Zac Efron may have received his big break thanks to Disney, but he's managed to ditch the brand to become a great actor. The expectations that come with being a Disney star are large, especially when that role comes as a popular, good looking teenager. This is exactly the position Efron found himself in though after the incredible success of High School Musical. He instantly became known as Troy Bolton to an entire generationm which put him in a box of being the confident, charming, teenage heartthrob type.
With a role in the entire High School Musical trilogy, this image was tough to shake. He landed another musical role with Hairspray in 2007 and then played variations of the dream boyfriend character in 17 Again, The Lucky One, and That Awkward Moment. To Efron's credit, he tried to change it up in between these roles, but it was after this that he finally made the true pivot for his career.
Starting in 2014, Efron spun everything that made him a Disney star on its head to start playing the "bad boy" in movies, and he quickly found success in doing so. He went all-in on incredibly raunchy R-rated comedies and proved with Neighbors that his looks and charisma could be flipped. The movie was a huge hit and was just the beginning of Efron's R-rated comedy push. He went on to do Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Dirty Grandpa, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and Baywatch. While the latter comedies weren't hits, they did continue to show that Efron could do more than what the Disney label usually means. Other Disney stars have attempted similar turns, as discussed in the latest Screen Rant video featured at the top of this post.
As most of the Disney brand faded away from Efron, he was able to return to musicals in 2017 with the wildly successful The Greatest Showman. However, it was just this year that Efron made his sharpest turn away from Disney. He starred in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile for Netflix where he made a true dramatic turn as serial killer Ted Bundy. It is possibly Efron's best performance of his career, and about as far from his High School Musical days as you could imagine. All of his charm and looks were used against audiences in the role to mask the evil that existed within Bundy, making Efron's turn all the more chilling.
Instead of just relying on his looks and singing to make a career for himself, Efron has grown beyond the mold of a Disney brand star. He's proven to be a capable leading man in both dramas and comedies but also has shown the range necessary to return to the more Disney-like roles when needed. At this point, Zac Efron is far from the actor that he was during his Disney days (both in terms of skill and perception) and will hopefully continue to show just how talented he is for years to come.