There’s no doubt that Zac Efron was one hot teen idol as a result of his “High School Musical” films, but these days, despite his still youthful looks, the 24-year-old actor is making a concerted effort to make the transition to adult roles.
“This was a part that seemed to fit perfectly,” says Efron, who trained like crazy to buff up so he looked like a Marine. “I was really scared when I read the script because I really liked the character and, at the same time, I [felt I] was completely wrong for it. I knew this was [a role] that could separate me.”
“The Lucky One” begins in Iraq. Logan and his men are taking a break when he spots something. He leans over to pick it up — and the move ends up saving his life when the spot where he had been standing is hit by incoming enemy fire. The photo, which is what he plucked from the debris, becomes his lucky charm, saving his life — in his opinion — several times more before his tour of duty ends.
When Logan finally returns stateside, he has a hard time adjusting to life back home. So, he and his best buddy — a German Shepherd — go in search of the woman in the picture. Logan finds Beth (Taylor Schilling) in Louisiana, where she works at a kennel owned by her grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner). Beth isn’t immediately taken by Logan, but Ellie, who is impressed by Logan’s ease with dogs, hires him to help around the place — and, as happens in Nicholas Sparks stories, nature takes its course.
For more of what Efron had to say about “The Lucky One,” check out the interview below — and then check out the movie!
You look as if you’ve lost weight since the movie?
I can’t train like that all the time.
I heard you gained 25 pounds for this.
It was like 17. It was the hardest thing ever.
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Why did you think you were wrong for the part of Logan?
You couldn’t have two more separate people than Logan and myself — similar in certain ways but so drastically different in others. The physicality of it. I didn’t know the first thing of what it was like to be a Marine. When that became palpable, when I went to meet the Marines, they were a different breed. I couldn’t believe we were the same species. They are real-life heroes and I walked in there slouching in a dirty shirt. I think I still had drool on my face. In morning, I had just woken up and these guys were American heroes.
What was the most important thing you learned from them?
The first time we met, I was able to sit with [director] Scott [Hicks] and we started asking them questions. Scott was so thoughtful and articulate. He is able to pay attention on a level that is unreal. Initially, it was hard watching, you could tell there was an undercurrent of emotion.
How did you work in the PTSD?
I can only just imagine what it would be like. I am sure I can’t, but for the amount of time I was able to hang out with them and put myself in their shoes, I [tried to] imagine. I heard their stories, and as heroic as they might be, it must take it right out of you.
Can you talk about the love scene in the shower? Was it uncomfortable?
I think the first time we did it, we didn’t know the water was going to be cold but then it warmed up. It was later in the shoot. We knew each other well, so there was no awkwardness.
Was there an instant chemistry between you and Taylor, or did you have to develop it?
I think there was. When we first met for the part and in between when we were doing readings and stuff like that, we were talking and hanging out She is very down to earth and didn’t seem like an “actor.” She was a real person, real sweet. We got along in that sense. It is so important because, otherwise, it is hard.
Do you think things happen for a reason, like in the film?
I do. There is someone guiding me and presenting me with great opportunities but, ultimately, it is up to me to walk through them.
Can you talk about working with the dogs? The German Shepherd looked like your best buddy? Do you have an affinity for pets?
I have always loved dogs. I grew up with dogs. I love working with them. They are very fun. These are probably the best trained dogs in the world. They could probably drive you home if you drank too much. It was amazing. They have really cool trainers, who we became friends with. They were such a presence on the set. I keep hearing this thing, but I don’t know who said it. You know there is some sort of guide that says, “Don’t work with kids and dogs.” Have you guys heard that?
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That was W.C. Fields. Can you talk about your workout for the film?
It was an intense training program that I was guided every step of the way by a Navy Seal. I had a very strict diet. Everything was pre-planned. I have never eaten that much in my life.
What did you eat?
It was a lot of chicken, a lot of vegetables. It was so much, you would get sick if you saw what I ate every day … what went down every day. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It is hard to go into detail without sounding completely obsessive.
What was it like shooting the combat scenes?
They were fun to film. It was amazing standing at the front for that first moment with all these Marines behind you.
They were real Marines?
Yes, they were real Marines and I was in the front, looking back, going, “Guys, turn back.” They were incredibly nice and helpful. For me, 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 to her, their mannerisms, the way they moved. I think our passion for getting it right came across because they were so unbelievably helpful in helping us make it authentic.
Can you talk about becoming a Marine for this movie? Did it give you a new confidence?
Without a doubt. Every time you go into a movie, you have to confront a lot of your fears. This one was a big one: Can I do it? Can I get it right? I think I can play a Marine. I think I can, but actually when you get there, it suddenly becomes very real. At the end of the day, I look back at everything that all of us accomplished and I am very pleased with it. I will never forget all the things I learned playing this character. It was a big growing experience for me.
Do you know what you are doing next?
I did a movie called “The Paperboy” with Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey. I am the paperboy. It is a drama. I can’t wait for you to see that movie.