Zac Efron likes a good scare. “I think each time in life that you confront your fears, you actually grow a little bit,” says the former teen icon. He stars in “The Lucky One” (opening next Friday), playing a Marine fighting in the Iraq War.
When you’re the guy who hoofed it through “High School Musical” and then went for laughs in “17 Again,” it was time to feel a little jittery. His character in the movie, inspired by a Nicholas Sparks book, fights during three tours in Iraq.
Could Efron pull that off? “It was me asking myself, ‘Can I do it? Can I get it right?’ ” he admits. “My answer was, ‘I think I can.’ “At the end of the day, I was very pleased with the movie, and I’ll never forget the things I learned playing this character.”
Efron had to do his first combat scenes with real Marines in the background. Eye-opening doesn’t even begin to cover it. “I would turn around and see all of these American heroes who had my back,” he says.
Efron got a bit emotional. “All I could do was try to take it all in: the way they spoke to each other, the way they moved, their mannerisms,” says Efron. “My passion for getting it right had never been stronger.”
At age 24, Efron could develop the guns necessary to get the job done. “I read that I gained 25 pounds, but that isn’t true. It was really 17 pounds during an intense training program,” Efron says. “I was guided every step of the way by a real Navy SEAL.” The strict diet was the worst of it. “Everything was pre-planned,” he says. “I have never eaten that much fruit in my life, plus it was a lot of chicken and vegetables.
“I’d get so sick of the sight of what went down every single day,” he says. “It was actually one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because the eating and working out was very consuming.”
He doesn’t just make war in “The Lucky One.” He also makes love. After his service overseas, the Marine travels to North Carolina to find an unknown woman (Taylor Schilling) whose photo he stumbled upon during the war. Before long, the couple is steaming up a shower together. “Love scenes are always awkward,” he insists. “It’s a lot of breath mints. In this case, the water was cold, too.
Read the rest of this article at Chicago Sun Times