It’s been a solid six years since Zac Efron burst onto the screen in the Disney Channel’s smash hit High School Musical. And even though he’s grown up considerably in those six years, it’s hard to imagine that skinny, musical kid as a buff Marine. But it’s a role he took on for the Scott Hicks-directed film The Lucky One, based on Nicholas Sparks’ (The Notebook) novel about a soldier, Logan, on his third tour in Iraq, who finds a picture of a smiling woman that becomes something of a good-luck talisman for him, and that he feels helps him to survive. Upon returning home, he goes in search of the woman in the picture and finds her — a woman named Beth (Taylor Schilling) — but their meeting isn’t the happy occasion for which he’d hoped.
“Initially I wasn’t convinced I could pull this off,” Efron says, recalling the challenge of playing this rugged, battle-scarred character. “But the more I thought about it, and the more I talked to Scott, I realized if there was ever going to be a chance to play a role so different from what I’ve played before, this was it. I knew I had to put in the work to be able to play Logan, and I felt capable in Scott’s hands.”
For Efron, taking on the role of Logan meant making a serious commitment to not just learning the character and his motivations, but wholly immersing himself in the mindset of a combat-readied soldier. To convincingly adjust his perspective, Efron accompanied Hicks to Camp Pendleton in California to talk with the Marines there and to learn to see combat through their eyes. “It was like stepping into a different world,” Efron remembers. “They stood with a purpose. They had laser focus, never broke eye contact. This is my generation, on the front lines. They’ve experienced some pretty gruesome things. We sat and talked for several hours and they were the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had with anybody. In terms of research, it was priceless. I can’t thank them enough. The stories and personal feelings they shared became part of the canvas for Logan.”
The Lucky One is available starting Aug. 28 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
Photo: © 2012 Warner Bros. Pictures