What more could teen girls want than to see Zac Efron do pelvic thrusts in a high school cafeteria setting? Try Zac Efron hanging off the side of a sailboat with bulging biceps in Charlie St. Cloud. Fortunately for everyone else, the film requires Efron to do much more than flaunt his physique. It’s a story of tragedy, heartbreak and living life to its fullest amidst a jaw-dropping setting. Director Burr Steers and Efron team up for round two of what looks like the beginning of a successful partnership.
Steers also directed 17 Again, starring Efron, but is a man of many talents. Remember the guy who got shot on the couch in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction? That was Burr Steers. How about a little romantic comedy with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey called How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? Steers wrote it. He put on his director’s cap again for Charlie St. Cloud, which opened Friday, July 30th. We caught up with Steers to talk about the film, his relationship with Efron and his advice to new moviemakers.
Kate Ritter (MM): What drew you to Charlie St. Cloud?
Burr Steers (BS): Besides the proposition of working with Zac again, I was struck by an E.E. Cummings poem in the book that’s pivotal to the plot and theme of the movie. He’s a writer that has always intrigued me. I also liked that it was a human story and that I could explore the interesting relationship between the brothers.
MM: The screenplay is adapted from an acclaimed novel. How did that affect your approach to directing?
BS: You want to be respectful to the author’s intent while at the same time making the material your own. I wanted to make the film feel fresh while still being faithful to Ben Sherwood’s story.
MM: This is your second project with actor Efron, the first of which being 17 Again. What are the benefits of this ongoing partnership—or an ongoing relationship with any specific actor? These are both very different roles for him; were you interested in exposing a different side to him?
BS: It’s like musicians playing together. After a while, you develop a rapport. Zac has just begun to scratch the surface of his talent. I was excited to reveal what he’s capable of.
MM: You started out as an actor. What made you decide to head in that direction?
BS: There was no decision. Acting, writing and directing are all part of the same process for me.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given about “breaking” into the directing world? What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer to today’s up-and-comers?
BS: I would give the same advice I got: Make your own opportunities.
MM: You’ve also directed for HBO’s “Big Love” and Showtime’s “Weeds” and “The L Word.” How does directing for television compare to film? Do you prefer one medium over the other and why?
BS: TV shows are ruled by the writers, whereas in films, the director runs the show. As a writer-director, I appreciate both.
MM: What’s up next for you?
BS: I’m directing Emperor by William Broyles Jr., based on the Emperor book series by Conn Iggulden about the young Julius Caesar.