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Christmas is a family ritual, a chance to press reset and remember who I really am; Film.

Byline: Alison Jones

IT IS a charming thought: Zac Efron, the stuff of a million tween fantasies, sitting round a Christmas tree in his night shirt, opening presents with his little brother Dylan and their parents.

It is quite a Hallmark moment, and one Zac says he has shared with his family for years.

"Christmas for me is a ritual. We have the tree in the same place every year, the same four people, me, my little brother and my mum and dad. I hope it never changes.

"Then afterwards we do a big dinner with friends and family I grew up with before any of this ever happened. So that is a good chance to hit my reset button. Those are the moments you really remember who you are."

The subject has turned to holiday plans because Zac's latest film is centred around a big one - New Year's Eve.

His character, Paul, is a happygo-lucky cycle courier who plans to party hard when the ball drops in Times Square Zac, on the other hand, seems every bit as well behaved as you expect a Disney musical graduate to be. If there is a secret hedonist about to suffer a Lindsay Lohanstyle career derailment, he is keeping it very well hidden.

Trying to get him to admit to secret vices is liking trying to prise open a clam with a stubborn streak. The very suggestion that he might want to spend New Year's getting trollied on tequila like a typical 20-something is met with noncommittal politeness and a kind of flustered embarrassment.

"It is always good to do that once in a while," he hedges. "You've just got to be careful where you are."

New Year's Eve is a sequel to Valentine's Day with the director, Garry Marshall, employing the same tactic of weaving many storylines together featuring an A-list cast.

The services of a few old hands - Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel and Hector Elizondo - have been retained but for the most part it is a fresh ensemble.

Zac's vignette sees him paired with Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays an unhappy office worker who has just quit her job and wants to achieve all her New Year's resolutions in one day.

It is the second time 24-year-old Zac has worked with Michelle after the pair co-starred in Hairspray.

"I was a lot younger then," he recalls. "I think I was 18 at the time and really nervous. I just always put my foot in my mouth whenever I was trying to talk to her.

"I am a little more sure of myself now. So we had a great time getting to know each other."

It is hard to imagine Zac getting rattled by too much these days, as he carries the confidence of youth combined with the professionalism of a career veteran.

The California native started acting when he was 11 years old, appearing in theatre and on TV before being caught up in the phenomenon that was High School Musical. A Romeo & Juliet story about two students from different cliques who start dating, the first two films were made for television but were so successful the third was turned into a feature film. With a budget of just $11 million, it raked in more than $250 million and set a new record for the largest opening weekend for a musical.

Zac admits it took him a while to realise how huge the franchise had become, not just in the US but around the world.

"It was when we started going international with it. I had never been outside of the United States, I had hardly left California except to visit grandparents in Oregon, stuff like that.

"Suddenly you are in an airplane seat that is bigger than your bed at home, flying around and doing interviews and meeting fans. It was surreal.

"I think it took Disney by surprise, too. We were all shaking our heads saying 'What is going on?'."

The fact that he was the film's star, coupled with looks that placed him second (after Jennifer Lopez) on People magazine's 2011 Most Beautiful list, meant Zac drew a lot of female attention.

But who will he be romancing at midnight on December 31? He dated his High School Musical girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens for several years, after they met on set, but they split last year.

He is currently enjoying the single life.

"It's been fun," he says, cagily. "I don't know what I am doing for New Year's yet. I could be in a few different places.

"As for who I will be kissing? I don't know yet, she is out there somewhere..."

New Year's Eve is reviewed on page 36

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Pary time: Hollywood heart-throb Zac Efron teams up with Michelle Pfeiffer (inset) for the movie New Year's Eve.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 9, 2011
Words:803
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