BEVERLY HILLS, California — He's one of the latest products to come off the Disney assembly line, a squeaky-clean teen heartthrob loved for his charming smile, knee-buckling wink and non-threatening good looks. His "High School Musical" movies and soundtracks have made more than a billion dollars, and his upcoming movie "17 Again" could make him Hollywood's newest leading man.
Now Hollywood is wondering: Why is [artist id="2441685"]Zac Efron[/artist] rolling around in the mud with a nude supermodel?
"We didn't go in there with the intention of shaking things up," the 21-year-old actor told us over the weekend about the controversial, steamy photos of himself and Lithuanian beauty Edita Vilkeviciute in the newest issue of Interview magazine. "At least, I didn't."
The black-and-white photos depict a wet, muscular Efron lying in the sand and embracing Vilkeviciute on the beach. Although the actor — who has dated his "High School Musical" co-star Vanessa Hudgens for more than three years — bares only his arms, the model shows no such discretion. The smoldering photos leave little doubt that Efron is eager to get beyond his teen-star status, with one shot even putting Vilkeviciute's bare breast in front of his face.
Nevertheless, Zac insisted that he wasn't trying to be provocative. "I had no idea what was going to happen," Efron said of the shoot, remembering his game plan with a renowned Swedish photographer. "Mikael Jansson was shooting some really cool photos, and we were having a lot of fun."
As Efron admitted, that fun was taken to a whole different level when Jansson put him and Vilkeviciute into a giant sandbox in the middle of the studio, and over the course of several hours, the photos got even more scandalous. "It felt more artistic than anything I had done before," Efron remembered. "So we just went with it."
Along with the magazine's interview by acclaimed "Milk" director Gus Van Sant, Efron's photos are consistent with his newfound desire to [article id="1607535"]leave musicals behind[/article] and launch an edgier career path. But, although Hudgens has voiced her approval of the photos, many in Efron's longtime audience were shocked.
"It was very laid-back and relaxed," Efron said of the controversial photos, flashing a grin. "So far, I am not really sure of everyone's reactions. But no one has tried to kill me yet."