Zac Efron continues with his transition to more adult roles with The Lucky One, the romantic tearjerker based on the Nicholas Sparks book and directed by Scott Hicks (No Reservations). In the PG-13 film, Efron plays a Marine who credits his survival during his final tour of duty to the most unlikely of lucky charms: a photo of a beautiful stranger. Taylor Schilling co-stars as the woman in the photo who is unaware of the affect her picture has had on a Marine while he served in Iraq.
Together in LA for the Warner Bros Pictures press day, Efron and Schilling talked about the story, the dialogue, and the challenges they faced filming specific scenes. And because Schilling's character runs a training/boarding facility for dogs (and Efron's character owns one), they also revealed how they each would one day like to share their own lives with dogs.
Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling The Lucky One Press Conference
Were there ever moments where you read this big sweeping romantic dialogue and think, "Oh, come on, nobody talks like that?"
Zac Efron: "There’s a cynical part of you that red flags go off on a couple lines."
Taylor Schilling: "We talked about a couple of those lines."
Taylor Schilling: "You deserve to be kissed every… That’s exactly what."
Zac Efron: "But then I think back to moments I’ve been in and I’ve said things way, way crazier than that. So, it’s all relative. There was a little bit of shivering when I realized I was going to do that on camera, but I think a bit of pride too."
When you watch that as an audience, do you think, “That is stirring?”
Zac Efron: "I mean, I couldn’t look during that part."
How attached did you get to the dog?
Zac Efron: "We went through so much, man, me and that dog, me and Rowdy. It was amazing because the first time I met him, I wasn’t even really allowed to engage him because the dog loses respect for you. So we went through this roller coaster relationship from me paying virtually no attention to him and sort of being interested [to] finally I was able to sort of engage him. We became like best friends; we had a great working relationship. The best actor on the set. Super, super talented. Yeah, I grew very attached to the dog."
Do either of you have a dog?
Taylor Schilling: "I can’t wait until I can get a dog. I have to be in one place though for longer before I can get a dog."
Zac Efron: "I need to be a better person. A dog, for me, it’s not just getting a dog. I couldn’t leave him at home. I’m looking for a life partner and I’m not ready; I’m not emotionally mature enough."
What kind of training did you do for the military aspect?
Zac Efron: "I mean, all kinds of stuff. First and foremost, I wanted to spend as much time around Marines and the troops as possible. So I was able to go to Camp Pendleton early on with Scott [Hicks] and sort of just hang out with them, see what it was like. There were striking differences between the way that they were and I was. So I was able to look at that early on and physically, there was a lot to be done. That was the hardest part about this was the physical transformation."
Did you keep up with any of the physical training?
Zac Efron: "The principals I learned, absolutely. I carry them with me and I still try to apply them, on a lot less rigorous agenda."
What was the most striking aspect of talking to those Marines?
Zac Efron:"There’s an element, coming into that first talk with the Marines, it goes unsaid but in the room there’s a palpable...maybe I give it off...but we’ll never truly understand what it was like. I think that everyone in the room is aware of that, but at the same time after a couple hours with them, Scott was able to communicate just how much we cared and that we wanted to have the most accurate portrayal. It took a while but finally they opened up and saw that really the more honest that they were, the more they could give us. That’s what we cherished and we wanted just so hard to be able to give an accurate portrayal. Watching them open up and blossom in front of our eyes and be able to tell these stories and recount, it was the most powerful moment. And it was on the first day. That was the first day me and Scott hung out at all. That was the biggest part."
What were the differences you noticed?
Zac Efron: "I mean, at first I walked into a room full of Marines and they stand like [super straight] - strikingly physical differences. A lot of them were my height and my build, but they looked like superheroes. In my eyes at least, I was looking at real life heroes. I’m a musical theater geek walking in there and I knew there was so much work to be done it was overwhelming at that point. I’m just like, 'How am I going to do this?' But every time I get really scared like that, that’s a sign I’m on the right track."
How do you build a relationship when it’s an hour before the first kiss? And how do you keep from laughing when you get hosed down for the sex scene?
Taylor Schilling: "That’s a great question. When I first met Zac, we kind of really got along from the very first moment I auditioned for the movie with him. And I think that that sort of experience of working together and feeling really comfortable on set ended up carrying through working together. And, it was just fun. Our characters didn’t really come together, I guess, until more midway through the film. But during that entire time of shooting, we’re sort of developing a friendship."
Zac, did you feel the same way?
Zac Efron: "Completely. Yeah. I looked forward to those scenes in this one. Romantic scenes get built up because they’re something that’s coming up. They’re always looming and other people don’t want to talk about them because somehow it’s got this weird awkward perception. Once you get there, if it’s with somebody you really trust, that was one of the easiest days."
Taylor Schilling: "Easiest days."
Was the love scene scripted or did you just go for it?
Zac Efron: "It was a little of both. I mean, parts of it, you have to be in the right spot for the camera. We rehearsed it. Scott gave us one, he said, 'Do what you would do.' You said it was a cliché, but I think that’s because it’s so damn good. They’re right. Most clichés are right so fitting into one of those and making it real is romantic, I think."
Were you familiar with the book?
Taylor Schilling: "I hadn’t read the book. I knew of the book and I know Nicholas Sparks’ work very well and I’m a fan of his films and his books, but I hadn’t read this particular one."
Zac Efron: "I’m aware of Nick and his books but I was not aware of this."
What did it feel like to sign on to that Nicholas Sparks universe?
Zac Efron: "Amazing. It was awesome."
Taylor Schilling: "I was totally thrilled. It was such an exciting opportunity for me to get a chance to play this part and work with Scott and Zac and this whole team, so I was thrilled."
Zac Efron: "Nick creates such grounded characters. Everything is set completely and totally in reality. I mean, it’s heightened, but all for a purpose so I thought it was very fun."
Was an important part of this character to show women they can stand up to bullies like her ex-husband?
Taylor Schilling: "Well, I think what I so connected to in Beth was that she had all these obstacles to overcome and there was so much baggage and she lived so much life. She had a child and she had this ex-husband and even for her there still was this possibility of true love. She had sort of given up on it but it’s not too late, even for her. She had kind of been resigned to not finding it and she did, despite everything that was going on in her life. So if that’s inspiring to someone to move past something in their life that’s not working..."
Did you ever feel like you wanted your character to punch the ex-husband?
Zac Efron: "Yeah, it’s kind of neat. Logan this whole time is controlling, he has a lot of self-control but the whole time he’s a weapon that can break out at any time. I thought that was kind of cool. It’s like one of those characters you don’t know is a samurai."
Zac, can you talk about your progression to serious roles?
Zac Efron: "I mean, it’s been incredibly fun and educational. I set out very early on, I went back and I said that I was going to do this ages ago when I was just young; I didn’t know what I was getting into. I think that it’s proven to be everything I dreamed it would be. It’s been great, but it’s very different. If you’d have asked me when I was auditioning for High School Musical if I ever thought I was going to play a Marine…"
You still broke out the dance moves with the kids.
Zac Efron: [Laughing] "Yeah, don’t put music on."
Have you put musicals behind you?
Zac Efron: "I don't think music is done by any means. I would love to do it again, but it’s finding the right thing."
And not doing it every time.
Zac Efron: "And you can’t do it every time. Who wants to see that?"
What about genres you haven’t tried yet. Would you like to do action movies? Have you thought about that or gone out for them?
Zac Efron: "I don't know. I really liked Chronicle. I thought that was a very, very cool movie. I’m not sure. I don't know. Something that’s different, something with a cool director. Once again it just comes down to great material and a great director at the helm. Anything with that combo is interesting to me. I’ll take a look."
Was the river rescue on set or on location? Was it freezing?
Taylor Schilling: "Well, that was a really intense day. I have to say, all I had to do was stand on the river bank and scream. They actually had to be in wetsuits and with scuba divers."
So it was a real river?
Taylor Schilling: "It was a real river and I had never experienced anything like that. There were rain machines and things churning to make the water churn."
Zac Efron: "Sharks and sh*t."
Taylor Schilling: "Alligators. They have pulleys attached to them and things like that, so I feel like I actually had it kind of easy in that scene. I just had to run and stay on the river bank, but it was very cold."
Zac Efron: "It was freezing. I’ll never forget it. It looks cool but it’s so short. We were there for so long."
Taylor Schilling: "We were there for a really long, long time."
Zac Efron: "It was cold. We had suits with hot water being pumped into them and we were still, still just freezing."
Taylor Schilling: "And a hot tub to sit in because everyone was so wet."
Do you feel a lot of pressure with this film?
Zac Efron: "I feel pressure about everything."
Even The Paperboy?
Zac Efron: "Yeah, without a doubt. I mean if it doesn’t scare you, if you don’t feel like it’s [a challenge] - that’s why I love what we do. Everything is heightened and it makes your spine tingle. That’s why I was so scared when I read the script for The Lucky One because I was like, 'Dude, I like this. I like this and it’s going to be real hard and you have a big chance to fail here.'"
Is there a quality from the young you that you want to keep with you no matter how your career evolves?
Zac Efron: "I think always just heart and integrity and everything. The best part about Logan is he never takes the easy road, never once. Even though it’s going to be harder for him, he makes the right choice always. I think that’s really hard to do. I’d like to have that in every character I play - until he’s a bad guy."
Taylor Schilling: "I just finished Argo with Ben Affleck, the new movie he’s directing."
What’s next for Zac?
Zac Efron: "I finished a movie called Paperboy, Lee Daniels is directing it. Cool, great cast. Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, Macy Gray, John Cusack. I ran into Macy Gray at dinner last night. Random, 'Macy.'"