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Me & Orson Welles - Zac Efron interview

Zac Efron in Me & Orson Welles

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ZAC Efron talks about appearing in Richard Linklater’s Me & Orson Welles, why he pulled out of the Footloose movie and recalls his worst ever audition (for Peter Pan).

He also recalls what it was like filming on the Isle of Man and one of the more PG certificate funny stories to emerge from the experience!

Q: Even though your character’s only 17, you’re essentially the leading man in a straight, kind of old-fashioned period drama, compared to the teen idol of the High School Musical films. Was this a deliberate attempt to break out of the mould we’ve had you in for the last few years?
Zac Efron: I recognised immediately this was a pretty unique opportunity. I remember when I got the phone call that Rick [director Richard Linklater] had a script that he would like me to read and wanted to have a conversation about it. And I was excited that I remember running home to read the script and I read it and was very pleasantly surprised that the role was pretty big. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. I was the ‘Me’. I was ‘Me’. That was pretty cool. I can do Me. So, I was very excited. And I was looking for that opportunity, not to necessarily change my image or anything but for a good role that was a new challenge, that was something refreshing and interesting. And this was it.

Q: Were you concerned that your large fan base would not have even heard of Orson Welles?
Zac Efron: Not really, not concerned. I thought this was a good opportunity to reveal to them the genius that is Orson Welles. You know, perhaps the fans that don’t know about Orson would maybe have more of an opinion when they start to study him in school and have some perspective, some insight into the early life of this American icon.

Q: It was said that you pulled out of Footloose because you wanted to change the direction your career was going. Is that true?
Zac Efron: Footloose didn’t happen for a number of reasons, but to be honest, it just felt like territory that I’d already explored. I felt like I’ve been there before, as opposed to trying something brand new, which is a bit probably riskier and a whole lot scarier, but so much more interesting.

Q: Do you have a master plan? Do you see yourself dipping in and out of lots of different genres or do you want to go forward with dramas?
Zac Efron: I’m not sure. It’s kind of day-to-day here. I’m very specific about scripts that I like. I don’t have a master plan or, like, a game plan. I don’t have a chart that I’m following or anything like that. I’m very much playing it by ear. Certain things just happen and it’s undeniable, you just go that way. But I don’t have a specific path I’m following, I’m just playing it by ear.

Q: The film is set in New York but was actually shot in the Isle of Man. How was that?
Zac Efron: It was great. I was looking forward to that seclusion. From what I’d heard it was a pretty quiet place and there weren’t a lot of people there, you know? I can’t tell you how appealing that sounded. Anyway, it turned out there were a whole LOT of people there. And we met most of them. I felt pretty welcome. It was funny. But we couldn’t really go outside that much. We couldn’t really leave the theatre… we were there a whole lot. We were there day and night. The theatre was next to the hotel we were staying in and there was a tunnel, so I didn’t even have to go outside to go from my room to the set. So I didn’t. I never went outside.

Q: Your character gets his huge opportunity by this bizarre audition in the middle of the street. What’s the worst audition you’ve ever turned in anywhere?
Zac Efron: My first audition ever was for the live-action movie Peter Pan. I was like 15 or something. It was my first experience and I had just done the play, Peter Pan. So I thought who could be better? And it was a young production, we were all relatively young. And I wasn’t even playing Peter, I was playing John, but I watched this amazing actor play Peter. So I showed up to the audition, it was on tape and it was like this small little couch – it was a tiny room, the audition rooms were very small.

And on stage, you speak to the back of the room, you project and I had to be very animated and Peter Pan in the play is like dancing around and jumping off things and being crazy and like Lost Boys, you know? So that’s what I did in the audition and I ran around, I jumped in my chair and started singing the lines. And when we finished, she interrupted me, she goes: “You’ve never done this before, have you?” I said: “No, not at all!” And she goes: “Okay, you can go.” That was the worst audition I ever, ever had in my entire life. And it was completely my fault – I thought I was auditioning for the play.

Q: But you still went back for more after that rejection – it didn’t put you off auditions?
Zac Efron: Oh yeah. I kind of wept about that one.

Q: Are there any funny stories that happened while you were filming this?
Zac Efron: You know, putting on a play, it was a bunch of actors on stage all day and everyone takes on an alter-ego after about six o’clock at night and we kind of go stir-crazy from being in there all the time. So one thing that I’ll never forget is the ukulele session that we had. One of the guys in the cast, Dan, was really good on the ukulele so he would kind of improv and play George Formby songs. But we would improv songs about people in the cast. We made one about Claire. What we would say is like, “Where’s Claire? Claire’s not there, Claire has the prettiest hair.” So that was one thing I’ll never forget. That’s not a good story, though. But it’s a clean, PG funny story.

Read our interview with Richard Linklater