If I were 13, I’d probably be swooning over Zachary David Alexander Efron. There would be photos of his heart-melting face plastered all over my bedroom (the way it was for Russell Crowe) and I’d have devoted countless diary entries to my unrequited love for him, hoping upon hope that—sigh—someday I could move to California and meet him. But my high-school heartthrob days have long since passed (don’t feel pity, I had Leo) and my heart will go on. I’ll leave this cutie (cute, like in a little brother way) for the generation who has already claimed him—that is, if “High School Musical” co-star/girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens lets him out to play…
But just how Jewish is Zac Efron? According to Wikipedia, Efron was “born in San Luis Obispo, California and later moved to Arroyo Grande, California. His father, David Efron, is an engineer at a power plant, and his mother, Starla Baskett, is a former secretary who worked at the same power plant as Efron’s father. Efron had a self-described “normal childhood” in a middle class family, and has a younger brother, Dylan. Efron is of Jewish ancestry and is an agnostic, having never been religious.”
Before he starred in the smash success, High School Musical, Wikipedia weighs in on how he fared in real-life high school:
“He has said that he would “flip out” if he got a B and not an A in school, and that he was a “class clown”. Although self-described as not academically gifted, he remained focused enough to achieve an overall GPA of 4.3. Efron’s father encouraged him to begin acting when Efron was eleven. He subsequently appeared in theater productions at his high school, worked in a theater called The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, and began taking singing lessons. Efron performed in plays such as Gypsy, Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Music Man. Efron was recommended to an agent in Los Angeles by his drama teacher, Robyn Metchik (the mother of actors Aaron Michael Metchik and Asher Metchik). He was later signed to the Creative Artists Agency.”
Efron graduated from Arroyo Grande High School in 2006, and was then accepted into the University of Southern California, but he deferred his enrollment while he worked on film projects. He plans to return at some time. Efron also attended Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, a community college located in Santa Maria, California, which provided him with the opportunity to perform as a “young player” during the years of 2000 and 2001.”
One thing Wikipedia doesn’t tell you: “Efron” in Hebrew means “lark,” as in the singing bird.
At a tender 21-years-old, hasn’t been around long. His already epic career began in 2002 with some unmemorable TV appearances. He then played a recurring character on the WB series “Summerland,” but it was quickly canceled. Alas in 2006—just three years ago—he won his breakthrough role starring in Disney’s “High School Musical.” There, Efron played a high-school Basketball hunk who spends most of his time capering through the hallways, canoodling with his lady-love and exercising complete social authority over his classmates. The Disney Channel Original Movie became the most successful in the cable channel’s history and begot two sequels (with rumors of a third in the works), with High School Musical 3 enjoying the rare made-for-TV privilege of a theatrical release. Ever since, Efron has expeditiously ascended the ranks of Hollywood stardom, having won another hunky, dancing lead in John Waters’ “Hairspray” and yet another lead in “17 Again” which opened this past weekend and topped box office charts (yes, he surpassed my beloved Gladiator in box office appeal, but what do you expect when the NY Times publishes such hateful drivel as this story?)
In an interview with Elle magazine last summer, Efron was candid about his newfound super-fame: “At first it was mostly kids who recognized me,” Efron said. “The Past eight months it’s completely turned around. It’s been moms and dads. And Mrs. Robinsons. Wink, wink.”
Check out these racy photos of Zac lying on the beach beneath a naked model…
And the corresponding story in Interview magazine where he chats with Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant (“Milk,” “Good Will Hunting”)
An excerpt from Interview:
VAN SANT: I wanted to ask you about this Richard Linklater film. Is it Orson and Me?
EFRON: Me and Orson Welles.
VAN SANT: Where did you shoot that?
EFRON: Rick was brilliant, because he found this great theater on the Isle of Man, which, after a little bit of work, looked a whole lot like the Mercury Theatre did in 1937. We took a beautiful theater and made it look rusty and old and dusty, and, once we filled it with extras dressed in 1930s attire, the place was very believable. It even smelled like an old theater. It was pretty neat because we were basically stuck there—you know, we couldn’t leave. There was nowhere to go on the Isle of Man. So we lived in that theater for several weeks. It was fun and exciting, but it was also kind of maddening. I went a little bit insane.
VAN SANT: The Isle of Man—they have a small community there.
EFRON: Yeah, so as soon as they figured out that we were filming there, everyone in the town knew. There was always a small group of onlookers out in front of the theater while we were filming. It was pretty funny.
VAN SANT: And so the play that they’re putting on in the film is Julius Caesar?
EFRON: Yeah. Orson Welles was doing Julius Caesar, but he had a unique adaptation. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but Stalin was Julius Caesar in the Orson Welles adaptation, so it put a whole new practical spin on the play at the time, which was really neat.
VAN SANT: Were there any Mercury Theatre players who were still alive that you met?
EFRON: I haven’t met any of them, but I know there aren’t many who are still alive. Norman Lloyd is still around. There’s a great documentary about Orson Welles, and it has to do with William Randolph Hearst and the making of Citizen Kane  . . . Welles was just hungry. He was actually doing radio to fund his theater, because, as you know, they were in the hole for most of their shows. So they were going from paycheck to paycheck just to run the Mercury Theatre.
VAN SANT: And then eventually Welles went off and did Citizen Kane.
EFRON: Yeah. I don’t think that was too long after.
VAN SANT: How old is Orson Welles in your movie?
EFRON: He’s in his mid-twenties, but he’s got the wisdom and the presence of a 50-year-old . . . Well, you know, a 30-year-old guy. [laughs]
VAN SANT: A friend of mine was Welles’s chauffer.
EFRON: Oh, really?
VAN SANT: Yeah. Welles was in his sixties, and he was in L.A. This was in the ’70s. My friend would drive him in some giant 1950s car that was painted turquoise. It was a convertible. The top was always down, and Welles would wear a huge 10-gallon hat and ride in the passenger seat, because I think he liked that people would see him and recognize him. There’s still a movie of his that we haven’t seen. I think it’s called The Other Side of the Wind. I hear it has a bunch of people playing Welles. John Huston plays him at an older age. Peter Bogdanovich plays him at a younger age. It’s his last unfinished film. I don’t know where it is, but I haven’t met anyone who has seen it.
EFRON: That’ll be interesting. People always have such a different way of playing him. They tend to go for the Citizen Kane interpretation.
VAN SANT: When is Me and Orson Welles going to come out?
EFRON: I think some time later this year.
Read more of the ‘Interview’ interview with Efron and Gus Van Sant here