Zac Efron is about to turn 21, and with the approach of full adulthood, the boy who made the tween girls scream is looking to more mature roles.
Efron shot to the top when "High School Musical" unexpectedly turned into a TV sensation in 2006, followed by "High School Musical 2" helping the franchise return some $1 billion in profits to Disney.
With the momentum from his first bigscreen role in "Hairspray" he booked two more features and is now seen as a potential leading man.
While "High School Musical" will likely continue into editions 4 and 5, Efron may be hanging up his dancing shoes for a while.
"Lately, I'm leaning toward more challenging roles. Hopefully I can find something surprising," he says, adding, "I would be perfectly willing to make an independent film as long as I believed in the project."
He's off to a good start, landing the lead role in Richard Linklater's "Me and Orson Welles."
"Working with Rick was a dream," he says. "I'm learning to appreciate the different styles and methods of great directors. I think Zack Snyder or Gus Van Sant would be fun to work with."
Raised in Central California, Efron appeared in local theater productions before getting work on TV. And though song and dance made him famous, Efron is still weighing the kind of roles he plans to chase in the future.
"I can't say for certain how big a factor musicals will play in my career, but I will always be open to them," he says.
He'd also consider hitting the boards at some point: "Broadway would be an adventure. It requires a skill set that I'd have to rediscover. There is nothing like the thrill of performing for a live audience." Recent breakthrough:
His popularity explains why "High School Musical 3" is headed to theaters, not TV. Role model:
"What I would give to sit down with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio for an hour of career advice." What's next:
New Line's "17 Again" He's also been approached to star in Paramount's "Footloose" update with "HSM's" Kenny Ortega directing.