Naturally, like all the rest of the blogosphere, I can't resist commenting on the Zac Efron article in the latest GQ, if only to weigh in on one of the foremost questions other bloggers have had: what's with the cover photo? Not only have many posters commented on the eerie similarity between that shot of teen heartthrob Efron and Steve Carrell from the movie poster of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," but almost everybody has wondered about the proportions of the photo - surely, they've said, something about the shot is Photoshopped? It just doesn't look right.
Such doubters are reckoning without two things: first, Efron is eensy-weensy. He's not what those of us In the Know refer to as Kennen-sized, but he's not far off: five feet tall in his argyle socks, and tipping the scales at barely 100 pounds. And second, every single day he puts roughly 2 pounds of polychemicalized gunk in his hair, causing it to attain the size and molecular consistency of a second head. When you combine these two things with the fact that Efron is apparently deeply lost in the current ridiculous fashion of skinny clothing - not just jeans but suits as well - you see at once that the cover photo need not be doctored: it's entirely possible for Efron to look that epicene naturally.
Ah, but the real pith isn't in the photos, despite how many gay computer monitors now sport that hanging-from-the-parking-meter shot as their background! No, the real merit is the article (made of boring old words) that accompanies the pictures. "The Graduate" is by the always comment-worthy Alex Pappedemas, and it's consistently, gloriously better than its material.
That material is incredibly skimpy. Not only does it seem like Pappedemas got very little time with with his superstar subject (one brief hike in the Hollywood Hills, one brief drive to one brief lunch on an outdoor deck)(both of which combine to assert one big omission, of course - if your reedy little star is first hiking outside and then, despite oft-voiced anxieties over intrusive paparazzi, lunching outside, the reason is because your reedy little star regularly needs to smoke, which can't be done indoors in California these days; there's no mention of this in the article because, almost certainly, the reedy little star - or his handlers - asked that there not be)(similar omissions were regularly made on Justin Timberlake's behalf, back when he was Zac Efron), but all during that time, the portcullis is firmly locked in the 'down' position. This isn't just the result of a studio ordering its breakout star not to set tongues wagging - it's also genetic at this point, since Efron has been conditioned by Disney since he was a fetus. The Mouse's control of the Dark Side makes Palpatine look like a piker.
So Pappedemas has an interview with the hottest young male star on the planet, and he knows before he starts that he's not going to get much in the way of meaningful dialogue, although Pappedemas can be such a good interviewer - and, you get the impression, such a personable guy - that he gets more than you expect and turns it out nicely:
When Efron talks about these guys [Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, believe it or not], or when he talks about meeting DeNiro and how all the "dedication and hard work" DeNiro had put into all those great roles was written in the lines of DeNiro's face, or when he talks about how the movies of the '70s were better because they didn't test-market everything, you get the feeling he just wants to say the right thing. That he wants to make sure we know that everything he's done up until now - the basic-cable ratings record set by the second High School Musical TV movie, his decision to take a smallish role in Hairspray that winked charmingly at his own decidedly retro teen-idol persona, even his leap into the world of PG-13 movies with the winningly goofy old-dude-becomes-young-dude comedy 17 Again - means exactly jack, cinematically. That at least for now, he does not yet have the kind of history a man can hang in a barn.
To his credit, Efron throughout the interview seems wary not only of interviews themselves (Pappademas must be GQ's go-to guy for this kind of assignment)(either that, or he knows where all the bodies are buried) but of the easy way he could lose everything he has. Pappademas is very good on some of the raw variables that come into play:
You can tell this is what got him here, what drove him through the endless basketball drills and dance rehearsals High School Musical required - this sense that the work was a challenge and that the challenge was necessary. Sure, he's cute as a damn button - but he's pushed himself this far with the iron will of a mathlete bent on crushing his crosstown rivals. Whether this is going to be enough to get him into better films - as opposed to just bigger ones, which will undoubtedly come - remains to be seen. Better films demand certain intangibles, stuff an actor can't necessarily pull out of himself by buckling down and studying hard. He could smack the ceiling of his talent and that'll be that. But it won't be for lack of drive.
Other things we learn about the teen heart-throb in the course of the interview? He's got a potty mouth (rule of thumb: if sixteen "fuck"s got onto the printed page, sixteen thousand were uttered into the L.A. air), he respects his parents, and he's never worn false eyelashes. And he's not much more satisfied with the shape of his career thus far than anybody else. Here's hoping Pappademas is still interested in interviewing him in another ten years.