What would you do if you got a second shot at life? Class of 1989, Mike O'Donnell (Zac Efron) is a star on the high school basketball court with a college scout in the stands and a bright future in his grasp. But instead, he decides to throw it all away to share his life with his girlfriend Scarlet and the baby he just learned they are expecting.
Almost 20 years later, Mike's (Matthew Perry) glory days are decidedly behind him. His marriage to Scarlet (Leslie Mann) has fallen apart, he has been passed over for a promotion at work, his teenage kids think he is a loser, and he has been reduced to crashing with his high school nerd-turned-techno-billionaire best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon).
But Mike is given another chance when he is miraculously transformed back to the age of 17. Unfortunately, Mike may look 17 again, but his thirtysomething outlook is totally uncool among the class of 2009.
And in trying to recapture his best years, Mike could lose the best things that ever happened to him.
MoviesOnline sat down with Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon, and Michelle Trachtenberg at the Los Angeles press day for “17 Again,” directed by Burr Steers from a screenplay by Jason Filardi and produced by Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot. Here’s what they had to tell us:
Q: Zac, you did a great job being Matthew.
ZAC EFRON: Thank you. It was hard work.
Q: Before you started shooting, I know you talked a lot about the role and doing similar things. Can you talk a little more about that and who shot first? Were you able to watch film on each other?
ZAC EFRON: Who did shoot first? We went back and forth. I think it was all mixed up. Matthew shot a couple days and I’d come in and shoot. I was able to see a couple of scenes that Matt had done for sure, but I know that most of the work we did on figuring out the character was just done in rehearsals. We had a couple days where we were able to just hang out and talk and figure out the key moments so that really it was Matthew’s line that I was just kind of saying.
Q: Matthew, could you talk about working with Zac and how you got him to be you?
Matthew Perry: I finally realized like on day 5 why Zac was looking at me so much. [laughter] But yes, Burr Steers, who directed the movie, is a very smart guy. He thought it was a good idea for us to rehearse together and read each other’s lines for each other. So, that was a big part of the rehearsal process. And he would say, “How would you say this?” And I would say, “How would you say this?” It ended up being kind of a cool part of the movie, I think.
Q: Matthew, what period of time, if any, would you want to go back to or would you rather go ahead to the future? What are your thoughts about that?
MATTHEW PERRY: I’d like to go back to like 9:15 this morning so I could have had maybe two more cups of coffee and rethink my first answer. [laughter]
Q: Would being 17 appeal to you?
MATTHEW PERRY: I would love to be 17 if I looked like this dude (referring to Zac). That’d be great. [laughter]
Q: We saw your picture in the end credits. You looked pretty good at 17.
MATTHEW PERRY: I looked okay but you know… [turns to look at Zac]
ZAC EFRON: I’m 21, dude. [laughs]
MATTHEW PERRY: Yeah, I know. [laughter] And you really look it now, man.
Q: Zac, this seems to be a perfect kind of transition from doing something like High School Musical to doing an acting thing where you get to do both and still play basketball. Did you see the movie that way? Also, I think Melora Hardin was quoted in Crave magazine today as saying you’re having a difficult time with stardom and I wondered if that means you’re going through some kind of existential angst [laughter] about what your purpose here is and dropping out of Footloose?
ZAC EFRON: Oh man, wow! Oh gosh! Thanks, Melora! No, you know what, I keep… Honestly, I’m not really having a tough time. I keep saying… You know, the number one question I’ve been asked for this movie is, “If you could go back, would you change anything? If you could be 17 all over again, what would you do different? Would you go down this road?” I’m like, absolutely. This is like the best job in the world. I’m having the time of my life. I wake up every day with a new challenge whether it’s filming, learning a new skill set, interviews, press, that kind of stuff. It’s always fun. It’s always interesting. It’s always a challenge. I’m very happy with that and I’m very happy with my life right now.
The first part of your question about the movie and doing 17 Again, it was exactly what I was looking for. This is an opportunity to work with a brilliant cast and an amazing director and yeah, it was that chance to switch it up. It does take place in high school, in a high school setting, but it’s not a very high school character and that’s what I want to do more of.
Q: And the Footloose thing…?
THOMAS LENNON: I’m doing that now. [laughter]
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: He doesn’t even need prosthetics. It’s going to be awesome.
ZAC EFRON: I was just looking for a change.
Q: Do you know what you’re doing next?
ZAC EFRON: I’m putting something together with Burr. It’s early in development, but it’s called The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.
MATTHEW PERRY: But it’s still about a town that refuses to dance. [laughter]
Q: Zac and Matthew, what was your nerdy period of life? Did you have a time when you were maybe 10 or 12? What was your nerdiest time and what was that like? Or did you just never have that?
ZAC EFRON: I was great. I was pretty cool until about freshman year of high school and then it was downhill until I was about 17 and then something happened and it all came back. But that was pretty much the time that I was just average. I worked hard in school, got good grades. I was not that cool, so to speak. I mean, I thought I was cool.
Q: Did you ever get taped to a toilet or did anything weird happen to you?
ZAC EFRON: No, I wasn’t bulled that bad or anything like that. I just wasn’t the ‘it’ guy at school.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: And look at him now. [laughter]
Q: What about you, Matthew?
MATTHEW PERRY: I was the ‘it’ guy in school.
Q: You were?
MATTHEW PERRY: No, I went to a high school that didn’t have many people in it. There were like 60 people in my senior class but I still was not the cool [guy]. There was like a group of cool kids and then a group of really dorky kids and I was probably the coolest of the dorky kids.
ZAC EFRON: I’m stealing that answer, bro’.
MATTHEW PERRY: Take it, buddy!
ZAC EFRON: That’s great!
MATTHEW PERRY: Take it!
Q: Zac, I was wondering if you could talk about what it was like defending yourself against a light saber wielding sci-fi techno-geek? [laughter]
ZAC EFRON: That was serious.
THOMAS LENNON: That was good. We rehearsed that scene for about a month every single day in the parking lot of an Arby’s in Hollywood with sticks. Zack really, really hurt me pretty badly one day on the shoot nailing me in the head. I think it was just a warning, just a reminder.
ZAC EFRON: Yes, the day I did hit Tom, there were a couple injuries, but I hit Tom pretty hard one day and I just thank God it was during rehearsals with the rehearsal light sabers because if we had been filming a real take, we’d use real light sabers. I’m pretty sure he would have had less face right now.
THOMAS LENNON: I wasn’t that bright to begin with before that injury. Insurance says I can’t do anything about it.
Q: Did Zac knock some sense into you?
THOMAS LENNON: Did he do what?
Q: Knock some sense into you?
THOMAS LENNON: What? [laughter]
MATTHEW PERRY: He doesn’t understand the question. [laughter]
Q: What did you get in trouble for most in high school? Was there anything that you should have gotten busted for but you got away with?
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, I looked at a couple papers taking tests and stuff like that. It was small things. I got in trouble once. I actually got sent home from high school because I went up to the front of my Spanish class, in Spanish 3, and I was going to write a sentence on the board and my pants fell down in front of the class. Everyone started laughing. It wasn’t that big of a deal but the teacher got really flustered and upset and sent me home. And that was probably the most I got in trouble.
Q: How did that happen accidentally? [laughter]
THOMAS LENNON: That is an excellent question. [to Zac] More details, sir.
ZAC EFRON: I don’t know.
Q: Was there a wardrobe malfunction?
ZAC EFRON: I guess you could call it that.
Q: Zac and Tom, there is so much physical comedy in this movie, how was it trying to contain yourself? Were there particular scenes where you just kind of lost it and had to do them over and over? Was there anything like that?
THOMAS LENNON: Pretty much every single scene either you cracked me up or… well mostly you cracked me up, I suppose. I think you can tell there were a lot of interesting things in between the lines that is either Zack trying to crack me up and me trying to crack him up, like him referring to me as looking like Clay Aiken which I was not expecting at all.
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, that was the fun thing with Tom, is we didn’t necessarily have to stick to what was written. We tried to, but it was virtually impossible with Tom.
Q: Zac, what experience did you draw upon to play a character who is a father since you’re not a father? For example, the scene with you as the parent in the classroom that was so emotional. How did you incorporate that feeling into your character? And Tom, how did you prepare for speaking Elvish?
THOMAS LENNON: Do you want to go first?
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, sure. I thought about the way that my dad tried to have those talks with me and my little brother and he was always very passionate and energetic and he delivered it like a champ. Really. He was just really excited, I think. [laughs] So that’s what came out during that particular scene in the movie.
THOMAS LENNON: The Elvish is actually an ancient form of Irish because Elvish is a registered trademark of the Tolkien family and you can’t use it.
Q: It’s actually Finnish.
THOMAS LENNON: Yeah. So what we’re speaking is an ancient form of Gaelic or Irish. And the way I prepared is I had it on an iPod. I listened to it day and night for weeks leading up to the scene and then I got there and Melora Hardin hadn’t worked on it at all. So, she had hers written on the plate in front of her.
MATTHEW PERRY: She was just thinking about how difficult fame is for Zac. [laughter]
Q: So I guess that makes you an Elvish impersonator?
THOMAS LENNON: Nice. Oh from way downtown. [laughter]
Q: Leslie, I think this is an interesting turning point for you. You’re a mom so it’s not a stretch to play a mom, but is it something that you have to get your head around and say okay, now I’m viewed as the mother of a teenager?
LESLIE MANN: I know, I think that was a huge mistake. [laughter] I do because she’s like 24. Right? There’s no way that she could... [to Michele] She played 17?
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: No.
LESLIE MANN: 15?
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: Yeah.
LESLIE MANN: How old did you play? 18?
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: 16. I don’t know. That’s a Burr Steers question. It changes every day.
LESLIE MANN: Yeah, I think it was a huge mistake because I can never go back. [laughs]
Q: That’s why I was wondering whether it’s a turning point in your career?
LESLIE MANN: I guess so. I mean, the smart ones are like … There’s a TV show on right now, I don’t know what it’s called, like First Time Mothers.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: In the Motherhood?
LESLIE MANN: Yeah, and they’re like 50 years old which would be like a medical miracle. Right? There’s no way. I mean, that’s like impossible. So, they were the smart ones because they could play the young girl for much longer and I was dumb.
THOMAS LENNON: What are you talking about?
LESLIE MANN: And now really dumb because they’re like way too old. Now I have to always have a bit older character.
Q: For anybody in the cast, it opens up 1989 and your character is pregnant and then it says ‘today’ which by my math is 20 years later, which means Michelle, you’re a 20-year-old high school student.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: Yeah, and I’m a freshman.
MATTHEW PERRY: That’s the logic problem you have with this film? [laughter]
THOMAS LENNON: They can do this in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: I’ve been held back a few years in high school.
THOMAS LENNON: We wouldn’t have made the movie if they couldn’t do it.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: You know what’s so great is that with Leslie in particular, when Leslie and me had signed on I was like “That’s awesome! Isn’t she like 25? That’s weird.” [laughter] She’s amazing and extraordinary and I love you, mom.
LESLIE MANN: I love you too, baby. Tell them what you said to Matthew all day long. He’s probably used to dating girls Michelle’s age.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: [laughs] He checks ladies. They’re all over 18.
MATTHEW PERRY: I just date 50-year-old pregnant women.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: I would call Matthew “Dad” a lot.
MATTHEW PERRY: Not “Dad,” Daddy!
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: Daddy. But I called Zac Daddy, too. I have a lot of daddies. Daddy issues! That’s all I’m saying.
MATTHEW PERRY: It made for a very interesting…
Q: I read where you did let those ladies actually slap you. Was that true?
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: I slapped him. That was off camera.
ZAC EFRON: It was amazing watching everybody have so much fun that night. No, it was funny, it started slow and Tom was very nice about it. He was like, “There’s no way to fake a slap. We’re just going to have to go for it. And he did. He knew how to do it.
THOMAS LENNON: I wasn’t going to tell you that at the time because it’s not funny.
ZAC EFRON: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.
THOMAS LENNON: The funny version is the one where you really get slapped.
LESLIE MANN: The one I did. I slapped you really hard. Right?
THOMAS LENNON: You actually did.
ZAC EFRON: [laughs] It was more like a closed fist kind of clubbing kind of a ‘kook’.
Q: Does everybody hit everybody in this movie?
ZAC EFRON: Yeah. At one point or another.
LESLIE MANN: Usually the stunt coordinator will tell you how to do it and they didn’t talk to me before I had to slap him, and so, I was in the middle of the scene and then I just did it and I did it HARD.
ZAC EFRON: Or sometimes you ask the stunt coordinator.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: The stunt coordinator kept saying that I wasn’t hitting you hard enough and he was like, “Hit me! Hit me!” And I was like I don’t think you want me to hit you.
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, we had a stunt coordinator that day who was instructing everyone how to slap and he goes, “You guys really got to sell it! You have to slap him!” And I’m sitting there like they’re slapping me, bro’.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: Yeah. And I slapped and the stunt coordinator was like, “You have to slap me as hard as you can.” And I’m little but I’m fierce and I slapped him so hard that the dude [was] knocked off his legs. He went rolling a little bit. And I was like, “I can’t do that.”
ZAC EFRON: He fell down and then he was like, “That was great!”
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: Yeah. “That was AWESOME!” Ouch.
Q: Zac, in the movie you help your son, Alex, get the girl. Do you play matchmaker in real life or have you helped any of your friends get the girl or taken anyone under your wing and kind of shown them the ropes?
ZAC EFRON: I think maybe with some best friends or close friends, but it’s not like a top priority in life really. I think they’re doing pretty good for themselves.
Q: For each of you, when you look back on this film and someone says what was your favorite part of filming or just a memory that you’re going to take with you, do you have a certain day on set or a certain time that you think you’ll probably always remember?
THOMAS LENNON: I was probably the most impressed, the day that struck me the most was the day that Zac came back. He took one day off to almost die from an appendicitis and then came immediately back to work the next day like at 8 am and that scene is the scene in the courthouse where he reads the letter to Leslie’s character and I just thought, wow, that’s unbelievably impressive because he literally came basically from the hospital that night to the set that morning and did that scene, the courthouse scene at the end of the movie that’s I think so incredibly moving, and that’s something that will always stick around with me.
Q: That’s true?
THOMAS LENNON: Yeah.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: Good answer.
Q: Zac, you had your appendix out during this as an emergency appendectomy?
ZAC EFRON: Yes.
Q: You were at work the next day?
THOMAS LENNON: (to Zac) You took one day off I think.
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, something like that.
Q: Matthew, you were involved in sports when you were in high school. I was wondering was it ever a dream of yours to become a professional basketball player. Or actually you were in tennis, right?
MATTHEW PERRY: Yeah. I was a terrible basketball player. But yeah, I wanted to be a professional tennis player but, you know, I wasn’t good enough.
Q: Was there a moment with this…?
MATTHEW PERRY: Yeah, when everybody just went “Don’t do that.” [laughter] You have to do something else. And I was very bummed that the sport in the film was basketball because it’s the one sport that I’m just terrible at, (to Zac) but you’re good at it so that’s …
ZAC EFRON: We pulled it off together, man.
Q: For each of you, one piece of advice I remember from when I was 17 is to enjoy life because it passes fast. What piece of advice do you remember that really stands out in your mind now? Maybe it would be more relevant for the older cast members.
THOMAS LENNON: Oh crap, am I one of the older cast members? [laughter] Nothing was said to me that... You know, there’s a nice message in the film. Everything is pretty stressful when you’re a kid and I know for a fact I took myself very, very, very seriously and, like I said to Zac, you truly won’t remember this part of your life. You’re lucky that they made movies about it. [laughter] You just won’t remember it.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: I’d say, I guess, I had a pretty rough high school experience. The kids were really super cruel to me and all the boys made fun of me and no one asked me out. [gestures at herself] Hot! Look at me now! [laughter] That was just a side note. Look mom, I have boobs. I guess it would be that… Literally, that’s my mom back there. I guess it would be that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think when you’re going through high school as a teenager and the kids are horribly cruel, whatever you experience in life, even if you’re the most popular kid, there’s going to be someone who’s trying to throw stones at you in every little path that you take so you really just have to think that it’s going to get better and words are just that.
THOMAS LENNON: That was good.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: Thanks, Tom.
MATTHEW PERRY: I think what Tom was saying too I agree with. I wish I could go back and sort of just tell myself to chill out a little bit more and not take everything so seriously because everything’s so serious when you’re that age. You know?
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, because everything is heightened. You feel like you’re an adult when you’re 17 and you have the social awareness of an adult but that doesn’t really apply in high school because everyone’s young and stupid. It’s hard if you take it too seriously so I’d probably go back and tell myself to chill out. This is just the beginning and get ready because stuff’s about to pop off.
LESLIE MANN: I didn’t listen to people because I thought I knew better and I don’t remember taking advice from people at all [laughs] because I thought I knew better and now I realize that I didn’t. It’s too late. I figured it out.
Q: For Zac and Matt and Tom, I liked your friendship in this film. Did you have that sort of friendship during your school days?
THOMAS LENNON: I certainly never had as a nerd, as an actual nerd who played the cello, wore a lot of tinted Clearasil on my face and bow ties. I never had the sort of actual Zac Efron type take me under his wing, which would have been a wonderful experience. I’m sure I would have done better with the ladies. But no, I was mostly flying solo with the cello and the bow ties. I did not have this kind of actual friendship. It would have been nice.
MATTHEW PERRY: I don’t know if walking around with Zac Efron would have made you do better with the ladies.
THOMAS LENNON: Nah. There’s always some spillover.
MATTHEW PERRY: Yeah. Spillover.
ZAC EFRON: No. In high school, it wouldn’t have helped you, man. It would not have helped. I had friends from all different clicks so to speak. I didn’t just stick to one group of friends. I kind of had them in all different areas of high school. So I’m sure I had several of these friendships.
Q: Do you have a best friend?
ZAC EFRON: My best friend? Yeah, I’ve got 4 or 5 best friends. I don’t know. I guess we are all about the same. We’re kind of geeky, fun loving kind of guys.
Q: The movie talks about growing up and being mature and embracing what we have right now in life. I was wondering what is your perspective of getting older since you’re all from different generations? Is it scary? Is it pleasant?
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: I really love it. As a female looking at men, I think men get sexier as they get older and obviously women are so much more mature so it takes a few years for the men to catch up and that’s really cool. I love getting older. In fact, my sister is always yelling at me to like, “Oh, now you’re almost 24!” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m only 8 months away.” I think it’s really…I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to go back to being younger. Everything that I’ve learned has shaped me as the person I am today. So, I love getting older. I think women age beautifully as well and it’s great the wisdom that you can achieve. It’s so much different from when you were 17.
MATTHEW PERRY: I’m much happier now than I was when I was that age so I think things get better. I think it has to do with not taking everything so seriously. I think you just get a little lighter as you get older. I think it sort of takes care of itself. I think it just keeps getting better.
LESLIE MANN: I think it gets way better and I think you start to learn who you really are and get comfortable in your own skin. If you have children, you stop thinking about yourself so much and gain perspective and I think it’s just like more confidence. It’s just way better.
ZAC EFRON: I cannot wait to grow up! [laughter] Apparently it’s just getting exciting.
THOMAS LENNON: You won’t fit into those jeans anymore. That’s the bummer part.
Q: You mean to grow up on screen or grow up in real life?
ZAC EFRON: No, I was being sarcastic. [laughter] I think I’m having fun right now. Whatever this age is, I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I think it’s getting better so hopefully I’ll have the same answer.
MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG: It’s like Christina Aguilera’s song, “It Just Keeps Getting Better.”
ZAC EFRON: That’s my reference. Thank you.
Q: Zac, can you talk about hosting SNL next week?
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, I’m so excited to host SNL. I leave tonight on the red eye and we start working on the show tomorrow. It’s been a dream of mine since I was like 10 years old. I mean, improv is pretty much how I got started. They do more sketch comedy but this is how I started. This is what I want to get back to. I think it’s going to be a great week. I can’t wait.
Q: Any plans for summer vacation?
ZAC EFRON: For summer vacation? Hopefully I won’t have a summer vacation.
Q: Are you in Hairspray 2?
ZAC EFRON: The Hairspray sequel, I know as much as you guys at this point.
Q: Are you tired of dancing? Is that why you dropped out of Footloose?
ZAC EFRON: No, there are so many factors, it’s not just that. It’s funny that it’s perceived that way. There’s a million things that go into making a decision like that. It was very difficult. It’s not like I just feel better than thou.
Q: But you’re ready to move on?
ZAC EFRON: Yeah, no, I’m excited. I feel prepared and I’m hungry to do that. I can’t wait.
Q: Would Fred Astaire have given up musicals?
ZAC EFRON: He was quoted several times talking about how dance is his passion. I did not dance at all before High School Musical. That was a skill set that I aquired for those movies and although I do love it, there’s many more things out there to try. I want to be well rounded, kind of a renaissance man so to speak. That’s what I’m trying to go for.
San Francisco Examiner
Zac Efron reaches beyond musicals with ‘17 Again’
SAN FRANCISCO – Zac Efron, star of Disney’s wildly successful "High School Musical" franchise, is ready to move beyond movie musicals and expand his horizons.
The dreamy 21-year-old says he was eager to jump into his role in "17 Again," which opens Friday.
He’s hot: “High School Musical” star Zac Efron plays the teen version of an adult who gets a second chance at life in “17 Again.” Courtesy Photo
In the movie, he plays the 17-year-old incarnation of a character named Mike O’Donnell — Matthew Petty plays the older version — who wishes he could go back in time starting from high school and change the course of his life.
He gets the chance to do just that, waking up one day to find he is 17 again.
"This was exactly the type of movie I was looking for because it was a chance for me to switch it up," says Efron, recently promoting the film in Los Angeles with co-stars Perry, Leslie Mann and Thomas Lennon.
"Even though ‘17 Again’ takes place in high school and in a high school setting, it’s not a very high school character and that’s what I wanted to do," adds Efron, who recently caused a stir in Hollywood by dropping out of the upcoming remake of the movie "Footloose."
"Just like with this movie, I was really looking for change," he responds when asked about the sudden departure from "Footloose." "I really don’t want to get pigeonholed this early in my career and I just want to explore my options."
Efron also would love a shot at playing Luke Skywalker in a "Star Wars" TV series. Some scenes from "17 Again" were filmed at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in Marin; Efron loved playing around with some of the props there.
Though he takes his work seriously, Efron likes to have fun. And because he realizes he can’t be 17 again — or 21 for that matter— and knows success can be fleeting, he’s making the most of his red-hot popularity, notably flexing comedic muscles by hosting "Saturday Night Live."
He says, "The No. 1 question I’m asked about ‘17 Again’ is if I could go back in time, would I change anything in my life. ... This is the best job in the world. I wake up every day with a new challenge. I’m very happy with my life right now. I don’t want this to end."
Emmanuel Itier: Where do you see yourself at the age of 37?
Zac Efron: I don’t even want to imagine where I’m going to be at the age of 37. I have no idea. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. I don’t know what I’m going to be like in a year, so I can’t really make a 20-year plan. I’m pretty sure I could be a million places.
EI: What about looking back at 17, which wasn’t that long ago for you?
ZE: For some reason, it feels like a long time ago. That’s so weird! [Laughs] But looking back all those years ago to when I was 17…ah, man.
EI: What was happening for you at 17? Were you doing High School Musical?
ZE: Yes, I think when I was 17, we did start HSM. That was very much the beginning. I didn’t know what I was getting into at all. None of us did. I was a pretty standard teenager; I’m not just saying that. I had a very standard high school experience for a typical guy. I was not the heart throb of the class in any way, and not a total geek. I fell somewhere in between. I was just a regular kid, and that’s how it was for me. My life was set — I was going to go to college, I was going to try and do something great, whether it was a doctor…
EI: Were you a good high school student?
ZE: Absolutely. That’s one thing I am proud to look back and say I had a 4.3 when I left high school.
EI: Are you planning to go to university?
ZE: Well, right now I don’t necessarily have the time. It didn’t really work out. I decided, towards the end, after I had done HSM and a couple of films, that I wanted to go to college to study films at USC. I had friends in the programme and they just raved about it. I was so jealous that they were there. After I was accepted to go, I was deferred for one year, and since then, I hadn’t really had time to go back. I’m also studying films on a daily basis now, but in a very different way.
EI: As you’re an A-grade student, don’t you feel it would be a waste not to continue your education?
ZE: Yeah, but I can devote those efforts into other things, such as in movies.
EI: Did you ever experience bullying at school?
ZE: I wasn’t necessarily the subject of bullying, but I’ve witnessed it a whole lot. I still do at times, in life. It doesn’t stop happening at school; it can happen with adults.
EI: You have a younger brother. Are you protective over him?
ZE: Yeah, there have been a couple of times where I’ve been out with my younger brother and someone said a couple of words to him that were not nice, and I’ve had words back. Bullying is one thing I hate in human nature.
EI: Were you popular at school? Did you use humor a lot, or were you shy?
ZE: I was somewhere in between. I was not in any particular clique. I didn’t hang out with the coolest kids.
EI: Did girls want to date you or anything like that?
ZE: I wished! The first HSM, I was 17 years old. That’s what I looked like my junior year of high school. There were kids with beards that are 6′1″ — burly guys who were on the football team at my high school. They looked like my dad. Then there was me. I looked like a kid –- kind of awkward, lanky little kid — a late bloomer.
EI: Have your good looks ever been a hindrance?
ZE: I’m looking forward to when it’s going to be a blessing. I think at this point, I haven’t had to deal with too much. It’s almost been an advantage.
EI: How was it to put yourself in a 37-year-old character? Were you thinking differently?
ZE: It was funny because there was so little experience that I could draw from. It must have been frustrating for the director. It would be so easy for him to see where a father would come from in a situation, and he would try to communicate that to me. Inevitably, he would realize there were so few ways I could relate to a 37-year-old guy! [Laughs] That was interesting. It was fun for me because it was a challenge, it was different. I wasn’t playing a high school kid. A lot of stuff I had done until now I’ve lived. First love — been there, done that. High school. Putting on plays. In Hairspray…well, that’s a little different! Well, still the same kind of thing. I’ve done that, I’ve experienced it. Whereas in this movie, I’m doing things that someone twice my age has barely done yet.
EI: Did you know who Matthew Perry was?
ZE: Yeah, I definitely watched Friends. I had personally seen so much of that show before. I definitely knew who Matthew was. It wasn’t like I had to discover this guy. He’s a comedic icon and I was very excited when he signed on to do the movie, because I could imagine what he could have been like as a teenager, and that was very funny. He was probably even more quick-witted and he probably had a really sharp tongue, and he was smart and sarcastic. Just younger! [Laughs] So it was fun to try and imagine that and figure him out.
EI: How difficult was it for you to find chemistry with an actress who was 20 years older? How did you try to seduce her and be charming at the same time?
ZE: I didn’t know what it would be like. I had no idea how it would turn out, but after five minutes of talking with Leslie [Mann], I had a crush on her, so that made it very easy to do. She is so natural and funny and sweet. She’s very interesting. That was one thing about working with her. Leslie is unlike any actress I’ve worked with before. She’s very honest and real and in the moment. You have to be ready for what she’s going to throw at you, and that’s very intriguing.
EI: Did you ever feel uncomfortable?
ZE: No, I don’t think so. [Laughs] I’m sure if I would screw up a line or something, sure it was a little awkward, and now I’m blushing as I’m telling you this! [Laughs]
EI: How about the courtroom scene where you tear up? That was a really amazing scene. Were they real tears?
ZE: Yes! I imagine what it was like. I had an advantage of filming that scene toward the end of the movie, and I had developed a relationship with Leslie (she plays his 37-year-old wife). We were pretty close at that point. Some of it was real. I felt that. I had never done a scene like that before.
EI: Where are you at your happiest?
ZE: A million places — traveling abroad…LA is kind of a weird place for me because there are a lot of people. I have a lot to deal with.
EI: Do you mean you get more attention?
ZE: Yeah, but when I’m traveling abroad, I love finding interesting things in culture. I love traveling to new places. If I’m on a beach, I’m really happy. Anywhere, really, that I’m active. Anywhere where I’m not sitting down and I feel like I’m growing or learning or improving myself, then I’m pretty happy.
EI: Are you okay with having mothers as fans now?
ZE: Yes. From the very beginning, there have always been young fans, but there have also been the mums who have been there from the very beginning, and those are the more interesting fan encounters. They tend to get over-excited, even more than the kids. Sometimes the kids won’t even know who I am, and the parents want them to care! They’re like: “Look, see who this is?! You want an autograph and pictures.” And the kids are not remotely interested in any way and the mums will start crying. [Puts on a weepy voice] “You know how much this means to me?” And the kids really don’t care.
EI: What has been your craziest movie premiere?
ZE: It’s usually pretty crazy at all of the premieres, but the fans in Mexico are pretty crazy. It was just chaos. In Mexico, it was the only premiere. We couldn’t enter from the front of the theatre. I remember security was going nuts, and everyone was freaking out and running around. We actually had to sneak in to our own premiere through a back entrance and walk all the way through the theatre to the front. There were so many people out in the streets that we couldn’t go. It was pandemonium.
EI: Do you feel like you’re living in a bit of a bubble? Can you enjoy any normal existence?
ZE: Yeah, what I figured is right now, I’ve had some great opportunities. I’m pretty busy with work. I would be just as busy if I was in college, if not busier. I’m sure I would be devoting my entire life to studying, taking finals, and going to lectures. This is just the same amount of work and the same bubble, but slightly more interesting.
EI: Are you driven? Are you ambitious?
ZE: I think so. Since I was young, I’ve always believed in challenging myself. My parents always made sure that was going on. I’ve been very proactive from a very young age. I don’t like to be stagnant. The hardest time for me is in between filming, because I sometimes feel I’m not doing anything.
EI: What is your level of ambition?
ZE: It’s not ambition to be famous. I want to be the best actor I can possibly be.
EI: Have you ever used your fame to your advantage, like getting a good table in a restaurant?
ZE: No, because every time you would slightly hint at it, it somehow backfires! It’s subtle things like finding a parking space at your own premiere or your own event. I was pulling into a parking garage to do press for an HSM movie. I didn’t have any cash on me whatsoever. Like, none. It was, like, three dollars to park. I told the parking guy: “Can I come in? I’m Zac. I’m a part of this movie. I’m in the film, I promise. I’m not lying.” He was like: “Absolutely not. No. I’ve already heard that too much today. No one is paying.” So I’m like: “People are saying they are me? I literally have a picture of me in the film right here.” He was like: “Yeah, I’m not buying it.” I had to go to a cash point machine!
EI: What did you buy with your first big paycheck?
ZE: A lot of video game systems.
EI: Do you play all the Wii games?
ZE: Yeah, definitely. At this stage in my life, it’s pretty exciting, actually, I just bought a house, so that’s pretty great.
EI: Here in LA?
ZE: It’s in Los Angeles. It’s pretty cool. A lot of my friends were like: “Dude, I want to own a house when I’m 30.” It’s a very modest house.
EI: So are you ready to settle?
ZE: No, it’s a small place. It’s not a big house.
EI: What’s happening with the film Ohio? On the Internet, it says it’s with Justin Timberlake and Robert Pattinson.
ZE: I just found out a little earlier in the previous interview. That would be very cool. I admire their work. They are both very talented. Making a comment would just fuel the fire, but I love both of them. I think they’re great.
EI: What about Footloose?
ZE: Footloose is still in development.
EI: Do you ever Google yourself for fun?
ZE: Sometimes, when I hear about stuff. Like in today’s world, there can be a hundred tabloid articles written about me and I would never hear about them. I don’t want to hear them. Nobody comes and tells me. But if Perez Hilton puts up one post, there is just a flood of incoming phone calls from friends and family to see if it’s true and to see what the deal is. The world is changing. I definitely don’t read comments about me.
EI: Why did you decide to do this movie?
ZE: This was filmed before HSM 3. I did this over a year ago now. It was an opportunity to play a character with heart that goes through ups and downs. It’s kind of a heroic tale about this guy who learns a very valuable lesson — it’s never too late. And also it was a chance to play a 37-year-old guy, which took me out of high school…although I was in high school, but it didn’t feel like a high school film.
EI: Your basketball skills are amazing. Who taught you how to spin a ball on your little finger?
ZE: I could not spin a ball on my finger for years when I was growing up. I always thought it was cool. Corbin [Bleu] could do it on HSM and then I couldn’t, so I just got pissed. I had to do it. So now Corbin and I do it all day and we just pass balls back and forth to each other.
EI: How was Las Vegas?
ZE: It was great. I feel like a high-roller. I was in Vegas for two hours and then left — it was great.
EI: So you just took the awards and didn’t gamble or anything?
ZE: No, and I couldn’t wait. That was my first time to Vegas as a 21-year-old, so I was ready to paint the town red, but I found out, at the last minute, actually, I had to fly back that night.
EI: Did you have a good time in Europe during the tour?
ZE: This trip was very busy and it was actually very brief, so I didn’t have that much time to hang out. Normally, I do get more time to see my favorite spots.
EI: What was the advice that you got that was really helpful for you? Do you have any motto kind of thing?
ZE: Yeah, absolutely. When I was doing theatre a long time ago, at one point, I didn’t want to go in for this audition. I didn’t think it would be fun and I was just young. It was musical theatre — it wasn’t that big of a deal. I told the casting guy that and I said I was going to leave, and he said, “You should do one thing every day that scares you. What’s going to be your thing today?” And I was like, “All right, I’ll do it,” and I ended up doing it and I booked the show, and that was it.
EI: Is this the scary thing today?
ZE: Yeah, well today — not that you guys are scary in any way — that’s not what I’m saying [laughs], but I definitely do get nervous before… I don’t know why, but yeah. It’s kind of a weird thing. I was introduced to it slowly. I feel like the way that I came into fame was in the nicest possible way. I came in through High School Musical, and that was a very pleasant introduction, I have to say. It was all positive, it was fun, I was promoting something that I do truly love, and it’s been crazy but it’s also been very exciting.
EI: Do the paparazzi or crazy fans bother you in your personal life?
ZE: Yeah, I think if I had more to hide, it would be more bothersome. At this point, I don’t do too many things that I need ultra privacy for. It’s unnerving at times and it’s a little bit scary at moments, and it can start to feel invasive, but I just remember every day that this is a small price to pay…
EI: I saw a wonderful movie with you about Orson Welles [Me and Orson Welles].
ZE: Oh, you saw the movie? Oh wow, you’re like the first one.
EI: Yeah, and I really love it.
ZE: Good, thank you! I think it’s going to be released in October.
EI: That’s wonderful. And what are you doing next?
ZE: Next is a movie I’m working on with Burr [Steers]. It’s still very early in development, but it’s called The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.
EI: There was a rumor of a remake from a movie with Kevin Bacon.
ZE: …Of Footloose. Yes…I’m not doing Footloose. It was a fantastic idea, but this is a big moment for me and I’d like to use it to try new things. I have that opportunity, and who knows — I don’t want that to disappear.
EI: You said sometimes it could be scary with the paparazzi. Do you have a scary paparazzi moment that you can share with us?
ZE: I feel like talking about it just validates it, like the law of attraction, so I don’t really want to go into that specifically, but sometimes you’re unprepared, or sometimes you don’t know that you’re being surveyed. Those are probably the scariest.
EI: Law of attraction — do you believe in The Secret?
ZE: I believe in the law of attraction.
EI: I was sitting at the screening last night amongst many teenagers, and the moment when you almost kissed, they were so excited — it was like “AW, is he doing it? No, he’s not.” [Laughs] Have you ever been attracted to a woman that could be your mother? [Laughs]
ZE: Absolutely. I think, once you hit a certain age, age is irrelevant at some point. I most definitely have a crush on Leslie [Mann]. She’s a sweetheart, and that was probably one of the more intimidating aspects, on paper at least, of doing this movie, was the romantic scenes with my slightly older wife. But as soon as Leslie signed onto the movie, that became the most exciting part. That’s what I was looking forward to, so it was fun.
EI: When things are not going well with you, how do you motivate yourself? What is the source of your energy?
ZE: Sometimes it’s coffee, sometimes it’s a good meal…a good night’s sleep does it. Sometimes I’ll call my family or a close friend and just talk for a half-hour, and that levels you out. It kind of takes you home, so to speak, and I remember who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.
EI: Was it tough to train for the basketball part of the movie?
ZE: Yeah, like cardio-wise, it was.
EI: You looked pretty good playing everything.
ZE: That’s an important thing for me — for any movie, if there’s a skill set that’s required, whether it’s riding horses, basketball, golf, sports, athletics, anything like that, I take pride in the fact that I can learn those things for a role. Basketball, lately, has been in a lot of films that I’ve been doing, so I’ve gotten pretty good.
EI: Do you have any rituals before you go on set and shoot a scene? Is there anything you do, like if you have a trailer and maybe listen to some music?
ZE: Yeah, it depends. A good song, depending on the type of scene, can get you in the right mood. During 17, I was listening to a lot of fast-paced kind of upbeat music before I would walk out. And then, if you’re going to do something emotional, it’s nice to just have peace and quiet for a minute and get ready.
EI: How many hours a day do you have to practice dancing?
ZE: Virtually none. I don’t practice at all unless it’s like in the shower or something, but that’s not really dancing because it’s not safe. [Laughs]
EI: Did you ever imagine, a few years ago, that your life was going to turn out this way? Was that your dream, or were you thinking of doing something else?
ZE: I wouldn’t say this was my dream. I didn’t have any plans or aspirations to be an actor. It was always my hobby — it was always my extracurricular and what I did for fun outside of school. Then it started to pay for college and it became slightly more serious, and then I discovered that this would probably be a fun direction to head in life.
EI: What was Plan A?
ZE: I had no ide., I was like everyone else in high school; I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do. I’m sure that if I was in college right now, I would be switching majors. I had no idea. This just happened to work out.
EI: What else would you be good at?
ZE: I don’t know. I always got good grades. I wanted to keep my options open. I was afraid of being limited at an early age, so I tried to excel at everything I tried at everything I attempted in life.
EI: Was it something creative maybe?
ZE: Yeah, creative. My favorite subject was probably English in high school. I enjoyed writing and reading.\
EI: Do you write?
ZE: Yeah. Actually, if I’m doing anything on my free time, it would probably be drawing — I enjoy that. Drawing and painting, that kind of stuff.
EI: Are you romantic? Do you think it is really possible to love the first love for all your life?
ZE: I think that’s a positive thing to believe in, yeah. I’m optimistic.
EI: Would you like to sometimes like to turn the clock back and be 17 again? Would you do something differently?
ZE: Honestly, in terms of a theme of the movie, I feel like I should. I wish I had a great answer for things that I could go back and change or things that I would redo if I could be 17 again, but there’s not a whole lot I would go back and change. I’m sure I made big mistakes in life, but they’ve all got me to where I’m at right now, and I’m enjoying that. So I think even if I could go back, I don’t know that I would.
EI: What’s the largest thing you regret the most?
ZE: There are things or those memories that you can’t get out of the back of your mind — embarrassing moments, times when you were mean to a friend or got mad about something in life that, in retrospect, was just unimportant.
EI: Do you feel older than the people you grew up with because of your life experience, or out of contact with the friends of your generation now?
ZE: I had a little bit of that feeling growing up, but I wouldn’t say that anymore. But when I was growing up, I think doing community theater outside of school was an environment in which I worked with adults, and I took pride in that. After school, I wasn’t a part of a drama class with kids my own age. I was doing it with college students and people who wanted to do this with their life who took it very seriously, and that’s the way I wanted to take it. There was a sense of pride in that, I think.
EI: But now, there are not many 23-year-olds with a career like yours, financial opportunity, cultural opportunities like this… Is it difficult to stay in touch with the people you were close to when you were growing up?
ZE: No, because they’re on the ride with me. I never take it too seriously. It’s an adventure, it’s fun, I enjoy the work, and I take that very seriously. The famous side of things is hard to take too seriously, and if you do, I think you’ll go crazy.
EI: Who is a director that you want to work with in the future?
ZE: Zac Schneider.
EI: Which kind of movie did you go to see when you were 17?
ZE: I saw tons of movies when I was 17. That was when I really started having appreciation for films, because I had seen how they work and how long they take, how many people’s cumulative efforts go into making a great movie…so I started getting into the classics and I watched like all of Scorsese’s films. I watched all of James Dean’s films in a day.
EI: All of them? [Laughs]
ZE: Yeah, but that was a day at home. At about 17 is when I started devoting about a day a week to just watching movies — not leaving the house, but like Sunday, I would wake up and just watch movies.
EI: What did you learn from playing older, because of course, outside you’re you, and inside you’re 17 years old. Did you learn something from doing that?
ZE: Most definitely. Getting into the movie, I had no idea if I could pull it off. I had no idea how I would get into that head space, so I think what I learned from the movie, after working with Burr, is that anything is possible. He opened my eyes, in a lot of ways, and I learned a lot about myself and about acting, and about film-making.
EI: Did Matthew [Perry] help you to get to the space of the 37-year-old?
ZE: Yeah, he did. During rehearsals and stuff like that, Matthew would sit and we’d bounce ideas back and forth. That was very positive. He helped a lot, and I would call him during filming. If there was a certain scene that had to be Matthew-heavy, with his sense of humor, I would call and ask him what he thought and he would always come back with ideas, whether it was just a text or whatever — he would help out.
EI: I heard he recommended a couple of new video games. Which ones were those?
ZE: He did. He was like, “You have to play Fallout 3″ — that’s what he kept saying during filming. I tried it, and man, it was a heavy game. There was a lot in it. It was hard for me to figure out. I’ve gotta be honest — he’s actually better than me.
EI: What other actors do you want to work with?
ZE: There’s a lot. I think Jack Nicholson would be a great person to work with and at least meet. I’ve been to so many Laker games, and I still haven’t been able to talk to the guy. [Laughs] I’m going again tonight, and if he’s there, I’m literally going to walk across the court in the middle of the game…
Channel News Asia
[Take this one with a grain of salt (the review by the same person was possibly partially plagiarized I believe)...]
SINGAPORE: It was like I was 17 all over again. Two Saturday mornings ago — at 7.15am, to be exact — I was sitting anxiously by the phone, waiting for a boy to call.
But not just any ordinary boy. No, I was waiting for the “It” man-boy of the moment (according to teen magazines and hordes of screaming women worldwide). The chosen one for whom most women (and some men) would pawn their firstborn to receive a personal call on their mobile phones for a lovely morning chat.
His name is Zac Efron — king of tweens, cougars and male hairstylists. Which was exactly why this reporter had been expressively reminded that it was more than worthwhile waking up at the crack of dawn on a precious weekend morning for. That and the fact that it’s actually my job.
Poor pretty Zac Efron, I thought, waiting by the phone. The 21-year-old must be looking at a lifetime of girls ranging from eight to 80 running up to him screaming, “Marry me!”
That’s what you get for playing the impossibly handsome but surprisingly wholesome heartthrob in three High School Musicals and one remake of Hairspray (really just one role multiplied by four) using matinee-pin-up idol looks and impossibly blue eyes.
Oh, yes, upkeeping a smoking-hot bod complete with rock-hard abs doesn’t hurt, either. Sigh. It must be a tough life being the quintessential teen idol. If only he wasn’t so darn goody-two-shoes dull.
In the middle of his worldwide whirlwind press tour to promote his latest movie 17 Again — in which Matthew Perry is a 37-year-old down-and-out dad who gets to be a teenager all over again in the form of an often shirtless Efron — he spoke to TODAY from Los Angeles about his new projects and superhero ambitions.
All delivered in a super-friendly tone, using pitch-perfect, publicist-approved answers, politely side-stepping our more mischievous questions like the good teen idol he is.
Still, Efron seems to be irresistible to Hollywood, and his upcoming projects — including an adaptation of Ben Sherwood’s novel The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud, Richard Linklater’s period drama Me and Orson Welles, and a rumour that he’s a favourite to star in the movie adaptation of Johnny Quest — is a sign that he might be on his way to following in the footsteps of the other pretty boy-turned-thespian legends (Johnny Depp, Leonardo Dicaprio) he reportedly looks up to.
Maybe those irresistible blue eyes just don’t penetrate through the telephone.
Hi! How did the gruelling day of interviews go?
Great! I am surviving all thanks to a never-ending supply of green tea. This stuff keeps you going. I think I’ll be addicted to green tea soon!
Tell us about your character in 17 Again.
Well, I definitely can relate to playing a teenager — after all, I’ve done it all. I’ve had the first kiss. I’ve had awkward dates and I’ve had the big fight with my parents. But the one thing I’ve never done is gotten into a fight with my teenage daughter or have her come on to me! (Laughs)
Or kiss your “friend’s” mother at a party, we’re guessing! You’re 21, she’s 37 — how did the kissing scene with Leslie Mann go?
She is such an amazing person and so beautiful and I have such a huge crush on her. At first when I read the script, I didn’t know what to think of it at all. But once we started rehearsing, I was like, “Bring it on, man”. She’s a great kisser.
Taking a cue from John Hughes’ Breakfast Club, which high school stereotype were you — the Jock, the Geek, the Criminal, the Outcast or the Princess?
I think I wasn’t any one stereotype. Back in high school, I hung out with different types of people and was friends with pretty much all of them ... I tried to maintain good grades and school always came first.
Did you go to the prom when you were in high school?
Yup. In fact, I went to several proms!
Whom did you take?
Er ... I took my girlfriends.
No kidding. Why did you pull out of the Footloose remake project? Are you holding out for Grease?
(Laughs) I love Grease! As for Footloose, it’s a fantastic project and I know that a lot of people worked very hard to make it happen. But I am at a stage where I have to think about what really is the right next movie for me. The next steps I take are very important. Don’t get me wrong — I do love musicals but what it really comes down to is that I’m looking for new challenges.
It doesn’t sound like you’re loving musicals very much right now.
I think at this at the particular moment, I am very hungry to try something new. To really switch things up. In 20 years, it’ll be nice to look back and say I took a chance. Even if this fails, it’s all about trying.
Is there a specific role you’re dying to play?
Hmm ... Not that I can think of at the moment. For me it’s all about the script. That’s the most important thing. I believe that the roles that I want to play are the ones that I have to stretch for, the one that I have to work hard to achieve.
Well, any directors you would love to work with?
I would love to work with Zack Synder. I think what he did with Watchmen was excellent.
Does this mean we’ll be seeing you fill out a superhero costume sometime in the near future?
Yeah ... maybe one day. If the timing is right.