Mitchell and I came back to Zac Efron (Part 1 is here), after diverging into other topics and other names on my list (Jean Harlow being one of them …) We started to discuss the larger cultural phenomenon happening right now, and how Zac Efron may be a part of it, tangentially, but it could be taken to the next level by someone smart enough to recognize the potential.
Mitchell Fain: Thinking more about Zac Efron and Daniel Radcliffe as far as being famous as kids in major cultural phenomenons and then how they’ve proceeded through their careers. Radcliffe decided to go do Equus, which then came to Broadway. He took that risk which was extraordinary. He didn’t have to take that kind of risk. That’s insane.
And that choice says to me that he’s a real artist because he was willing to take that kind of risk.
Sheila O’Malley: People laughed about him doing it.
MF: Yes! People laughed and made fun of him for it. And of course, now he’s gone on to have quite a successful stage career. But the perception at the time was dismissive. It was a huge risk for him.
It was like when Cher first went and saw Silkwood by herself in a movie theatre. She had disguised herself and sat there with a regular audience. The credits came up in the beginning, and there were the names – Meryl Streep – Kurt Russell – and when her name came up, the audience burst into laughter. It was like: CHER coming up after those two names? People thought it was hilarious.
Then, of course, she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Silkwood, and then she won the Oscar for Moonstruck, and everyone stopped laughing. But she had to be courageous enough to take that risk in the first place.
But Efron and Channing Tatum …
Okay. Here’s the thing. I think Channing Tatum actually is already doing this with Magic Mike and maybe even in the Coen Brothers‘ movie too.
If Zac Efron can figure out how to tap into that thing going on now where it’s now okay for men to admit a sexual attraction to other men and still be straight – in the way that women can do with women, and gay men can do with women … Men have never been allowed to say, “Fuck. If I were gay, I’d stick my dick in Zac Efron.”
SOM: There’s that great anecdote about Carl Perkins first meeting Elvis. Perkins shook hands with Elvis, did some small talk, kept it together, but the second Elvis walked away, Carl Perkins said to someone standing right there, “That’s the best-looking man I’ve ever seen before in my life.” Carl Perkins wasn’t gay, but he didn’t care, he HAD to address it. Quentin Tarantino showed that in the first scene of True Romance, when Christian Slater says, “If I HAD to fuck a guy, I’d fuck Elvis.”
MF: Right! But straight men, in general, have a hard time admitting that. It’s way too threatening. But it’s changing now, and Zac Efron is tapping into it to some degree, but what if he tapped into it deliberately? What if there was an American Gigolo-type of movie for him?
What if there was something of substance that tapped into it and used him to do it? Neighbors taps into it: Seth Rogen has that line: “He looks like he has been created in a lab by gay men.” It’s Rogen’s way of acknowledging: Holy crap, that’s what beautiful men are supposed to look like.
But what if there was a more serious exploration of it? That’s what will turn Zac Efron from a movie star into … something else. A phenomenon, like what’s happening with Channing. But someone’s gotta write that script for him. And who knows if we’re even ready to talk about it, but it’s already happening and he’s a part of it. As is Channing Tatum.
SOM: It’d have to be written by a man, a man who’s open to that stuff. It’s not Judd Apatow.
MF: Apatow is too conventional.
SOM: Apatow is a domesticated suburban man, comparatively.
MF: It would have to be someone like James Franco. James Franco could write it, because James Franco’s entire career is based on: “I may not have sex with men, but the idea of having sex with men is fascinating to me.”
SOM: “I could be talked into it.”
MF: “I could be talked into it or I could talk you into it, or let’s talk about it.” Even in This is the End, there’s that whole discussion, and one of them says, “At some point, Franco’s gonna suck our dicks.”
SOM: Of course it’s gonna be Franco!
MF: If they’re stuck there forever, and someone’s gonna have to do the dick-sucking, it’s gonna be Franco.
SOM and MF: [Laughing that goes on for some time.]
SOM: Everything seems to depend on the straight boys … maybe because they hold that kind of power …?
MF: Yes. They hold the power to change. To change everything, to change the conversation, to change how straight men talk about this stuff. We can have that conversation, amongst ourselves, but until they’re on board with it, we’re still stuck. But do straight men have the balls to really address this? That’s what Zac Efron needs. If someone can write something for him that pokes a hole in the balloon that is that thing … the male fear of finding other men sexually attractive … and that balloon is being pierced, culturally, already – Magic Mike being a huge part of it – and if Efron could be a part of something like that deliberately … I mean, sky’s the limit, right?