Keen to shake off his High School Musical tween image, Zac Effron is
Hollywood must have thought they had another Ghost on their hands. Based on Ben Sherwood’s 2004 bestseller, The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud tells the tale of our eponymous cemetery worker, who just happens to see dead people. And he can talk with them too. Which makes him pretty darn happy when it comes to communicating with younger brother Sam, lost 13 years earlier in a car accident that Charlie survived. This blissful afterlife socialising is interrupted though when Charlie meets the pretty Tess (Amanda Crew), and the two have a magical night out together. Only Tess is concerned with how people seem to be ignoring her. And the fact that she can’t see her reflection.
“It’s a very touching story, don’t you think?” says Effron, 23 on the 18th of this month. “I like the fact that it’s quite a small, intimate story, and yet it deals with the great big universal theme of love from opposite sides of the track. I love the fact that it isn’t your typical boy-meets-girl kinda movie…”
Indeed. Not that many of America’s great unwashed were all that impressed, Effron’s latest offering failing to attract even a fraction of his old High School Musical numbers. And there weren’t that many new faces either. Which, given that 17 Again proved such a hit last year has come as something of a surprise to Hollywood.
PAUL BYRNE: And what about Zac Effron? Was he surprised too that The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud didn’t knock ’em dead in the US? If you’ll pardon the pun…
ZAC EFFRON: The pun is pardoned, but all those people who missed out on a great little movie, they’re not. You can only tell afterwards why something didn’t connect with a big audience, and it’s hard to say just yet. The reviews were strong, the buzz was strong, the book much-loved – I think we were just unlucky. I think we’ll do far better around the rest of the world. It’s just a good film that missed a beat with cinema-goers in the US…
Was there any research involved in playing a cemetery worker who communicates with the dead? Did you hang around with any forgotten Hollywood stars, to see what it’s like to be walking around dead to every studio boss?
I should have done that [laughs], but, no, didn’t hang out with any forgotten Hollywood stars. Cinema has dealt with the living dead before, in many different guises, so, it wasn’t like there wasn’t much to go on here. I was just more concerned with Charlie’s relationship with his younger brother, Sam, and with this girl he’s falling in love with. It’s the emotional truth that matters here, and you just have to believe in Charlie and his world. The rest just comes naturally. If you believe…
This natural step away from your tween High School Musical image has already worked in 17 Again and the critically acclaimed Me And Orson Welles. At the tender age of 22, do you feel you’ve already made some inroads into some acne-free roles?
I think so, yeah. I think the Orson Welles movie in particular brought me to a new audience. Or at least proved to people that I’m not just this all-singing, all-dancing teenage pin-up. Really, really loved my time with High School Musical, and we all had a blast making those shows, but it’s also very natural to move on. Unless we all kept flunking our exams every year, we simply had to leave high school. I’m happier playing grown-ups.
Are you trying to break it to me that – gulp! – there’s going to be no more Troy and Gabriella warbling sweet nothings over their breakfast burritos?
Brace yourself, but I think that might be the case. Who knows, there might be a good reason to revisit them years from now, when they’re teaching or something like that, but I don’t really see myself becoming Troy Bolton again for quite some time.
Not until you really, really need the money.
Which, given that Forbes had you on their Celebrity 100 list in 2008 – when, they claim, you earned a tidy $5.8m – shouldn’t be for quite some time to come.
Well, it’s amazing how fast you can burn through – how much was I supposed to have earned? $5.8million? – well, when you’re living the high life that I lead, taking jets to my local gym, bathing in champagne every night, six butlers on permanent standby, all that money just seems to fly right out of your bank account.
It’s always fun to read these things in the press. Makes my day, knowing I should have earned that much in 2008…
Talking about the press, has life gotten any easier in regard to the paparazzi, now that you’ve graduated?
Yeah, it’s definitely gotten easier, but part of that is not giving them any good reason to chase you around town. If you’re partying hard, and you’re making a fool of yourself, then of course the paparazzi are going to find you. It’s pretty much a given that, on some level, you were calling them by falling over that litter bin. A lot of it is choice, and I just choose to avoid that kind of life, and that kind of attention.
Until you really, really need the money.
Until I need the money. Then I’m going to be holding wild parties in litter bins every night. Where I’m the only one invited. Zac Efron Gay.
For now though, you have a few interesting projects pencilled in; you’ve got three live-action adaptations – of the much-loved Japanese anime Full Metal Panic; of the Jonny Questcartoons, and of the Image Comics series Fire – along with the drama Einstein Theory. Not sure if all or any of them are actually accurate though – got the info off the wibbly-wobbly wonder that is the internet.
I’m not sure if all or any of them are accurate either, but I have heard of them, if that helps. There are talks about various projects ongoing, as always, and I’m just deciding now what works best. I like the sound of all four of them, especially the Japanese anime adaptation. Perhaps you could find out more for me.
I’ll have my mother look into it tonight.
I’d appreciate that. I’m free Tuesday, so, we can start shooting then if you want…
Words – Paul Byrne
The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud is now showing in cinemas