Matthew McConaughey May Take the Lead in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

In the past few years Matthew McConaughey has proved that pithy romantic comedies are clearly not where his heart lies. With a string of roles in Magic Mike, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, and Jeff Nicholas’ upcoming Mud, the 43-year-old actor has finally come into his own. And his own being these rough and seedy southern men on a fringe of the law. But earlier this year, we had been seeing a more gaunt looking version of the handsome actor as he prepared to play the lead role in Jean-Marc Vallée’s AIDS drama Dallas Buyer’s Club. And now, it seems that he’s been tapped to star in one of the most anticipated movies of the next year, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises follow-up, Interstellar

Deadline reports that although "getting details on a Nolan project is more difficult than getting the line on the Pope selection process," McConaughey has been offered the lead role of Cooper in the film that was originally set in place by Steven Spielberg in 2006. But in January, Nolan signed on to write a script that merged the original idea about the existence of wormholes used for time travel written by his brother Jonah, with his own original idea. Nolan and Emma Thomas producing will be prodicing and, "the ambition is a film that will depict a heroic interstellar voyage to the farthest borders of our scientific understanding."

So although he’s been working in Hollywood for over two decades now, McConaughey’s career has had a rather odd trajectory. With Dazed and Confused and A Time to Kill followed by years of films like Failure to Launch andThe Wedding Planner, it took scaling down into independent cinema for his true talents and desires an actor to be unleashed. So it would be amazing to see this new McConaughey or this true McConaughey star in something as epic as a Christopher Nolan movie about time/space travel. I mean, I would gladly watch McConaughey in anything, so I’m game—how do you feel, MM?

But while we’re here, let’s look back on some choice McConaughey moments.

Matthew McConaughey Takes Center Stage in Jeff Nichols’s New Trailer for ‘Mud’

It took him almost an entire career of Wedding Planner(s) and Failure(s) to Launch, but Matthew McConaughey has finally found his place in cinema. The recent string of roles he has taken on make us wonder why he didn’t venture down this path in the first place? Perhaps it was an evovling sense of purpose as an actor or something that’s come with age, but in the last year he’s really seemed to hit his stride. With last year’s Killer Joe, The Paperboy, and even Magic Mike, McConaughey has come into his own—his own being a seedy, somewhat disturbed, southern (not so) gentleman on the fringe of the law. And with Jeff Nichols’s Mud, the follow-up to 2011’s paranoia-inducing Take Shelter, it appears McMonaughey is proving again that he’s not someone to take lightly. 

Mud tells the story of a two teenage boys who encounter a mysterious fugitive and form a pat to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trailer and to reunite him with his true love. Take Shelter was well-recieved by critics, garnering Nichols the attention he deserved from a film that was neither pure drama nor thriller, but a psychological study of a descent into madness that played on a mix of subtly and sheer power from its leading man, Michael Shannon—who also makes an appearance in Mud. In their Cannes review, The Film Stage claimed that Mud, "imperfect as it may be…marks a step forward for Nichols as a filmmaker capable of making big entertainment that retains some intelligence and a palpable message as well.” And if you aren’t sold already, Sam Shepard is also in the film and, let’s face it, that’s reason enough.

Check out the trailer below:

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Linkage: Lindsay Lohan Might Be an Escort, Jessica Simpson Can’t Stop Bonin’, & a Kris Kross Reunion

If you’re wondering how the hell Lindsay Lohan can get away with jetting across the globe and staying in fancy hotels with nothing but money from Playboy shoots and Lifetime movies, here’s a possible explanation on where she gets her money: she might be working as a high-class escort for the rich and not-so-famous. Some of her alleged clients include Prince Haji Abdul Azim, third in line of the throne of Brunei (which is a real place, not like Genovia), and painter Domingo Zapata. Of course, these allegations come from her scumbag father, Michael Lohan, so take them with a couple shakers of salt. [Radar]

Nicole Kidman is on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter, and she dishes about Scientology—sort of. When pressed, she’ll say only: ‘I’ve chosen not to speak publicly about Scientology. I have two children [adopted with Cruise] who are Scientologists—Connor [the Red Dawn actor is now 17] and Isabella [20]—and I utterly respect their beliefs.’” The cover story also revels that Modern Family’s Sophia Vergara was director Lee Daniels’s first choice for Kidman’s role in The Paperboy, so just imagine that crazy lady doing her own hair and makeup and peeing on Zac Efron. [THR]

Jessica Simpson, as always, is both a good indicator of the failures of sex education in this country and an example of how annoying celebrities can be if their publicists can’t get them to shut the hell up. The occasional singer and sometimes actress told Jay Leno last night that she’d like to get married to fiancé Eric Johnson, with whom she has one child and a second on the way, but, in her words, “he keeps knocking me up.” [Fox News]

Sarah Jessica Parker replaced Demi Moore as Gloria Steinem in the upcoming Lovelace, premiering at Sundance, after Moore’s hospitalization for exhaustion early last year. It turns out it was all for naught: Steinem’s role in the film has been cut. [EW]

Because of money, NBC is going to roll poor Betty White out again and make her watch a bunch of people “pay tribute” to her for Betty White’s 2nd Annual 90th Birthday Special. The party’s guest list includes folks like Blake Shelton, Bill Clinton, and Larry King, because who else could possibly ruminate on all of Betty White’s achievements as an old actress who still makes dirty jokes when forced to read from cue cards in front of a TV camera? [Deadline]

Kris Kross are getting back together because they left a lot of things unsaid, a lot of pants unsagged, and also realized how much of a boner everyone has for the ’90s. [Vulture]

Does keeping a “princess-free” household promote feminist ideals in children or just keep them from having fun? [Jezebel]

Die Hard director John McTiernan is headed to jail for a year and must pay a $100,000 fine. And no, it’s not because he directed that Rollerball remake. [Indiewire]

R.I.P., old guy from old TV show. [TMZ]

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The Movies We Hated In 2012

My colleague Hillary Weston and I see a lot of movies. Sure, we both loved a bunch of movies this year, such as the delightful Moonrise Kingdom, the biting Bachelorette, the lovely Beasts of the Southern Wild. But there were a few that we downright hated. While we don’t always agree on which movies were, in fact, the worst, here’s a brief list of the films from this year that drove us into fits of fury.

Prometheus

Ridley Scott’s sort-of-prequel to Alien left me with more questions than answers. For example, why did they hire Guy Pearce to play an old man instead of, I dunno, an actual old person? Would that automated surgery machine take my health insurance? What’s Michael Fassbender’s daily caloric intake? (It must not be too high.) What I did take away was this: there is no way that this has anything to do with Scott’s original masterpiece other than casually tossing around “Alien prequel” will gain a lot of buzz. I couldn’t have explained the plot of this movie five minutes after leaving the theater, and I had thankfully forgotten Prometheus until I decided to come up with the worst movies I’d seen this year. So there you have it, folks: Prometheus is completely forgettable until you try your best to think of things that are horrifically bad.—TC

To Rome With Love

Oh Woody, how I love thee. But just because you have spent your entire career putting out film after film—back to back every year for what seems like an entire century now—doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be so sloppy. Honestly, I doubt he even liked it, as even Allen’s character felt like someone doing a bad impression of himself. (Larry David, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell have all played better Woody Allens.) And don’t even both trying to find anything intelligent or redeeming about the women that populate the picture. Ellen Page’s boyish waif seductress was, to borrow a term in just about every one of his movies, "a pseudo intellectual" who was both manipulative and hollow; Greta Gerwig was an oblivious and passive goof who was supposed to be an intellectual but looked like an witless idiot; Alison Pill’s character was about as bland and lifeless as the canvas pants they wrongly put her in; and even the brilliant and beautiful Judy Davis had absolutely nothing to work with. The whole Penelope Cruz hooker storyline was absurd and a narrative bore, the Roberto Benigni "comedic" meditation on celebrity and the ego was unbearable to watch, and the father-turned-opera-singer sideline was no better than this Flintstones episode. By far the best part of the film was when I left to get a jumbo box of M&Ms and had to spend five minutes searching for the candy attendant. —HW

Silver Linings Playbook

There’s at least one movie released every Oscar season that everyone but me seems to like. This year, David O. Russell’s choppy mess of a movie fills the Little Miss Sunshine slot. Furthermore, this is the first movie that has ever forced me to leave the theater early. What did I hate most? The over-the-top quirkiness of the script? The propensity for each character to explain his or her madness rather than convey them with their actions? The fact the last thirty minutes are better than the first hour-and-a-half, at least according to every person I know who claims I cannot judge it solely on the first two-thirds of the film? (Go watch The Godfather and try to tell me the same thing, folks.) I’ve never been so grateful for Jessica Chastain, who will surely quash Jennifer Lawrence’s shot at an Oscar next spring. —TC

Lola Versus

After seeing Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’s sophomore effort, I recall writing down a few initial thoughts: "This movie has little to no genuine feeling. The dialogue was trite. The characters were like posed mannequins in an Anthropologie window attempting to tell a joke." And the worst part: even the wonderful and talented Greta Gerwig as Lola and a score by Fall On Your Sword could not save this shallow attempt at an anti-typical romantic comedy. The filmmakers are both young, intelligent people who have lived in New York for years, but I have to wonder: have they ever spoken to other humans? Every moment was contrived and two-dimensional, and it was filled with pathetic portrayals of wallowing that weren’t even accurate save for the lovelorn title character’s affinity for binge drinking and sleeping with people she would later regret. Lola chastises herself, saying "I know I’m slutty, but I’m a good person," even though it’s made clear that her ex was the only person she had slept with until they broke up, and then she sleeps with two other guys. Even the sparse scenes with her ex have absolutely no chemistry, and neither character exhibit qualities that would make you root for them not to wind up alone. All in all, it’s a film that apparently takes place in New York, but not a New York you’ve ever seen. —HW

The Dark Knight Rises

Here’s the thing: I knew I would hate this. But I had to see it, because to completely avoid the movie blockbuster of the summer would prove my own ineptitude at being a blogger. (And, as a blogger, it is my duty to share my opinions.) Christopher Nolan finally wrapped up his dour Batman trilogy with an overwrought political epic complete with as many of The Christopher Nolan Players as possible. Christian Bale brooding? Check. Tom Hardy being gay-question-mark? Yup. Marion Cotilliard for no particular reason? Uh huh. And leave it to Nolan to even strip away all the fun from Catwoman, who, as played by Anne Hathaway, is more like an old, unenthused tabby who only occasionally gets to ride some stupidly overdesigned motorcycle. Don’t get me started on the fact that it took a good forty-five minutes for Batman to actually show up; it was less of a superhero movie and more of a chance for Christopher Nolan and co-writer/brother Jonathan to an Oscar-clip monologue to every single character. —TC

The Paperboy

I don’t know why I expected more from the guy who interpolated shots of incestuous rape with images of bacon sizzling on a griddle in Precious, but I can say without wavering that The Paperboy was not just my least favorite film of the year—it’s also the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I’m all for a piece of well-made trash, but no amount of scrubbing would reveal a diamond under those layers and layers of shit. It’s misogynistic, homophobic, exploitative all around, and relies on the popular opinion that the South is a cesspool of murder, rape, racism, alligators—things that can only take place down there. And something must be said when Macy Gray delivers the best performance in a cast made up of Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, and Scott Glenn. —TC

Zac Efron Talks His BlackBook Cover Shoot on Jimmy Kimmel Live

This month, Zac Efron graced the cover of our October/November issue to tell you that he Doesn’t Want To Be Your Teenage Crush Anymore. Out on stands now, the cover story revealed that not only does he have a tattoo on his, “hand that reads YOLO,” but that, “as a man watching Zac Efron…I don’t necessarily like me yet. So how can I like Zac Efron?” With a gritty role that looks to push him forward in breaking away from his Disney/teen-romanic lead cachet, Efron can currently be found starring opposite Nicole Kidman and John Cusack in Lee Daniel’s new film, The Paperboy—a role that challenged him to, “see how deep the rabbit hole went and how far I could really push myself.”

A few days ago, Efron went on Jimmy Kimmel Live to promote The Paperboy and explain BlackBook’s cover shoot, in which the handsome actor was adorned with zoo animals. Shot at the Wildlife Learning Center in Los Angeles on a 115 degree day, Efron interacted with the animals with ease, proclaiming “Animals are dope!” while donning a pocket full of bunnies. Check out the clip below for more of Efron’s late night appearance and a closer look at some of our wild images.

 

 

Nicole Kidman Gets Sexual in ‘The Paperboy’—But Refused to Say the N-Word

The Paperboy, the new film from Precious director Lee Daniels, is a searing, character-driven thriller set in the southern Florida backwater, and features some dirty, smoldering, and messily spot-on performances from Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack, and Macy Gray (yes, even Macy Gray). But it’s Nicole Kidman’s sexed-up performance as a desperate woman trying to prove her husband’s innocence and release him from death row. Last night Kidman was honored at the New York Film Festival where The Paperboy, which opens in limited release on Friday, was screened for an eager audience. We caught up with the actress to discuss the film, how far she slipped into character, and her affinity for white patent-leather high heels.

How did you find your way into the character? How did you even begin to imagine her?
Well, I just thought, “Thishas to be authentic.” And I really needed to find my way in. So Lee said, “You should meet with some of these women that I know.” You know, women that were in love with men in prison and were sort of obsessed with them. I met with five different women that Lee had arranged, and that was how I kind of found my way in. At one point I freaked out to myself, and I thought, “This isn’t me. I’m not going to be authentic in this role!” One of the ladies said, “No, you can, you go, girl!” And she kind of gave me the confidence. Then I kind of just let it flow out of me, and I sort of went with it. I didn’t censor myself in any way—I just went straight into the character. And I didn’t see her as crazy, because I see very few people as crazy, so…[Laughs]

But, for me playing her, she’s a woman who is very damaged and is terrified of intimacy and of being close with someone. I suppose, the way in which she deals with Zac’s character, she knows he’s following her around like a puppy dog, but at the same time she’s not going to ruin him. Because if she lets him really fall in love with her, and if she lets herself, in some way, give in to him, and softens towards him, she’s going to ruin his life forever. What she says to him—“You don’t want me. Trust me…”—that, to me, is unconditional love. And her destiny, she feels, is that kind of like with [her husband]. That’s where she’s headed. It’s almost like a death wish. For me, that’s tragic, it’s very sad. And that’s where I came from with her—I had a lot of compassion for her. The reason I wouldn’t step in and out of the accent and the character the whole time was because I felt like I was going to be judging her. And if I just kind of stayed in it, I was very much, I thought, incredibly free to follow the instincts that were there. Which is how Lee works. You come on set and nothing is blocked out; Lee’s just sort of like, “Show it to me!” I never spoke to John Cusack through the shoot as “John.” It was always in character. At the end of the film, he came to my trailer and said, “Hi, I’m John!”

Are there physical things that you did? Like thinking about the hair, the walk?
Well, Lee was obsessed with the butt! He wanted my butt to be bigger, and I was like, “Okay, I can do that!” And I think that physically, I just wanted to find the sexuality of her. The director also triggers things that can ignite emotions and other things for you. And I think for me, the freedom of her sexuality was really important, and from the point I was in Lee’s hands, I didn’t really want to be saying “no” to anything.

Wasthere anything you actually refused to do in this provocative film?
Not really! No, yes, there was one thing: saying the n-word. I just didn’t feel like it was right for the character. And obviously, I have a son who is African-American. It just wasn’t right. The other thing I try to do as an actor is fulfill a director’s vision—that’s what you’re hired to do. And I have opinions and ideas, and I’m there to stimulate, hopefully, and ignite things in the director. But, at the same time, I’m not there to stop him. I really try, with every director,never to pull them off their vision. You’re there as a muse sometimes, you’re there as their conduit, and you’re there to create a character—together.

Can you talk about your character’s “Swamp Barbie” look?
Limitations are a great thing. There was no budget for the wardrobe. Everything was so authentic, and the costume designer was fantastic. I walked in there, and there were those white shoes! Lee has a thing about shoes! And as soon as we scuffed them, I was like, “These are the perfect shoes!” And after that, we just started trying stuff on, and Poloroiding and showing to him, and he would say, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” The costumes were really from that time period, and found down in New Orleans. Lee said I was also going to have to do my own hair and make-up, because we couldn’t afford a make-up artist! And I was of like, “Oh, God!” But I just went into the bathroom, and did the mascara and thick eyeliner like that, and put on this hairpiece that I had.

The important part of being an actor is learning not to shut down, not to say no, and being completely free and open. As you get older, you get a little more frightened—particularly now in this day and age, you know, there aren’t many opinions. It just makes me think, “Screw this!” I just want to push through it, and never stop myself from being brave and fighting through my own insecurities. I want to be in places I’ve never been to before and feel discomfort at times, and feel challenged, and feel ripped open. And it’s very, very hard to find those roles. It’s very hard to find those people that are going to do them with you. I do not want to get to an age, at this point in my life, where I am scared, or running scared. I much prefer to be pushing through the next few decades, giving it all I’ve got.

Zac Efron Doesn’t Want To Be Your Teenage Crush Anymore

It’s the belly of August, and by the time Zac Efron reaches the Valley, the mercury is scraping the three–digit mark. An hour later, after Efron goes through hair and makeup, and meets the animals with whom he’ll be working—Richard the hawk, Kina the gray fox, Eddie the monkey, Zeus the screech with cataracts—it’s 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The dead dry heat sits over Sylmar, the northernmost town in Los Angeles and the home of the Wildlife Learning Center. In a two-acre plot, on a street lined with cookie cutter exurb houses, David Riherd cares for over 50 wild animals, many of whom were kept as illegal pets or found abandoned. It used to smell of olive groves here years ago when the mistrals swept up San Fernando Valley. Now no breeze moves the desiccated air, and the scorched earth smells, understandably, like a zoo. Nevertheless, Zac Efron, who is wearing a full suit on which Zeus is pooping and whose pockets are full of bunnies, is beaming. “Animals are dope!” says Efron as his cherubic lips part from pucker into a SoCal surfer boy grin. Shit, if that smile don’t outshine the sun.

“What is the felt experience of cognition,” asks Elaine Scarry, Professor of Aesthetics at Harvard University, in her book On Beauty and Being Just, “at the moment one stands in the presence of a beautiful boy or flower or bird?” With two out of three present in Sylmar, I can say I felt a couple of things. Among them were feelings of being hot, happy, and enthralled. In fact, I couldn’t look away from Efron and his animals.

This kind of creepy staring, claims Scarry, is an act of copying, the compulsion of which is a unique trait of the beautiful. “Beauty seems to incite, even to require, the act of replication,” she writes, “this replication in the realm of sensation can be carried out by a single perceiver across time or can instead entail a brief act of perception distributed across many people.”

So I, a single perceiver, stare at Efron for a while because of how his olive skin glows and how he scrunches up his face like he’s trying to make out a figure on the horizon and how he, reflexively, purses his lips when he sees a camera. But many people, hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions of people, pay an average of $7.93 to watch him in the only-okay movies he’s made thus far. Nearly 1.5 million people follow him on Twitter to catch 140 character-long glimpses of his soul. In DVD collections, on pull-out posters, bedroom walls, screens, bed sheets, magazine covers like ours, canvasses, and in life-size wax sculpture, Zac Efron is replicated over and over again. So desperate to replicate his beauty is the world that wherever he goes, paparazzi lie in wait, armed with zoom lenses like big game hunters slavering for a trophy.

Beauty, physical beauty and probably spiritual beauty too, is a recessive gene in human beings. Efron’s parents, David Efron, an electrical engineer and Starla Baskett, a former secretary, are good–looking but not holy-shit-what-the-fuck gorgeous like their son. Zac Efron is the point in which the sine waves of beauty, moving through time and generations, meet, thereby increasing the pulse of beauty exponentially. His face, in terms of how good-looking it is, is like when you’re jumping on a trampoline and double bounce and go flying, face-first, into the yard.

But Southern California is full of pretty boys and handsome men. Sure, if they ever made a movie adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Efron would be a shoo-in for Adonis, but the maniacal cult of Efron derives its adherents not from his face but from how it has been emulsified with the characters he’s played. First came the virginal soft-shoeing Troy Bolton in the High School Musicals. There was the 2006 original, unnumbered like The Great War was, since Disney didn’t know it had a franchise on its hands. Then came the sequel in which Disney began to cotton on to the draw, and finally, the third film, Senior Year, in which Disney realized it had reached full monetization capacity.

The cultural relevance of these films cannot be overstated. There have been ice capade versions, Brazilian versions, Argentinian versions, a reality show version, and a video game version. The films form, along with The Godfather, The Twilight Saga, and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one of the most important trilogies in American history.

HSM also slingshotted Efron to fame and fortune. It led to a run of shmoopy pop pablum, like the 2007 musical remake of Hairspray, which was engineered to arouse the wallets and budding sex organs of tweens (Efron’s Young Elvis hip-thrusting in Hairspray, for instance, began our photo editor Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez’ long-standing crush on the star. Nevermind that she was 22 when it came out.)

Nominally, Efron aged too. In 2009, when he was 20, he starred in 17 Again, playing a young version of Matthew Perry. Though a good actor, Efron couldn’t mask his Dorian Gray terror at possibly actually being a younger version of Matthew Perry. The next year, he starred as Charlie in the shmaltzy dead brother romance Charlie St. Cloud. There were other films, too, in which I’m sure Zac Efron played a part, but no one really went to see Zac Efron disappear into his characters. They went to see Zac Efron be Zac Efron. The movies were simply the scallop shell rising out of the ocean to present him.

For an actor, at least an actor with self-respect, the situation couldn’t go on forever. “Around the time Charlie St. Cloud came out,” Efron told me, over omakase at a Studio City restaurant near his house, “I was confused. I wasn’t here for money; I didn’t need any more of it. I wasn’t here for fame; I wasn’t enjoying it. I was here for art.”

What, when one is the engine behind a multi-million dollar industry devoted to inoffensive desire, can a man do? Efron began by looking in the mirror. “As a man watching Zac Efron,” said Zac Efron. “I don’t necessarily like me yet. So how can I like Zac Efron?” He toyed ponderously with a lone edamame then concluded. “Maybe, if that guy shook things up, did what I didn’t expect him to do, if he wasn’t afraid to be a dick, if he wasn’t afraid to fall on his face, if he hung around long enough and did the grunt work, one day I might respect him.”

So, like a ship of state, Efron set his course for a distant shore where Terpsichore, Melpomene, and Calliope dwelt. There were some hiccups on the way. (No one who saw 2011’s New Year’s Eve could call it anything but frumious gunk.) But the journey had begun, the Rubicon crossed.

Retrospectively, of course, it is easy to see the signs that something had to give. There was that condom that accidentally flew from his pocket onto the red carpet at the premiere of The Lorax, a film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book for which Efron provided a voice, as apt a place as any to announce that Efron makes love. (“A brilliant fuck–up,” he calls it.) There was the prison tattoo he got on his hand that reads YOLO, short for You Only Live Once [Ed Note: Funny how YOLO is only used to justify poor judgment. No one says, “I should put an extra 15% into my 401K because YOLO.”] Efron doesn’t remember exactly the details of that tattoo. “I went through a period there, when I was single for the first time in six years, where I went out a lot,” he explained sheepishly.

But there was nothing as explicit, mindful, or successful as The Paperboy, Lee Daniels’ pulpy tale of murder, journalism, and sex in the bayou, which comes out October 5th. “I wanted a project that involved risk,” Efron explained, “I wanted to see how deep the rabbit hole went and how far I could really push myself.” If The Paperboy marks twain, the rabbit hole is very deep. In fact, it might never end.

The film stars an ensemble cast of heartthrobs emeritus, but Efron alone is still card-carrying. Daniels has brilliantly exploited the non-diegetic lives of his actors. Matthew McConaughey, whose sackcloth-and-ashes transformation from rom-com man-meat to thespian has been well documented, plays a flawed hotshot reporter named Ward Jansen. Ward is the big brother of Efron’s beefcakey, naïve college dropout named Jack. Both are enamored, for very different reasons, of Nicole Kidman. Ward wants her story; Jack wants her body. Kidman, who at this point in her life resembles a blow–up sex doll version of a younger Nicole Kidman, plays a blow–up sex doll named Charlotte Bless. John Cusack, who in his youth once held a boombox above his head and the hearts of America in his big doe-eyes, now plays a very bad man named Hillary Van Wetter, whose pimples and pustules are the embodiment of his rotten soul.

To illustrate just how far a departure this movie is from Efron’s hitherto Hot Topic crowd pleasers, I’ll just mention that there’s a very graphic scene—and not the one in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron’s face, but another one—that takes place in a jail visiting room. Zac Efron watches John Cusack masturbate through his pants as Nicole Kidman mentally fellates Cusack to climax and Matthew McConnaghy adjusts himself in a way meant to indicate he may or may not have a hard- on. There’s no sticking to the status quo here.

As intense as the scene is to watch—and it is incredibly intense to watch—it was even more intense to shoot. “That was the first day of filming,” Efron recalled, “and Nicole just completely went for it. She was telling everyone, ‘I’m bringing my A game. What do you have?’ I’ve never been so scared in my life. But that moment affirmed this movie was everything I set out to do.” It’s not just journalistic flimflam or sycophantic razzle–dazzle to say Efron really does nail the role and that it’s almost inconceivable to think he could revert back to his Disneyfied pretty boy alter ego. It’s as if he’s finally moved from Flatland to Spaceland, and you can’t undiscover a new dimension.

And the Efronian rebellion continues, as if to ensure all bridges will be burned. Next, Efron stars in Ramin Bahrani’s upcoming film At Any Price. Efron plays a sneering farmer-turned-race car driver named Dean Whipple who destroys his family in his hubristic pursuit of glory. “He’s a bad guy,” says Efron, not without admiration, “but that’s what I was looking for: someone who lacks moral integrity.” He smiles and though it may be a fleck of nori, there seems to be a hitherto unnoticed darkness in the grin. “I want to go so deep I have to rise from the ashes.”

It’s edging past noon in Sylmar, and the sun is only getting more malevolent. Efron has already posed with a lynx, a kinkajou, a pair of sugar gliders, and a gray fox. It’s so hot he has his friend, Chris, visit the set to buy fans online. (He’s a fan of Dyson’s Air Multiplier.) Every animal is panting. But Efron is irrepressible. He’s excited about the chinchilla— “Chinchillas are dope!”—but first makes a stop at the birds of prey enclosure. From his perch, Richard, a seven–year–old red-tailed hawk, stares at Efron without blinking. He seems nonplussed by Efron’s fame or good looks. He, himself, is quite good-looking, with powerful wings spanning nearly 60 inches and impressive tawny breast feathers fanning into his brick-red tail. Richard, like many of the animals at the center, has been imprinted. That means, though wild at heart, he wouldn’t survive uncaged and unassisted.

Someone kept Richard as a pet, thought he’d be cute or, perhaps, cool. They fed him an inappropriate diet, and made his bones soft. Richard’s working back to being wild, but it might never happen. Zac Efron reaches out his gloved arm onto which Richard, after some coaxing, grudgingly perches. The hawk fixes his great seeing eyes onto Efron’s blue ones and, perhaps thinking that Efron might know something about wanting to be free, spreads his wings to fly.

Zac Efron Covers Our Upcoming Party Issue!

Sure, it’s still sweltering and humid outside and it doesn’t seem like it’s ready for the temperature to be dropping anytime soon, but Autumn is quickly approaching. Soon the leaves will be changing colors and dropping to the ground. But cheer up, kids! What’s fall without a few parties? I mean, we’ve got Halloween, for crying out loud. And does one need a good excuse to have a party, anyway? Not really! You’ll find in our upcoming October/November issue that a party can happen anywhere at any time just as long as you’ve got a few party animals hanging around together.

Speaking of which, we had some cute animals hang out with one of our favorite party animals: Zac Efron. He’s a cutie himself, although I think you’ll be surprised how grown up he’s become now that he’s starring in the gritty upcoming film, The Paperboy, directed by Academy Award-nominated director Lee Daniels and featuring a heavyweight cast including Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, and John Cusack. But it’s Efron who’s making a splash in the sexy thriller and, thankfully, on the cover of our next issue. 

But back to partying! We sent photographers across the globe into the night to look at how people celebrate all over the world, we have a look at DJ school in Bali, and we hear from the most debaucherous events in the country: political party conventions. Plus, we also chat wtih British chanteause Paloma Faith, who is looking to make her big break on American shores, Heathcliff and Cathy party on the Scottish moors in Andrea Arnold’s gorgeous new adaptation of Wuthering Heights, and Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat curates a playlist to ease a broken heart (and strike back against your nemesis). And there’s so much more, including the newest trends in nightlife, restaurants, hotels, fitness, and more! 

Check out The Party Issue, on newsstands later this month, and, as always, check back here for full coverage!