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Is Zac Efron too good-looking to be a successful leading man?

Zac Efron Awkward Moment

(image: eOne)

Since High School Musical invaded our culture in 2006, we’ve watched its star Zac Efron develop from a teenage heart throb into a proper grown-up man. And he’s a good looking man at that!

His last two films, That Awkward Moment and Bad Neighbours, have also taken the liberty of showing of his shirtless torso. So now we all know he’s a real man!

He seems to have everything going for him. He’s a classic triple-threat star that can sing, dance and act. But while it’s obvious Zac Efron is a fine male specimen, we can’t help but wonder whether his good looks have been getting in the way of him becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Zac Efron High School Musical

(image: Disney)

You see, guys as pretty as Efron rarely enter the top echelon of leading. That might seem like a strange thing to say, but stick with us here.

‘But what do you mean? There are loads of handsome actors!’

Sure, but the very best stars are the one who aren’t necessarily gorgeous, but relatable.

Tom Hanks once defined his appeal as being threatening to neither men nor women. But that’s just a way of saying that he has an everyman appeal. Everybody likes Hanks because he seems like a normal person: if you’re watching a Tom Hanks movie, it’s not tough to put identify with him - whether he’s falling in love, or trying to survive on an island.

The Brad Pitt Effect

Zac Efron Brad Pitt

(image: Universal)

Brad Pitt is the polar opposite of Tom Hanks, in many way.

Now, Mr Pitt is a very fine actor – but his status as one of the world’s most desirable men has always been a sticking point. It’s tough for an audience to relate to a character who’s as terrifyingly handsome as he.

Imagine if he were the lead in You’ve Got Mail.

At the point in the movie where Meg Ryan decides to freeze him out, the rejected Brad Pitt character would simply have to console himself with the fact that he still looks like Brad Pitt.

We think he’s aware of this – which is why he very rarely chooses to play protagonists in films these days. He’s usually the mysterious guy at the edge of frame – not the guy you’re supposed to empathise with. For the longest time, Pitt has chosen to play interesting characters over protagonists. As a result, he’s not the lead in a movie as often as you might think.

So what is the solution to Brad Pitt effect?

Well, if he’s not going to be Robert DeNiro or Daniel Day Lewis, playing threatening and dangerous, Zac Efron needs to become more likeable. And right now with his new comedies, he seems to be doing just that.

Be a Clown

(image: Touchstone Pictures)

(image: Touchstone Pictures)

By which we mean that he ought to take stranger, funnier role.

Johnny Depp was stuck as a teen idol from 21 Jump Street until he started playing weirdoes and grotesques like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and the Hunter S Thompson surrogate in Fear and Loathing… 

Paul Rudd had been in movies for almost a decade before The 40 Year Old Virgin and Anchorman allowed him to transition into a solid comic lead.

Even George Clooney didn’t become a fully fledged star until he had gone through O Brother Where Art Thou and proven his comedic chops by playing a thoroughly goofy character. Plus, with his reputation as an on-set prankster, Clooney transcended his handsomeness, if that makes sense.

‘Ugly up’

(image: EIV)

(image: EIV)

Another option is for Zac to throw vanity to the wind.

Bradley Cooper was the good-looking, slightly dickish one from The Hangover; nobody really saw his potential to be a huge star. But after putting on some weight and growing his beard out for Silver Linings Playbook, he became a legitimately relatable leading man. He showed that he could play a regular person – albeit one with a severe personality disorder.

Efron might not want to go down this road, though. Not if he wants to hold on to his MTV Best Shirtless Scene Award.

Or do you think Zac Efron’s perfect the way he is? What kind of roles do you think he should be taking? Let us know in the comments below.

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