'The Paperboy' Director: 'I Thought Zac Efron Was Corny'

[caption id="attachment_149567" align="alignleft" width="220"]Zac Efron and Lee Daniels Getty Images[/caption]

It's not often you find a director saying anything off-putting about a cast member, especially just before the opening of a film. But Lee Daniels was in a candid mood when talking to us about Zac Efron, one of the stars of his latest movie "The Paperboy," which opens Friday.

"I didn't want him for the movie," he told NextMovie exclusively from the set of his upcoming movie, "The Butler." "I just thought he was corny."

Daniels, who's coming off his breakout 2009 hit "Precious" — which won two Oscars — says he had more established stars like Bradley Cooper and Tobey Maguire attached to the film but, due to scheduling conflicts, lost them by the time shooting began. This opened the door for Efron, whom Daniels met with reluctantly.

But then, the "High School Musical" alum proceeded to what Daniels hadn't thought possible: impress him.

"He auditioned and he was great," Daniels said. "He gave me his soul and I was like, 'Wow.'"

In "The Paperboy," Efron plays Jake, the brother of an investigative journalist (Matthew McConaughey) whom he assists in his story on a death row inmate (John Cusack) and soon falls for the convict’s pen pal groupie (Nicole Kidman).

Though the film has received mixed reviews since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Efron's performance has received high marks.

"It's the first big-screen part Efron has handled with skill and conviction; he's quite good in it," says The Hollywood Reporter.

"[Efron] accepts his rather inflexible role as Vexed Ken Doll with markedly good grace," says HitFix's In Contention.

Looks like Efron isn't just a pretty face anymore. Or a corny one, for that matter.

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