BEVERLY HILLS, California — It’s Wednesday afternoon and even after a whole-day pictorial for Penshoppe, his first endorsement ever, Zac Efron shows up for this Conversation at a suite of London Hotel looking fresh, a big smile on his face and a friendly glint in his dreamy eyes that have charmed millions of girls worldwide in the hit TV series High School Musical.
He looks a bit smaller than he does in his latest movie, The Lucky One (based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks) in which he plays US Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault who returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq with the one big thing he credits with keeping him alive — a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Discovering her name is Beth (played by Taylor Schilling) and where she lives, Logan shows up at her door and ends up taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Despite her initial mistrust and the complications in her life, a romance develops between them, giving Logan hope that Beth could be much more than his good-luck charm.
Penshoppe starring Zac scores the unprecedented record of being the biggest endorsement deal in the Philippines, brokered by PR Asia Worldwide, the same agency that closed the deals between Penshoppe first with Ed Westwick of Gossip Girl and then with Thai popstar Mario Maurer.
PR Asia head Joyce Ramirez confirmed that this year, more international stars are gracing the Penshoppe All Stars campaign. “It’s a gathering of some of the world’s biggest superstars leading Penshoppe to unparalleled international recognition,” said Joyce.
The shoot with Zac took place in a $10-million bachelor’s pad in Beverly Hills, a setting that came closest to a real-life Vince Chase in Entourage (in which Zac made a cameo appearance years ago as Ari Gold’s newest celebrity acquisition).
The entourage from Manila is composed of, aside from Joyce, Bernie Liu (chairman of Golden ABC, owners of Penshoppe) and his wife Alice, and Penshoppe brand director Alex Mendoza.
Bernie: “We are very happy and proud to be the first ever endorsement deal of Zac in the world. The fact that he chose a 100 percent Filipino brand is something all Filipinos can be proud of as well. With global celebrities endorsing Penshoppe is a great way in the brand’s effort to go international. Just like when Filipino artists or athletes perform in the world arena, winning at home is not enough. Validation from groups outside the Philippines is also important.”
Alex: “Zac defines the all-new Penshoppe. From a small brand with very humbler beginnings in Mandaue, Cebu, to being the first endorsement choice of a Hollywood A-Lister, we have come a long way. We started leveling up a few years back by taking pains to improve our products. Recently, we spent considerable resources in improving our stores and shopping experience. We can’t wait for Zac to visit the Philippines and meet his fans. He’s sending his love to everybody in advance.”
This time around, Zac is playful just like he was a few years back when Conversations did an exclusive one-on-one with him and Vanessa Hudgens for High School Musical.
What convinced you to endorse Penshoppe?
“I always love the Philippines. I have a lot of friends that are from the Philippines. They are my Philippine connection.”
You have more “connection.”
“Oh yeah, my ex-girlfriend is half-Filipino.”
Hmmm, do I know her?
“Yes, you do. She’s Vanessa (Hudgens).”
If Vanessa is your ex, who’s your current?
(Laughs) “There’s no ‘current.’” (In previous interviews, he denied rumors linking him to Demi Moore.)
It’s the first time you’re endorsing anything…and a Philippine product at that.
What’s your criteria in choosing what to endorse?
“Well, first of all this is an amazing, amazing excuse to go to the Philippines. I’ve always wanted to visit the Philippines. My dad stayed for a long time in the Philippines and he has been telling me great stories about it. I’m looking forward to go surfing, I wanna dive, I wanna swim with the whale sharks, I just wanna hang around, I wanna…yes, I wanna go to the Philippines!”(Penshoppe guys confirmed that Zac is indeed visiting the Philippines maybe after he’s done with the promo for The Lucky One.)
When you go to Manila, your billboards will be all over the metropolis. How soon do you plan to go?
“Uhm, even tomorrow…if I could. But unfortunately, I have to go elsewhere for The Lucky One. I’m going to Australia and then Japan.”
I suppose you’ve tried the Penshoppe clothes before you agreed to endorse the brand. What can you say about them?
“I think they are cool, they’re casual. You see, I’m a very casual dresser. In fact, I’m wearing Penshoppe now…the shirt, the jacket. I’ve read about the brand’s history — you know Buy Filipinos, For Filipinos.”
I saw the trailer for The Lucky One and in some scenes you are bolder…half of your body from the waist up is bare in your love scenes with Taylor Schilling. It’s quite a departure from your earlier roles.
“It was hard, man! I mean the change. It was a difficult change. But it’s everything that I’ve been looking for in a role. It was great playing a marine. He’s much more of a man than the ones I’ve done before. The film is based on a Nicholas Sparks best-seller and I love it. It’s romantic, it has a little bit of action. I’m very happy with it.”
More daring roles after that?
“Hopefully. You know, we have a phenomenal director (Scott Hicks) in the movie and that’s really what I was looking for. He has a cool sensibility. It’s the courageous filmmakers that I’m looking for. I’m very lucky to have found one.”
You look so beefed-up in the movie. How did you get that kind of body?
“Well, I trained with the Marines. These guys were taller than me, they’re all imposing and physically bigger, and it came from lots of training with weapons. So that’s what I did every single day — go through the kind of training that they had. I lifted a lot of weights. I went into a crash diet. Lots of protein and chicken.”
Any part of your body that needs improvement?
“Oh, my haircut.”(Touches his hair and laughs)
When you look back atHigh School Musical,what’s the best lesson that you learned from it?
“The best lesson? I think it’s simply just to be yourself. And have fun. And live life to the fullest every day.”
Do you practice it every day?
“I try to. Yes, I try hard to!”
What’s your most embarrassing moment so far?
(Blushes a bit and laughs) “I’m always messing up here and there.”
Hmmm, you were a bit careless recently.
“Yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about.” (During the red-carpet reception for the premiere Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, he accidentally dropped a condom when he dipped into his pocket.)
How did you feel about it?
“There’s nothing I can do about it now.” (In another interview, he said that he didn’t really have a “pocket-check” policy but he does now. That incident unwittingly made Zac an endorser of the safe-sex campaign.)
Away from work, how do you unwind?
“I do relax. Yesterday, I didn’t have much to do so I watched tennis. And then I saw a movie.”
How do you deal with the loss of privacy?
“Uhm, there’s not so much that you can do. I just try to shrug it off.”
Do you sometimes go out in disguise?
“I have done that and it didn’t work. In fact, it makes people even more suspicious and they look at you harder.”
How do you deal with gossip?
“I try not to read it…if I can avoid it.”
What do you like most about yourself, aside from the obvious?
“I think I never take myself too seriously.”
And anything that you don’t like about yourself?
“There’s a lot to like about myself. Can’t think of anything that I don’t like.”
Describe Zac Efron briefly.
“Young. Crazy. Funny.”
Source: Ricardo F. Lo, Philippine Star