Zac Attack: 'HMS' star has become the cover boy of choice

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Though it may not be by design, the plot of Disney Channel's "High School Musical 2" carries with it some echoes of reality. In the movie, which could carry the subtitle "The Last Temptation of Troy," basketball player/theater star Troy Bolton (Rolling Stone coverboy Zac Efron) gets tempted by a college scholarship, new shoes and privileges not given to his Wildcat co-workers and friends, who begin to turn on him.

In reality, Efron is the "High School Musical" star with the most career juice (he's in the movie musical "Hairspray" and has been announced as the star of a "Footloose" movie musical), putting him in a situation similar to Troy. It wouldn't be surprising if he faced resentment from his co-stars, although there was certainly none in evidence at a "HSM" press conference last month.

Efron comes off as incredibly grounded for a 19-year-old. Despite his rising star status away from the "HSM" machine, Efron professes a loyalty to the franchise and doesn't rule out a third movie.

"All I can say is, from day one 'High School Musical' has been a blast to film, and that's really why I'm here," Efron said last month after the press conference. "All the success of 'High School Musical' was a one in a million chance. ... If I have the opportunity to work with this cast again and wake up every morning with no stress and film a movie that's fun to be a part of, to sing and dance my way through a job, I'd love to do it.

"I definitely am loyal to 'High School Musical,' " he said, "but there are so many projects I want to be a part of and so many genres I want to try."

A big-screen "HSM" film is in development, but getting the cast -- Efron especially -- back together may be a challenge.

"We are writing a script. We are talking with all of the talent involved," said Gary Marsh, entertainment president for Disney Channel Worldwide. "We are hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to pull everybody back together and re-create the spirit of what we created in 'High School Musical 1' and 'High School Musical 2.' "

Although the movie was announced earlier this year with the working title "Haunted High School Musical," cast members have other ideas for the plot. Efron and Ashley Tisdale, who plays antagonist Sharpay, both voiced support for a movie set in the Wildcats' senior year, perhaps covering senior prom and graduation.

Lucas Grabeel, who plays Ryan, joked about a more out-there concept: "I think all of the Wildcats should join a space program and go into space: 'High School Musical With Aliens.' "

Whatever the future of the "HSM" juggernaut, some of the stars are likely to remain in the spotlight. Co-star Corbin Bleu already made another Disney Channel movie, "Jump In," that exceeded the premiere ratings of the first "High School Musical."

Efron will probably receive the most media scrutiny, already generating tabloid and Web headlines for his relationship with co-star Vanessa Hudgens. Fans on the Internet debate whether it's a true romance (they were photographed holding hands and kissing in the Hawaiian surf) or a showmance (pics online also show him kissing "Hairspray" co-star Nikki Blonsky).

"Vanessa is a great girl," is all Efron would say last month. "At 19, I don't want to be the guy that's got relationship headlines all over the magazines."

Too late.


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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