsal."
Efron, 21, picked up on Perry's mannerisms, like his habit of putting his hands in his pockets or his sideways smile. He emulated Perry's speech pattern and the way he delivered dialogue. Whenever he got stuck on a line, he'd simply call Perry and ask him how he would deliver it.
"He'd just pop out a few sarcastic jokes," recalls Efron. "He's just brilliant at it."
Perry could relate in a way to his character, Mike O'Donnell, a 37-year-old father, husband and breadwinner who frets that his glory days are behind him. Once a promising high school basketball star, his dreams were cut short when he chose to marry his pregnant girlfriend instead of accepting a college athletic scholarship.
Like Mike, Perry was once a promising athlete. A tennis star, he ranked 17th nationally in Canada's junior singles category and third in doubles.
"I wanted to be a professional tennis player but, you know, I wasn't good enough," he confesses. He arrived at that conclusion when people told him "don't do that," he quips.
But Perry, who refocused his attention on acting, has no regrets. "If anything, I wish I could go back and just tell myself to chill out a little bit more and not take everything so seriously," he says. "Everybody makes choices they regret in life, but if you're constantly looking back and thinking, I'd wish I'd done this or that, you're always going to be miserable."
In the movie, Perry's Mike is in a bad way. His marriage is falling apart. He's been passed over for a promotion at work. His teenage kids think he's a loser, and he's been reduced to moving in with his high school nerd-turned-techno-billionaire best friend. In a moment of magic, Mike is given a second chance to return to that glorious age of 17 - at least outwardly.
Though he looks and feels 17, his adult outlook is totally uncool among today's high schoolers, which include his own kids, who are unaware of their dad's transformation. Perry, who is single and childless, says it was weird playing the parent of a teenager. "Forget about switching places, that's the thing I don't think people will believe," he deadpans.
Michelle Trachtenberg plays Mike's disaffected daughter Maggie, who develops a crush on "the new guy" at school (actually her dear old dad). She has scenes with both Perry and Efron, and enjoyed the weirdness of having different actors of different ages playing her father.
"I would call Matthew Dad' a lot," recalls the 23-year-old actress. "But I called Zac Daddy' too. I have a lot of daddies in this. Daddy issues. That's all I'm saying."
Perry's one regret about the movie is that his character is a basketball player. "It's the one sport I'm just terrible at," he laments. "But (Zac's) good at it so it works."
Born in Williamstown, Mass., Perry grew up in Ottawa, Canada after his parents divorced. At 15, he decided to move to Los Angeles to live with his father, John Bennett Perry, an actor. That's when he caught the acting bug and began trying out for school plays.
"I went to a high school that didn't have many people in it," he recalls. "There were like 60 people in my senior class and I was not the coolest kid. I was probably the coolest of the dorky kids at school."
While in high school, Perry landed a few supporting roles in movies and guest-starred on several TV shows. His big break came when he was cast in "Friends," which aired for 10 seasons and made its young cast international stars.
Perry received his first Emmy nomination in 2002 for his starring role on the show, and he's earned three more Emmy nominations, most recently for the title role in the TV movie "The Ron Clark Story," about a dedicated teacher at one of New York City's worst schools. In 2006, he starred in the short-lived NBC dramedy "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," in a role written expressly for him. He had previously worked with the show's producer, Aaron Sorkin, on "The West Wing," where he earned back-to-back Emmy nominations in 2003 and 2004 for his recurring role as Joe Quincy.
On the big screen, Perry has starred alongside Bruce Willis in the crime caper "The Whole Nine Yards" and its sequel, "The Whole Ten Yards." His other film credits include "Serving Sara," "Three to Tango," "Almost Heroes" and "Fools Rush In."
Perry recently shot a pilot called "The End of Steve," in which he stars as a local talk show host on a reluctant path to redemption. "We're looking for a home for it now," he says, smiling.
As for going back in time, Perry doesn't have much interest.
"All I can say is I'm much happier now than I was at 17," he says. "I think as you get older, things get better."