Zac Efron celebrates his 34th birthday on Oct. 18, 2021! To mark his big day, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the actor's life and career in photos… Zac was born in San Luis Obispo, California, to dad David and mom Starla, who later welcomed his little brother, Dylan. Zac began performing in theater productions at a young age, appearing in shows like "Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up," "Little Shop of Horrors" and "The Music Man." At the recommendation of his drama teacher, Zac and his family got in touch with an agent in Los Angeles. Within no time, he was living in the City of Angels! He's seen here as a teenager in June 2004.
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Zac Efron earned his first on-screen credit when he appeared on an episode of Joss Whedon's "Firefly" in 2002. Throughout the '00s, he appeared on several other shows including "ER" and "The Guardian." He earned his first recurring role, which was eventually turned into a main role, on The WB's "Summerland" from 2004 to 2005. He's seen here at the WB's All Star Summer Party in July 2004. Talk about a throwback!
It's the film franchise that changed it all. In 2006, Zac Efron starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie "High School Musical" as teenager Troy Bolton who, after a chance encounter with fellow teen Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) during a New Year's Eve party, realizes he's also interested in the performing arts. The only problem? He's the star player on his high school basketball team, which is coached by his father. "High School Musical," which also made stars of Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman, was a massive success. To date, it remains the most commercially successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever created.
Love blossomed between Zac Efron and his "High School Musical" co-star Vanessa Hudgens off screen too! "Zanessa," as fans dubbed them, began dating in 2005. "We created a bond right from the start," Vanessa told The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast in 2019. "We were like, 'We're doing this, it's us or nothing.'" The young couple are seen here in October 2005.
A cause for celebration! Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman and Lucas Grabeel are seen here in the press room at the 58th Annual Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Aug. 19, 2006. That evening, "High School Musical" took home the trophy for outstanding children's program!
Way back when! Zac Efron is seen here with Dylan Sprouse and Cole Sprouse, Ashley Tisdale and Brenda Song while filming an episode of Disney's "Suite Life of Zack & Cody" in 2006. On the episode "Odd Couples," Zac played Trevor, Maddie Fitzpatrick's (Ashley) love interest. The episode aired just 13 days after the debut of "High School Musical."
In 2007, Zac Efron played hunky Link Larkin in the feature film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical "Hairspray." The movie, which saw Zac perform catchy tracks like "Ladies' Choice," was a major box office success that earned $203.5 million on a $75 million budget.
Who could forget this iconic number?! In August 2007, a month after the release of "Hairspray," the movie sequel "High School Musical 2" starring Zac Efron debuted on the Disney Channel. The second installment in the franchise saw the East High students working at a golf club during the summer. While 7.7 million viewers tuned in for the first "HSM" movie, "High School Musical 2" broke that record with 17 million viewers.
Still going strong! Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens are pictured here at the premiere of "High School Musical 2" at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 14, 2007. In 2014, Zac spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about meeting Vanessa for the first time. "I had no idea what to expect. There were about 40 guys," he recalled. "And we walked in, and [director] Kenny Ortega was there with a piano, and they put everybody in a room together, and we ran through different phases of what we would need to do — first dancing, then singing — and a few of us got tapped on the shoulder [to leave], and I didn't. And next came the scene-reading sections, and I got paired with Vanessa Hudgens."
The success of "High School Musical" and "High School Musical 2" culminated in a third and final film: "High School Musical 3: Senior Year." The TV movie, which focused on the East High seniors as they geared up to select colleges and start new chapters and again starred Zac Efron, served as an emotional end to a beloved trilogy. "High School Musical 3: Senior Year," which was the only film in the franchise to receive a theatrical debut, earned a whopping $252.9 million on an $11 million budget.
In 2009, Zac Efron and Matthew Perry co-starred in the comedy "17 Again." In the flick, Zac played the 17-year-old version of Mike O'Donnell while Matthew Perry was Mike as a 37-year-old man in the present day. The film was a box office success — "17 Again" earned $136.3 million on a $20 million budget.
In 2008, Zac Efron starred as Richard Samuels in the Richard Linklater period drama "Me and Orson Welles." The film, which was based on the Robert Kaplow novel of the same name, focuses on a teen who falls for a production assistant after being hired to perform in Orson Welles' stage production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."
In 2010, Zac Efron starred in the drama "Charlie St. Cloud," which is based on the Ben Sherwood novel. The film saw him playing the titular character who, following the tragic death of his younger brother, promises to play baseball with his sibling's ghost in the woods. When a dangerous circumstance threatens the well-being of the girl he loves, Charlie is forced to choose whether he'll honor his promise to his brother or save her life. "Charlie St. Cloud" earned $48.2 million on a $44 million budget.
Nothing lasts forever. In December 2010, after five years of dating, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens called it quits. "It was a good thing," Vanessa later told Shape of their romance. "The relationship kept me grounded, and because I was with someone who knew me so well, I didn't need to try to be someone I'm not." They're seen here courtside at the Staples Center during a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game in February 2010 — just a few months before their split.
2011 marked the year in which Zac Efron, pictured here with Michelle Pfeiffer, starred in the romantic comedy "New Year's Eve." The film, which featured an ensemble cast that included Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Seth Meyers, Sarah Jessica Parker and more, told several intertwining stories about people gearing up to celebrate New Year's Eve in New York City. The film — in which Zac got to lock lips with Michelle, something he called "the best part" of the movie — earned $142 million on a $56 million budget.
As for 2012? That year, Zac Efron co-starred alongside Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman in the crime drama "The Paperboy." In the film, which is based on the 1995 Pete Dexter novel of the same name, Zac played the younger brother of Matthew's reporter character. "The Paperboy," unfortunately, was a box office bomb, earning just $3.78 million on a $12.5 million budget.
Landing a feature film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel is a right of passage, right? In 2012, Zac Efron starred alongside Taylor Schilling in the romantic drama "The Lucky One." He played U.S. Marine Logan Thibault who, after finding a photo of an unidentified woman while serving, sets out to find her when he returns home. Despite earning mostly negative reviews, "The Lucky One" made $99.4 million on a $25 million budget.
In 2013, Zac Efron quietly checked into rehab. "The challenging part was never the work. That was never it," the actor told Bear Grylls on "Running Wild with Bear Grylls." "It was sort of the in-between work." He went on to explain, "It was getting to the point where I was caring less about the work and waiting more for the weekend… I couldn't wait to go out and sort of let loose and have fun, but then when Monday and Tuesday were difficult to get through, then I was like, 'This is bad.'" Zac, who later revealed he'd been abusing alcohol and drugs, is seen here at the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival in Texas the same year he sought treatment.
2013 was also the year Zac Efron starred as Dr. Charles James Carrico in "Parkland," which retells the tumultuous moments following the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. The film, which was produced by Tom Hanks and based on a 2008 Vincent Bugliosi novel, received mixed reviews. Zac is seen here with Colin Hanks, who played real-life physician Dr. Malcolm O. Perry.
2014 marked the release of the romantic comedy "That Awkward Moment," which Zac Efron not only starred in but executive produced through his Ninjas Runnin' Wild production company. Zac, seen here with co-stars Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, starred as Jason, a non-committal New Yorker who finds himself contemplating a relationship with a woman he hits it off with at a bar. "That Awkward Moment" made a cool $40.5 million on a $8 million budget.
Zac Efron and actress Michelle Rodriguez made headlines in 2014 when they enjoyed a summer fling. They're seen here heading out on a boating excursion in Sardinia, Italy, on July 1, 2014.
Not long after he enjoyed a steamy summer romance with actress Michelle Rodriguez, Zac Efron began dating designer Sami Miró. The couple, seen here in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2014, dated for almost two years.
In 2014, Zac Efron starred in the hit comedy "Neighbors" alongside Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. The film chronicles a couple with a newborn as they try to dismantle the fraternity that moves in next door. Zac plays their nemesis — Teddy Sanders, the president of Delta Psi Beta. "Neighbors" earned an impressive $270.7 million against a $18 million budget.
Zac Efron went on to date "Neighbors" co-star Halston Sage. Though they never confirmed their relationship, they were seen getting close at the Staples Center during a Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks game on April 4, 2014. This wouldn't be the only time this actor and actress were linked — they briefly revived their romance in January 2020.
Zac Efron took on the role of a Los Angeles-based DJ who tries to break into the music industry in 2015's "We Are Your Friends." The film, which also stars Emily Ratajkowski and Wes Bentley, received mixed reviews from critics and earned $11.1 million on a $2 million budget.
Zac Efron appeared in a hit sequel in 2016: "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising," which saw his frat boy character, Teddy Sanders, team up with former foes the Radners (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) as they attempt to prevent their new neighbors, a sorority, from threatening the sale of their home, which is in escrow. As with the first film, "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rises" was a box office hit — it earned an impressive $108 million on a $35 million budget.
Zac Efron also delivered laughs in the 2016 comedy "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates," in which he and Adam DeVine play brothers who need suitable dates to their sister's wedding. Reviews were mixed for the film, which earned $77.1 million worldwide.
In 2017, Zac Efron starred in Dwayne Johnson's feature film adaptation of the hit television series "Baywatch." Zac worked hard to get in incredible shape to play lifeguard Matt Brody — who helps catch a powerful drug lord threatening beachgoers — in the action-comedy movie. While the film earned negative reviews, it was still a box office success with a $177.9 million haul.
"Baywatch" wasn't the only major blockbuster film Zac Efron was attached to in 2017 — he also co-starred as Phillip Carlyle in the musical movie "The Greatest Showman." Featuring an ensemble cast that included Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson, the film was inspired by the origin story of P.T. Barnum's American Museum. "The Greatest Showman" received critical acclaim, earning a whopping $435 million on a $84 million budget. In addition to being considered the fifth highest grossing live-action musical ever, it also earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for best movie musical or comedy.
2019 saw Zac Efron undergo a chilling and eerie transformation for his role as real-life serial killer Ted Bundy in Netflix's "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." The drama made its Sundance Film Festival premiere on Jan. 26, 2019, and, despite earning mixed reviews, Zac was praised for his performance. Zac admitted that mentally separating himself from Ted while filming posed some challenges, which is why he began meditating and doing breathing exercises. "I think that's the only way. I really love TM, Transcendental Meditation. I did TM on the way home," he told Entertainment Weekly. "Not while driving, but when you're shooting a movie one thing we can afford is a ride home, so on the way home I just do some TM and try to phase out of it. Really, you can't ever really let go of all of it. There's always a little bit of you that knows tomorrow you're Ted."
Zac Efron showed off a new bleached-blonde look while promoting his film "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" in 2019. He's seen here at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City that May.
"Scoob!" — the animated film based on the beloved "Scooby-Doo" franchise — came out in May 2020. Zac Efron played Fred Jones in the project, which also featured Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez and Amanda Seyfried in the voice cast.
On July 10, 2020, Zac Efron's documentary series "Down to Earth with Zac Efron" debuted on Netflix. The eight-episode show focuses on the actor's travels around the world as he learned more about nature, native cultures and how to live sustainably. Around the time of its release, reports began to emerge indicating that Zac had made a permanent move from Hollywood to Australia's Byron Bay, where he settled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In the summer of 2020, Zac Efron stepped out with Aussie Vanessa Valladares, a sometime model whom he reportedly met while she was working at a local Byron Bay cafe. Though things were serious for a while — they even lived together Down Under — by April 2021, their romance had fizzled out: Zac's friend Kyle Sandilands, a well-known Australian radio host, announced on his show that the pair (seen here in Sydney in January 2021) had split.