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17 Again - Zac Efron interview

17 Again

Compiled by Jack Foley

ZAC Efron talks about the appeal of new age-reversal comedy 17 Again, working with Matthew Perry and getting into the mind of a 37-year-old man. He also talks about his passion for skate-boarding, his plans for the future, and his own high school memories.

Q: In the film, you play a high school basketball star who grows up, and in the opening scene, your character is in all his glory on the basketball court…
Zac Efron: That first scene was fun. It was neat, the way it read in the script. It just showed that this kid had so many opportunities and is very, very focused on this basketball thing. You can tell he had been training his whole life for it. He knew what he wanted to do. He knew where his life was going. He had a plan and he was also very driven and focused on that plan and on those goals. So, it made it more interesting when all that got taken away at the very beginning of this story. So, I enjoyed that sequence.

Q: What made you want to make 17 Again your next film?
Zac Efron: Honestly, there was an opportunity, when I read this script, that I recognized. There were so many roles post High School Musical that were just high school stories. They were regular high school characters. They were dealing with high school romance and high school scenarios and high school drama. In 17 Again, I had an opportunity to play a 37-year-old man, which is someone that I can virtually in no way relate to. And that seemed more interesting. I got a chance to play my father, really. That seemed like more fun. It seemed like the less obvious choice. And I had a blast doing it, so I’m glad that it came through.

Q: Can you talk about observing Matthew Perry and Matthew Perry observing you playing him? [Director] Burr was telling us that he would work with you to help you get his mannerisms…
Zac Efron: Yeah, all the time. Matthew’s face is very specific and his mannerisms are very specific. He’s got, I don’t know, a built-in culture that was fun to try to find with him and Burr. He was always available on the phone, and I could call him and just ask: “What should I do here? I’ve got three things that I might try.” And he would say: “Go with the first one.” Or he would just point out things to remember: “Now, remember here that this is the most important thing that’s ever happened to you.” He would give advice. So, I was very grateful to Matthew for that actually. I owe him a lot.

Q: What was the atmosphere like on the set with so many comic actors and funny people? Were you guys cracking each other up all the time?
Zac Efron: It was pretty exciting. It was very funny. Plus we had Adam Shankman on the set a lot. Together we couldn’t keep a straight face the whole time we’d be filming.

Q: What did your dad think of your performance as a dad?
Zac Efron: I think he was amused. I don’t know personally what he thinks. He’s just happy. It’s pretty weird for him.

Q: He was on set a couple of times?
Zac Efron: Yes. Yeah.

Q: If you had a chance to go back to high school, would you change anything about it?
Zac Efron: I’d probably change a million things. If I could go back, I’d just pat myself on the back and be like: “Dude, you’re out of here.” And you’re out of here in no time, honestly. It felt like forever. High school feels like you’re stuck there for an eternity. And the whole time you have to deal with all these strange social interactions because you’re trapped with all these kids your own age that are so different than you.

Q: What do you mean by “strange social interactions”?
Zac Efron: You know, on a daily basis, you have to sit right behind the prettiest girl in school, and stuff like that. You’d be surprised how distracting and how much pressure that puts on you.

Q: Who was the prettiest girl in your school?
Zac Efron: The prettiest girl in my school? I don’t want to say her name but I still remember her. I’m never going to forget that. There just are things like that – getting called out by one of your teachers in front of the whole class. Public speaking in high school’s a nightmare. I was actually alright because I was doing musical theatre, but some people would literally get the shakes and not be able to talk in front of the class. It’s very unnerving.

Q: Do you feel older than you are sometimes?
Zac Efron: Yeah, I think a little bit sometimes. From a very young age I always got along with adults.

Q: Do you ever wish you were older?
Zac Efron: Maybe at times. But I’m also very young at heart, I think. I still have fun. I still have fun doing very young things, like watching cartoons in the morning.

Q: Which do you favour?
Zac Efron: I still watch SpongeBob sometimes, Saturday mornings when I roll out of bed… sure, SpongeBob will probably stay on.

Q: You just turned 21. What was your party like?
Zac Efron: It was, I mean, a 21st birthday party. I had my friends, a lot of close friends and family. It was probably pretty low key for a 21st birthday party, I imagine. But it was a lot of people that I had never seen in the same room before, so I was very excited to have that. There were probably about 60 people, something like that. Close friends, friends from high school, friends from LA, friends that I met from different projects. Burr [director, Burr Steers] and Thomas [cast member Thomas Lennon] were there. It was a very interesting crowd.

Q: What was your collaboration like with the director to play something that’s so different from anything you’ve ever played before?
Zac Efron: It was fun. It was interesting. I think Burr was frustrated with me at times because he would try to ask me: “You’ve got to have some way to relate to an adult in this fashion. There’s got to be something. Use it.” I’d say: “No, man, I don’t have a daughter.” So, he would find something else. And that was, I think, where I had the most fun with Burr. He really pushed a lot. He made things interesting. He would change scenarios and make them real to a degree, and that was fun. I learned a lot from Burr and I feel that 17 Again was a big step in the right direction for me personally.

Q: Can you talk about your love of surfing and skateboarding? How good are you?
Zac Efron: I don’t know. I picked it up when I was young. I grew up in Pismo Beach. A lot of my friends were big surfers. They were well into it.

Q: Can you still do it? Are you doing it?
Zac Efron: Yeah. I mean every chance I get. It’s harder to go in California. I tend to go when I’m on vacations. Every time I go it’s a shock to the system. I realize how out of shape I am every time I get in the water. Your shoulders feel like they’re going to fall off.