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From ‘Baywatch’ to Ted Bundy: Is Zac Efron Interesting Again?

The actor is to depart from his starring roles in comedies such as ‘Neighbors’ and ‘Dirty Grandpa’ with Joe Berlinger’s ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’.
By  · Published on May 17th, 2017

The actor is to depart from his starring roles in comedies such as ‘Neighbors’ and ‘Dirty Grandpa’ with Joe Berlinger’s ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’.

The most successful actor to come out of the High School Musical franchise, pre-teen-hearththrob- turned- comedy “bro” Zac Efron is to break from his self-created all-American athletic stereotype with his newest role.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will look into the world surrounding the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. With the psychological drama told from the perspective of Bundy’s longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer, Efron’s role as the notorious murderer presents an interesting departure from how viewers are used to seeing him.

With the story told through the eyes of Kloepfer, the film’s director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory) solidifies Efron’s chilling nature. Rather than delving into the mind of Bundy, viewers will instead experience the serial killer’s manipulative personality. As The Guardian notes, Kloepfer “initially refused to believe the allegations” surrounding Bundy, mostly due to his “charm.”

Michael Costigan, of COTA Films, has even said Efron’s role is “in the vein of Nightcrawler or even The Jinx,” noting Efron’s ability to “play both the depth and the charm that this guy [Bundy] had in equal measures.”

This is clearly a sharp turn for Efron, with the past five years of his acting career having largely been spent playing the same person over and over again. Following Efron’s promising role in The Paperboy (2012), 2014 saw the beginning of the actor’s downfall. Nicholas Staller’s mediocre Neighbors was quickly followed by a blur of movies that, after seeing, the brain turns into one big Summer comedy. Zac Efron followed-up Neighbors with We Are Your FriendsDirty Grandpa, the inevitable Neighbours 2Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and this summer’s Baywatch.

Efron has most likely made a lot of money off of these films, giving him security to do indie features in the future. Yet, Efron’s talent is still arguably being undermined in these blockbuster comedy features. Efron’s heyday saw him star in films directed by Richard Linklater and Lee Daniels. His role as Richard Samuels in Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles (2008) was at once perfectly naive and confident. Hairspray brought the actor into commercialized John Waters territory, while reminded audiences of Efron’s roots in the fun (and arguably precursor to the late 2000’s early onslaught of live-action movie musicals) High School Musical. Where The Paperboy showed the actor’s ability to play darker characters, 17 Again is a reminder of Efron’s movie-star charm. As Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile‘s producer Nicolas Chartier says, Efron “continues to impress audiences and critics alike with his extraordinary versatility and range.”

While the actor’s roles in generic comedy features show his ability to hold a film, it’s been almost four years since Efron has contrasted his commerciality with his talent through lesser-known films. With Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile to begin shooting this October, and both The Disaster Artist and the Hugh Jackman-starring The Greatest Showman to be released late this year, Efron fans can only hope the actor continues to choose more complex roles.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is written by the Nicholl Fellowship prize-winning Michael Werwie. Principal photography for the film is to begin in October this year.

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Freelance writer based in the UK.