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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: The Cast of Charlie St. Cloud

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In Zac Efron’s latest movie Charlie St. Cloud, in which he plays the title character, we get to see him brood, sail, play with his dead brother Sam (Charlie Tahan), romance a pretty girl named Tess (Amanda Crew) and take his shirt off (a lot). At the start of the film, Charlie and his brother both die in a car accident, but a paramedic (Ray Liotta) is able to save Charlie and bring him back to life. This brief crossover to the other side leaves him with the ability to intimately connect with people who are caught between this world and the hereafter. Intimately.

Given that Charlie’s story is a tragic one, St. Cloud is often surprisingly funny. When Charlie won’t give over his latest issue of Pacific Yachting featuring a photo spread of Tess to Sam because he says his brother will wreck it, Sam retorts, “Oh, I’m totally gonna wreck it. Repeatedly.” Okay, so cringe-worthy, but it made me laugh. Says Efron on the scenes between the brothers, “If you have a ghost of somebody coming back and you make it sad, that would just be, oh man, (depressing). Instead, we have the most fun in those scenes.” LAist met up with Zac and his leading lady Amanda in Marina Del Rey to talk about the making of (and making out with) Charlie St. Cloud.

LAist: How was it working together?

Zac: Amanda was really fun to work with. She was really easygoing, and for romantic scenes and stuff like that, I’ve never really found them intensely or incredibly awkward, which I was supposed to be during this. So, I think we found common ground. We held each other’s hands through this whole experience. I don’t know. We just got along really well. There was nothing to be nervous about. The only weird part was that, in the movie I guess it makes sense, but being in a graveyard for that love scene was kind of, a little bit weird.

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LAist: Amanda, did you know Zac was in the movie when you went to audition? How did that process go?

Amanda: My agent sent me the script and she was like, “This is an amazing script. You have to read this!” At the time Zac was attached and I'm like, “Who's Zac Efron?” (joking) I had to look him up.. then I saw his picture and was like, “I don't know if this will work… I don't know if there's any chemistry there.”

LAist: What was it like to first meet him and then have to make out with him?

Amanda: Obviously, he's a good-looking guy, but I was never that girl that had his poster above my bed or anything. When I met him, all of a sudden, he has this effect on people and I'm sure all of us ladies have felt it. He's a dreamboat. All of a sudden I'm turning into a 12-year-old girl and giggling and going, “Where did that laugh come from?”

LAist: Burr Steers, who directed the film, says Zac just has this innate “it” factor. Do you realize that you get that kind of response from people?

Zac: It’s not tangible to me. I don’t really notice it. But I know that my mom gets pissed off when she hangs out with me because she will even walk behind me, and it’s funny, she says no one says anything until after I’ve passed by. It’s always after when they look and go (gawks). They never give it away, they’re really good, so I never see it.

LAist: It’s been said you were the one who actually got Burr the job. Why did you decide you wanted to work with him again?

Zac: I didn’t so much get him the job. Burr called me and said, “Are you serious about this? Cause I’m in.” And I’m like, “All right, let’s do it.” So he really responded to it and that was exciting to me, I was stoked. I knew this was so much more in Burr’s wheelhouse than 17 Again, and I just knew we’d be lucky to have him involved.

LAist: What was the most physically exhausting or difficult scene?

Zac: Sailing was pretty hard.

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Amanda: The sailing stuff was always a disaster with me. Zac picked it up really quickly but I'm not very athletic. Just before the screen test, a friend of mine, he's a professional sailor and he's like, “Come up to San Francisco. We've got this amazing boat. We're doing a practice run.” Sweet! Bikinis and champagne, that's what I pictured sailing to be. It's not. It's a sport. My job was to run from one side to the other for the weight thing, which you would think is easy, but it's not and I slipped and fell on the deck so hard I had this massive bruise down my leg and arm. So, I show up to the screen test the next day with bruises. “What happened? I have an abusive boyfriend? Okay, I went sailing. I swear I'll be good if you hire me.”

LAist: And you both had lessons?

Zac: We both did. The first thing they make you do is capsize. But they don’t tell you that they are going to make you do it on purpose, but that’s what they do because it’s inevitable that you will.

Amanda: We were on the water every day for at least three hours, then in the gym, every day. I'm so glad that we did that because I never felt so physically strong. Not just mentally connected to the character but also physically connected just because we had been doing all that work. Burr was always like, “When you're doing your sailing training, don't be Amanda sailing, be Tess sailing.” So Amanda sailing is, “Oops! Sorry. Sorry.” And Tess sailing is like, “Yeah, this is what I'm doin,” and I'm doin' it wrong but I'm doin' it. So, he was always just getting us to be in character.

LAist: Your character Tess is training for a solo trip around the world. Did you try to keep track of the 16-year-old Thousand Oaks, Ca. girl, Abby Sunderland, who tried to do the round-the-world sail?

Amanda: Yeah and while we were shooting, her younger brother Zac was doing it and just recently she got lost. To do this trek, I admire anyone who can do it, especially at that age. It's crazy but my sailing coach that worked on the film was telling me that these people who sail around the world, you kind of have to be a little bit crazy to do it because you're spending all this time by yourself. You're not talking to anyone and there is a schedule; you sail for four hours and you can sleep for twenty minutes and sail another four hours and that's for weeks on end. That's all you're doing and you're eating dehydrated food. It's so physically demanding but also mentally, I'm sure that would mess with you a little bit.

LAist: Did you talk to any young sailors?

Amanda: We had a lot of different sailing coaches and trainers on the set. One was this guy named Sterling Ashcroft. He's young, early 20's, so he was great. He'd always be on set. Just little things, like I'm standing on my boat in the scene where I'm talking to Zac, he coached me on stuff that a sailor would be doing. This boat is their baby. It's their home. They know everything about it so they don't just stand on their boat, they do stuff. He'd constantly check in with me saying, “Touch this,” or “Play with this rope. Tie this up,” so we actually looked like we knew what we were doing.

LAist: How do you feel about the whole supernatural element? Has there ever been a moment when you’ve felt a presence or do you feel that there’s a way to communicate with people who have passed on?

Zac: When I was growing up there was this house that I’d have to drive by on my way to school every day, it was this big pink house, people get married there and stuff, and there is this rumor that there’s this weird attic bedroom that they’ve never rented out, that no one could really stay in. It was closed off to the public and there was just this bed in there and it was apparently a little girl’s room, and I swear that place is haunted. It’s just so scary. Everyone who works there says they’ve seen the ghost.

LAist: You’ve only done three movies where you’ve kind of been the star and it’s just going to grow. But do you think that’s because of the stardom or do you think it’s something you innately have that people respond to?

Zac: I don’t know. I don’t think it’s something that I innately have. I don’t want to think that. That’s too good to be true. It’s got to come from the work. I hope that I can continue and that it will come from the work. I would hate to attribute all this to something that I can’t control, you know, it’s a bit scary. That’s why I wanted to slow down with this and do a movie that was all about character and real people…

LAist: Well, some real people.

Zac: Yeah, and ghosts (laughs). You know, a more dramatic type movie.

**********************************Spoiler Alert************************************

LAist: Was there a point where you were doing something in the movie and you started imagining what it would look like, or how you would explain it if someone happened upon you in that moment where you were interacting with someone who might not be there? (How does one delicately inquire about graveyard ghost banging?)

Zac: Oh, we had many a laugh over what was actually going on. If she was imaginary, what Charlie looks like right now in the graveyard. But then, a lot of people would say that it wasn’t imaginary, that it was actually happening. So, it’s hard. You can’t really watch the movie and decisively say either way what’s going on, and I really liked that. I thought that was cool. Burr sort of worked that in.

LAist: Do you think of it in terms of like, it is a ghost that you’re interacting with or just like another person?

Zac: I think it’s real to Charlie, so like a real person. He’s aware of it, but it’s too good, he can’t let go.

Charlie St. Cloud is in theaters now

Article by Courtney Quinn