Entertainment » Movies

Zac Efron :: From Nerd to Superstar

by Fred Topel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday April 8, 2009

Zac Efron is already on top as the star of three High School Musical films and the idol of every teenager (and grown-up, frankly) in America. Now he can look forward to growing up to be one of the stars of "Friends." In the upcoming comedy 17 Again , Matthew Perry plays Efron's older self who returns to his younger body for a chance to undo his great regrets.

"Matthew shot a couple days and I'd come in and shoot," Efron said. "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 that really it was Matthew's line that I was just kind of saying."

There are no dance numbers this time, but Efron still gets sweaty on the basketball court like Troy Bolton. Consider it a transitional movie for Efron's budding career.

Exactly right

"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."

If it’s grown-up comedy he’s after, perhaps Efron needs to consider his personal safety. When his unusual behavior climaxes in a series of misunderstandings, several different women slap him for it. His costar Thomas Lennon slapped him several times, and Efron took his hits for real.

"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. 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.’"

Now in a body of his children’s contemporary, Dad can help his kids be cool. Of course, Zac Efron shows up in high school and he’s automatically the cool kid. That must come from experience, right?

"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. I wasn’t bulled that bad or anything like that. I just wasn’t the ’it’ guy at school."

Efron’s most notorious high school incident was a wardrobe malfunction. If only the students at the time knew what a peek they were getting at a future star.

"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 starting laughing. It wasn’t that big of a deal but the teacher got really flustered and upset and sent me home. That was probably the most I got in trouble."

Otherwise, Efron blended in amongst all the other teens in high school. "I had friends from all different cliques 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. 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."

Riding high

Most high school nerds have to wait at least a solid decade to reap the benefits of their intellectual investments. At 21, Efron is already riding high with a movie star career.

"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."

Playing a 37-year-old dad meant Efron had to think ahead to play this role. "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. So that’s what came out."

Efron’s movie son benefits from his dad’s romantic advice. Surely anyone could benefit from love tips from a heartthrob idol, but Efron says he keeps out of real life relationships.

"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."

Only four years older than his 17 Again character, Efron already knows how to reflect on high school. He won’t need another 16 years and a magical age degeneration to learn that lesson.

"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."

So take it from Zac Efron. Don’t hold onto your youth. "I cannot wait to grow up! Apparently it’s just getting exciting. No, I was being sarcastic. 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 [in the future]."

17 Again opens April 17.

Comments on Facebook