Zac Efron may have narrowly avoided a real awkward moment last week in New York. He was in town promoting his new movie, “That Awkward Moment,” a fluffy comedy with Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller. Coincidentally Vanessa Hudgens, Efron’s ex-girlfriend and “High School Musical” co-star, was set to promote her new film, “Gimme Shelter,” two hours later on a separate floor at the same hotel, the Waldorf Astoria in midtown. They missed each other, however.
Efron’s co-stars Miles Teller (“The Spectacular Now,” “Divergent” and “Whiplash,” which won top honors at Sundance), Michael J. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”), and British actress Imogen Poots (“Need for Speed,” Peter Bogdanovich’s “Squirrels to the Nuts”), participated in the press conference. Also there was first-time director Tom Gormican, a funny guy who also wrote the script.
The questions from the press got intimate. But the actors handled it all with equal parts goofiness, humor and grace. They have an easy-going relationship with each other and horsed around for the next 45 minutes but also got across the message that they worked really, really hard on the film.
Efron has been working double time because he is also the executive producer. And that would have been hard enough considering he reportedly did at least one stint in rehab in the last year. Efron is always fodder for the tabloids. He made headlines in the rags for falling in his house. The tabs suggested it was due to some kind of substance problem. Efron says he really fell, however.
“I slipped and hit my face on the fountain in my house,” Efron said. “ The cool part to that is there is a fountain in my house.”
Did he mean like a birdbath fountain? In Manhattan you don’t often see fountains indoors.
“It’s a fountain that sprays water and trickles water, and it’s inside the house. Yeah, yeah. It’s cool. It’s pretty cool, but I did slip and did hit my face. I guess if you leave your fountain on and then leave the house for a week – which you’re not supposed to do – it splashes, gets water on the floor, so I’m a klutz. And, yeah, I slipped and smashed my face onto it. It was very awkward. What was more awkward was telling everyone about it.”
“This was the first film I was actually a producer on, so I was able to actually help facilitate who was in the film. I got to meet these guys. I felt like I was instrumental in putting it together so I took a lot of pride in how this film was made.”
The most obvious question was how did Efron relate to his character? He plays Jason, a 26 year-old womanizer, whose most meaningful relationships are with his pals.
“I mean, in what ways don’t I relate to my character? I loved him a lot. At the core of it he’s a good person that’s kind of getting through, finding love, and that’s really what I’m doing right now in my life.”
“The Paperboy” actor added that from the moment he met Gormican, he knew the director understood his character.
“That’s why guys can relate to this movie,” Efron said. “We wanted a careful balance between being good guys deep down and caring and sort of waking up the next day and feeling sort of guilty for kind of our commitment issues but at the same time we have to live our lives. This is the first look, really into what, I think it’s like to be a guy dating at our sort of age.”
Gormican added, “You should want to slap this character.”
“I wanted to slap myself,” Efron cracked.
“You should also hope he gets his comeuppance, and I think he does,” the director went further.
Gormican said his other goal was to revitalize the romantic comedy genre, which has gotten a bad rap. “I wanted to put a different spin on it and have the movie take place from a guy’s perspective because I felt like that’s something we haven’t seen before. Also I think girls want to peek behind the curtain and for guys, my hope is that they would actually see something from their own lives and from their relationships in it.”
And for a change it’s the guys who get naked.
“I want to apologize for my nakedness in the movie. I want to publically say I’m sorry,” Teller said sheepishly.
“It’s my fault. I forgot to tell Miles to work out,” Gormican replied, referring to the fact that Teller was the only one of the trio who didn’t have six-pack abs.
There’s a scene in the film that everyone will be talking about. It involves some naked acrobatics, or planking, with the guys hanging over their toilets after a Viagra overdose. (This is too complicated to explain.)
“You read it in the script that Daniel (Teller) planks the toilet,” Miles said, “and so, l show up and I didn’t know how naked I was going to be. I was on antibiotics. I felt pretty disgusting and bloated and fat, and I get to the bathroom and it’s a very small bathroom. I literally said I don’t think I’m going to fit.”
“All I could think was that in real life I wouldn’t use that technique,” Efron said. “Mine was touching the water…”
“How deep was the toilet? Was it deep?” Jordan asked.
“It was really awkward with everybody watching,” Efron said. “I’ve been there.” A pause. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Was there anything the guys wouldn’t do onscreen?
“If it’s authentic and helps the story and is necessary than absolutely, there’s nothing I wouldn’t try,” Efron replied.
“In Zac’s defense he was absolutely game for anything. It’s very difficult for him to take things off because he’s in terrible shape,” Gormican cracked.
“I just need a heads up,” Teller replied to the question, meaning he needed time to work out.
“He just needs to know a camera is near him and he’ll do absolutely anything,” the director countered.
When asked about casting, the director said he was looking for a specific quality the trio of actors possessed.
“I think one of the things that’s important in a movie with there are guys in the 20’s making often time terrible decisions and things that make you not like them, is that they need to be incredibly likable as people and not just as actors that embody roles.”
You also had to believe they would be friends in real life, which they became. They hung out together and spent a weekend hiking in the Adirondacks Jordan explained.
Poots plays the brainy, complicated woman Efron’s character falls for. Efron said that was one of his favorite moments in movie.
“That’s an awkward moment when for the first time he’s flustered. He’s never had this feeling before. He doesn’t quite know what it is and he’s caught off guard. That moment of authenticity, that awkward moment of a guy who’s so smooth and handles himself so well usually, and for the first time he’s forced to be authentic.”
“And that was just really acting because Zac’s never actually been in that position before. That’s all acting,” Gormican deadpanned.
Teller was the first to notice the unusual little plastic cocktail mixers in front of each of their water glasses. “I just noticed these are shaped like penises.”
“Awesome. That’s so great!” Poots laughed as she looked at the plastic objects.
“They are! For cocktails,” Efron said.
A journalist then remarked Efron seemed happy. How was life going? It was a way to bring up rehab, which the actor completed in the fall.
“I’m so happy. I feel like I’m in a great place and I’m glad that I’m here to share this moment with everybody and be present for all of it because it was an interesting year,” Efron said.
“I learned so many things, so much, but the best part of it was being able to reflect upon this experience and realize how much I had learned about myself and the kind of man I want to be and this movie, these guys, coming back to it, coming to New York and just being here in this moment,” he said. “It exemplifies what it’s all about. I’m so happy to be here. I couldn’t be happier. I’m in a great place.”