Zac Efron, an actor best known for his work in cheerful, youth-skewing movie musicals, admits he felt a bit out of place when he showed up for training to play a U.S. Marine in the romantic drama, "The Lucky One."
Helmed by writer-director Scott Hicks and based on Nicholas Sparks' bestselling novel, the film co-stars Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson, Riley Thomas Stewart and Adam LeFevre. In it, Zefron plays Logan Thibault, a U.S. Marine sergeant, who returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive -- a photograph he found of a beautiful woman he is now determined to meet.
Asked at a recent Los Angeles press conference what he did to prepare for the part, the 24-year-old California native replied: "A lot of physical training for the role. A lot of hanging out with Marines and Navy SEALs."
"I had a lot of people that helped," elaborated the "Hairspray" and the "High School Musical" star.
"I had so many wonderful opportunities to work with Marines that had been out there, who had been out there and seen the fight and they shared great stories," he recalled. "I came in and I couldn't have felt more out of place, being a musical theater geek, who comes in and wants to play a Marine. But with the help of Scott, our director, who was asking the most amazing questions and had done so much research, they really opened up to us and shared the most incredible stories. So it was very helpful."
Efron said he is enjoying working on movies so much, he has no immediate plans to return to television, which is where the "High School Musical" franchise began.
"It's amazing for me," he said of making big-screen features. "Every extra second, every hour, every extra time you have to put more thought into an idea is amazing for actors. We cherish those moments, so we are naturally inclined to go that way. You have to move on with TV. Ultimately, at the end of the day, there's a bigger cause here. It's not that you have a perfect scene. It's that you've got work to be done and you have to finish."
"The Lucky One" was released on DVD and Blu-ray this week.