EXCLUSIVE: Zac Efron: Smooth Sailing
Mega-gorgeous HSM star Zac Efron is sitting across from me! The 22-year-old and I are kickin' it at the beach in Marina, Del Rey, Ca. where he has agreed to tell us all about his new romantic drama film Charlie St. Cloud in which he plays a small-town hero who withdraws from life when his little brother dies.
We are learning what Zac likes about his leading lady Amanda Crew, how he dealt with his most embarrassing fan encounter moment on the streets of L.A., where he, Vanessa and pals would love to sail (now that he's learned how for the film) and how he's changed since we first met him in 2005!
Zac's "Charlie" director has only praise for his hard-working young star and reminded us that, for the film 17 Again, Zac practiced spinning a basketball and passing it to the tips of his fingers, until those fingers bled! This is one dedicated actor. He was just as determined to learn to sail like a pro for "Charlie".
Sitting down with Zac to get the latest, we went all retro and handed him a digital pic we took of him in 2005 before HSM ever came out. He was 16.
TeenHollywood: I took this of you in 2005 at a 'meet and greet' for young stars of tomorrow. You had finished HSM but it hadn't even been on TV yet. You were sitting there alone. I decided to come over and talk to this cute young guy and you told me all about 'High School Musical'.
Zac: Oh Wow! [he laughs] That's so funny! That's very cool! [I hand him the picture and he keeps looking at it].
TeenHollywood: Who were you then? Who are you now? And what do you miss about the teen in that picture?
Zac: Oh man! [looking at the picture] I think right there it was just the naiveté. There was always a 'best case scenario' that was next and you were pointed in the right direction and you would either get that project or you wouldn't. It was very simple at that time.
TeenHollywood: And now?
Zac: Now, I'm being privy to so much more information and being behind the scenes of a lot of stuff, it's become more of a full-time job for me. I think here [at age 16], not to say it was less work but, look at me! I don't have a care in the world here [we laugh]. Now I'm running my own ship more. Then I was waiting for that big surprise and I was still in high school. That's one thing that's been great is I'm not having to wake up early for class all the time.
TeenHollywood: You went through a sort of learn-to-sail boot camp for this film. Was sailing hard to learn?
Zac: Sailing is sort of hard. You can't just say 'I'm going sailing this weekend'. There is a lot of preparation that goes into it. You need to get a boat and a crew. It's not like surfing where you just grab your board and go. But, I'd love to do it in the future. I'd like to go some long-distance sailing. I think that would be really fun. Me and my dad want to do that.
TeenHollywood: That's cool but if you and Vanessa or you and your friends were going to just secretly sail away, where would be your dream destination and why?
Zac: I don't know but the sail to Hawaii is supposed to be really fun. It takes about ten days to get there. That would be a big commitment. You'd need a pretty devoted crew. That would take weeks and then we wouldn't want to leave the island for the big sail back. But somewhere with clear blue water would be really fun to sail.
TeenHollywood: What is it like when you see yourself on the screen now? How do you feel?
Zac: My head is HUGE [he laughs]. Enrique [Chediak] was a real cool [director of photography] and he’s really good at making everything look beautiful. I noticed that first and foremost. As far as watching myself on screen, I tend to, especially the first time around, pick out every single flaw, or things I could have and should have done better. I’m more of a cringer at first, and then when it’s years down the road and it’s out of the way I can kind of look back and appreciate it somehow.
TeenHollywood: What was it about Amanda Crew that clicked so well with you? Why was she perfect for the part of your leading lady?
Zac: Amanda had a very different read. She was very natural and very stunning; she has a unique look that I hadn't seen before. I couldn't look at Amanda and name any other actress who looked like her or had her presence. She came in prepared and excited and she was a little bit nervous and cute and just seemed like she'd be a great person to work with; somebody who could be real in the circumstances of the story. She proved to be that and so much more.
TeenHollywood: You two have some pretty intense romantic scenes. Was that awkward for you?
Zac: No. She was really easygoing. I’ve never really found romantic scenes intensely or incredibly awkward, which I was supposed to be during this. So, I think we found common ground. We held each other’s hands through this whole experience. We just got along really well. There was nothing to be nervous about. The only weird part was being in a graveyard for that love scene was kind of, a little bit weird.
TeenHollywood: I can imagine! What did you and Amanda do off-set of before shooting to get to know each other?
Zac: When you're on set like that, as much as we love the crew and hang out with the crew a lot, we do, as actors, like to go off and do our own things. Amanda would come over and hang out all the time and not just to read scripts. We'd do a lot of rehearsal but we'd go to Whistler (Canadian ski resort) for the weekend and just hang out and do fun stuff. We were a pretty close group of friends.
TeenHollywood: For a lot of the film, your character Charlie is just dead inside, just going through the motions. How hard was this to play for an energetic, life-loving guy like you?
Zac: [laughs] I really had to subdue that goofball.
TeenHollywood: Your inner goofball?
Zac: Exactly. I had to detach myself. I turned my phone off almost entirely. I wasn't on my i-phone the entire time I was there. It was fun. He was cut off so I tried to do as much as I could to do that too. Not that it was method acting but I did as much as I could to stay in character. You have to do that. Otherwise, it doesn't come across as genuine.
TeenHollywood: Charlie's younger brother is a big part of his life. Did your connection to your own younger brother help your portrayal?
Zac: Definitely. My brother is 18 now so we're about 4 and a half years apart. In all these scenarios I just pictured him there with me. And Charlie (Tahan who plays Zac's bro in the film) was great. We had such a great relationship by the end of the film and it was coming very naturally. We became great friends and would bounce off each other.
TeenHollywood: Have you had a family loss like Charlie?
Zac: Yeah, absolutely but I don't want to talk about it specifically but I think everyone experiences that so I can relate.
TeenHollywood: Have you ever had a paranormal experience; saw something that you were not positive was really there? [There is a paranormal element in this film].
Zac: I've definitely had that. I don't see dead people but everyone has had that moment when the hair on the back of your neck raises up and you wonder what's really going on. I've always been intrigued by it. I've always been curious about it. All of it. It's incredibly interesting. It doesn't really come from personal experience but I've always had an affinity for that culture. My mom's really spiritual and so I would like to believe that your loved-ones who move on, a piece of them stays with you.
TeenHollywood: You as Charlie and your little bro Sam are body surfing on trashcan lids in the rain. It's a cute scene. Were you really doing it?
Zac: We're really doing that. Initially, in the script, it was sliding in the mud but just from personal experience, the sliding in the mud thing is never really comfortable. You get banged up. I told Burr (his director) it would be cooler if we could actually skim-board so we figured out a way to work that in instead of just sliding through water on our stomachs which wouldn't be fun for very long. We wanted to give it a little more style. It was fun.
TeenHollywood: There is a traffic accident in the film that really changes Charlie St. Cloud's life. A lot of young stars have been in some serious traffic accidents. Shia LaBeouf comes to mind. Are you just a great driver or have you had some close calls?
Zac: I'm a pretty good driver. I don't like to talk and multi-task. I have a Blue-Tooth thing in my car so I'm pretty safe. I did an Audi driving course on a professional race track and I didn't know at all about driving technique or skill and I've learned quite a bit recently. There's a whole thing about weight distribution in the car for maximum turning and hitting your apex on U turns. That's what we learned and that's really improved my driving a lot.
TeenHollywood: We've heard that you want to do a big action role so might you use that training soon in a movie?
Zac: Maybe, yeah. That would be cool but I don't know if I'd really be doing it. In driving movies, I feel like you don't do most of the driving.
TeenHollywood: Speaking of driving, when you go cruisin' around town and are recognized, what is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
Zac: You know those Star Tours vans that drive all over town with the tops cut off so tourists are just right there in the open? I pulled up to one of those and didn't realize I was next to one. I had my windows rolled down and I was bumpin' music and I heard a faint yell. I'm like 'What was that?' And I look up and realize I'm next to a big bus and the whole Star Tours van was goin' nuts, freaking out. I just looked up and said 'Wazzup?' That was pretty funny.
TeenHollywood: What is your biggest guilty pleasure that might not be too healthy and might blow all the amazing work you've done on your body lately [is he blushing?].
Zac: [smiling] Hummm. Well we go to the movies a lot and I just love buttered popcorn. Whatever that stuff really is on there, I could drink it straight [he laughs]. It's good.
TeenHollywood: We know you will be the voice of Anakin Skywalker on "Robot Chicken" but which of these future projects for your new production company Ninjas Runnin' Wild Productions are you looking most forward to: Art of the Steal, Einstein Theory, Fire or Snabba Cash?
Zac: All of them are very different and they are all in different stages of development. We have a lot of scripts coming in and I have to get to those really soon so we'll see. We don't know which one is going to come together first yet.
Zac keeps the old picture we took of him and is looking at it when we leave.