B orn Zachary David Alexander Efron, October18, 1987, in San Luis Obispo, CA; son of David (an electrical engineer) and Starla (a power plant employee) Efron.
Addresses: Office— c/o The Disney Channel, 3800 W. Alameda Ave., Burbank, CA 91505. Agent—Tal-entWorks, 3500 West Olive Ave., Ste. 1400, Burbank, CA 91505. Management—Alchemy Entertainment, 9229 Sunset Blvd., Ste. 720, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
A ctor in television, including: Firefly, FOX, 2002; The Big Wide World of Carl Laemke (pilot), 2003; ER, NBC, 2003; Triple Play (pilot), 2004; The Guardian, CBS, 2004; Miracle Run (movie), Lifetime, 2004; Summerland, The WB, 2004-05; CSI: Miami, CBS, 2005; If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now (movie), 2006; NCIS, CBS, 2006; High School Musical, The Disney Channel, 2006; The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, The Disney Channel, 2006; Heist (pilot), 2006; The Replacements, 2006; High School Musical 2, The Disney Channel, 2007. Film appearances include: The Derby Stallion, 2005; Hairspray, 2007. Stage appearances include: Gypsy, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, CA, c. 2000; Peter Pan; Little Shop of Horrors; Auntie Mame.
Awards: Teen Choice Award (with Vanessa Anne Hudgens) for TV-choice chemistry, for High School Musical, 2006; Teen Choice Award for TV-choice breakout star, for High School Musical, 2006; Hollywood Film Award (with others) for ensemble of the year, Hollywood Film Festival, for Hairspray, 2007; Young Hollywood Award for one to watch, Mov-ieline, for Hairspray, 2007.
T he star of the hit Disney Channel movies High School Musical and High School Musical 2, Zac Efron used the popularity of the movies to build his acting career. His appearances in the movies led to his being cast in a film musical, the 2007 remake of the hit indie comedy Hairspray. Praised for his abilities as a performer, he began acting as a young teenager, first appearing on stage and then primarily in roles on television. With fans around the world, Efron was regarded the ideal face for Disney. Helmi Yusof of Singapore’s Strait Times wrote of Efron, “A model of decency, restraint and politeness, he was peachy-perfect (in terms of ratings) for tweens.”
Efron was born on October 18, 1987, in San Luis Obispo, California. He was the son of David and Starla Efron. His father worked as an electrical engineer at a nuclear power plant, while his mother worked as a secretary at the same place. Efron was raised in Arroyo Grande, California, with his younger brother, Dylan. His family was firmly middle class, and he was not particularly interested in show business as a young child. Efron told Les-ley O’Toole of London’s Daily Mail, “I had a protected childhood. I was lucky.”
Efron’s acting career began when he was about eleven years old. He had already been displaying an unexpected singing ability, which impressed his parents. Young Efron could listen to any song on the radio and after memorizing the lyrics, sing it back with perfect pitch and tone. This skill compelled his parents to sign him up for singing lessons. A piano teacher also encouraged his abilities and helped him land theater roles.
Showing promise as an actor and singer, young Efron was cast in a theatrical production of Gypsy at the Pacific Academy of the Performing Arts. It ran for 90 performances, and Efron decided he wanted an acting career. He continued to appear on stage in roles in regional productions of Peter Pan, Little Shop of Horrors, and Mame, among others. He primarily regarded acting as something he did for fun.
Efron’s work on the stage attracted the attention of professional talent agents. Signing with an agent, Efron began making the three-hour drive to Los Angeles with his mother to audition for roles. He made the leap to television in his early teens. Efron began with guest spots on shows such as Firefly in 2002 (his first television role), ER in 2003, and The Guardian in 2004. Efron also had parts in pilots such as The Big Wide World of Carl Laemke in 2003 and Triple Play in 2004, but neither show was picked up for full production.
In 2004, Efron landed his first regular role on a television show when he was cast as Cameron Bale on The WB series Summerland. Efron played his girl-crazy character for a season. While appearing on Summerland, Efron expanded his acting abilities by challenging himself in the roles he assumed. For example, in 2004, he played Steven Morgan, an autistic child in the Lifetime television movie Miracle Run.
Though Efron’s acting career continued to grow, he did not take it particularly seriously until he reached the age of 18. About this time, he appeared in his first film, 2005’s The Derby Stallion. Returning to television, he then appeared in the 2006 television movie If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now and in guest spots on shows such as NCIS and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. More importantly, Efron had the breakout role of his young career in the 2006 television movie, High School Musical.
Airing on the Disney Channel for the first time in January of 2006, the low-budget High School Musical became a massive ratings juggernaut. It drew ever-increasing audiences with repeated airings on the network and attracted passionate young viewers. Originally High School Musical was not expected to be much more than another movie on the Disney Channel. Efron told Richard Ouzounian of the Toronto Star, “We made the movie with low expectations. And, initially, there was no phenomenon. But after we signed the contracts for the second movie, suddenly, pandemonium broke loose and there we were on Good Morning, America.”
High School Musical eventually became a worldwide hit, attracting at least 200 million viewers in more than 100 countries, and it was regarded as the most successful movie made for television ever. The compact disc of the movie’s soundtrack was also the bestseller of the year. Efron was but one young performer who saw his star rise because of his work in the Grated High School Musical, as his Troy Belton was the male lead. In the movie, he played the captain of the basketball team who is compelled to audition for the school’s musical production, nabs the lead, and finds love with new student Gabriella (played by Vanessa Anne Hudgens). Critics often compared the plot to the popular film Grease.
There was a backlash with the success, however. Efron became a target because he was not actually singing in the movie. High School Musical featured another male voice mixed in with his own. Some sources claim his singing voice was totally dubbed with the voice of Drew Seeley because the singing parts were not really compatible with Efron’s range. He also did not really appear on the soundtrack album. Because this information became public, Efron was sometimes put in an awkward situation in interviews and had to diverge from the message Disney wanted its young stars to promote. He told Ramin Setoodeh of Newsweek: “We were all given talking points. When High School Musical became successful, that’s when we found ourselves having to backtrack.”
While Efron’s career was taking off through the High School Musical phenomenon, he continued his education. He was a good student and considered himself somewhat nerdy. Efron graduated from his local Arroyo Grande High School in 2006. Putting any ideas about college aside, Efron focused on his burgeoning career. As High School Musical continued to air on the Disney Channel, Efron looked to build on his success with his first major film role.
Efron landed a part in the remake of Hairspray, released in 2007. Originally a film directed by John Waters in 1988, Hairspray had been adapted as a hit Broadway musical which ran for about five years. Efron appeared in the filmed remake based primarily on the musical. He played Link Larkin, a popular boy in school who dances on the local television program, The Corny Collins Show. Efron’s Link falls in love with Tracy Turnblad, an overweight girl from the wrong side of the tracks who can dance and does not share racial prejudices held by many white people of the time. Playing Link allowed Efron to show off his dancing, acting, and singing ability.
Efron was cast in part because he would attract his fans from High School Musical. One of Hairspray’s producers, Neil Meron, told Ben Nuckols of the Associated Press that Efron was ”not only right for the role, but God bless him, he brings with him all of teen idol-dom.“
Later in 2007, Efron also garnered attention for his role in the follow-up High School Musical 2. Like its predecessor, this production was extremely popular among Disney Channel viewers, aired worldwide, and was merchandized in every possible way. In the movie, Efron’s Troy and the other teen characters from High School Musical spend the summer vacation after their junior year at East High working at a country club in Albuquerque where school diva Sharpay is a member. Much romance ensues amid the singing and dancing as Sharpay tries to lure Troy from his girlfriend, Gabriella.
Efron compared the plot to the film Dirty Dancing, as it was a bit more mature in terms of plot and music than High School Musical. He was also allowed to sing without any vocal support in High School Musical 2, a negotiating point for his appearance in the sequel. He contributed his own vocals to this movie’s soundtrack as well.
Critics praised Efron’s work in the role and High School Musical 2 as a whole. Mary McNamara wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “High School Musical 2 is zippier, bouncier, prettier, more soulful, and even more musical than its predecessor, and that’s saying something.” Commenting specifically on Efron, she noted, “Efron brings more emotional heft to Troy than was evidence in HSM . Efron has all the handsome enthusiasm and grace of an old-fashioned movie musical star.”
Efron’s acting career continued to develop after High School Musical 2. He was in discussion regarding starring in High School Musical 3, which would cover the East High students’ senior year and might be produced for the big screen, as well as another film, the comedy Seventeen. Efron was also being considered for a role in a remake of the 1984 film Footloose. He ultimately planned on moving away from musicals, telling O’Toole of London’s Daily Mail, “I could act, sing, and fake my way through a dance. But singing and being in musicals wasn’t what I set out to do. It happened along the way, but I don’t want it to be a major part of my career.” He definitely did not want to have a singing career.
Hollywood was divided on what path Efron should take in order to have a long-term, successful career as an actor, but insiders agreed it would not be easy. Casting director Joseph Middleton told Rachel Abramowitz of the Los Angeles Times: “Everything is pretty much open to him. There’s no stigma attached yet. You’re going to have those directors for whom he’s going to have to prove himself. He may not be offered the part, but he will have the opportunity to read for the part, and he’s a really good actor.”
No matter where his career took him, Efron remained fundamentally humble. He told Ouzounian of the Toronto Star, “They tell kids that what’s really important in life is following your dreams and truly being yourself. Hey, if it happened to me, then, man, it can happen to anybody.” He also insisted success had not changed him. Efron told Yusof of Singapore’s Strait Times, “I haven’t changed much since my career took off in a big way. Sure, I get to travel more as an actor now. But I’ll still go home after that and do the same things. I’m still a regular kid.”
(Contributor) High School Musical, Disney, 2006.
(Contributor) High School Musical 2, Disney, 2007.
(Contributor) Hairspray (soundtrack), New Line Records, 2007.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, vol. 74,
Thomson Gale, 2007.
Associated Press, July 19, 2007.
Daily Mail (London, England), August 31, 2007, p. 48.
Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2007, p. C1; August 17, 2007, p. E1; August 27, 2007, p. E1.
Newsweek, August 6, 2007, p. 56.
Strait Times (Singapore), August 31, 2007.
Toronto Star, August 4, 2007, p. E3.
Toronto Sun, July 22, 2007, p. TV2.
Washington Post, August 12, 2007, p. N1.
“Zac Efron,” Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1374980/ (November 6, 2007).