Zac Efron is known for his role in Disney's "High School Musical," but the actor's resume is filled with a diverse mix of musicals, comedies, and dramas.
The Hollywood A-lister started acting in theater productions near his hometown when he was a child.
Over the years, Efron has starred in dozens of notable films including "Neighbors," "Baywatch," and "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile."
Zac Efron may still be widely known for his break-out Disney role, but the star has since become one of the biggest names in Hollywood.
The 33-year-old made his debut in 2006 as the singing basketball captain in the Disney Channel original movie "High School Musical." In the years since, Efron has gone on to become one of the most bankable actors in the business, with credits that range from a stuck-up frat bro to a sinister serial killer.
Keep reading to learn how Efron became one of the most recognizable stars in the business.
Zachary David Alexander Efron was born on October 18, 1987, in San Luis Obispo, California, and raised in the nearby city of Arroyo Grande.
The California native has described his upbringing as a "normal," telling The Salt Lake Tribune in 2007 that he's always had an interest in musicals, even as a kid.
Per Rolling Stone, although Efron was reluctant about pursuing the arts at first, he became less hesitant after his piano teacher encouraged him to audition for musical-theater roles.
In 1999, Efron performed in a stage production of "Gypsy" at the Pacific Conservatory of The Performing Arts.
The show was Efron's first official performance as an actor.
During a 2007 interview with Rolling Stone, he recalled the experience and said it motivated him to continue participating in theater.
He later acted in several plays at his high school and joined an improv troupe.
Eventually, Efron's ambitions moved beyond the stage when his high-school drama teacher introduced him to an agent.
During the early 2000s, Efron appeared on several TV series and in movies.
Some of Efron's first professional on-screen gigs included guest spots on TV series like Fox's "Firefly" and NBC's "ER."
From 2004 to 2005, he also had a recurring role on The WB's short-lived drama series "Summerland," which also starred Jesse McCartney and Lori Loughlin.
The young actor also appeared in the lifetime movie "Miracle Run," where his performance earned him a nomination for a Young Artist Award.
In 2006, Efron landed his big break when he was cast as teen basketball captain Troy Bolton in the Disney Channel original movie "High School Musical."
Efron said he auditioned for his iconic "High School Musical" role during a group casting call in North Hollywood.
In 2014 he told The Hollywood Reporter, "[The casting directors] put everybody in a room together, and we ran through different phases of what we would need to do — first dancing, then singing — and a few of us got tapped on the shoulder [to leave], and I didn't."
Within two weeks, Efron received the life-changing call that he was cast as Troy Bolton.
"High School Musical" aired on January 20, 2006, and became an instant smash. Its massive popularity transformed Efron and his fellow co-stars into international celebrities.
In 2007, he reprised his role as Troy in "High School Musical 2" and starred in "Hairspray."
"High School Musical 2" broke records when it became one of the most-watched events ever broadcast on cable TV at the time, per The New York Times.
The following year, the franchise's popularity continued to soar — "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" had a theatrical release and reportedly made more than $250 million at the box office.
In between filming the "HSM" movies, he booked roles on two other films, most notably the musical comedy "Hairspray."
At just 21 years old, he landed a place on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, which measures stars by fame and money.
During this rapid ascent to fame, Efron also hosted an episode of "Saturday Night Live" for his first and only time in 2009. While on the show, he performed in a skit that jokingly paid homage to the "High School Musical" movies.
Following his Disney success, Efron starred in the 2009 comedy "17 Again."
Efron's performance in "17 Again" earned him a Teen Choice Award for choice comedy actor and proved to audiences that he was capable of being a leading man in a non-musical movie.
It also gave the former Wildcat a chance to show off his basketball skills once again.
Between 2010 and 2012, Efron kept busy by acting in a mix of dramas like "Charlie St. Cloud" and "The Paperboy." He also did voice work for the first time.
After the success of "17 Again," Efron tried made his way into the festival circuit by taking on more serious acting roles in a range of dramas.
The 2012 film "Paperboy" first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, the film turned out to be a critical and commercial flop that reportedly didn't even clear $1 million at its opening.
In 2012, Efron also dabbled in animated films for the first time, voicing a lead character in Dr. Sueess' "The Lorax." The playful flick reportedly brought in an impressive $70 million during its opening weekend alone.
In 2013, Efron stepped away from the spotlight to check into a rehab facility for an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Shortly after his stint in rehab, the actor told the "Today" show in 2014 that he's "in the best place [he's] ever been."
"I was drinking a lot, way too much," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014, reflecting on his time prior to entering rehab. "It's never one specific thing. I mean, you're in your 20s, single, going through life in Hollywood, you know? Everything is thrown at you."
Efron also explained that battling an addiction is a "never-ending struggle" and told the publication he had also joined Alcoholics Anonymous and began seeing a therapist, which "changed [his] life."
Efron made a comeback with the 2014 buddy comedy "That Awkward Moment."
The movie starred Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, and Efron as young bachelors who vow to never get married.
It seemingly marked the beginning of Efron's tendency to get typecast as stereotypical "dude bro" characters.
Later that year, he portrayed the cocky fraternity president Teddy Sanders in the comedy "Neighbors."
According to Box Office Mojo, the adult comedy made $270 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing R-rated movies in the US.
Ultimately, "Neighbors" marked Efron's transformation from a wholesome teen idol to a mainstream superstar. Both critics and audiences more or less enjoyed this film and Efron's performance in it.
At the time, GQ likened Efron's career shift to that of fellow "Hollywood Hunk" Channing Tatum, who went from teen movies to saucy films like "Magic Mike."
After "Neighbors," Efron continued to pivot his career by acting in several other comedies, some of which fared better than others.
It turns out the "dude bro" roles sometimes worked well for Efron — they helped him flex his chops as a comedic actor, even though not every movie he tackled was a hit.
In 2016, "Neighbors" spawned a successful sequel. That same year, he acted alongside "Workaholics" star Adam Devine in the critical-flop comedy "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates."
By 2017, Efron continued to star in big-screen blockbusters, but some like "Baywatch" were critical failures.
The highly anticipated, big-budget reboot also starred big names like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Priyanka Chopra.
Yet despite the star-studded cast, the movie was ripped apart by critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.
Later in 2017, Efron made a majestic return to the world of musicals with his portrayal of playwright Phillip Carlyle in "The Greatest Showman."
Although some critics weren't fans of this modern-day take on an old story, audiences couldn't get enough of it.
At the box office, "The Greatest Showman" opened to a reported $434 million, and had multiple theatrical releases, including a singalong version.
The triple-threat star also took home yet another Teen Choice Award for his acting in the film.
In 2019, Efron executive produced and starred in Netflix's "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile," a divisive film about the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.
In 2019, Efron took on a sinister role unlike any other he'd had before. He later told E! News that portraying Ted Bundy was one of his most challenging experiences as an actor.
"It was a long process to get my mind around if I could, or if I wanted to play a guy like Ted Bundy," he explained.
Although the movie received mixed reviews overall, many critics praised Efron's performance for showing off his range as an actor.
As critic Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote, "How is Zac Efron as Bundy? I think he's startlingly good: controlled, magnetic, audacious, committed, and eerily right."
For his work on the film, Efron received a nomination for a 2019 People's Choice Award for best dramatic movie actor.
Today, Efron regularly posts videos on his YouTube channel. He's also worked on some big projects with streaming services.
Efron regularly documents his travels and fitness regiment to his YouTube channel.
The channel has over 1 million subscribers and sometimes features collaborations with other actors, like Nina Dobrev.
Earlier this year, he starred on "Down to Earth With Zac Efron," a Netflix docuseries in which he travels the world with health guru Darin Olien. The show has been called out for its pseudoscientific claims.
He's also been working on executive-producing and starring on the Quibi series "Killing Zac Efron," which is supposed to be filled with adventure.
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