What’s the hardest part of being a teen idol? Growing up.
But not all young stars feel the pangs of post-puberty stardom. Take, for instance, actor Corbin Bleu, who was at the center of a pop culture phenomenon at the age of 17, when he landed the role of Chad Danford in the mega-hit Disney franchise “High School Musical.”
Now 23, Bleu has maintained a steady career – appearing on TV, film and Broadway – but has avoided the intrusive public eye that so generously keeps tabs on his former co-stars Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Zac Efron. What’s more impressive is that Bleu has jumped from bubble-gum fare to mature projects without resorting to gratuitous sex and shock to reach his audience.
This month, Bleu stars in the indie horror anthology “Scary or Die” (now available on XFINITY On Demand), a collection of five short horror films sure to please genre junkies. The actor, who also co-produced the project, appears in the short called “Clowned,” which finds him transforming into a flesh-hungry circus-dweller after being bitten by a face-painted vagrant. The other four films, which include “Lover Come Back,” “The Crossing,” “Taejung’s Lament” and “Re-membered,” offer tastes of horror favorites such as vampires, zombies and the supernatural at large.
I recently caught up with Bleu to ask him about “Scary or Die,” clown-o-phobia, his famous hair and life outside of the Mouse House.
David Onda: You are a producer on “Scary or Die” – what about this film motivated you to be involved in its production on that level?
Corbin Bleu: I was involved in this project from square one. It all started with the idea to come up with the website for “Scary or Die,” which is really a hub for horror filmmakers to put up their work. It’s really a site for all horror fans in general. Of course, that stemmed into us wanting to put our own content up there as well. And the idea finally hit as we started putting together some of these short films — this is a film — we need to put this together in one full feature film, make it an anthology, very similar to the old “Creepshow.”
Onda: In your short, “Clowned,” you play a man-eating, zombie-like clown. I assume you don’t have a fear of clowns.
Bleu: No, I don’t, but I love showing people a still of [the clown] because there are so many people that are. It is amazing how many people are absolutely terrified of clowns. And I can understand it in a way. I’ve always been more terrified of devils, just because I definitely feel there is a major truth behind that. Not there isn’t a truth behind clowns – because you have John Wayne Gacy who, actually, the clown that bites me is based on. His makeup and look is based off of John Wayne Gacy.
Onda: In one scene, your character is walking down the Santa Monica Pier with a burlap sack on his head to try and hide his transformation into a clown. The beauty of that is, as an independent film production, you can’t simply close down the pier to shoot that.
Bleu: That shot was one of my favorite shots to do in the film. I love freaking people out and scaring people. So when it came to that, I had the burlap sack on, it is nighttime, we are at Santa Monica Pier. There were a lot of young kids around and a lot of them know me from “High School Musical,” so we didn’t want people to start to gather around, so we actually had me walk from the trailer in the burlap sack all the way to the other side of the pier and do the scene from there. As if going without the burlap sack would have caused enough attention, you have people staring and freaking out. And we’re shooting the scene and I’m digging through the trash can. It was the funniest thing.
Onda: You have to be pretty brave to enter the horror genre – especially as a producer on an indie level – because the genre is so oversaturated with films.
Bleu: And the reason why it’s oversaturated with horror movies is because horror is the one genre that overlaps all international markets. Romance – we have different styles from romance in France or Asia. Same as comedy. Our comedy is a complete 180 from British comedy. Horror is the one genre where it doesn’t matter how it’s filmed, it doesn’t matter if it’s a different language – everybody gets freaked out the same way.
Onda: So why should people see this movie, out of all the films in the indie horror genre?
Bleu: The one thing about it that I find people really enjoy is that it is an anthology. So many horror films – and I’ve watched so many of them – the issue with them is the fact that you go through this whole story, you sit through this whole hour-and-a-half movie for the ending to suck. And it’s like, ugh, I just hate that. And with something like this, your arc is so short in each short film you can wrap it up pretty quick. It all comes together in a neat little package and when people watch that – the second you finish one, you get into another and you’re watching a new movie. It keeps you interested. It keeps you enticed.
Onda: When people hear your name, they immediately associate you with “High School Musical.” What’s the process of a) overcoming, b) embracing or c) dealing with life after that kind of teen stardom like?
Bleu: Well, I think it’s a combination of dealing with all of the above – a, b and c. When “High School Musical” hit, it was a huge phenomenon that nobody really could have predicted. It’s wonderful. You’ve got fans, you’re working, you’re traveling. But, two – there is the fans [laughs] … and the craziness and the lack of privacy. And you do get associated as this young teenybopper.
For me, yes, it’s embracing that at the time, with my fans. And my fans, just like me, will grow. When I was 13, I didn’t wanna see any of these scary movies. And all of a sudden, somewhere along the line, it just clicked and I was getting into different types of movies. That’s just age. That’s just growing up. And just as the fans of “High School Musical,” when they watched it, loved that kind of genre, they grow up.
I think it’s really just embracing the fact that, no matter what, your work is your work. No matter who you are, you can never please everybody. It’s about trying to find that balance of reaching out to as many people as you can. So when it came to doing “Scary or Die,” obviously it’s not for the younger fans or newer fans of “High School Musical,” but those who have grown up and know me and might be a fan of me – this is definitely something they can enjoy.
Onda: And everyone who watches it is going to say, “What happened to his hair!?”
Bleu: [laughs] I know! And you know what’s funny? I’ve had this short hair for so long. I cut it almost 3 years ago when I started on this show called “The Beautiful Life” on the CW. And then I cut it even shorter when I went to go work on Broadway. So I’m really just slowly introducing it to the masses and getting people used to a newer me and the kind of work that I wanna be doing now.
“Scary or Die” is available to order now on XFINTY On Demand. Click here for more information.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.