Zac Efron broke onto the Hollywood scene nearly a decade ago when he first picked up a microphone and started singing the opening verse of Start of Something New. The rest was High School Musical history as Efron’s star skyrocketed from obscurity directly into heartthrob territory.
Now, the star is officially out of his Disney Channel phase, booking some roles in some of Hollywood’s biggest hits as a major box office draw. Here’s what you need to know about the California native:
1. Efron Started Acting in High School Theater Productions
Efron was born in San Luis Obispo, California before moving to Arroyo Grande, California in what he called a “normal childhood.”
It was Efron’s father, who worked as an electrical engineer, who encouraged him to pick up acting when he was juts 11 years old and he made his debut in high school theater productions. Efron started working in the theater The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville and started taking singing lessons. He performed in shows like Gypsy, Little Shop of Horrors and The Music Man before signing with Creative Artists Agency.
He graduated from high school in 2006 and planned on attending the University of Southern California before deferring enrollment to pursue film work.
2. His Break Out Role Came in ‘High School Musical’
After several guest roles on a handful of TV series and a Lifetime movie, Efron’s big break came in 2006 when he starred as basketball player-turned singing sensation Troy Bolton in the Disney Channel original movie High School Musical. Efron described the HSM whirlwind and his stardom:
We made the movie with low expectations. And, initially, there was no phenomenon.
“But after we signed the contracts for the second movie, suddenly, pandemonium broke loose and there we were on Good Morning, America. It wasn’t the hype that made the movie, it was the fans who took control. That’s what I love.
When the film premiered, it was an instant success and catapulted Efron to teen heartthrob status. He had two different songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and the success of the film led to two subsequent sequels and sparked Efron’s current film career.
He starred in the film version of the Broadway musical Hairpsray the next year and has since evolved into much more than a Disney starlet, picking up roles in That Awkward Moment, The Lucky One and Neighbors.
3. Efron Dated His ‘High School Musical’ Costar Vanessa Hudgens For Three Years
The pair, whose relationship was the core of each High School Musical film, took their on-screen chemistry away from the cameras with a real-life relationship that lasted nearly three years.
The romance sparked the tabloid nickname Zanessa and formed legions of teenage fans who followed the couples Disney Channel romance. But while their romance played out in magazine articles and social media updates, Efron maintained his privacy, telling the Sydney Morning Herald:
It’s just not something that you seek attention for, it’s never been about that. I feel like I’ve been fighting that from day one. It’s one thing to be recognised for your work but to be recognised for your personal life, it’s not admirable, I’ve never been interested in that.
Much to the dismay of HSM fans everywhere, Efron and Hudgens broke up in December 2010, with a source telling Us Magazine that the relationship had “just ran its course.”
4. He Sought Treatment for Alcohol & Substance Abuse in 2013
Efron surprised a lot of fans when, in 2013, he sought treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, entering rehab. The star has said that he needed a lifestyle change after realizing he had lost control amidst the pressure of stardom.
He added that he needed a “social lubricant” to, eventually, go anywhere at all.
After his time in rehab Efron says he gave up alcohol completely, telling USA Today that he likes “being completely sober.”
5. Efron Is Set to Star in a ‘Baywatch’ Reboot With Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
Yup. You read that right. Efron and Johnson are planning on remaking the popular 90’s TV series but don’t expect a frame-for-frame reboot. In fact, don’t expect much slow-motion beach running. Or any slow-motion beach running.
According to Efron, who is currently promoting his upcoming DJ film We Are Your Friends, told Reuters that the new film will be much different from the TV series, saying:
It’s going to be R-rated and it’s going to be badass. I think we’re going like pretty big with it and I don’t think it’s going to be much like the old ‘Baywatch’ to be honest. I think we’re going to kind of reinvent it in a big way, and he (Johnson) has big plans for it. I know he’s very ambitious.
Still, there are those who aren’t all too excited about the remake, including Pamela Anderson. The former TV star said she wasn’t looking forward to the film, adding “no one appreciates the remakes.”