Zac Efron: The second I read it I immediately felt that the biggest challenge for me would be to get to the emotional place I had to go to, and sustain it. And if anyone was going to help me achieve it I knew it would be Burr Steers.
Q. How did you relate to you character?
Efron: I think I understood how Charlie St. Cloud had grown up without a father in a poor family and looked after his little brother, but despite all that had still managed to make a name for himself. I felt I could relate to him especially in regards to his close relationship with his bother. And I actually looked at some pictures of my brother over the years to help me.
Q. And then everything changes…
Efron: Yes, it all gets stripped away from him in a moment when he loses his brother in a car accident. At an emotional level I can’t imagine how devastating that must be, because I don’t know how I could deal with Charlie’s guilt and live without my brother.
Q. This film represents a bit of a departure from your previous work. Was that another reason to do it?
Efron: Absolutely! Scripts like these don’t come all the time, and this was an opportunity to so something new by giving life to a sort of withdrawn character.
Q. Who is Charlie St. Cloud in your eyes?
Efron: He is a warrior with that golden boy kind of charm; which makes it so weird when he falls off that path and goes to a dark place. I guess he is too good of a guy to just shake it, and I think that happens to a lot of people when they experience loss; but at least Charlie is able to bounce back.
Q. How does Tess change his life?
Efron: Tess is the key to Charlie’s future, whereas his relationship with his dead brother represents the side of him that is still clinging on to his past.
Q. The role of his brother Sam is played by the newcomer Charlie Tahan.
Efron: Charlie is just amazing! It’s almost not fair because he is so talented and not afraid to be himself and let his own personality shine through. He actually reminds me of my own brother.
Q. Both of you looked so comfortable together. Was it all scripted or did you improvise?
Efron: We did improvise a bit. And Charlie’s great at that because he is very quick! He was always able to throw things at me and constantly surprise me.
Q. And what do you think Canadian actress Amanda Crew brought to the role of Tess?
Efron: Amanda is a generous actress who is easy-going and relaxed, and she is also not afraid to experiment. So, we talked a lot and relied on each other.
Q. You have great chemistry with her.
Efron: I think that was clear from the beginning; but it also helped to develop a comfortable relationship off set, and we definitely got along. When you have that kind of rapport you are more comfortable talking about anything and in the end everything is easier.
Q. And you also got to work with Ray Liotta and Kim Basinger in supporting roles!
Efron: I was shocked when I heard they had signed on to the movie, and at the same time very excited to work with them because they are two of my favorite actors. Ray is very funny, smart and charming; but he also has this sort of swagger that makes him so cool. And I can’t imagine a more perfect woman than Kim; she is wonderful!
Q. Augustus Prew plays Alistair Wooley, Charlie St. Cloud’s best friend.
Efron: Alistair is a free spirit who isn’t scared by Charlie St. Cloud’s weirdness. So, it’s fine for him that Charlie is different because he has that unconditional friendship, which is great. Auggy is a lot like that in real life too, and we became good friends.
Q. That character adds humor to the story.
Efron: Yes, he does. It’s interesting, but some of the moments you expect to be the darkest are actually really funny: for instance, when Sam -as a ghost- is spending time with Charlie.
Q. Like the scene in which they slide in the mud on trashcan lids.
Efron: Yes, and I believe I came up with the idea of doing it with trashcan lids; but it was really hard because those things are small and sometimes they would just stick and not move. I’m sure the bloopers from that scene must be hilarious!
Q. This is your second movie in a row with Burr Steers.
Efron: The good thing is that we skipped those first couple of weeks it normally takes for me and the director to get to know each other. So, I knew what I was in for with him. Burr is very generous and, in the end, just a really good person.
Q. How is he as a director?
Efron: He is a great filmmaker who knows perfectly well what he wants. And he is diligent and always very focused on the acting, which is great for me as I have so much to learn. Burr is a perfectionist who never lets you quit, and that’s very comforting because you know that if he says we are good we really are. I feel very safe with him.
Q. What was the energy like on set then?
Efron: There was constant laughter if the scene wasn’t too serious. We had an amazing multicultural crew, and we ended up having a great time doing things on the weekend like going up to Whistler.
Q. Did you enjoy shooting in Vancouver?
Efron: It’s great to shoot in nature -and Vancouver has the best to offer, surrounded by beautiful beaches and rainforests. It’s an amazing place because it’s big enough to have everything you could possibly need and also small enough to enable you to escape.
Q. In the movie your character is a consummate sailor, but you had to acquire those skills. How was that learning experience for you?
Efron: Initially I thought the wind blew in your sail and you just went with it. So, how hard could it be? Well, it’s very hard! And I’m usually pretty good at picking up a new set of skills, but sailing didn’t come that easy to me as you are constantly making minute adjustments based on where the wind comes from and how it changes. You really have to multitask.
Q. Now that you are able to sail, would you like to continue doing it as a hobby?
Efron: I’d love to continue sailing; which is why I wanted to make sure I learned enough of it. It’s a great way to see the world!
Charlie St. Cloud is released and distributed by United International Pictures thru Solar Entertainment Corp. In theaters 29 September (Wednesday).