The rumors are true: Zac Efron is a total stud. While we'll semi-shamelessly admit to falling in lust with him back in his High School Musical days (we were suckers for man bangs, okay?), we're totally on board with his transformation to serious actor. Like most stars, his career path hasn't been completely bump-free (we forgive you for New Year's Eve, Zac!), but he's been cranking out hits and dazzling moviegoers with his boyish good looks for years now.
In his latest flick At Any Price, Efron takes on the midwest farming industry as Dean Whipple, heir to a struggling seed company. Efron joined castmates Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham — and several adoring reporters — to fete the flick's premiere with a Cinema Society and Bally-hosted screening. We caught up with him just before the big Grey Goose-soaked soiree, and managed to quit gaping at his baby blues long enough to ask him a few questions about the new movie and what life in the limelight is all about.
What was the toughest part about filming At Any Price?
"I think it was that where we were was so hot. I mean, the first day of filming it was 130 degrees out in the cornfields because they hold in and retain heat. We had, like, people passing out on set. It was excruciating."
How did you connect with the farm life on the set?
"I grew up in San Luis Obispo, so there was a lot of farming and agriculture in our town. And there was that sense of, a lot of guys knew they were gonna take over the family business or the family trade. We had 4H, which is a program where you raise cattle and pigs and stuff. Kids would bring pigs to school, which was funny. I kind of knew the family dynamic. I was a bit of a rebel I guess because we didn’t have the farming stuff, and that’s when I started doing theater. Especially out in the country, people are like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ It’s ridiculous.”
Your character is an aspiring race car driver — did you do all of the stunt work yourself?
"For the most part. There was a little bit in the big race scene...I couldn’t go at the speeds they were actually going — they were going 200 miles per hour. But, I did get in that car and we did laps, at about 140."
What did you do to prepare for it? It must have been pretty intimidating.
"I have a little bit of driving experience, but they just had you jump in the car and go. By our sixth lap, I was going 140. But growing up, we did have one of those [figure-eight] race tracks. My dad used to take us out there, we would go maybe once a year, and I remember it was so loud. But, I’ll always remember going with my little bro. We saw a gnarly crash one time."
Your character goes through some pretty intense family stuff, with some pretty intense decisions to make. Did that weigh on you at all?
"You know, at the core of their relationship, my character’s father acts ultimately to look out for his family, and he does it in a profound way, so a lot was going through my mind during the scenes."
What's been the hardest part about going through your transition from a teen star to a full-blown movie star?
"I don’t know. I think it’s really about sticking to and following your heart, and going for projects that mean something to you. The most important thing is choosing the roles."
Photo: Courtesy of Cinema Society