Since its premiere at Cannes in May, Lee Daniels‘ follow-up to “Precious” has had a difficult time escaping the shadow of one infamous scene. In some circles, “The Paperboy” has become known as the movie where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron, but that’s only a fraction of the lurid acts you’ll see when the film hits theaters October 5.
The story of “The Paperboy,” which also stars Matthew McConaughey, is a mystery that’s relatively straightforward but filled with characters that are anything but. A Miami-based journalist (McConaughey) returns to his hometown to take another look at an open-and-shut murder case with the help of his little brother (Efron) and the woman who writes letters to the man held responsible (Kidman).
MTV News spoke with Daniels about audience response to “The Paperboy” and why no one can stop talking about that scene.
There were a few gasps in my screening. Were you expecting the shocked reactions “The Paperboy” has already received?
Here’s the thing: People either love it and think it’s gangster, like the actors that have seen it, or people that don’t get the world are appalled. I’m here to do my thing. I’m not here to please anybody. If I were to please people, I don’t know what I’d be making. I’m here to do my thing.
These characters are what make the story so unique. What did you love about them?
I just love, as did Nicole and Matthew and Zac and John Cusack, Macy [Gray], characters that we see ordinarily. It was like “Precious.” I give voice to people that we all know and we never see, and faces that are not seen and we hear about. It’s all about the writing. It’s all about the characters. There are holes to punch in the story if you want to. It’s really a character study. These people have a death wish. Nicole’s character, Matthew’s character, they want a death sentence. These are fragile birds, and they saw that.
Did you know the media would latch onto the “peeing scene”?
Instinctively, yes, but I felt that I owed it to Nicole, the actress who gave me her soul. I had the choice of taking it out. I had no idea that they would latch onto it the way they are. After “Precious,” I could have done any film I wanted to do, pretty much. I was offered a lot of films. I chose this film because it was unexpected of me, and I will continue to do films that are unexpected of me.
What was your experience directing Zac Efron?
Zac was marvelous. He was pure and hungry and eager to please and anxious to deliver the performance that he did. I’m really proud of what he did. I think it’s his best work. Tell those little old ladies that were screaming in the theater to go watch “The Lucky One.” They’ll enjoy that.
Zac Efron says his movie career is at a crossroads, and the former Disney teen idol is tempted more by less pay and hard graft than blockbusters and big bucks.
The 24-year-old, who became a household name in “High School Musical,” was in Venice for the world premiere of “At Any Price,” set in the cut-throat world of agriculture in which he plays Dean and Dennis Quaid his father Henry.
Efron’s appearance on the Lido island across the water from the Canal City drew crowds of screaming girls begging for his autograph, and came a few months after he walked the red carpet in Cannes with another small-budget drama “The Paperboy.”
Directed by Ramin Bahrani, “At Any Price” blends family drama with a searing attack on big business and chasing profits whatever the cost, as farmers in Iowa cut corners and cook the books in order to fulfil the mantra “expand or die”.
“All I have, really, is the ability to look back at my elders and the people that I really respect in this industry, the actors that have been here before and really made an impact… and I put myself in their shoes,” Efron said.
“I sort of stand here with, say, two roads in front of me,” he said after a press screening of the film and ahead of its red carpet premiere at a glitzy evening gala. “One (is) the easy path… towards money and the other one being towards playing more interesting roles that I don’t have all the answers to, or going with Ramin into the cornfields for a couple of weeks. It seems like the choice that I respect more. I’m following my gut here and this is what I want to be doing, you know. I’m hungry for it.”
Efron is one of several rising Hollywood stars in Venice this year, along with Selena Gomez (“Spring Breakers”) and Shia LaBeouf (“The Company You Keep”). Venice organisers are hoping that young blood will help compensate for the lack of A-listers appearing at the world’s oldest film festival this year.
For director Bahrani, “At Any Price” contains important themes of corporate greed and economic desperation that are being felt the world over.
“I don’t want to say what the moral of the film is. I don’t know,” he said. “I wanted to ask questions, like what happens when you value expansion more than your community, more than yourself?… Where have we gone in a world (where) the people who profited the most have gotten away with it and are dancing on top of everybody else?”
He likened Efron to more established actors like Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and Paul Newman.
While some critics may argue such comparisons are premature, early reviews of the film have singled out Quaid and Efron for their performances.
“Continuing to distance himself from his origins as a pretty-boy teen idol, he (Efron) brings an intense, brooding stillness to the screen here, simmering with the frustrations of small-town entrapment,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney. [Source]
Zac Efron attended “At Any Price” premiere during the 69th Venice Film Festival at the Palazzo del Cinema on August 31, 2012 in Venice, Italy. Enjoy the pics! UPDATED!
• [8/31] ‘At Any Price’ Venice Premiere (x135)
Zac Efron attended “At Any Price” photocall during the 69th Venice Film Festival at the Palazzo del Casino on August 31, 2012 in Venice, Italy. Enjoy the pics!
• [8/31] ‘At Any Price’ Photocall In Venice (x233)
Zac Efron attended the Lancia Cafe during the 69th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2012 in Venice, Italy. Enjoy the pics!
• [8/31] Zac Efron Attends Lancia Cafe (x9)
Zac Efron was spotted arriving at the Excelsior Hotel in Venice on August 31st, 2012. Enjoy the pics!
• [8/31] Arriving At Excelsior Hotel In Venice (x36)
Zac Efron was spotted leaving 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice on August 31st, 2012. Enjoy the pics!
• [8/31] Leaving 69th Venice Film Festival In Venice (x3)
Zac Efron was spotted arriving to Venice, Italy, on August 30th, 2012. Enjoy the pics!