TIFF 2011: Toronto International Film Festival

Wednesday | October 1, 2014

Efron proud of polarizing 'Paperboy'


Zac Efron (AFP photo)

After rising to fame in the safe bosom of Walt Disney Studios in High School Musical, Zac Efron never experienced anything quite like diving into Lee Daniels' schlock shocker, The Paperboy.

"I've never been part of a movie like that!" Efron admitted in a Toronto filmfest interview Friday. But there was pride in his voice. "The movie is polarizing," Efron said. "Some people really love it and got it. And some people don't and can't comprehend why other people can. It's neat. I think it's fantastic. The movie incites discussion."

It certainly does. When Daniels premiered The Paperboy at the Cannes Film Festival in May, its content shocked audiences. There are scenes of bloody murder and transgressive sex, including Nicole Kidman trashing it up in a now-infamous prison flashing scene. Efron dances in his underwear and Kidman pees on him at a public beach to salve his jellyfish stings.

Critics have slung around words such as high camp, deliciously ripe, inept, repugnant, muddled, inarticulate, shapeless and "moments of perverse -- and possibly accidental -- genius." But the best confluence of adjectives comes from critic James Rocchi: "A lurid, humid, flaccid and insipid waste of time and money."

Yet The Paperboy has the Daniels named attached as director. He made Precious and took it to the Oscars with six noms and two wins. He had the power to attract Kidman, Efron, John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey and emerging Briton David Oyelowo as co-stars. That propelled The Paperboy, which is adapted from a Pete Dexter novel, to the film festival circuit.

Oyelowo thinks the controversy is distorted: "Someone somewhere said that, if this film had been made by Werner Herzog (a German auteur director), it would be deemed a masterpiece. And I think that's exactly true." Daniels is perplexing to "the cinematic intelligentsia," Oyelowo said, "because he is shamelessly cinematic and shamelessly big with some of his choices and the way he pushes actors and how dare he have the princess, Nicole Kidman, peeing ..."

Efron shrugs off the pee scene as no big deal. "I just went out and swam. Luckily (in real life) I didn't have to get stung by jellyfish." He just did it without asking Daniels why. "You know, once I'm in something, I don't really ask questions. I just go for it. I gravitate towards things I don't fully understand, and that was one."

Daniels did manage to shake his young actors up, however. In what Efron and Oyelowo call "the air sex scene" between Kidman and Cusack, both are witnesses. But they did not know what was coming.

"I was shocked we stayed sitting down," Efron recalled.

"I was just shocked, period!" Oyelowo admitted.

 

 

 

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