“Fol­low your heart and, most im­por­tantly, know what you want. It’s re­ally hard. And you prob­a­bly shouldn’t live in LA”

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It must, how­ever, be in­or­di­nately dif­fi­cult for a star like Zac, now 24, to “stay pri­vate”. Within the space of a few months he went from be­ing a mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful child ac­tor to a proper old-school pin-up. He was on lunch­boxes and watches and T-shirts. Buy­ing a pint of milk must have in­volved a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion. “There is a bit of that,” he says. “Yeah. There are cer­tain things you try and be a bit more care­ful of. Other than that you still try and find ways to have fun. I do spend a lit­tle more time at home.” Aware that he might sound un­grate­ful, he rapidly dou­bles back on him­self.

“That’s not a shame though. Some­times it can bum you out. But when that hap­pens you just re­mem­ber you have so much to be thank­ful for. I don’t want to be the guy who lets it get to him. I try and fo­cus on the pos­i­tive.” Have there ever been in­stances where it’s all got­ten out of hand? I imag­ine young women at­tach­ing them­selves to him like limpits. “Yes. That has hap­pened. But you just have to try and laugh about it.”

As you will have gath­ered, Efron is a dis­ap­point­ingly well-be­haved young man. Raised prop­erly by a mid­dle class fam­ily in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia, he knows not to com­plain and – when asked about his par­ty­ing habits – makes sure to clar­ify that, while en­joy­ing the odd drink, he tries not to go over­board. He dated Vanessa Hud­geon, his co-star in High School Mu­si­cal, for a spell, but they man­aged to end the re­la­tion­ship with­out at­tract­ing too much neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity. He is, in short, the very model of the con­tem­po­rary youth-ori­ented movie star.

I won­der when he re­alised he was be­com­ing a su­per­star. The son of an

irish­times.com/cul­ture

elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer, Efron worked hard at school and se­cured a few small parts a kid. Then, to the sur­prise of ev­ery­one – in­clud­ing Walt Dis­ney – High School Mu­si­cal, a hum­ble TV movie, be­came a run­away suc­cess. Who knew the teen mu­si­cal was due a come­back? Glee is, in many ways, the bas­tard child of the HSM fran­chise.

“Yeah. No­body saw it com­ing. We were all shak­ing our heads,” he says. “I knew it had be­come a sen­sa­tion when it went in­ter­na­tional. I had never been out­side the Unites States be­fore that. I’d hardly left Cal­i­for­nia.

“Sud­denly I was on an air­plane seat big­ger than my bed at home. I was meet­ing fans all over the world. It was all very sur­real. I’ll never for­get that mo­ment.”

Still, Efron was faced with a choice. Still just a teenager, he con­tin­ued to imag­ine that, af­ter school, he would make his way to the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. A de­ci­sion had to be made. “Oh, I still don’t know what I am go­ing to do with my life,” he laughs. “My whole life had been point­ing to­wards col­lege. I wanted to go to USC.

“Then I hit that fork in the road. I had to pick go­ing to col­lege or do­ing Hair­spray. I de­cided when my dad – who had al­ways said: ‘You go to col­lege or you’re not my son’ – said he felt I should do Hair­spray. Then I re­alised I had to do that.”

What might other­wise have be­come of him? “Well, I was go­ing to do film or drama any­way. I did the right thing. I’ve talked to a few peo­ple who did the course and they are still ask­ing to come on set with me.”

Efron does ap­pear to be in this game for the long run. He still comes across like an over­grown boy in a good suit. But he ex­hibits that ter­ri­fy­ing aura of pro­fes­sion­al­ism that only Amer­i­cans can man­age at this age. You get the sense that the next year or so could be the defin­ing point in his young life. If he achieves es­cape ve­loc­ity and leaves teen ma­nia be­hind then he could be head­lin­ing se­ri­ous movies for decades to come.

Un­like Bieber, who (younger, to be fair) comes across like a runt moose stranded in the lights of an on­com­ing Land Rover, Efron has the wit to sit back and an­a­lyse his sit­u­a­tion with some sharp­ness. I sus­pect that, even if he does get sent back to sit-com gulch, he will man­age to re­main ma­turely philo­soph­i­cal. “Com­ing into all this when young was strange,” he muses.

“It was fun in a lot of ways. But it re­quired one to be­come a pro­fes­sional be­fore one had be­come a hu­man be­ing. It’s like a con­stant bal­anc­ing act. It was dif­fi­cult at tine. But I wouldn’t change it.” Take heed, Biff Bolden and Chuck Sex­pot. You’ll be faced with the same chal­lenges sooner than

you think.

(Fat Cat) We’re ex­pect­ing great things from Bre­ton’s de­but al­bum in 2012, es­pe­cially on the back of this elec­tronic thriller.

(Mr Bongo) Sun­ny­side trop­i­cal

(Acid Jazz) Four Manch­ester lads with old mu­si­cal heads on young shoul­ders shout to the top.

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