The Iron Claw Zac Efron
Lily James and Zac Efron in The Iron Claw. Photo Credit: A24

Sean Durkin’s The Iron Claw tells the tragic, true story of the Von Erichs, one of America’s most famous families in professional wrestling. But despite the tough, muscly, and macho exteriors of the Von Erich brothers, Durkin cast Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich because of his ability to emphasis just the opposite quality.

The oldest of the Von Erich brothers, The Iron Claw portrays Kevin as a quiet, gentle soul in a world of intesity. His surprisingly passive demeanor that sets him apart from the other characters, which Durkin addressed at length in a Q&A following a screening at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The Iron Claw Director Sean Durkin on Choosing Zac Efron to Play Sensitive Kevin Von Erich

“It was really one of the original things that interested me,” Durkin said of Kevin Von Erich’s sweet disposition. “I played soccer in college, and I found that the really great athletes that I knew, they were so focused and obsessed with sport that they missed a lot of socializing in life, and often had this sort of sweet quietness, and I was really drawn to it.”

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The Iron Claw follows Efron as gifted wrestler Kevin Von Erich alongside Harris Dickinson and Jeremy Allen White as brothers David Von Erich and Kerry Von Erich. Together, they ascended to the heights of the 1980s professional wrestling space at the behest of their strong-willed and emotionally hardened father and coach, Fritz Von Erich, played by Holt McCallany.

Durkin found the juxtaposition of Kevin’s hard core wrestling persona and his reserved nature “a really exciting challenge.”

“How do you put sort of a quiet, warm-hearted, sweet warrior at the center of your film and who also is not making any decisions, ultimately? Fritz is making the decisions. Fritz is guiding the story. Kevin’s going along with it,” Durkin said. “When Kevin makes decisions, they’re sort of simple sidesteps. It was really hard, really hard to do.”

Durkin sensed early on that Efron possessed the rare, earnest, emotional energy that would be necessary to play Kevin.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Zac’s forever. I always loved like, especially as comedy, I’ve always loved him and I’ve always wondered what he’d feel like in my world. Which is also a really exciting thing for me, is to work with an actor who I feel is going to do something different with me than they’ve ever done before,” he said.

“That was also a no-brainer because I knew the physical side, I knew the intensity. I feel like he’s always got a charm and charisma and I thought that would be really interesting in a really quiet role. But the thing I really needed was this heart, you know? Kevin’s so sweet. I think it’s a sweetness that you can’t really perform as an actor if you don’t have it. I think in this sort of quiet role, it just has to be there. And once I met him, I knew it was there. He’s just such a darling.”

The Iron Claw is now in theaters.

Main Image: Lily James and Zac Efron in The Iron Claw. Photo Credit: A24

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