Issue: September 2010
Story: The Agony of Zac Efron by Andrew Goldman
This month’s issue of Details features a lengthy cover story on Zac Efron, the peripherally grating, perennially grinning star of High School Musical whom we’re all more or less resigned to glumly stare at in the check-out aisle at Wal-Mart.
But what I assumed was going to be yet another teeth-rottingly saccharine profile turned out to be an engaging, insightful glimpse not only into Efron’s head but also into how his particular cog turns in the world’s movie-making machinery. As author Andrew Goldman describes it: “Hollywood, like everything else, is just an extension of high school, with the burnouts and the jocks coexisting uneasily. Burnout Sean Penn drinks and smokes too much and will always be cooler than jock Tom Cruise, whom one imagines doing lots of crunches and high-fives.”
The article follows a day-in-the-life of Efron, who seems to blithely wander through pool hall brush-ins with Bryan Singer, blinged out Soho penthouse set-ups, and spontaneous motorcycle lessons from Tom Cruise. Yet, Goldman manages to capture the subtle—and yes, often saccharine—moments in which Efron seems downright relatable.
Reported right after the young star had his first run-in with poison oak on a camping trip, the story is peppered with itchy, human scenes where Efron bashfully agrees to show Goldman his pustule encrusted back—“I look like a zombie from Dawn of the Dead“—or meekly offers his name to a club hostess as she looks for his reservation… as though she wouldn’t recognize him.
Goldman also managed to capture Efron’s geekiness. “Zac Efron is not cool,” he proclaims in an affectionate way. He then goes on to detail how the young actor practiced for weeks to master spinning a basketball on his pinky for his film, 17 Again, as well as his sheepish admiration for the irreverence of actors like Shia LaBeouf who “disses Spielberg and flips pickups and just gets bigger.” (In contrast, Efron makes appearances at Bar Mitzvahs as favors to industry friends.)
In short, this was an article that accomplishes what seems impossible: it makes you like Zac Efron. Like the classic kung-fu move that uses one’s opponent’s momentum to destroy them, Goldman takes Efron’s sweetness and throws the reader head-first into a headlock. And whether or not your teeth are rotten at the end of the article… you find yourself craving more.