It's not unusual for actors in Hollywood to undergo physical transformations to play a character. Bradley Cooper hired a vocal coach and got daily spray tans to become A Star Is Born lead Jackson Maine. Christian Bale shaved his head and gained 40 pounds to play Dick Cheney in Vice, 15 years after losing more than 60 for his role in The Machinist. Zac Efron is the latest to join the list with his most recent movie makeover — not for his too-sexy Ted Bundy, but for his panini beard in Beach Bum.
Efron was first spotted in character as Flicker last February, when photos leaked of the actor on set rocking a custom-made vest (it reads "These ARE My Church Clothes") and the now-infamous "panini beard," so called because it literally looks like it's been through a panini press. Gianna Sparacino, Beach Bum's hair department head, tells Refinery29 that, although the crew tried to keep the shocking look a secret, the images found their way to the internet over a year before the movie was set to premiere. Even Efron couldn't resist teasing a photo of it on Instagram.
Still, sneaking a peek at Efron's grilled facial hair only fueled conversation about the actor's on-screen style, especially when it came to that fiery hair. Fluffier than Moondog's (Matthew McConaughey) pink robe, two-toned, and windswept so aggressively you might think Flicker strictly drives convertibles — that hair, Sparacino confirms, is not a wig.
Sparacino says that Efron arrived on set with his hair long and his beard full, and Beach Bum director and writer Harmony Korine took the reins from there. Korine is known for pulling real-life inspiration into the character-development process, and he had a clear vision for Flicker's hair: It had to be bleached, but not like the cool-guy platinum blonde hair Efron currently has in real life.
Sparacino says that Efron was willing to forego the wig and bleach his real hair, so she called in a favor to a friend in Miami, who was willing to open up her salon after hours to color Efron's hair. It took about six hours — Sparacino says that since Efron's hair is so naturally dark, it took at least two or three processes to lighten it — but, at the end of the night, the blondish-orange transformation was complete.
And the beard? Yes, it was inspired by a literal panini. "Harmony showed me a picture of the panini char marks," Sparacino says. "I said, 'We can do it.'" They brought in a barber to the salon to create those precise lines through Efron's real beard, and with that, Flicker was born — just a guy who looks like he shut his head in a panini press.