THE LORAX

Zac Efron goes green.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

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.

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