By Gus Van Sant
Photography Mikael Jansson
GUS VAN SANT: Sorry we couldn’t do this in person.
ZAC EFRON: It’s all good. Where are you right now?
VAN SANT: I’m in Gearhart, Oregon. It’s on the coast outside of Portland. I’m in a beach house.
EFRON: I’ve been to the coast outside of Portland—a couple of times,
actually. I might have been where you’re at. I have relatives up there.
I think I took a road trip from Portland one time with my aunt, because
she lives there. It’s a beautiful place.
VAN SANT: It’s really beautiful here today.
EFRON: It’s pouring in L.A. [laughs]
VAN SANT: So when was the last time that you were in Oregon?
EFRON: Oh, man. It seems like it’s been years. We used to go up there all the time, but I’m stuck in L.A. a lot now.
VAN SANT: Is your schedule today really tight?
EFRON: Not today. I’m not really doing anything. I’m looking at some
furniture, because I just got a new place, so I’m figuring out if I
want this desk. I’m sitting at it right now. It’s a vintage Herman
Miller desk from, like, 1940-something. I don’t know . . . I’m just
deciding if I’m going to want it in my house, or if I’m just going to
completely wreck it. [laughs] Herman Miller’s stuff is really, really modern, but they have some pretty brilliant designs. [Ed note: Herman Miller is credited with inventing the office cubicle.]
I’m sitting at this desk, and it’s the most well-built thing I’ve ever
sat at . . . It’s a beautiful piece. It’s got this amazing wood grain
that I’ve never seen in any piece of furniture. It’s also a little
pricey . . .
VAN SANT: Yeah, those kinds of things are superexpensive, right?
EFRON: Superexpensive. I’m lucky they’re letting me test it out at my place for a couple of days before I have to buy it.
VAN SANT: Oh, the desk is at your house?
EFRON: Yeah. It’s at my house. I’m sitting at it right now. I just
bought this place. It’s not big or anything, but it’s a pretty unique
space. It’s very modern, very clean, very simple. It’s got concrete
floors so I can’t screw it up. I can skateboard inside the house . . .
You know, all the essentials are there. I just don’t want to buy nice
furniture and then fuck it all up.
VAN SANT: Well, you could put a protective writing pad on the desk. [both laugh] So do you actually skateboard in your house?
EFRON: I have, but now there’s too much stuff around, so it’s getting harder.
VAN SANT: Did you take any pictures for this article already?
EFRON: Yeah, we did.
VAN SANT: How did that go?
EFRON: I think it went pretty cool. There was, like, a giant sandbox
in the middle of a studio, and then I just got to roll around in the
dirt for a couple of hours. I got pretty dirty by the end of it, so
that was fun. It was definitely different from anything I had ever done
before. The photographer was really fun to work with . . . He
recommended some furniture.
VAN SANT: I wanted to ask you about this Richard Linklater film. Is it Orson and Me?
EFRON: Me and Orson Welles.
VAN SANT: Where did you shoot that?
EFRON: Rick was brilliant, because he found this great theater on
the Isle of Man, which, after a little bit of work, looked a whole lot
like the Mercury Theatre did in 1937. We took a beautiful theater and
made it look rusty and old and dusty, and, once we filled it with
extras dressed in 1930s attire, the place was very believable. It even
smelled like an old theater. It was pretty neat because we were
basically stuck there—you know, we couldn’t leave. There was nowhere to
go on the Isle of Man. So we lived in that theater for several weeks.
It was fun and exciting, but it was also kind of maddening. I went a
little bit insane.
VAN SANT: The Isle of Man—they have a small community there.
EFRON: Yeah, so as soon as they figured out that we were filming
there, everyone in the town knew. There was always a small group of
onlookers out in front of the theater while we were filming. It was
VAN SANT: And so the play that they’re putting on in the film is Julius Caesar?
EFRON: Yeah. Orson Welles was doing Julius Caesar, but he
had a unique adaptation. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but
Stalin was Julius Caesar in the Orson Welles adaptation, so it put a
whole new practical spin on the play at the time, which was really neat.
VAN SANT: Were there any Mercury Theatre players who were still alive that you met?
EFRON: I haven’t met any of them, but I know there aren’t many who
are still alive. Norman Lloyd is still around. There’s a great
documentary about Orson Welles, and it has to do with William Randolph
Hearst and the making of Citizen Kane  . . . Welles was
just hungry. He was actually doing radio to fund his theater, because,
as you know, they were in the hole for most of their shows. So they
were going from paycheck to paycheck just to run the Mercury Theatre.
VAN SANT: And then eventually Welles went off and did Citizen Kane.
EFRON: Yeah. I don’t think that was too long after.
VAN SANT: How old is Orson Welles in your movie?
EFRON: He’s in his mid-twenties, but he’s got the wisdom and the
presence of a 50-year-old . . . Well, you know, a 30-year-old guy. [laughs]
VAN SANT: A friend of mine was Welles’s chauffer.
EFRON: Oh, really?
VAN SANT: Yeah. Welles was in his sixties, and he was in L.A. This
was in the ’70s. My friend would drive him in some giant 1950s car that
was painted turquoise. It was a convertible. The top was always down,
and Welles would wear a huge 10-gallon hat and ride in the passenger
seat, because I think he liked that people would see him and recognize
him. There’s still a movie of his that we haven’t seen. I think it’s
called The Other Side of the Wind. I hear it has a
bunch of people playing Welles. John Huston plays him at an older age.
Peter Bogdanovich plays him at a younger age. It’s his last unfinished
film. I don’t know where it is, but I haven’t met anyone who has seen
EFRON: That’ll be interesting. People always have such a different way of playing him. They tend to go for the Citizen Kane interpretation.
VAN SANT: When is Me and Orson Welles going to come out?
EFRON: I think some time later this year.VAN SANT: But before that you have 17 Again.
EFRON: Yeah, I’m getting ready for that.
VAN SANT: Your character in the film is 37 years old, and you’re
playing him as a 17-year-old. What was it like playing somebody so much
EFRON: At the time, it was the most unique opportunity that
presented itself. There were several roles that I could have done where
I would have played essentially another high school student, or they
were romances or stories in a high school setting, and there were lots
of things that people wanted to turn into musicals. But the whole idea
of playing a 37-year-old guy as a 17-year-old was just the most
exciting prospect for me. I was really intrigued by the idea. I’ve
always been kind of an old man, so to speak.
VAN SANT: Was there something that you needed to do, some technique, in order to actually pull that off?
EFRON: Well, I couldn’t really relate to the character in a lot of
ways, so I didn’t have that to work from. I worked a lot with Burr
[Steers], the director, and Matthew [Perry], and just tried to think in
terms of an older guy. He’s experienced life. He’s been through a lot
that I haven’t been through yet. So it was a big change from High School Musical. You know, I’ve fallen in love, and I’ve not known what I want to do with my ownfuture—I
still don’t know. But I’ve never had a daughter who I’m looking out
for. I’ve never been proud of my son. I’ve never gotten a divorce. It
was interesting trying to figure that out. It was definitely a change
of pace. And it was great working with Burr, because he’s got this huge
imagination, and this sense of people—not what they seem to be, or what
they’re defined to be, or what they want to appear to be, but as they
VAN SANT: And how old is Burr Steers?
EFRON: Oh, I’m not sure exactly.
VAN SANT: He’s not 37 years old, is he?
EFRON: Something like that. [Ed note: Steers is 43.]
VAN SANT: Oh, really?
EFRON: He knows a little bit more about what the character was going through.
VAN SANT: I wanted to ask you about video games.
EFRON: Oh, sure.
VAN SANT: Because there’s one that I used to play called Tomb Raider. Did you ever play that?
EFRON: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
VAN SANT: Is it something that people still play?
EFRON: Tomb Raider? Tomb Raider is more movie-franchise material now. Games today are a lot more fast-paced. I think at the time of Tomb Raider I was playing, like, The Legend of Zelda
or something like that. That was a couple of generations ago. Now the
games are a lot more about first-person shooters and strategy. They
will completely blow your mind.
VAN SANT: The reason I know about Tomb Raider is from when I was researching Elephant.
It was 1999, and I was trying to research the Columbine-massacre kids,
and they had played video games, and I, at the time, had never really
seen one. It was a world I didn’t know. And so a friend of mine just
said, “We’ll just go on your computer and we can actually download a
level of a game.” And the thing we downloaded was Tomb Raider. It was, like, an introductory levelso
you could see what the game was like. I played that for a couple of
days, and I finally got the full game. But another game that I’ve
played, that I think you’ve played, is Medal of Honor. That’s a hard game.
EFRON: Oh, it’s definitely a hard game. You should try Call of Duty if you ever get a chance.
VAN SANT: Is that by the same people?
EFRON: It’s just an updated, more well-rounded . . . It’s just the latest and greatest.
VAN SANT: In Medal of Honor, I developed a technique where
I would try to pick off the opposition by calling up this scope and
shooting from really far away. If I were going into a building or
something, then I would just pick off as many people as I could before
EFRON: I always prefer that approach, too. I’m methodical—one shot, one kill. You know?
VAN SANT: Yeah. You save bullets.
EFRON: Exactly.VAN SANT: So you haven’t been to Oregon in a while, but have you traveled all over the world in the last four years?
EFRON: Yup. I’ve seen places I never dreamed of. I’ve just been
exposed to a lot. The most interesting trip I took recently was
probably going to Japan.
VAN SANT: Really?
EFRON: Oh, yeah. It’s just amazing. I’ve only been in and around Tokyo.
VAN SANT: Kyoto is good.
EFRON: Everyone keeps saying that: “Go to the hot springs.”
VAN SANT: One of the reasons Kyoto is really fascinating is that
they have many Zen Buddhist temples. A lot of them have been turned
into museums, but there are some that are still operating. The Japanese
emperors, when they were battling, would get really nervous, naturally,
and so Zen Buddhism was a way for them to focus and get un-nervous for
their next encounter. Have you ever been to Russia?
EFRON: No, I haven’t been to Russia yet.
VAN SANT: That’s a pretty intense place. But then South America—have you been down there?
EFRON: Actually, I went to Brazil recently, but that was more of just a quick trip.
VAN SANT: Did you go to Rio?
EFRON: Yeah, I checked out Rio for a day. What a place . . . I wish I could have spent more time there.
VAN SANT: Did you walk on the beach?
EFRON: I tried. As much as I wanted to, I don’t think that was in the cards for us this time.
VAN SANT: Oh, really? Is it too crazy for you to do something like that?
EFRON: There are just a lot of people in one area, so it was too
congested to walk around. VAN SANT: So that brings up the question of
the paparazzi. Do they hound you and drive you crazy?
EFRON: Yeah. It’s hard to talk about it. The more attention you give
to the paparazzi, the more it just, like, validates everything . . .
Vous en voulez plus, achetez le magazine interview d'avril, dans les bac us le 23 mars 2009!