"This is a day that has so much confusion and mystery about it, and I didn't know all that went on. It was for them like 9/11 was for me -- I hadn't known all that much about it and it was wonderful for me to learn."
Asked a question about his music career, the actor smiles and says, "I put my music career on hold for this film."
He adds, with a hint of self-deprecating humour, "I think it's wonderfully incongruent that I'm on the poster."
He says of Parkland, "A long time ago, I set out to work with people I admire and to challenge myself. To tell such a powerful, historical story -- I'm enjoying my work now more than ever. It always feels like I'm just getting started.
"This is where my heart is."
Yahoo: It Gets Awkward as Zac Efron Responds to Critic’s Scorn, Meriah Doty
Here's how the critic's remark went down:
Q [to Efron]: "Variety" took a bit of a shot at the movie ... [The] critic mentioned it had Oscar winners and, sort of, softer players side-by-side. I just wondered if you could talk about the process of having to do your career growing up in public?
Zac Efron: Um. It's interesting. I don't really know how to put it but I don't know how else to go about it [laughs]. I think you kind of set your mind and, really, my goal has always been to continue to challenge myself and to learn and to grow as an artist. I've been very very lucky to have had the chance to work along side actors of this caliber and work with great directors and I think I'm doing what I set out to do. But you have to go for it. You have to try. And I wouldn't want it any other way. ... This is what I want to do.
Peter Landesman: Can I add something?
ZE: Yes, please! [Laughter]
PL: There was no one else to play this role but Zac. He was the only person I wanted and he was the only person we ever contemplated. We're all young artists at one point. There's nothing incongruous about any of this.
USA Today: 'Parkland' cast talks 'eerie' scenes, Andrea Mandell
"It was hugely educational for me," says Efron, whose character must try and save Oswald's life just two days after losing the president. "I knew very little about this day. For me, it's always been shrouded in a lot of mystery and various conspiracy theories. It was nice to see a succinct telling of what really happened on this particular day."
Parkland, co-produced by Hanks' father, Tom (long-known as "a history buff," as the son reminds), and Bill Paxton, was shot documentary-style. Improvisation during long takes was encouraged.
In an early scene, Efron's more inexperienced character refuses to accept the president's death and continues to try to pump his heart.
It was a strange scene, he says. "The (actor) looked just like the president, just like JFK. There's one scene I swear I must have broken his ribs while I was resuscitating him."
"We were seriously concerned about breaking this guy's ribs," says Hanks. "We had to give compressions for like an hour. My shoulders got incredibly sore."
Not to mention their fears about the required medical verbiage. "It was a whole lot of 'Nurse, get me gauze! We need more of that! Bring that in!' " recalls Hanks.
"People spoke a certain way back then," says Efron. "Half the words in my vernacular are out the window: "Dude, we're losing him! Dude, it's the president, bro!' "
Canadian Press (via ctvnews.ca): Zac Efron says he didn't know when camera was on him while filming 'Parkland', Diana Mehta
The style in which director Peter Landesman chose to shoot much of the movie -- which focuses on the minor characters around President John F. Kennedy moments after he was assassinated -- was one which Efron hadn't encountered before.
"We kind of re-created the moment as honestly as possible, in its entirety and kind of went through it the way it would have happened," he said while promoting the film at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"We weren't particularly aware of where the camera was or what was being filmed, so the only option was to just kind of do it...and stay in it and focus. It was really fascinating. There were moments when for all intents and purposes I thought I was there."
Landesman, a former investigative journalist, was largely a "fly on the wall" for the hospital scenes, letting the cast really dig into the characters they were playing without much interruption, said Efron.
"I was operating on this guy, it felt like it there was a real guy there," he said. "It was intense. After every take I was shaking uncontrollably ... the effect of this film lasted for several days."
Hanks said the entire process in which "Parkland" was filmed was different, allowing the movie to provide a fresh take on a much-examined story.
"It was really all about us doing whatever the scene required for however long it needed to go," he said. "There was not this concern about 'Oh I better be good because it's my shot,' you just never knew."
"It helped us in that we were acting without acting. It was really just trying to be as much in the moment as possible."
Creating the feeling of real-time urgency around a historical event which took place 50 years ago was precisely what Landesman was aiming for while making the film.
"There was nothing performative, and there was nothing anticipated, there was nothing planned," he said of the event, which stunned the world, and its aftermath.
"It was very important for everybody...to create a sense of rawness. Almost as if it was happening now, that was the idea."
MSN Canada: Big names make quiet players heard in JFK assassination, Emma Jones
A historical moment produced in a contemporary way as guerrilla style filming was used to capture key scenes. This necessitated that actors were often unaware they were even being recorded at all, as Paul Giamatti explained: “The process was different. It was really all about us doing whatever the scene required to run its course and the cameras would move around. But it was fresh, it was different every time. We were acting without acting, just trying to be in the moment as much as possible.”
Does that mean there was a lot of ad-libbing going on? “Well, it’s a little difficult to ad-lib medical jargon unless you’ve studied it your entire life,” quipped Colin Hanks, whose “history buff” dad Tom acted as producer on the film. “But I think when you see it finished that’s when you go ‘Wow, okay, this is a new perspective of this event I’ve never seen before.’ That was the goal of the movie and I think to a degree we’ve succeeded in that regard.”
Scenes taking place in the operating theatre were primarily filmed using handheld cameras, allowing for an immersive cinematic experience in the middle of the action. But don’t let the unrehearsed nature of the production detract from the fact that the actors really did their homework when it came to crafting their characters.
Having premiered during TIFF’s opening weekend, it’s this blood shed that’s generating the most buzz, but for Zac Efron, the festival is less about generating hype and more about the experience of simply being in Toronto. “It always sticks in my mind as being one of the best crowds and best audiences, with pretty epic red carpets! It’s diverse and very memorable so I’m always excited to come here. I kind of feel more of a personal relationship with the festival every year that I come. I’m very happy to be back and, since I’ve filmed quite a few movies in Toronto, it’s sort of like coming home.”
USA Today: Zac Efron's career is booming, Andrea Mandell
The Paperboy "was raw and dirty," Efron concedes in an interview hours before Parkland's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. "That movie was really unafraid to go certain places. I definitely was able to challenge myself in a different way than The Lucky One, for instance. And I think that's part of the reason that I was maybe thought of for this."
He flashes a grin. " But I'm not sure. I'll ask Peter."
It's obvious that Parkland (due out Oct. 4) marks "a different ball game," says Efron, who plays a doctor...
"It's really a surreal experience for me to be involved with these actors, with (Parkland's) story," says Efron, while trading on-set stories with Paul Giamatti and Colin Hanks. "It's something that feels very mature and really interesting. It's a whole different kind of filmmaking and I feel blessed to have been a part of it."