Charlie St. Cloud, in theaters July 31, is a showcase for the darker side of Zac Efron, sunny star of the High School Musical series.
Adapted from the book, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, this is the story of brotherly love, loss, and the importance of family. So naturally Universal invited a group of mom bloggers to a screening where we all cried our eyes out over the St. Cloud boys.
Zac Efron plays older brother Charlie, in a dramatic break-out role for the former teen actor, and Charlie Tahan plays little brother Sam. They’re thick as thieves on screen and off, and even held a joint conference where you could still see the affection between the two long after the last “cut!” had been called. Efron often spoke to Charlie as if we weren’t in the room and bragged about the young actor, as an older brother would.
We all sat down with Tahan and Efron to ask them some questions about their process, Kim Basinger, Zac’s abs, and of course, what their mothers thought of all this.
Charlie, what made you decide to go into acting?
Charlie Tahan: I was 5 and decided to do commercials for a summer, and never really stopped.
Zac Efron: The reason Charlie is so fun to work off is he’s not up there “acting.” He doesn’t come in knowing how he’s going to deliver the line. He’s really natural. He’s in the moment -- stuff I’m still working on.
Are you guys big baseball fans?
Charlie: I never really got into sports.
Zac: You’re into extreme sports, like skating and stuff.
We took him out and went through baseball lessons and all the things I remember doing when I was exactly your age. Just playing catch constantly.
My dad would take me in the backyard every day and we would stay for 20 minutes and throw balls and that’s how we could catch up and talk about stuff. Then he would make me pitch.
How did you all emotionally prepare for these scenes?
Zac: Everyone at some point in their life experiences loss and has to go through that. I think everyone has also seen that person who has never been able to bounce back from that.
When I looked at the character and what was happening, it was very easy to picture my life without my brother and how I would feel. I feel very responsible for my brother and try to protect him every chance I get. The thought that I could leave him behind was all that I needed to get there emotionally. Not to mention that he (Tahan) looks a lot like him when he was younger.
How did you build such a believable brother relationship?
Charlie: It was a lot of fooling around off-set.
Zac: He would just dive bomb me. It was fun. We had a blast in all those scenes. Remember that one time we gave you an energy drink?
Charlie: I crashed an hour later.
Zac: We had these Red Bull-type energy drinks, but they were organic.
How did your moms react when they saw the movie?
Charlie: There are couple of scenes where we cried. When we’re exiting the woods and the violin music …
Zac: My mom hasn’t seen it but she cries a lot in movies.
Charlie: My mom cries in everything. She cried at the end of the SpongeBob movie.
Do you have a character you’d really love to play?
Charlie: I’ve done sad boys who’ve died a lot. I’d like to do a comedy.
Zac, you moved into a more dramatic role. Do you like this kind of role?
Zac: It was exactly what I’d asked for. For the first time it felt like it was a lot different than I am personally. Most of the time I do a scene or a take and I can’t wait until they yell cut so I can go goof off and play pranks; but then it’s really easy to get back into the scene.
I remember some days I probably wasn’t that fun to be around because I was trying to stay in that dark place. But you can’t really lose it or it doesn’t come back.
What about Charlie St. Cloud is like your personality?
Zac: At the beginning of the movie, Charlie didn’t have a lot of the advantages the other kids have. He didn’t grow up wealthy. He’s playing the dad for his little brother and trying to raise him into the man he wants him to be. Teaching him these rules, which are if you put your heart and soul into it and give it 100 percent, you can make it in this world. All of the hardship is out the window, because you can make it.
I’ve always had this philosophy. My dad instilled that in me. He made me believe I could really do whatever I wanted to do. I really believed it. It was the most powerful thing when I was growing up.
Zac, you were named People’s Top Hottest Body. What’s your workout?
Zac: I follow the rules. Everyone knows them. You know what you have to do. I try and eat right every chance I get. Try to eat healthy, not eating fast food, and I enjoy training. I like to get outside and play sports and hike. I just like adventure.
What was it like having Kim Basinger as your mother?
Zac: It was weird. She is just too pretty. But at the same time, it was amazing. She was so warm and open and sharing. Every time we had scenes together, I couldn’t wait to get out there. In between takes I would sit and talk with her because she’s so amazing. She’s got this magnetic personality.
How about Ray Liotta?
Zac: He’s like, the opposite. No, he’s not. He’s awesome, first of all.
He’s so funny and so smart and he just knows everything to say that’s cool. I don’t know how you get like that. He’s got a swagger that he doesn’t even know he possesses, which is really cool. Every scene he does he has a different approach. I don’t know what goes on in his head but he’s able to come at it from so many different angles. I learned a lot from working with him.
What other actors or actresses would you guys like to work with in the future?
Charlie: Will Ferrell.
Zac: I really liked The Hangover this year. I think those guys are all amazing.
Charlie, what do you see yourself doing when you’re Zac’s age?
Charlie: Probably similar stuff. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to be doing later.
Zac, any advice for Charlie, as a seasoned veteran?
Zac: Now I’m a seasoned veteran?
He knows what he’s doing. He’s already present; he’s leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I started. Dude, you just stick to your guns.