By Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 • News & Rumors , The Lucky One - Maddie  

Somewhere along his journey from wide-eyed high-school jock to smoldering romantic lead, Zac Efron stumbled into a veritable rabbit hole. At least, that’s how the native Californian likes to refer to the flashing red-carpet lights and glossy magazine covers that make up his new Hollywood reality.

“You kind of put [life] into two parts of your mind,” he says, chuckling. “There’s the Hollywood section and then there’s real life. One of them is more of a show but it never overshadows real life for me. As long as you can draw a comparison between the two, one of which you know to be more important, you’re good. For me, the choice is very easy. One is where I work, one is where I live.”

Where Efron works right now is the intersection of teen heartthrob — although he sidesteps the label — and up-and-coming leading man. His latest role, a a stoical Marine in the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ romance novel “The Lucky One,” opening Friday, reveals a more mature side.

“I sound very serious in interviews because I take my work very seriously,” he deadpans, “but I’m pretty much just a goofball.”

In the flick, the 24-year-old actor plays a Marine bent on finding a mystery woman (Taylor Schilling) whose photo he treasures as a good luck charm — after he just misses getting blown up when he stoops to pick it up.

Transforming into a hunky “strong, silent type” for the role was a challenge, Efron admits — mostly because so much of the identity of the movie hinged on “regimented, military-based physical training that definitely was not very Zac-like.”

“Over the course of five months, I was able to put on 17 pounds,” he says. “It sounds so silly to talk about in retrospect. But it was grueling.”

And necessary.

In “The Lucky One,” Efron shares some very steamy — and very grown-up — shirtless moments with Schilling, which may just cement him even further into that heartthrob status he tries so hard to shy away from. Luckily for him, however, his family and friends help to keep him rooted in reality.

“They know exactly who I am and I’m far from a heartthrob,” he laughs. “That word kind of follows you around, but I don’t know how exactly one earns it.”

And that’s how Efron’s kept from tumbling deep into the recesses of the rabbit hole.

“They’re not in Hollywood,” he says of his loved ones. “They’re in real life.” [Source]

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