NEW YORK — "Me and Orson Welles," the story of a young man's Broadway debut, is both familiar territory and completely foreign for Zac Efron. The "High School Musical" films have seen the 22-year-old star take to the stage for theatrical performances, but "Orson Welles" is an entirely different beast, as Efron's character joins a 1930s-era production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" being directed by a future titan of American cinema.

On Monday at the film's red carpet premiere in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, Efron told MTV News that no matter what type of role he finds himself in, he always suffers through nervous energy — and that's part of the appeal of his profession.

"I definitely get stage fright," the actor said. That's part of the fun. That's what makes it interesting. It's sort of addicting, that feeling. You know you're alive."

Co-star Claire Danes, who plays an assistant on the "Caesar" production and who enters into a curious love triangle with Efron's actor and director Welles (played by newcomer Christian McKay), confessed that she too battles with thespian anxiety.

"I get stage fright all the time," she told MTV News. "I did 'Pygmalion' [on Broadway] right before I shot this movie, which is really funny because I kind of got out of the habit of shooting on film and felt a little disoriented and vulnerable suddenly, and the camera seemed strange and alien. It's risky stuff, no matter how experienced you are. If you're daring to do something fresh and alive, you're very capable of falling on your face."

The man charged with steering Efron and Danes past any sort of on-camera worry was director Richard Linklater ("Dazed and Confused," "Before Sunset"). In contrast to Welles, who throws a couple of mammoth tirades during the production of "Caesar," Linklater said he's usually cool, calm and collected on set.

"Someone called me a very polite slave driver," he laughed. "I'm making everybody work, work, work. Every now and then as the leader, the head coach, the CEO, you have to raise your voice, step up and ruffle a few feathers."

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