If you think Zac Efron auditioned for High School Musical and became an overnight sensation, think again.
From the age of 11, he was encouraged by his father to pursue acting. Efron appeared in no less than a dozen TV movies before HSM.
With his looks – he’s easily the best looking guy in the room – and his talent, it’s hard to believe no one saw that potential.
Since HSM, Efron has become a bona fide star, playing diverse characters – mostly dramatic – in dozens of films. Lately he’s discovered his lighter side, joining the Judd Apatow school of film making.
His latest is the embarrassingly raunchy Neighbors 2, and guess what, he’s the only member of the cast who comes out of it unscathed.
At his press conference I tell him so, and not surprisingly he’s truly grateful.
But then, he’s always been the most polite of teen idols. So what now for 28-year-old Efron?
The production company he formed at Warner Bros had its first release this summer, but We Are Your Friends quickly came and went, unfairly I assure him.
Again he is grateful.
“I was really happy with the film. It was a story that we wanted to tell, and it was very close to home for both the director and me, having shared similar experiences growing up. A lot of the story paralleled my life. I still am excited about it,” he said.
How does he handle a setback like that? “I was filming another movie at that point so I try not to think about it. I think it’s important to live in the moment,” he offered.
After Efron’s recent breakup with model Sami Miro – they were together two years – I was reminded of what he told me 10 years ago, when he was still a teenager, that he wouldn’t marry until he was 40.
At the time, I assumed his parents might have married young, but his inadvertent answer was, “My parents didn’t really have a big wedding. I remember being there so I don’t think they were young.”
“(I was about) 10 or something like that. But I’m sure I’ve just opened a can of worms with that (answer),” he told me. (Later he confided in me his regret in revealing that detail.)
Next up for the handsome actor is the big screen version of TV’s Baywatch.
Aren’t you getting tired to having to go shirtless again in a movie?
Yeah, I mean even on Baywatch, there were scenes where you go, “Is it really necessary for my character to be shirtless here?”
But I work out mainly for health reasons and to be able to do what I want to do in life which is to climb mountains, swim, surf and be athletic.
But then maintaining that six pack (for movies) requires a lot of self-discipline and that is not fun. Not eating carbohydrates sucks. Hands down, it’s the worst part of of it all.
And keeping that up for a long period of time over the course of filming can sometimes hurt your performance because you are showing up with only half your brain.
So, you have to pick those moments for your shirtless scenes, and if you are smart and if it’s planned correctly, you can do what Sly Stallone used to do, which is knock out all the shirtless scenes in the first two weeks, and then shoot the rest of the movie. But I don’t think I command that power yet.
Does being objectified bother you?
If it’s for a specific part, then it makes sense. But a lot of hard work goes into it. You have to change your lifestyle, you become kind of a boring person, and it sucks.
But if it’s necessary for the part and it’s something that I am capable of doing while I am young, then it’s actually good discipline. There is something freeing about it. The process of training becomes a sort of meditation. For an hour a day, I let go and release my aggression. That part of it is cool.
It’s been 10 years since HSM. What would it take for you to do another musical?
I would love to do another musical, but the key is finding something original. That is what was so special about High School Musical. It was somebody’s original vision that came to life, and even though it was on Disney Channel, it was true.
It wasn’t a remake or another rendition of Singing In The Rain or something like that. And so yes I would love to do something original, and I am actively searching for it.
(Rumour has it that he and Vanessa Hudgens are signed to play a basketball coach and teacher in HSM4, although not quite the original he had in mind.)
Do you still sing?
In the shower.
What do you sing?
Everything. When I am working, I use music to get in the mood for stuff. Right now I am listening to Purple Rain and Prince. And Drake’s album just came out, so I am trying to memorise all those lyrics.
Those workouts don’t seem like much fun. How strenuous are they?
They are challenging, but I have a trainer. If it’s for a film, we work together four or five days a week. But it varies … it depends on what my body feels like.
If I’m run down, like after this weekend, I might just do something light. But if it’s a fresh week, we hit it pretty hard.
And when not filming?
I’ll spend as much time stretching and rolling out as I do training. And recovery is everything. I have to make sure that I get the right amount of food and the right amount of sleep, and I don’t have any inflammation issues.
I am constantly warming up my shoulders and stuff like that, so I can do this forever and not have injuries that could prevent me from Tom Cruising it.
What is your build up phase?
I don’t really have a build up phase. I know it seems like I am bigger right now for Baywatch, but actually l’ve lost six or seven pounds since Neighbors 2, maybe more. So actually it’s been a trim down if anything.
Do you have a dietitian?
Everything I eat is cooked by a lovely lady who uses all organic vegetables; she plans out very specific combinations of fat and carb and protein. And the protein comes mostly from fish and other farm raised and grass fed animals, so it’s just super healthy and clean.
Are you still close to your family?
Oh, yeah, I owe everything to my parents. Growing up I didn’t know about this business. I didn’t have aspirations of being a movie star.
I was focused on school and my parents kept me busy after school. I wasn’t left at home. I always had a parent with me.
If I wasn’t doing Little League baseball, I was doing theatre. I just grew up with a super grounded middle class life style. My parents raised me well.
They weren’t in the business?
Not at all. My dad was an electrical engineer, and my mum was at one time his secretary or the secretary to someone at his work.
Neither of them danced or sang. I have a younger brother. We were a very regular middle class family.