Zac Efron Almost Blew His ‘Hairspray’ Audition For This Weird Reason

Zac Efron burst on to the scene with his starring role in the Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical in 2006. After HSM premiered, Efron became one of the most in-demand teen stars of his time. He auditioned for a role in the 2007 remake of John Waters’ classic movie Hairspray, but the young star almost didn’t get it for a surprising reason.

Zac Efron
Zac Efron attends the “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” European premiere at The Curzon Mayfair on April 24, 2019 in London, England | Samir Hussein/WireImage

‘Hairspray’ was a monumental story

Hairspray is a story about overcoming social barriers and bringing communities together, sometimes through difficult action. The story takes place in the early 1960s in Baltimore at the height of the civil rights movement.

Tracy Turnblad (played in the 2007 movie by Nikki Blonsky) has a passion for dancing as well as for enacting progress in her community. She advocates for racial integration when seemingly no one else around her is and won’t stop until she sees the justice that she deserved.

Zac Efron
Actor Zac Efron poses during a photocall for the movie “Hairspray” at the Paris Las Vegas during ShoWest, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, March 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While John Waters’ original Hairspray from 1988 was a simple comedy film, the 2007 film directed by Adam Shankman is based on the Broadway musical based on Waters’ film.

In Hairspray, Zac Efron played Link Larkin, a mildly narcissistic singer at school who slowly falls for Tracy. While casting a teen heartthrob such as Efron in the role would seemingly be a no-brainer, Shankman admitted at the time of the movie’s release that he didn’t want Efron in the role.

Actor Zac Efron and actress Nikki Blonsky
Actor Zac Efron and actress Nikki Blonsky attend photocall for “Hairspray” on September 12, 2007 at Hotel Santo Mauro in Madrid, Spain | Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

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Shankman opened up about his thought process during casting in a 2007 interview with the Boston Herald.

“I need to credit my sister [Jennifer Gibgot], who’s my producing partner [in Offspring Entertainment], with Zac, because I didn’t get it,” he admitted. “She made Freddie Prinze a star and Channing Tatum a star and she seems to know who these stars of tomorrow are far before anyone else does.”

“She screamed at me when I passed on Zac,” the director-choreographer revealed. “But he came in to audition sweet and goofy like he is in High School Musical. Nothing like sexy Link Larkin. I told my sister, who said, ‘You better make him like Link then because I’m telling you right now he is going to be the biggest star in the world.'”

Zac Efron’s smile almost cost him his ‘Hairspray’ role

Shankman wasn’t impressed with Efron’s constant smiling in the audition. In his view, it was nothing like Link Larkin’s character, and thus, Efron would not be a fit for the role at all.

“And then I got it,” Shankman conceded. “It was the big Disney smile! His big, broad smile was un-Link; it didn’t have the danger. I said, ‘Don’t smile, arch your eyebrows. Do Link with a smoke in your voice.'”