Zac Efron is The Lucky One
By Lynn Barker
Zac Efron: “Playing Logan was scary and challenging”.
Taylor Schilling (Zac’s leading lady): “I’d never seen the High School Musical movies”
Kidzworld is in Beverly Hills talking with cutie Zac Efron who has been a heartthrob since the first “High School Musical” TV movie hit the airwaves in 2006. We’ve interviewed Zac several times and watched him grow up. In his new romantic movie The Lucky One, based on a Nicolas Sparks novel, Zac takes on his first “manly man” role as a Marine veteran with 3 tours of duty in Iraq under his belt.
Zac’s character Logan finds a photo of a pretty girl on the battlefield and after the find, he seems to be protected. This mystery girl (played by newcomer Taylor Schilling) becomes his lucky charm and he’s determined to track her down and meet her.
Paint a mental pic of a still buff and tan Zac wearing a cute plaid gray and blue western-style shirt and jeans. We’re talking to blonde Taylor too who is dressed casually and with little make-up.
Kidzworld: You are more adult in this film (he’s playing a 25-year-old). Was taking the part a big move into more adult roles for you?
- Zac: In a way. I think it was part of a progression that I have been working on for a long time. I was scared when I read the script because I knew that I really, I really liked the character. And at the same time, I was completely wrong for it, I thought. “This is going to be incredibly challenging and scary”.
Kidzworld: Why did you think you were wrong for it?
- Zac: You couldn’t have two more different people than Logan and myself and there was the physicality of it. I didn’t know the first thing about what it was like to be a Marine. When I met the Marines, they were of a different breed. They’re the real life heroes and I walked in there slouching and in a dirty shirt and I think I still had drool on my face. In the morning I had just woken up and these guys were American heroes.
Kidzworld: Your character has post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s having a hard time adjusting back in the real world. Did you talk about that with them?
- Zac: Well, I could just imagine what it would be like. At least for the amount of time that I was able to hang out with them and, and to put myself in their shoes, I can just imagine what it’s like. I mean the silly stuff we do (acting) I feel I get post-traumatic stress from sometimes. And I hear their stories and as heroic as they may be, it must take it right out of you.
Kidzworld: Taylor, did you have any preconceptions about Zac before you met him? How did he surprise you?
Taylor: I had actually never seen any of the “High School Musical” movies. I absolutely had not.
Zac: (laughing) We had to background check her.
- Taylor: I met Zac for the first time when we tested for this film together, I just knew him as a really capable scene-partner and an actor who was showing up for me and made me feel very safe to do my work. (She laughs.) As we were shooting the movie, people would send me clips of (Zac) singing. (Zac says “Oh no”!) All my friends were doing that. So I only knew him as this beefed-up actor.
Kidzworld: There is a pretty hot scene in the movie when your characters finally get together. Can you talk about that?
- Taylor: You use a lot of breath mints
- Zac: You go to lunch and come back and pop one. At that point, we knew each other really well. It was later (in production) and there was no awkward moment.
- Taylor: It really was quite easy and fun. It wasn’t a bad day at work.
- Zac: Yeah. (big smile). When we were in the theater, by the end of that scene I’m like under the seat.
- Taylor: I can’t watch it.
Kidzworld: You guys seem like buddies today. Was there an instant chemistry between you or did you kind of have to develop it?
- Zac: I think there was. The first time we met for the part, and in between when we were doing readings and stuff like that, we were talking and hanging out. She’s very down to earth and (to Taylor) you didn’t seem like an actor. She’s a real person, very sweet and we got along in that sense, which is so, so important because otherwise it’s hard to make up for that.
Kidzworld: How was working with the dog playing your buddy in the film? Do you just have an affinity for animals, Zac?
- Zac: I always loved dogs. I grew up with dogs. I love working with them. They’re really fun but these are the most highly-trained dogs you’ve ever seen in the world. I don’t know how you could have better dogs. They could probably drive you home if you trained them [laughter]. It was amazing. They’ve got really cool trainers that we became best friends with.
- Taylor: Awesome. So fun.
- Zac: They were such a presence on set. Who said “Never work with kids or animals”?
Kidzworld: W.C. Fields, who was a drunk and a mean person.
- Taylor: I think it’s the opposite.
- Zac: (Working with them) is the best thing in the world.
- Taylor: We had such fun with Riley (Stewart, who plays her young son) and the dogs.
Kidzworld: Do either of you carry around a lucky charm or a picture or something that’s just always with you?
- Taylor: I just have a few pictures that I travel with to feel grounded in hotel rooms.
- Zac: I can barely remember the things that I actually need like my wallet and keys. I don’t think I have one that I carry day to day. Taylor, you gave me something that I actually still have. I don’t know what it is. It’s like a little woven thing made from some sort of grass and it’s lucky and it’s awesome.
Kidzworld: Zac, are you one of those method actors who stays in character on set?
- Zac: Logan’s a man of few words. I try to never take anything too seriously but he’s a bit more weighty I think. Maybe on set I would do that. But as soon as we got off I was straight back to me. (He snaps his fingers).
Kidzworld: You shot the movie around New Orleans. Did you get to do anything fun while there?
- Zac: New Orleans is one of the funnest towns in the world. The most funnest? The most fun city in the world.
- Taylor: He took me to Bourbon Street for the first time.
- Zac: Yeah. I used to go to New Orleans with my family because they live in Mississippi. So, we’d always drive down to New Orleans. My uncle would drive way too fast.
Kidzworld: Do you guys believe in soul mates and fate; the themes in the movie?
- Zac: Yeah.
- Taylor: Yeah. I really believe that there’s a God or something, a guiding principal and we’re certainly involved with it.
- Zac: There is someone guiding me in presenting great opportunities but, ultimately, it’s up to me to walk through them.
Kidzworld: Did you learn to play piano for the film?
- Zac: Yeah. I learned one of the pieces.
Kidzworld: Zac, how was the film in terms of training and diet for you? You gained a lot of muscle weight.
- Zac: About 17 pounds. It was an intense training program. I was guided every step of the way by this guy named Logan who was a Navy Seal. I had a very strict diet. Everything was pre-planned. I’ve never eaten that much food in my entire life. It was a lot of chicken, a lot of vegetables. It was so much. You would get sick at what I ate every day, what went down every day (laughter). It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was all-consuming.
Kidzworld: How was shooting the combat scene? You are leading a Marine platoon in battle with real Marines!
- Zac: The combat scenes were fun to film. It was amazing standing at the front for that first moment with all these real Marines behind you. I was in the front looking back going “Guys, turn back!” (he laughs) They were incredibly nice and helpful. I tried to use these guys as much as I could and be aware of what was going on; the way they spoke to each other, their mannerisms, the way they moved, just everything like that and I think our passion for getting it right came across. They were so unbelievably helpful in our making it authentic.
Kidzworld: Can you talk about any new confidence you got from making the film? Did you grow up through this movie’s experience?
- Zac: Without a doubt. Every time you have to confront your fears making a movie, this one was a big one. “Can I do it? Can I get it right? I think I can”. But, actually, when you get there, it’s very real and, at the end of the day, I look back at all we accomplished and the film we made and I’m very pleased with it. I’ll never forget all the things I learned playing this character. It was a big growing experience for me.
Kidzworld: Are you done with the teen high schooler roles?
- Zac: I don’t know. I’m not sure what defines a “teen/tween” role. Yeah, ideally as I get older, I’d have to be. (laughs).
Kidzworld: So, will you be playing a young dad soon?
- Zac: I don’t know, maybe. Is that coming already? Wow! (laughter).
He takes a drink of water out of a glass in front of him.
- Zac: Wait. Was that mine? Oh no! I totally drank out of it.
Kidzworld: It was mine but I don’t mind Zac cooties. What movie will we see you in next?
- Zac: I did the movie called The Paperboy with Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey. I’m the paperboy. It’s a drama with Lee Daniels directing. It was extraordinary. I can’t wait for you to see that movie.