Arts Express: Zac Efron Talks Neighbors

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Pulling off being really annoying in a comedy may sound like a big challenge. But for Zac Efron as the nutty frat guy next door in Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors, it was more like just another breezy day at the office. Efron stopped by to talk his bragging rights as a neighbor in real life, and eccentric guy bonding with his character Teddy in Neighbors. In addition to some selective stripping on a downtown sidewalk along with a not nearly as buffed Seth Rogen, for the movie.

Zac, congratulations on your MTV award.

ZAC EFRON: Oh, thank you.

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Efron at the 2007 Nickelodeon Australian Kids’ Choice Awards.

You and your frat boys keep mocking Seth in Neighbors as the old guy next door. But the age difference between you in real life is pretty small. So what was that all about?

ZA: Small, but vast!

Uh, okay. So what kind of neighbor would you say you are, in the real world?

ZA: I came home the other day, and my neighbor is Charlie Day. I’m always sunny.

And he’s awesome. And he has like a new family. You know, like a really sweet wife. And..it’s just like Neighbors!

And I’m trying to assure him about me. You know, that I’m much nicer, in real life! But we actually get along. Yeah. He’s a nice cat.

When did you realize you were funny, and that comedy was meant for you?

ZA: Hmm. Around this time! Right about now. Yeah. The last few weeks. Generally, last week!

Seth seemed like he was intimidating for you, especially in that Abercrombie & Fitch getting bare chested scene.

ZA: No, that wasn’t in the script. He just did that! But when the cameras rolled and Seth took his shirt off, I didn’t know that was gonna happen.

I don’t know if he planned on that or not! But it was funny. Yeah, we just stayed on our toes.

Like I think they would just snap their fingers, and I knew what it meant! Like sure Zac, take your shirt off!

I was reluctant at the start. Like guys, seriously. Find another way. And by the end, it was just, they would just stop bringing shirts to my trailer! Yeah.

What’s the best scene for you in the movie?

ZA: The scene where Rose seduces the teenager, I thought that scene was great. Even studio executives love it.

But my fondest scene of all in the movie, was the Batman scene. I just had fun that night. I think we were improving. Yeah, it was cool.

How about being directed by Nick?

ZA: He’s great. He’s the wind beneath your wings! Sometimes. You know, you’re like, there’s no way that was funny.

And then ten seconds into it, you can hear an echo of Nick’s laugh! Through the halls! Or out of the corner of your eye, you see him doing that.

What kind of wild chemistry was going on?

ZA: A lot of sleeping! Napping. Yep. Falling asleep on set…

What was it like co-starring with that funny new kid on the block, Jerrod Carmichael?

ZA: He’s endlessly winning. Yeah. It’s just like, you want to be around him, you know? He’s really sweet, and like charming as a person.

And he’s got a really funny outlook. Like it’s positive but, I don’t know. He’s just witty. Like what’s wrong with Jerrod? Nothing! Yeah.

He was just doing standup here in NY. And it was like, we’re doing press and he’s doing standup. Like every night.

And what about Dave Franco, especially with that Robert De Niro imitation?

ZA: Ha! And it wasn’t like he was breaking character, or giving up after a while. It was like he couldn’t sustain it any longer.

And he wouldn’t laugh, or anything. He would go, hold on and just give me a second! And then he’d go back into it. It was really funny. It was just chaos.

Did you feel close to your character Teddy, or did you think, what’s up with this guy?

ZA: Uh, I think I could relate. I don’t know, the second I heard about Teddy I kinda, I just knew this guy. I knew where he was at.

So I don’t know, I’ve been there. I’ve sort of felt those feelings to some degree and in some way, clearly.

So yeah, I knew how to kinda harness this brother camaraderie. And to the point where it…makes you crazy!

And it was, that was the cool part about Teddy. You know, what I thought, and something that I really understood.

And part of making his insanity come from a good place, was initially like tricky. And I talked about it, we all talked to Seth, and the writers.

And like, it’s eccentric. But this is how young guys are sometimes, you know? And I know, because I was there!

How so, like a bromance?

ZA: There’s like a brotherly bond. And that is really romantic at times. And so it was cool. It was fun to make him come out of that.

And I don’t know if that answers your question in any way. But it sort of does, I would say! Sort of. It kinda does. Yeah! So can I relate to him? Sure! Yes…

What would you say is the journey your character takes in his life, in the course of Neighbors?

ZA: At the beginning, Teddy is like coming into his element. He’s like Fagin! You know, it’s like this band of brothers that he’s raised!

Um, at the the end he’s at Abercrombie & Fitch! He’s been humbled! He’s been humbled, really quick!

Wow. Was the store open then?

ZA: Oh yeah, and it was eight in the morning. I was amazed that people were actually shopping at those hours!

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.