Zac Efron returns to musicals after a decade in The Greatest Showman
Zac Efron returns to a movie musical after 10 years
Falling in love in a musical number on camera is one of Zac Efron's "absolute favourite things to do in the world".
We were at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills and he was talking about his new movie musical, The Greatest Showman, which is showing here.
"I am not ashamed to say it. I know it is pretend, but when you get to live in that kind of moment for a scene or two, it feels amazing. Are there any better ways to express true love than in song?"
Spoken like a true alumnus of Disney Channel's High School Musical franchise, which saw him do exactly that opposite his then-girlfriend and co-star, Vanessa Hudgens.
Efron followed up with the 2007 movie musical Hairspray but avoided the genre for a decade - till now.
The 30-year-old US actor's character in The Greatest Showman, Phillip Carlyle, is one of the few not based on real people.
He plays a theatre playwright who leaves behind his aristocratic lifestyle to join self-made impresario P.T. Barnum's (Hugh Jackman) circus. He falls in love with a (also fictional) pink-haired trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), with whom he shares a romantic performance called Rewrite The Stars.
How challenging was it to be up on the trapeze for the duet with Zendaya?
We just got thrust into it... Someone just said 'hang on tight' and 'run this way'. And the next thing you knew, they had lifted you up and you were in the air swinging right into somebody very fast, and it was up to you to hang on at that point.
Luckily, Zen wasversatile and brave. I was scared of not only hurting myself but bumping into her or, God forbid, letting her go. She had zero fear. She was great to work with. She was a great partner.
How high were you?
Shockingly high. It was a unique number, our song Rewrite The Stars, because we never really had rehearsal time.
We went out and as we started it, they were like, 'Oh, this is where we can lift up. Are you guys ready to do that?' Zendaya and I would look at each other and be like 'sure' and we'd try it.
Did you have difficult days?
It depended on what we were rehearsing. There was a song, The Other Side, with Hugh and with shot glasses and the bar, that was actually really difficult.
It took us a lot of time and effort to slide those shot glasses into each other's hands mid-dance move.
You had to set your glass down, slide it, sing a song with intention and then, you know, virtually spin a 360 and put your hand out and the glass had to be in your hand tossed from the other person.
But we fell into a rhythm. I don't know how we accomplished it, but every time we would just nail it. We rehearsed quite a bit, so when the camera was ready to roll, we definitely were prepared.
How was it to be back singing and dancing?
It was like a dream come true. I always wondered when and how I would find my way back into musicals.
When I got the call for this project, I was supremely excited. I had known (director) Michael (Gracey) for a few years, just casually for lunches. So when I got a call from him when I was stuck in traffic, I just thought he was going to say, 'Do you want to get lunch tomorrow?'
But he said, 'There is a musical movie I am making and there is a part for you in it. Do you want to do it?' I think I got out of the car and literally danced around for a second because we weren't moving.
Was the singing easy for you?
Your voice is like any other muscle. You have to work it out every day and I hadn't worked out in years.
We were recording and singing the song a few times. We kept singing it, except in the lower key and at some point, we started raising it up but just to my comfort level.
I was like, 'Man, I am never going to get this note.' Finally, I did one. I sang it all the way through just to try it and I was like, 'That sucked. That was terrible. Let's try that again.' There was no response in the audio booth.
I was like, 'You guys want to go again?' Nobody responded. Finally, I looked up in the recording booth, and they were jumping up and down like, 'Yes, yes, you've been doing it the entire day. We've just been messing with you. It was never lower. You've been doing it from the very beginning.'
I was like, 'Are you serious? You messed with my head a little bit. You guys hypnotised me or something?' So it was a joy.
How did you relate to Phillip Carlyle?
He has found success monetarily. He has got a name behind him. He has got pretty much everything a young man could desire, yet he is profoundly unhappy and kind of drowning himself.
Needless to say, there is a part of me that can relate a little bit. You feel lost, yet you've got all the necessities to be happy.
One of the great things about playing Phillip was being able to relate and having my eyes reopened as they sort of were in real life by Hugh, Michael and Zen.