17 Again: The Zac Efron Interview

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Zac Efron just can’t seem to get out of high school. After repeat matriculation into High School Musical no less than three times, the gifted musician and actor with a sense of humor on the zany side, is returning to class yet again on screen in Burr Steers’ 17 Again.

This split personality excellent adventure for Zac and Matthew Perry, finds them as essentially the same guy sharing one body, but dividing up their before and after conflicted lifetime between adolescence and adulthood. Zac took in stride during our interview, the question as to whether Zac or Matthew as main character Mike, was having more fun.

17 Again

Also on the table as talking points, were the nuts and bolts of lessons in slapping other characters, some advice to lay on his younger bad self back then, and what happened when he dropped his pants for real back in high school.

Hey Zac, you did a great job being Matthew there for a while in the movie.

ZAC EFRON: Thank you. It was hard work!

So how did you work that out, dividing the split personality of that character between you?

ZE: We had a couple of days where we were able to just hang out and talk. And like figure out the key moments that really were Matthew’s lines, that I was just kind of saying.

Did somebody hit everybody in this movie?

ZE: Yeah, at one point or another. We had a stunt coordinator who was instructing everyone how to slap. And he goes, you guys really gotta sell it! Slap him! And I’m sitting there like, they’re slappin’ me, bro!

Ouch. I read somewhere that you said after High School Musical, you’re having a difficult time with fame. Does that mean you’re going through some kind of existential angst? You know, about your purpose here, and dropping out of the footloose.

ZE: Oh man, gosh….I honestly am not really having a tough time. But the number one question I’ve been asked about this movie is, if you could go back, would you change anything? If you could be seventeen all over again, what would you do different? Would you go down this road?

And I’m like, absolutely. This is the best job in the world, I’m having the time of my life. I wake up every day with a new challenge, whether it’s filming, learning a new skill on the set, interviews, press, that kind of stuff. It’s always fun. It’s always interesting. And it’s always a challenge.

So yeah, I’m very happy with that, I’m very happy with my life right now. And 17 Again, it was exactly what I was looking for. This was an opportunity to work with a brilliant cast and an amazing director. And it was that chance to switch it up. It does take place in high school and a high school setting, but it’s not a very high school character. And that’s what I want to do more of.

Did anybody pick on you in school, and did you ever get taped to a toilet or anything weird like that?

ZE: I wasn’t bullied that bad, or anything like that. I just wasn’t like the ‘it’ guy at school.

What did you get in trouble for most in high school? And was there anything that you should have gotten busted for, but that you got away with?

ZE: Um, yeah. I looked at a couple papers taking tests, and stuff like that. It was small things. I think I got in trouble once. I actually got sent home from high school, because I went up to the front of my Spanish class, and was going to write a sentence on the board. And my pants fell down in class!

What happened?

ZE: Everyone started laughing! It wasn’t that big of a deal. But the teacher got really flustered and upset, and sent me home. That was probably the most I got in trouble.

If you could go back and have a do-over in high school, like in this movie, would you have any advice for your younger and badder self back then?

ZE: Yeah, you feel like an adult when you’re seventeen, and you have the social awareness of an adult. But that doesn’t really apply in high school. Because everyone’s young and stupid.

So it’s hard. You take it too seriously. So I think probably I’d go back and tell myself to chill out. This is just the beginning. And get ready, because stuff’s about to pop off.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.