In 2002, Zac Efron made his first TV appearance, on the seriesFirefly. In 2005, Efron landed the lead role in a Disney Channel film called High School Musical. Although it was intended to be the usual Disney fare, it unexpectedly struck a chord with adoring audiences, becoming the most successful made-for-TV movie ever and propelling Efron to further stardom, as did the film’s two sequels.
Actor, singer. A bona fide teen idol, double-threat Zac Efron has drawn comparisons to a youngCary Grant for his charm and sex appeal. Efron projects a squeaky-clean persona—an image that meshes well with his starring roles in Disney vehicles—and his work as the hunky lead of the High School Musical franchise has helped him secure a strong ‘tween fan base.
On October 18, 1987, Zachary David Alexander Efron was born in San Luis Obispo, California. His father David, an electrical engineer, and mother Starla, an administrative assistant, met while working at the same nuclear power plant. The couple relocated to Arroyo Grande, California, a town roughly 200 miles north of Los Angeles, to raise Zac and his younger brother, Dylan.
At 11, a piano teacher recognized Efron’s burgeoning talent and persuaded him to pursue theatrical roles at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. He auditioned for—and was subsequently cast in—a small part in a long-running production of Gypsy. The role ignited his passion for acting, and his continued performances in other local productions earned him a contract with a talent agent. Soon, Efron was making regular trips to Los Angeles for auditions while attending Arroyo Grande High School.
In 2002, he made his first television appearance on the short-lived series Firefly. In 2003, Efron landed guest roles on ER and the pilot for The Big Wide World of Carl Laemke. The following year, he could be seen in the film The Guardian, as well as the pilot forTriple Play and the made-for-TV movie Miracle Run.
Efron also starred as Cameron Bale, a series regular, on The WB’sSummerland. Although the series was cancelled in July 2005, Efron was still a regular media presence with guest roles on NCIS, Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and CSI: Miami. He also landed a leading role in his first feature film, The Derby Stallion(2005).
That same year, Efron landed the lead role in a small, low-budget film for the Disney Channel called High School Musical. While on the set of the film, he met co-star Vanessa Hudgens, and the two began dating off-set. The movie debuted in January of 2006, and although it was intended to be the usual Disney fare, it unexpectedly struck a chord with adoring audiences.
Eventually recognized as the most successful made-for-TV movie ever, the movie produced unprecedented ratings, a best-selling soundtrack, and loyal fans.
Offers for acting roles and record deals followed, but Efron declined. He chose instead to take time off to refine his focus and graduate from high school.
Controversy later erupted when sources disclosed that Efron wasn’t actually responsible for voicing his High School Musical songs, and that Canadian singer-songwriter Drew Seeley was the actual voice behind the role. As a result, Efron made it a contractual point to ensure that his voice appeared unaided on songs for High School Musical 2(2007), which became the most-watched show in cable TV history.
In 2007, Efron also appeared in the big-screen remake of John Waters‘ Hairspray (1988). Director Adam Shankman nearly passed on Efron for the role of golden boy Link Larkin—reportedly, Shankman initially felt Efron was “too Disney”—but he later reconsidered. Appearing alongside John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer,Christopher Walken, and Queen Latifah, Efron once again thrilled his fans, and helped the film earn nearly $119 million domestically. Additionally, he was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, which dubbed him “The New American Heartthrob.”
In an effort to avoid typecasting, Efron decided to make a departure from musicals; he’s avoided helming remakes of such song-and-dance films as Footloose (1984). However, to honor his fans, he agreed to appear in High School Musical 3 (2008), the final installment of the trilogy. Since then, he has performed in a leading role in Richard Linklater’s drama Me and Orson Welles (2008) and hosted Saturday Night Live to positive reviews.
Efron recently had a near-fatal experience on the set of the light-hearted comedy 17 Again (2009); while shooting the role-reversal film with co-stars Matthew Perry and Leslie Mann, Efron was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. He returned to the set a mere two days after surgery to resume shooting. The film is currently in theaters.