Zac Efron in Charlie St. Cloud
Photo: Universal Pictures
If you're buying tickets to Charlie St. Cloud in hopes of another Troy Bolton flick, be warned: There's no song and dance here. Teen heartthrob Zac Efron's performance in this summer's romantic drama is a far cry from his High School Musical days, or even Hairspray. Expect some tears, but never fear: The dance moves may be sidelined, but not the acting chops. And those jaw-dropping good looks? Those are here to stay.
RB: Your first appearance on The Oprah Show was in January 2006 for your role in Hairspray. How has your life changed since we first met you?

ZE: I've had one of the busiest years of my life with three movies in a row—I'll never do that again—but I've grown a ton. I've learned a lot about myself, about acting. I think I have my head on a little more straight now. I have a better sense of what I want to do.
Zac Efron
Photo: Universal
RB: You're known best for your role in movies like High School Musical. What was it like to switch to such a dramatic film?

ZE: It was incredibly fulfilling. I had questions and doubts about whether or not I could do it. Being able to really get to that place, it was so gratifying. I got to really dig deep. Nobody really wanted to see me in it, originally. On paper, the right thing to do was to not go to this place. So Charlie St. Cloud was one of the first times I put my foot down and really took the initiative to do what I want to do, go where I want to go and take control of my own destiny, rather than just doing the next best thing.

RB: So was it hard?

ZE: It was, yeah, but that's what I signed up for. Musicals come really easy. They're really fun. Believe me, I'd love to go back and do more—it's hard to even call it work—but this was really a challenge emotionally.

RB: You have a little brother yourself. How did that inform how you played Charlie and connected with the role?

ZE: I had a sense of what a genuine brotherly relationship is. I had something to back up the emotion, and so I was really able to picture how I would feel if I was responsible for an accident. I sort of went through the reel of all the great memories and places we've been together, things we've done together.

RB: Are you guys close?

ZE: Yeah, we're pretty close. We've gotten closer recently. Now that he's 18 it's like he's suddenly a real person.
Zac Efron
Photo: Universal
RB: In Charlie St. Cloud you have to play a more serious—perhaps a more real—character. There's a serious love scene, some drinking. Was that hard for you? Were you nervous about people accepting this version of you?

ZE: Of course I was a bit nervous, but with Burr [Steers, the director] there I could handle it with more confidence. He worked with me to figure Charlie out. But it was definitely different going to those dark places, and sustaining them for a long time.

RB: That must be a very different sentiment than a Hairspray or High School Musical, which seemed to be just happy all the time.

ZE: And that's how it was—happy all the time—so it was really easy in between takes. You could just goof off and then get right back to work. Here, in between takes I just had to go to my corner and sit and just listen to music.

RB: Your character gets a real second chance at life—are there any second chances you've had in your own life that you're grateful for?

ZE: I think mine was with my own little brother. When I was 17 I up and left, you know? Suddenly I was gone and I didn't even look back—there was so much to do and I was so busy. This was after growing up and sharing a room—literally, like I was top bunk, he was bottom bunk. I went from that to living completely alone. I think recently my brother and I sort of found each other again. Especially after doing this movie. I got to sit next to him at the premiere, and after the movie I just gave him a big hug.
Zac Efron
Photo: Universal
RB: You were going to be in the remake of Footloose but ended up turning that down. Can we expect to see you in a song-and-dance role soon?

ZE: I would love to do another musical—the challenge is just finding one that's really meaningful. I'm really specific about what I want to take on.

RB: Are there any musicals that you would absolutely love to do? Any dream roles?

ZE: I really like Frankie Valli and Jersey Boys. I really enjoyed that a lot—that story was really cool. He had a pretty high voice...I don't know if I could pull it off. I also think it would be fun to challenge a great visual filmmaker to do a musical. I think Baz Luhrmann is really good; he always seems to bring some really cool energy. It would be fun to do a musical with him.

RB: What's next for you after Charlie St. Cloud?

ZE: We have a couple of things on deck—it's just a matter of which ones materialize first. There's another sort of romantic movie that we're looking into right now. We're sort of really close on that—finding out really soon whether that will work out or not. A couple more thriller-type things. There's one, called Fire, that's in the world of spies—a young guy that gets recruited and after that nothing is what it seems. And there's another one that's sort of an office comedy with Jason Filardi, who I worked with on 17 Again. That's about a guy sort of working his way to the top and all the weird stuff he has to do to get there.

RB: What about TV? Is that something you'd ever think about? I know you started out in Summerland...

ZE: I'm never going to say no. TV's gotten really, really great. There's some amazing stuff out there. I love The Office. It would be fun to test my comedic chops.


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