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Zac Efron sang and danced his way to success in the wildly popular “High School Musical” movies – not to mention Hairspray. Now, he’s taking a serious turn in Richard Linklater’s “Me and Orson Welles,” playing a high-school kid who lucks into a big break in Welles’ famous production of Julius Caesar.’s Jeanne Wolf found out why Efron was ready to take a gamble on a serious dramatic role.

Taking a chance.
“I had never done anything like this before. I was still reeling from everything that had happened to me, all the attention I was suddenly getting from High School Musical. I thought, ‘Maybe this time I’ve bitten off more than I can chew because I’m not singing and dancing. It’s all about acting. I knew people wouldn’t see it as a predictable next move in my career, but I’d like to be known for more than predictability.”

Why the story felt familiar.
“I really connected with Rick – the way he kind of lucked into an opportunity to act, and thanks to Orson Welles, doors were opening for him. It kind of resembled my life experience growing up in the theater. In school, my whole life was focused on theater, especially musicals, which were a creative outlet. I had no clue that I’d end up in Hollywood. I’m still on the craziest ride of my life.”

There’s no escape.
“We went to the Isle of Man, which is a fairly secluded place to do some filming. The idea of going to a fairly secluded place where I could kind of just leave all of the attention behind was really appealing. Richard Linklater was like, ‘You’re going to love it. There are no paparazzi.’ So we were in this old theater filming a scene and suddenly we heard clapping and cheering. It turned out there was a bunch of kids who were High School Musical fans and they had found me. So I went outside and signed some autographs. I really found their enthusiasm endearing.”

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