David B. Williams (dbwilyumz7) wrote,

Chasing the Dragon: A Zac Efron Biography

David B. Williams
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Zac Efron has been described as “pathologically ordinary,” “unbelievably normal,” “almost weirdly unassuming and grounded.” He comes across as a little shy and very polite. The one time during an interview when he showed some irritation, he was immediately apologetic. When told that he had an unshakeable image as a nice guy, his instant response was, "Cool." At age seventeen, he was a modestly successful actor; at age eighteen he was an international star.
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If you want to understand Zac Efron, or at least one important part of him, consider the day he appeared on MTV's Fantasy Factory to do a back flip on a bicycle (that’s the sort of thing Efron decides to do). On his first try he raced up the ramp, failed to execute the flip, and plunged into the foam pit. He got back on the bike, and on his second attempt he failed again. On the third run he jerked back hard enough on the handlebars to complete a successful flip. “He doesn't quit,” said Burr Steers, director on two of his movies.
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Or consider the “Bet On It” number in High School Musical 2, in which Efron had to jump several feet from a ledge into a golf course sand trap, land firmly in a crouch, and perform a rising motion with sand streaming from his clenched hands. He jumped and made a steady landing but rose from the crouch too fast. He jumped again and lost his balance in the soft sand. Keep going, he indicated to director Kenny Ortega, “I can get this perfect.”
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* * *
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I was just a regular kid”
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Zachary David Alexander Efron was born on October 18, 1987, in San Luis Obispo, California, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. He grew up in nearby Arroyo Grande, a coastal community of about 16,000. His father David was an engineer at a nuclear power plant, his mother Starla was a secretary there. Efron has one sibling, brother Dylan, four years younger. He is of partly Jewish ancestry (Efron means “lark” in Hebrew) but was raised agnostic and professes no religion.
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The first event in Efron’s life on the public record was a trip to Disneyland as a toddler (he was still sucking on a pacifier). He was a little scared by the rides, an odd reaction for the self-confessed thrill-seeker of later years. Or perhaps he was experiencing a premonition about a different kind of Disney ride he would take some fifteen years later.
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As a youngster, he grew up in an average middle-class family, playing with friends, attending school, pounding on his little brother. There were brand-name pets, two Australian Shepherds and a Siamese cat. Zac and Dylan shared a bedroom and a bunk bed, with Zac claiming the top bunk. As he entered his teen years, he pinned a Tyra Banks poster to the ceiling just over his head, “so she was, like, really close,” he said.
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In school, Efron would "flip out" if he got any grade less than an A. “I wasn’t a genius like some of my friends who slacked off and got A’s, but I was a hard worker. I always give 100 percent.”
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He was small for his age, usually the shortest boy in his class. "In high school there were guys who were really tall, there were burly guys on the football team who looked like my dad – and then there was me, who looked like a little kid. I was a late bloomer. I looked about 10 years old until the summer of my junior year. I was not one of the cool kids. I wasn't the heartthrob of the class in any way. I was just a regular kid."

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He had a natural ease with the opposite sex. “I was pretty extroverted when I was young and never took things too seriously, so I was never afraid of girls. I always had a lot of girl friends - not girlfriends, but friends who were girls.” He scored his first kiss in 5th grade. “It was in a tree fort. It was over a game of Truth or Dare, but it turned into 'make out with the other person.' I was like the only boy and there were a bunch of girls up there. I was pretty stoked.”
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There is a contradiction in Efron's account of his subsequent romantic development. He has said, “While the other boys looked like models or were men already, I still looked like a little boy, so girls weren’t even paying attention to me.” However, he has also said, “I had girlfriends all through school and everything, and they always seemed to be cute. It sounds so gloating, but I don't mean it to be. But, yeah, I set my sights pretty high.” Perhaps in the first instance he was referring to his earlier teens, then to his high school years. Or perhaps the girls ignored him, but he didn't ignore the girls. Efron has always found that success is achieved through effort.
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Part of the explanation may be a matter of definitions. “Dating's always kind of been a weird thing for me,” he said. “I really didn't go on 'dates' per se. I just sort of always hung out with girls, and girls who had friends, and we always met in various places, but I've been on very few like dinners or social events that I would call 'dates'.”
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Nor does he consider himself an expert on romance. “It's so funny. I mean, people assume that I'm successful at this. I've failed miserably several times at relationships growing up. It's not like
I've got all the right moves."
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Tomorrow: "And that was probably the most I got in trouble"

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