Zac Efron talks about being saved by Ray Liota
As we sat down for the press conference of The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, we realized, it wasn’t just the beard making Zac Efron look different, it was the fact that it was just him sat up there with his bottle of water, sat across from director Burr Steers, holding his own as the star of this moving and poignant film. No High School Musical buddies, no supporting cast, just him and the director.
Zac Efron, who found himself catapulted to teen heartthrob status in 2006 when he starred in the cult American TV film, High School Musical, is now well on his way to becoming a fully fledged adult star. As he starts to take on more serious and grown up roles such as Me And Orson Welles, and now Charlie St. Cloud, it’s clear that Zac has an acting talent not to be taken lightly. Playing the lead as Charlie St. Cloud, Zac steals the show, in an emotional and engaging performance. Zac plays a young man, whose dreams and plans for life are suddenly and horrifically uprooted when he is involved in a car accident that tragically kills his brother and leaves Charlie with the ability to be able to see ghosts and people stuck in limbo, where his brother resides. Racked with guilt at the accident, Charlie promises to play baseball every night at sunset with his dead brother, until a girl from his past comes along and changes everything, and Charlie must choose between the land of the dead and the land of the living. In the following interview with the star, Zac talks about why he has grown the new beard, working with the legend that is Ray Liotta, and how he identified with the character of Charlie.
Q: You both have evident affection for Charlie but he started out life as words on a page of Ben Sherwood’s novel, how did you find your own way to Charlie St.Cloud and how did you come to inhabit him as a character?
Burr: Well it was actually Zac that bought me to Charlie!
Zac: Yeah I read the script first and when I read it there were so many similarities between Charlie and my own sort of philosophy. Early on when he’s about to go to school, which is where I found myself a couple of years ago and when this all started to happen, I had that sort of mentality that if I put my mind to it I could accomplish anything and that was really the mantra that was responsible for me. Also the relationship between the brothers; I thought it was very well written, something that I had some personal insight into, some perspective on – I could relate to Charlie and the story in a lot of ways.
Burr: Yeah I had worked with Zac before on 17 again, and when he talked about it, it was a part that he could really inhabit he understood it and he felt it, and that was exciting about working on it with him.
Q: It’s a film that deals with what comes next, life after death. Just wondering if the film has shaped your views on the afterlife – what happens after you die and what those views are?
Burr: No …I still don’t know, which I think is the great thing that you go through life trying to figure that out and there is nobody that can tell you. But it is the big question.
Zac: That just sound cooler than anything that I’m going to say so I’m just going to second that.
Q: You also kept it quite open in the movie about how to interpret it…
Burr: It was something we had talked about – is this something that is actually happening to Charlie or is it his mind showing him what he needs to see, you know has he cracked it or is he imagining it.
Q: Given some of the themes of the film, how important was it to have Field of Dreams star Ray Liotta? and Zac how was it having your life saved on screen by him rather than having it sent in the other direction as it has in so many other films?
Zac: I will never forget being in that scene, I just remember Ray saying “come on fight me man fight me” and I’m like I don’t want to! He was really going for it with those paddles and it was intense it was really cool to be willed to do more by him. I realised that at the level Rays at there’s no inhibition – You know he’s totally not afraid and I appreciate this. A very cool experience to be brought back to life by Ray Liotta!
Q: He’s probably quite relieved as well not to be doing the bad guy…to be playing a saviour.
Burr: Yeah and casting someone like that you know a tough guy in kind of a sentimental part, you’re playing against what it could be as opposed to being sort of a mushy role
Q: What sort of roles do you like to take on?
Zac: As far as growing up and picking roles I don’t really know, but I’d say this turned out to be an ideal role. Working with Burr and figuring out Charlie’s character – I wouldn’t change the experience for the world. But did I know before I read the script? No not at all, so it’s like I can’t necessarily pin point, other than really the sort of genre it would be in.
Q: …You have to do everything before you can look back and say that was the ideal role, you have to experience it first?
Q: What kinds of roles would you like to do in the future as an actor?
Zac: I don’t know…good ones! I don’t know yet, there’s nothing that’s not appealing to me right now. It’s just a matter of wrapping my head around it, probably ones that are a bit scary.
Q: Have you seen a ghost in real life? If so can you give us a bit of detail?
Zac: Only in Disneyland, I haven’t seen any in real life, so I don’t have any details to share right now.
Q: What was it like working with your younger co-star Charlie Tahan, and does he remind you of your-self when you were starting out?
Zac: He’s way further along than I was
Burr: He’s further along than any of us!
Zac: He really is, the first thing within minutes of meeting him I remember…it’s so weird being in an audition where I sort of figured out he was perfect for it… we were outside the audition room, he’s got this really funny intelligent sensibility about him.
Zac: He’s super smart and I had more fun times and conversations with him on-set than anyone else.
Burr: We read with hundreds of kids, and Zac read with him and it was really finding the person Zac clicked with and he was younger than the character was written but they had chemistry and really had that relationship.
Q: Zac, You’ve recently started a production company and bought rights to a Swedish film is that correct? I just wondered what it’s called and what do you plan to do with it?
Zac: It’s called Snaba Cash or Starter Cash and you know we were looking at all sorts of things but trying to find something in the crime world. I really like the story because it’s a guy who for very innocent reasons finds himself in over his head which just about explains everything in my life at this point so I like that, and the movie was incredibly well done. So we’re having a really great time right now adapting it and making it more American…sort of.
Q: You don’t really feel like you’re in over your head do you?
Zac: Ah yeah, well sometimes, sure.
Q: Zac, just going back to the film – you’ve got a great relationship with your brother, do you ever get to the point of punching with him…I mean what’s your relationship like with your brother?
Zac: We go way past punching (joking). It got really serious at times. We would watch 3 Ninjas or the Matrix.
Q: But what really is your relationship like with him?
Zac: It’s good I mean he’s 18 now and he’s going to college, I think the older he gets the more he’s… well he’s just now like a real person to me again. All of a sudden he’s not my little brother anymore…he’s just my brother you know, I don’t know we’re in a different place and we’re starting to become even better friends than when we were growing up.
Q: Just going back to when you said you were in over your head can you tell us a bit about what it’s like being you and being in such a big movie franchise?
Zac: I don’t know it’s exciting, the stakes are high, and I’ve got a lot to learn. But at the same time I feel hungry and ambitious and in no way does the task at hand feel daunting, you know I’m just purely trying to navigate all the twists and turns right now. I mean there’s never been a more exciting time and I learned a lot from Burr in this Movie. Honestly I’m just excited about everything right now, with the production company it’s like we’ve really got the ball moving
Q: Hi Burr, I just wondered if Ben Sherwood had any direct involvement in the production?
Burr: He’s a very litigious man and he was on the set, he put so much in to the book and when he came to the test screening he was actually crying because it had come that far which was really gratifying .
Q: Zac you probably get this question a lot I know I do, but do you think that being good looking has held you back in your career?
Zac: You know what it’s a big part of why I’m here and it’s a big part of why my fans come to the movies but at the same time it just makes me more driven to get to people that aren’t so easily swayed by that sort of thing you know what I mean!
Q: …do you come up against that; I mean have you gone in to talk to somebody and known that they have a pre-conception about you?
Zac: I used to get in those conversations all the time but you know now I have this ugly beard so it’s slowing down (laughs)
Q: Is the beard for a particular reason or are you just relaxed?
Zac: It could be for something I don’t know I’m just sort of testing it out, like how do you know what it’s going to look like if you’ve never grown one and just to set fire to the internet (everyone laughs)
Q: They love it on there don’t they?
Zac: I don’t think so!
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF CHARLIE ST. CLOUD HITS UK CINEMAS OCTOBER 8th 2010