Zac Efron goes green.
ZAC Efron didn’t devour Dr Seuss’s book
The Lorax when he was a kid. ‘‘ I was more of a Green- Eggs- and- Ham guy,’’ the 24- year- old says.
But with a green- light yet to be given to a movie of Green Eggs, this Samiam fan has instead immersed himself in the Seussian world of Truffula trees, Brown Bar- ba- loots, Humming- Fish and and the Once- ler’s words of warning: ‘‘ Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’’
‘‘ One person can change the world,’’ Efron says, reaffirming the message of
The Lorax – both Seuss’s 1971 book and the new animated film in which Efron gives voice to Ted, a 12- year- old whose mission to impress a girl becomes a whole lot more.
Ted’s uber- modern town of Thneedville is lorded over by O’hare, a businessman who got rich selling the townspeople fresh air. This is a walled city where trees are mechanical – any traces of nature long replaced by the artificial.
But Ted’s neighbour Audrey ( voiced by Taylor Swift) longs to see a real tree, so Ted sets off to find the one man who might know where to find one.
As Seuss wrote: ‘‘ What was the Lorax? And why was it there? And why was it lifted and taken somewhere from the far end of town where the Grickle- grass grows? The old Once- ler still lives there. Ask him. He knows.’’
Efron has memories of the story from childhood.
‘‘ The message that I got, loud and clear, was don’t cut down trees,’’ he recalls.
Now, as a young adult, he’s embraced its environmental crusade.
‘‘ The Lorax is gonna speak to a young generation, hopefully it’ll plant that seed. The biggest message is that the smallest gesture can change the world.’’ What kind of gesture has Efron made? ‘‘ My dad and I planted orange trees in the back yard a couple of years ago. It’s amazing to watch them grow. You feel a personal connection to them. It’s also pretty cool when you’re actually eating the fruit from a tree that you planted.’’
And if the Lorax – the creature who speaks for the trees – were real?
Efron reckons ‘‘ he wouldn’t drive a car at all. He would probably be an organic farmer that skateboards and uses solar [ power]’’.
Truth be told, Efron probably sits somewhere in the middle as far as the scale of carbon- fuelled gadget guy and treehugging hippie goes.
This could also be applied to his film career. Since graduating from High School
Musical, he’s put forth what appears to be a very considered mix. There’s been the mainstream fare that hits his young fanbase bang- on ( 17 Again and Charlie St Cloud ).
Then there are the titles that gave him a chance to age- up, such as New Year’s Eve and an upcoming romance, The Lucky One, in which he plays a soldier returning from war. Then there is the I- really- can- act- you-know arthouse fare.
Starting with Me and Orson Welles in 2008 moving on to Liberal Arts ( which we may see in Australia later this year) and most recently joining Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew Mcconaughey in The Paperboy, a thriller that promises edgy and cool in the way Kidman’s To Die For did back in the ’ 90s.
But has this zig- zagging movie path been well thought- out?
‘‘ It’s just been my natural trajectory. I’ve always enjoyed changing things up,’’ Efron shrugs. ‘‘ I enjoy actors that have versatility and that take more challenging roles. It’s about learning from the best.’’
Besides, he adds, he’s no different an actor than the kid who made 17 Again back in 2008: ‘‘ Still having fun.’’
He pauses, then adds: ‘‘ I love all different types of movies and I wanna try as many genres as I can.’’
To that extent, he’s started his own production company, Ninjas Runnin’ Wild.
‘‘ It gives you a bit more control. It opens a lot of doors,’’ he says.
Every actor worth his salt has a production company these days. What kind of films will Efron’s company produce?
‘‘ I just want to make movies that I would be proud of and could watch. It’s hard to think of one thing. We’re still figuring that out. If I had all the answers . . . ’’ he laughs.
He says he can’t tell what kind of impact his I- really- can- act- you- know films have had on those filmmakers he’d love to collaborate with.
‘‘ Most of the times you find the directors you want to be working with, you’re trying to convince them why they want to work with you,’’ he says.
‘‘ But that’s what makes it fun – all the good parts are just out of reach, you shouldn’t expect it.’’
Indeed, for all the adoration that’s been flowing Efron’s way since his late teens, he still talks the humble talk. He’s spoken of his awe at being part of the ‘‘ Seuss legacy’’.
Before getting into the voice booth to give life to Ted, Efron jumped online to learn from the masters.
‘‘ I watched a lot of clips online of Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Toy Story. Those guys are more animated than the animated characters. They just kinda go for it.’’
When Efron went to the sound booth, he left ‘‘ ego at the door’’.
‘‘ You just have to throw all of your inhibition out the window. My favourite animated performance, probably ever, was Robin Williams in Aladdin, when he plays the Genie. When they showed the video from recording that movie, Robin is all over the place. He’s practically doing backflips.
‘‘ He’s doing crazy faces, voices and gestures. He looks absolutely ridiculous but the performance he got out of that was extraordinary.
‘‘ So I tried not to worry about what I looked like or how embarrassing it was. I just tried to go nuts and have fun.’’
Efron’s Ted is nowhere near as far out a character as Williams’ Genie but he does go to crazy lengths for Audrey. As the Once- ler puts it: ‘‘ When a guy does a stupid thing once, well that’s because he’s a guy. But if he does the same stupid thing twice, that’s because he’s trying to impress a girl.’’
And long before he was linked to Vanessa Hudgens or Lily Collins or whoever the gossip sites have him holding hands with this week, Efron had his own Audrey – the girl next door he pined for. ‘‘ My first crush was my babysitter. That was my Audrey,’’ he says.
‘‘ We loved dancing, we’d turn on the radio and dance around the house. My parents would come home and all the couch cushions would be upside down. We keep in touch.’’
He completely sidesteps a question about being the guy melting women’s hearts in The
Lucky One – ‘‘ It’s a great love story. I really hope everyone loves it’’ – but he will be in Australia next month to promote the film.
‘‘ I can’t wait to come visit. I miss my second home. Please send my love back to all those guys,’’ he says.
Australia is your second home, Mr Efron? How so? ‘‘ Oh, I dunno. It feels like I’m home when I’m there.’’ THE LORAX Now showing Village Cinemas Review: P5
SEUSS MAGIC: Stars of The Lorax Danny Devito, left, and Zac Efron, read to school children from the 1971 book at the New York Public Library recently.
STILL FUN: Zac Efron voices the character of Ted ( left) in The Lorax.