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We’re all used to picturing actor Zac Efron as that one kid with the perfectly quaffed hair who’s in all of the “High School Musical” movies. Now the twenty-something is looking to leap away from adolescence and into adulthood in the new Scott Hicks directed movie “The Lucky One.”

What’s the first thing that stands out the most about “The Lucky One”? The fact that it’s based off of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Whenever you associate the name Nicholas Sparks with a movie that means we’re going to get heightened romance, steamy love-making scenes and seeing our leading couple shares deep, longing gazes into each others eyes. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, that’s just the nature of the beast, as it were.

“The Lucky One” centers on U.S. Marine Logan Thibault (Efron) who returns to the States after his tour in Iraq, with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive—a photograph he found of a woman he does not even know. With this picture luck follows him wherever he goes. Learning her name is Beth (Taylor Schilling) and where she lives, he shows up at her door, and ends up taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Despite her initial mistrust and the complications in her life, a romance develops between them, giving Logan hope that Beth could be much more than his good luck charm

Zac Efron and actress Taylor Schilling knew exactly what they were getting into with “The Lucky One” and enjoyed every moment of the process. In their interview, which you can read down below, they talked about romance, working with Scott Hicks, learning more about the marines and how surprisingly difficult it is to work with trained dogs.

Diving into more of the military aspects of the movie, what kind of training did you do?

Zac Efron: First and foremost, I just wanted to spend as much time around marines and the troops as much as possible. So I was able to go to Camp Pendleton early on with Scott (Hicks) and sort of just hang out with them, see what it was like. There were striking differences between the way that they were and I was. So I was able to look at that early on. Physically there was a lot to be done. That was the hardest part about this, the physical transformation.

What was the most striking aspect of training with the marines. Anything that stuck with you?

Zac Efron: There’s an element — coming into that first talk with the marines, it goes unsaid but in the room there’s a palpable — maybe I gave it off, but we’ll never truly understand what it was like. And I think that everyone in the room is aware of that. But after a couple of hours with them, Scott was able to communicate just how much we cared and we wanted to have the most accurate portrayal. It took awhile but finally they opened up and saw the more honest that they were, the more they could give us. That’s what we really cherished and we wanted so hard to be giving an accurate portrayal. Watching them open up, sort of blossoming from that horizon, to be able to tell these stories and recount, it was the most powerful moment. That was the biggest part for me.

At first I walked into a room full of marines and they have to stand upright. There’s many physical differences. A lot of them were my height, my build but just — they looked like superheroes. In my eyes, at least, I thought I was looking at real-life heroes. I’m a musical theater geek walking in there and I knew there was so much work to be done, it was overwhelming at that point. I’m just wondering how am I going to do this? But every time I get really scared like that, that’s a sign that I’m on the right track.

How do you build a romantic relationship in a movie where it’s an hour in before you even get the first kiss? And then, how do you keep from laughing when you get hosed down for the first sex scene?

Taylor Schilling: When I first met Zac, we really got along from the very first moment I auditioned in the movie with him. I think that sort of experience of working together and feeling really comfortable on set sort of ended carrying through working together. It was just fun. Our characters really didn’t come together until more midway through the film. But during that entire time of shooting we’re developing our friendship.

Zac Efron: Romantic scenes get built up because it seems like they’re always looming. Other people don’t want to talk about them because somehow it’s got this weird, awkward perception. Once you get there, if you’re with somebody that you really trust, I thought it was one of the easiest days of filming.

Nicholas Sparks is one of the few authors where in Hollywood the name’s a brand. What did it feel like to sign on board for that Nicholas Sparks universe of heightened emotion, tragedy, confusion and sex while you’re wet?

Zac Efron: Amazing. It was awesome.

Taylor Schilling: I was totally thrilled. It was such an exciting opportunity for me to get a chance to play this part, get a chance to work with Scott (Hicks), Zac and this whole team so I was thrilled.

Zac Efron: Nick creates such grounded characters. Everything is set completely and totally in reality. It’s heightened but all for a purpose. So I thought it was very fun.

Are you a big animal lover? Did you have a good experience working around the dogs during the movie?

Zac Efron: We went through so much, me and Rowdy. It was amazing because the first time I met him I wasn’t even really allowed to engage. You can’t engage because then the dog looses respect for you. So we went through this roller coaster kind of relationship. We went from me paying virtually no attention to him, to him being sort of interested and finally I was able to engage him where we became best friends. We had a great working relationship. Best actor on the set. [laughs] Super talented, I grew very attached to the dog.

On a serious note, was there an important part of this character that you felt you had to show women that they can stand up to bullies like the ex-husband character?

Taylor Schilling: What I so connected to in Beth was that she had all of these obstacles to overcome. There was so much baggage and she had lived so much life. She had a child and she had this ex-husband. Even for her there still was this possibility of true love and she had sort of given up on it. It’s not too late, even for her. She kind of been resigned to not finding it and she did, despite all of the everything that was going on in her life. So if that’s inspiring to someone to sort of move past something in their life that’s not working… I would be honored, I would be really honored if it inspired somebody to kind of stand up for themselves and honor their worth.

Zac, you’ve moved on from the “High School Musical” films and have gone on to become a more serious actor. Can you just talk a little bit on your progression as taking on these serious roles and how you’ve made the adjustment to them and any other ones you have coming up?

Zac Efron: I mean it’s been incredibly fun, education and I set out very early on — I look back and said I was going to do this ages ago when I was young. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I think that it’s proven to be everything I dreamed it would be. It’s been great but it’s very different. If you would have asked me when I was auditioning for “High School Musical” if I thought I was ever going to play a marine… [laughs] I don’t think the music thing is done, by any means. I would love to do it again but it’s a matter of finding the right thing and you can’t do it every time. Who wants to see that? … It comes down to great material and a great director at the helm. Anything with that combo has got to be interesting to me. I’ll take a look.

“The Lucky One” is currently out in theaters nationwide.