Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens: High School Musical
Cute Zac Efron and beautiful Vanessa Anne Hudgens just thought they were making a fun TV movie when they signed up to sing and dance in "High School Musical". Who knew that the Disney Channel telefilm would take them to the top of the Billboard pop charts (the soundtrack album went double platinum) and garner them screaming fans and hot offers for future musical and film work?
The duo (who are not romantically involved) play high school sweethearts in the film and recently attended a Hollywood Boulevard premiere to mark the release of the musical film on DVD (which we will review soon). We spoke to the two earlier in the day in Beverly Hills. We were impressed with how glam Vanessa looked in cute floral Betsy Johnson sundress, big gold heart necklace and exotic make-up. She was beautiful but "plainer" in the film. Zac looks exactly like he did in the movie; today, casual in green tee with a bird motif, jeans and white belt. He was also wearing a circle necklace with a central star that he explained to us later. Zac's cell phone went off during our interview. Ringtone? The theme from Rocky!
What is it like to have almost instant fame and achieve your dreams? Tune in for the answers.
TeenHollywood: When they put you two together in auditions, did you just know that your voices worked well?
Zac: I think we were just nervous.
Vanessa: I was very nervous I must say.
Zac: I don't think any of us knew. I think the people that did know or did think they were great, were the ones that immediately got let go because they were so over-confident. It was the nerves that actually saved you.
Vanessa: It was weird. I was there with some of my friends and they were up for the same part as me. It's like 'oh gosh, even though you're my friends, it's still competitive'.
Zac: It was fun. We were put together from the beginning. And, to some degree, I think that helped us out because we really got to know each other.
TeenHollywood: Were the six main actors a close-knit group on set?
Zac: Oh, yeah, very. We were very close. We all hung out every day after filming. We'd go out to dinner or movies. We had fun. We're all very tight still to this day.
TeenHollywood: The film says a lot about how high school cliques can keep a teen from reaching his full potential. Could you relate to the high school clique thing?
Vanessa: I haven't been to high school. I've been home-schooled since I was in seventh grade so this whole thing I kind of got to skip. But, everybody goes through the cliques. It's such a true story. People just form their own cliques subconsciously then the other cliques crash and collide. I think everything [in the film] is so relatable because it's so true.
TeenHollywood: What did you two learn from the clique thing?
Vanessa: When I was in "real" school, I kind of just learned that cliques cause drama. You're better off to mingle with everybody. Be in a good crowd with everybody to avoid the drama. I hate drama, I really do.
Zac: In high school I really didn't have a clique. I was more of a floater. I tried to hang out with everyone. I had friends in all the groups. I went to regular school all the way through and, hopefully, I'll end up at USC studying film.
TeenHollywood: Your character Troy is the star basketball player on his team. Are you a basketball player?
Zac: I am NOT a basketball player! But, no stunt double. I'm not that great of a basketball player. I had one real season under my belt, playing with kids who were so much better than me. It was embarrassing. I think I scored two points all season. So, it took a lot of practice to say the least.
TeenHollywood: What was the training schedule for the film like?
Zac: Training schedule was pretty intense. We'd wake up every day, this is for the two weeks when we arrived in Utah, and we'd start practice at like nine (his voice cracks) um, my voice is cracking. Then there would be full dance practice, singing and everything [his Rocky-themed cell phone goes off and we all laugh and he turns it off] uh, and after that I would go straight to basketball practice. We'd run basketball practice as any basketball team would. We had to run suicides and all get in the lay up lines and we'd run several drills. But, at the end of the day, I just remember being so beat and beyond tired. I reached a new level of sleep every night. It was crazy.
TeenHollywood: You felt like Rocky?
Zac: I did. Like Rocky. I'd drink raw eggs every morning. I'm kidding.
TeenHollywood: Vanessa, it looked like dancing in those red shoes wasn't that comfortable, right?
Vanessa: I actually watched the behind the scenes version [on the DVD] today and I was like 'oh, my God, what was I doing?'.
TeenHollywood: Was it blister time?
Vanessa: Oh my God, yes it was. It hurt but I somehow made it through. I walked in London for miles with these stiletto boots and I survived so I guess I'm really good with heels.
TeenHollywood: Any romances on the set? Every young lady was beautiful.
Zac: Yeah! That was one of the benefits of being in this movie. Lots of pretty girls. No, I don't think there were necessarily any on-set romances. But, we immediately all became best friends. We got a good group which is very rare. There wasn't a bad seed among any of the kids.
Vanessa: Besides Zac...
Zac: Besides me.. We were all having fun. That's one of the most important things for the movie.
TeenHollywood: Who is your favorite singer or band?
Zac: Right now? Mine changes on a daily basis. Right now it's Matt Costa. I love his new CD. It's called "Matt Costa: Songs We Sing", great CD.
Vanessa: Me right now is KT Tunstall. I got the soundtrack for "Smallville" and she's on that. I've been meeting with a whole bunch of record labels and they gave me all these free CDs.
TeenHollywood: How is that singing thing going?
Vanessa: Good. I had very nice offers from very prestigious companies and it took me a while to decide who I was going to go with and I think I finally did and I'm going to start meeting producers and writers and start recording. I think I'm going to do pop rock with dance music.
TeenHollywood: Zac, any music offers coming in?
Zac: I'm trying to steer clear of the whole music thing at this point. I think the most important thing is to establish myself as an actor. As much as it's a performing art, I'm not really a performer. I want to be behind the camera and I think it's very easy for people to start getting confused when they see a CD come out. So, I would like to make my mark in front of the camera first before I endeavor to get behind it [as a director we assume].
TeenHollywood: How did you feel the first time you guys heard yourselves on radio?
Vanessa: It was exciting. I was just thrilled. My dad listens to Radio Disney [she laughs]. It was on and it's so funny because I hear me and Zac talking and we say the most retarded things I must say and they play it on the radio. I just get a kick out of it. It's fun.
Zac: Yeah, definitely.
TeenHollywood: Why do young teens especially love this film so much?
Vanessa: I think it makes them happy. The music is very modern to them, something new and hip. I think it's the chemistry with everybody too. The little girls are watching the two characters fall for each other.
Zac: We grew up watching these movies, musicals, and when everyone would break into song those were the best parts in the entire movie that you look forward to and a movie wasn't complete unless it had that. There was always something missing. But, that slowly started to fade away recently so I think it was great that our movie was able to bring that back in a modern way. We used pop and rock and just some cool, funky grooves that kids could relate to.
TeenHollywood: Musicals aren't supposed to be hip and you guys have made them hip.
Zac: Yeah, that's what we were trying to do.
TeenHollywood: What were your favorite movie musicals growing up?
Zac: Definitely, Grease. I love that show and Singing in the Rain. It's so great, the energy and the dancing and Donald O'Connor, brilliant! Everyone has to go watch that movie. It's so magic.
Vanessa: I love Grease. I love The Wizard of Oz and West Side Story because I'm a huge fan of Natalie Wood. I love Gypsy.
TeenHollywood: Did either of you ever go on vacation and meet someone whom you kept in contact with after that?
Zac: It happens all the time. You mean other celebrities? Oh, like in the movie, yeah, all the time. I'm having a friend over that I just met a week ago in Texas.
Vanessa: I haven't been on vacation in a while.
Zac: We call it vacation but we're really doing a lot of traveling [for publicity].
Vanessa: Every time I've been out, it's been with these guys [meaning the cast] so I really don't have time to meet anyone.
TeenHollywood: There's a great lesson in this movie about doing your own thing. Did you ever let peer pressure stop you from doing something?
Zac: I have to say, I was sort of in the same boat as Troy when I was hanging out at school. All my extra-curricular activities were involved with performing; singing and dancing and theater. Reactions were mixed. Everyone thought it was so cool to be a part of the basketball team but to go out and be in plays at the local theater houses wasn't that cool I guess. But, it would be really fun to have your friends come and watch the shows because then they could see what the heck you're doing all this time when you're missing school and aren't able to hang out. They get to come watch so that was one of the things I had to overcome; peer pressure. Just like in the movie, it was against theater and I just tried to follow what I really wanted to do.
TeenHollywood: Were you ever seeing anyone that your friends didn't approve of and have them try to break you up?
Zac: It never got that serious in high school.
TeenHollywood: What about just friends?
Zac: That's bound to happen.
Vanessa: That happened to me but the person was saying that about me. I was the victim, [the one they didn't approve of].
TeenHollywood: You are doing a sequel to "High School Musical". How long are you willing to play high schoolers? Do you want to do it as long as you can?
Zac: Yeah. I love it.
Vanessa: I think you just stay young as long as you can. I will be young at heart until the day I die.
Zac: I'm eighteen but, seriously, I'm operating on such a younger level. I'm young for my age. High school is a defining point in your history. Everyone remembers high school. At that age, there is so much drama and so many funny stories and great things happen. It shapes who you are. As long as we can portray this age group, I think I'm going to keep doing it.
TeenHollywood: In a perfect world, what would you like to see happen to your high school musical characters in the next film?
Vanessa: I think I'd like Gabriella to break out of her shell a little more, be a little more spontaneous and have more fun. I know the fans want Troy and Gabriella to [finally] kiss.
Zac: I think there's not much more I can ask for. If Troy gets any cooler [laughter], he'll explode. I wish I was more like Troy. He can just keep on doing what he's doing.
TeenHollywood: Vanessa, you look exotic and gorgeous. What is your ethnic background?
Vanessa: Gosh, I'm everything. Pretty much I'm Filipino and Caucasian but within that, I'm Spain Spanish, Chinese, American Indian, Irish.
TeenHollywood: There aren't a lot of Filipino actors...
Vanessa: I'm here to represent for my Pinoles!
TeenHollywood: Zac, how in the world did you keep that all white track suit in the film clean?
Zac: I totally kept that clean. Well, I wasn't in it that long.
Vanessa: Yes you were.
Zac: Well, two days in a row.
TeenHollywood: I've never seen a guy keep white clean in my life.
Vanessa: No, that would have been me.
TeenHollywood: Best advice for teens since you are role models now?
Vanessa: The role model thing threw me off. I want to say follow your heart because sometimes, I'll be torn between my head and my heart. Sometimes, I'll think, 'well I'm not doing anything so I may as well go out for this' like as a career choice and it's turned out to be wrong so I think you really have to go with your gut feeling.
Zac: My advice to teens is to try and do something that scares you every day because it's the only way you can test how far you can really go, whether it's going out and auditioning for the play or trying out for the basketball team, you have to explore your boundaries and see where you really want to go and the only way you can do that is to break out of your shell.
We ask about his star necklace
Zac: This is actually from Paula Abdul's line. She put it on me so I haven't taken it off yet. It says 'reach for the stars'.
TeenHollywood: What is the weirdest reaction you've had being recognized from "High School Musical"?
Vanessa: Girls singing. They serenade Zac. They're singing "Breaking Free".
TeenHollywood: When did you know that this movie was a phenomenon?
Zac: There was no real single moment. It was a culmination of events. It's still going for me. I'm sure I won't fully realize until I look back in five years and think 'oh, that was crazy'.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.