What, when one is the engine behind a multi-million dollar industry devoted to inoffensive desire, can a man do? Efron began by looking in the mirror. “As a man watching Zac Efron,” said Zac Efron. “I don’t necessarily like me yet. So how can I like Zac Efron?” He toyed ponderously with a lone edamame then concluded. “Maybe, if that guy shook things up, did what I didn’t expect him to do, if he wasn’t afraid to be a dick, if he wasn’t afraid to fall on his face, if he hung around long enough and did the grunt work, one day I might respect him.”
So, like a ship of state, Efron set his course for a distant shore where Terpsichore, Melpomene, and Calliope dwelt. There were some hiccups on the way. (No one who saw 2011’s New Year’s Eve could call it anything but frumious gunk.) But the journey had begun, the Rubicon crossed.
Retrospectively, of course, it is easy to see the signs that something had to give. There was that condom that accidentally flew from his pocket onto the red carpet at the premiere of The Lorax, a film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book for which Efron provided a voice, as apt a place as any to announce that Efron makes love. (“A brilliant fuck–up,” he calls it.) There was the prison tattoo he got on his hand that reads YOLO, short for You Only Live Once [Ed Note: Funny how YOLO is only used to justify poor judgment. No one says, “I should put an extra 15% into my 401K because YOLO.”] Efron doesn’t remember exactly the details of that tattoo. “I went through a period there, when I was single for the first time in six years, where I went out a lot,” he explained sheepishly.
But there was nothing as explicit, mindful, or successful as The Paperboy, Lee Daniels’ pulpy tale of murder, journalism, and sex in the bayou, which comes out October 5th. “I wanted a project that involved risk,” Efron explained, “I wanted to see how deep the rabbit hole went and how far I could really push myself.” If The Paperboy marks twain, the rabbit hole is very deep. In fact, it might never end.