Zac Efron Sheds Teen Image, Plays It Cool For ‘Seventeen Again’

The 'High School Musical' star adopts Matthew Perry's attitude to play 40-year-old transported to his teens.

If you’re like millions of young fans of “Hairspray” or the “High School Musical” franchise, you probably think Zac Efron is just about the epitome of cool.

Wait’ll you get a load of his dad, the 20-year-old megastar joked with MTV News from the set of his newest film, “Seventeen Again” (formerly called just “Seventeen”), in which he plays a middle-age man suddenly transported back to his teenage years.

“Everything you do, you have to kind of view it from your dad’s perspective,” Efron said, revealing how he got in the head of an adult for the role. “I tried to do a few things that I learned from my dad — things that he thinks are cool but are really dorky.

“That seems to be working pretty well,” he laughed.

It’s seemingly all laughs these days for Efron, now that he’s beginning to shed his teenage image for more grown-up films.

Playing the young Mike O’Donnell — who gets his wish for a chance to go back to high school and redo his life — is the perfect way for Efron to transition from tween heartthrob to adult thesp in flicks like “Me and Orson Welles.” This is especially true given that the character offers him a shot at growing up without the side-effects of actually, you know, growing up, Efron teased.

“I could have gone out and just played a kid somewhere and had a blast. But now I’m playing a 40-year-old guy,” he said. “It’s kind of fun playing an adult.”

It’s a mantle he wears comfortably. Indeed, the day we visited with Efron we found him in a house only an adult could think of as fun, where hundreds of “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” toys stood behind glass, boxed for eternity to accumulate value. Think the collection in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Now think of the collection from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” times 10.

“This is my best friend’s house,” Efron explained, standing in front of a giant stormtrooper. “He was a nerd his whole life. His house is a big clue to that.”

In one scene, wearing a V-neck T-shirt and a red plaid shirt, Efron’s character haughtily navigates his way through a gathered crowd, dismissing an approaching girl, passing a beer to a friend and even proving that there’s a way to act cynical while twirling a light saber.

But, then, this isn’t surprising when you know that, before he was Zac Efron, Mike O’Donnell was Matthew Perry.

“Matthew has a very dry sense of humor,” Efron understated. “I guess if there was anything I had to work on, it was probably [emulating] that.”

Ironically, given that it’s practically his trademark, Efron admitted that the other thing he had to work particularly hard at for the movie was a dance sequence. “High School Musical” or no, turns out the kids just don’t move like they used to.

“It’s all ’80s dance moves, and it’s completely random,” Efron said, referring to a scene in which he dances with a bunch of cheerleaders. “The running man, a few moves from MC Hammer — what is it, ’Can’t Touch This,’ right? Yeah, it’s pretty funny.”

But don’t be fooled by the dance number, the actor insisted. Zac Efron may star in the movie, but he has no desire ever to be “Seventeen Again.”

“What would I do if I could go back to high school?” Efron asked, grinning. “I never want to go back.”

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