A chiseled flower, that is.
Zac Efron has the perfect way to describe his Baywatch costar Dwayne Johnson (“He just gets better as he goes, like a flower that never stops blooming”), the perfect way to describe walking in heels for a scene (“I was crying on the inside“), and the perfect way to describe Baywatch itself (“It’s like a high-five from the summer!”).
He also has the perfect abs to play an elite lifeguard — see the evidence above — in the upcoming adaptation of the gratuitous ’90s slo-mo spectacle that starred David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. But this summer’s Baywatch won’t be all about chiseled cores, jiggly babes, and suspicious drownings. According to director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses), this version will pair tongue-in-cheek, self-aware comedy with explosive big-screen action. “I wanted to make a fun escape for people,” he says. “I thought it was a great way to take something people had a vague familiarity with and give it new life.”
And new blood. Johnson reports for duty as Mitch Buchannon, the beefcake leader of the lifeguards, and Efron plays Matt Brody, a former Olympian brought in to rehab the beach’s PR image. Here, Efron talks playing his cocky character, working with The Rock (the biotic one), and what it was like to gear up for the film that’s, well, a high-five from the summer.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you want to join Baywatch?
ZAC EFRON: The project just sounded awesome, I’ve always loved The Rock, and I knew about Baywatch. It seemed like something that would be very fun to redo and to amp up. Baywatch seemed like it needed its turn to grow, and we had an opportunity to make it more fun, give it more edge, and make a fun summer movie… It was exciting to be a part of this team. It’s a great escape, and it’s just friggin’ hilarious. It’s like a high five from the summer!
The lifeguards take on a major crime organization. That’s not what they usually do…
Basically, [Priyanka Chopra’s villain Victoria] shows up and weird things start happening. She’s just an excellent, excellent villain, nobody knows the scoop with her. She’s definitely shady. There’s more drugs being smuggled into the town than ever, and this is Mitch’s bay. This is his bay, his zone. He loves it more than life itself, and he’s not going to let anybody come between or spoil that so we’re recruited to go above and beyond what lifeguards do.
Did you model him off of any real-life Olympians?
No… maybe Michael Phelps? We shot the entire film before any of the Olympics took place.
You’d go with Phelps, but not Ryan Lochte, who has a somewhat, um, different reputation?
Yeah, any similarities to any swimmers is completely coincidental. [Laughs]
You knew Dwayne before doing this film together. What was the best part about working with him for the first time?
You know, what’s funny is we’re clearly very different. He’s a funny dude. He’s always expanding, and he just gets better as he goes, like a flower that never stops blooming. [Laughs] It was fun to get in and really juke and jive with a guy who’s twice my size and has zero fear. Like, you can never fight this guy in real life, but Brody just could not give a f—. But it was great, he was fantastic. He makes a great Mitch, and I make a… [laughs] good partner. We have to join together in the end to make magic happen, and these are the two guys with the biggest egos in the world. It’s the last thing you think is going to happen, but it really takes us pooling together to accomplish our mission.
From the trailers (and the photo above), it looks like you take quite a beating. Seth said you handled most of your own stunts. What was the toughest one to pull off?
[Laughs] There’s so much action in this movie, it’s action-packed! It seemed like we were constantly training for some sort of stunt or action sequence, and there’s a lot of great, cool stuff we had to do.
Like wearing heels?
Oh yeah, I was in heels undercover for a day. I went deep undercover, like, I took it very, very seriously. I went method about it. [Laughs] And that involved wearing, like, “pump heels”? So you’re already high, and then they get even higher in the back. Literally I don’t know how girls do it, like you think you’re strong and then you stand in heels for a day. I was crying on the inside.
Baywatch hits theaters May 25.