Zac Efron has become the latest teen idol to fire a shot across the I’m-a-grownup-star-now bough. In a new Interview magazine photo spread, the High School Musical star rolls around in the mud, looking — what’s the technical term? — disturbingly hot. And while he’s taken the somewhat novel step of adding a hot and naked (but tasteful, because it’s in black and white!) female model as a prop, he’s engaging in an age-old rite of passage for squeaky clean kid stars hoping to transition to more mainstream fame: There is no better way to announce your post-adolescence to the world than sexing up a photo shoot. (What would the alternative be? Shots of the now-of-age star…having a beer? voting? renting a car?)
Britney Spears hit Rolling Stone in her undies to go from Mouseketeer to Vessel of Our Infinite Attention; Jessica Biel famously broke ties with 7th Heaven courtesy of Gear magazine; Justin Timberlake announced the beginning of his world domination with a post-‘N Sync RS cover still burned into our memory to this day. (Efron himself went semi-kinda risque for RS by lifting his shirt halfway for the cover last year.) And lest we forget, just last year, Miley Cyrus tested the public-outrage waters by flashing a swatch of bare back to Vanity Fair readers.
The difference: Efron’s sexy shoot here is perfectly timed — just as he’s about to hit multiplexes in his first true leading-man role, the age-reversal comedy 17 Again with Matthew Perry, and his first serious film, Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles. He’s done with Disney — the next installment of the High School Musical franchise will feature a fresh cast. And, well, he’s 21 — so we don’t feel quite so dirty admitting he now has our attention.
What do you think? Is Efron’s photo shoot too steamy? Or just right?