A few years past his “High School Musical” days, Zac Efron said it still takes a great deal of strategy to move into the mature roles that could sustain his career. In “The Lucky One,” Efron, 23, plays a former Marine, and he knew it was an opportunity to put more space between his current career and his teen-idol past.
“It's kind of a progression I've been working on for a long time,” Efron said during a media day at Los Angeles' Four Seasons Hotel. “This was a part that seemed to fit perfect. I was scared when I read the ‘Lucky One' script, because I really liked the character, but at the same time, I was completely wrong for it.
“So I was like, ‘This is one of those roles that can separate you (from previous roles),'” he said. “It's going to be incredibly challenging and scary.”
Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, “The Lucky One” stars Efron as Logan, who found a photo of a young woman in the rubble during a combat maneuver in Iraq, and it seemed to serve as a good-luck charm, keeping him out of harm's way during several close scrapes. After his service, Logan returns home and tracks down the woman in the photograph, a Louisiana kennel owner named Beth (Taylor Schilling). He tries to get to know Beth while concealing how he first discovered her, and when a relationship begins to develop, his past and a confrontation with her ex-husband threaten to derail Logan's hopes.
“You couldn't have two more different people than Logan and myself. I didn't know the first thing about being a Marine, but that became palpable when I met some,” Efron said. “They're real-life heroes, and I walked in there slouching, drool on my face from waking up.”
In need of discipline and some posture correction, Efron was matched with a Navy SEAL who put the actor through a rigorous exercise and diet plan. Before he filmed the combat scenes that open “The Lucky One,” Efron packed on 18 pounds of muscle.