I of course couldn’t care less about the suddenly unclear future of Paramount’s scheduled Footloose remake, but I do care about the fact that Zac Efron will no longer headline it. Some harsh voices have said that this should be considered the final blow to a project that didn’t sound all that promising to begin with, but for Efron it’s just another career move. A Footloose-less resume will not make or break him as he tries to enter the Hollywood A team as something more than a formerly choreographed cutie.
Some of the reports are saying that Efron wanted out of Footloose because he was afraid of getting typecast as a musical actor, if he was to follow up his lead role in no less than three High School Musical movies, and a prominent supporting role in (the magnificent) 2007 Hairspray remake with yet another round of singing and dancing. But judging from other Zac news over the last couple of weeks, the decision could also be considered part of a broader effort to reintroduce him to both the business and the audience. As I touched upon briefly when writing about Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s gay turn in a post late last year, this is pretty much a natural impulse for actors who have come to fame at a young age. What sets Zac apart from others in basically the same position then, like JTT and 7th Heaven‘s Jessica Biel, is that Efron’s effort has not yet been spelled out publicly.
Those looking for signs that he’s interested in projecting an image at least partially independent from the clean-cut Disney Dude responsibilities of HSM and Disney Channel guest appearances of yesteryear, need look no further than to the photo series accompanying an interview he did with none other than in-house favorite director Gus van Sant for the most recent issue of Interview Magazine. Disappointingly, the excerpt provided on the magazine’s homepage doesn’t reveal anything interesting, other perhaps than van Sant’s slight disinterest in his subject (either that, or he’s simply so polite he makes it look he doesn’t know anything about Zac’s current career, in order to give him a chance to tell it all himself). That said, if I could find it, I would of course have camped outside my local news agent’s just to get my hands on a copy.
But the real story here is the pictures. Those who have never seen what I (and millions more) see in the guy probably won’t become Efronites overnight just because he was photographed with mud on his face, since he retains a certain softness no matter how hard he tries to communicate masculine hunkiness. But I sincerely doubt that was ever the point anyway. I suspect that even more important than proving to gay and straight audiences that Zac could easily pass as an incredibly beautiful mine-worker or grave-digger or anything else that involves getting his pretty face dirty in his future all-grown-up movie career, he wants people to pay attention to what he has his hands around in that last picture. It’s a woman, you see, and even though she’s naked, Zac seems to be having a reasonably good time. Hence, he’s neither gay nor a prude. Post-Disney mission accomplished?
I know, I’m probably overstating things a little here, but I’m convinced that the photo shoot and Footloose move are meant to signal that Zac is now ready to show another side of himself. Of course, if it looks anythings like these Dirty Half-Dozen, I’ll be closer to cooing than complaining.