American actor Zac Efron has had a busy 18 months travelling around his adopted homeland of Australia, shooting a Stan original and a Emmy-winning documentary series with his brother.
He’s also been in Dubai, in Thailand with Russell Crowe filming Vietnam War movie The Greatest Beer Run Ever, had time to pack up his Byron Bay beach pad and head home to film Stephen King thriller Firestarter.
And now, the much-anticipated first trailer for Stan Original film Gold reveals Efron (Baywatch, The Greatest Showman) like you’ve never seen him before, playing a drifter who gets stranded in the desert after stumbling across the biggest gold nugget ever found.
His High School Musical clean-cut good looks are all but gone, with the 34-year-old bearded, dishevelled and desperate.
He hatches a plan with fellow drifter, played by director and co-writer Anthony Hayes (Animal Kingdom), to protect and excavate their bounty, with Efron left alone in the desert heat to guard the gold while Hayes leaves to find the right tools.
He’s left with a makeshift tent and a satellite phone, battling scorching temperatures and sunburn, dehydration and starvation, as his fears grow he’s literally been left for dead.
As all lone survivor thrillers go – think Cast Away (Tom Hanks), The Martian (Matt Damon) and I am Legend (Will Smith) – subplots play a crucial role, and the supporting cast can often make or break the film.
Hanks had Wilson (the soccer ball), Damon had his potato crop and Smith had a loyal dog and a bunch of undead to worry about.
In Gold, Efron has to fight off weird intruders led by Susie Porter (Ladies in Black, The Second) and giant howling dogs waiting for darkness to fall.
Looks like this gives us everything we need for a seat-of-your-pants desert drama.
Gold gets tick of approval from SA premier
Immediately following the news of the first look at Gold, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall was quick to cash in on the state’s continuing investment in the film industry (Screen Australia reports $96 million), having hosted the film production late last year.
“Photos of Hollywood sensation Zac Efron in outback #SouthAustralia have been released alongside the trailer for his film GOLD, which will premiere on Stan, 26 Jan. We’re investing in our screen sector to attract big names to SA, drive economic activity and create #SAjobs,” he wrote on Twitter.
According to Screen Australia’s 2020-21 Drama Report released on December 8, a record $1.9 billion was spent on Australian projects and foreign projects produced or post-produced here.
CEO Graeme Mason said “it’s simply unprecedented to have 10 big foreign productions shooting here in Australia”, including Chris Hemsworth starring in Thor: Love and Thunder and Escape from Spiderhead, to Bruna Papandrea, Nicole Kidman and others bringing the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers Down Under.
“Australia cemented its reputation as a leading destination for international productions in 2020-21, thanks not only to our world-class cast, crew, facilities and stunning physical locations and Australia’s lower rates of COVID-19, but also due to the incentive and investment framework supported by the federal, state and territory governments.”
Screen Australia reported the spend on Australian feature productions reached $500 million, more than double last year’s spend, and an astonishing 57 per cent above the five-year average.
All up, 42 titles started production with 38 domestic features including Gold, Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis project, Seriously Red, and Three Thousand Years of Longing, as well as four official co-productions – Carmen, We Are Still Here, Mia and me: The Hero of Centopia and Nude Tuesday.
When Efron landed in Adelaide after two weeks of quarantine in Sydney, Efron hung out at night spots such as Downtown and Cry Baby.
He “enjoyed some retail therapy grabbing a pair of RM Williams classic Comfort Craftsman boots, before production moved to the outback”, reported Adelaide’s The Advertiser.
Filming wrapped by Christmas but the star returned with his brother Dylan three months later to film a second series of his Netflix documentary Down to Earth with Zac Efron.
Heading across to Kangaroo Island, he wrote: “What a gem of a place, I just love it here.”
His worldwide travels paid off – he won a Daytime Emmy Award in July for Outstanding Daytime Program Host for the series.
In November last year, when Hayes first announced Efron was on board, he described his star power as being an “absolute gift”.
“To have Zac Efron as my main man on this film is an absolute gift and to see what he is creating already is like nothing we’ve seen from him before,” Hayes in a statement at the time.
“This is an exciting, gripping and timely tale about greed, humanity, who we are, what we’ve done to the world and where we are heading if we aren’t careful,” Hayes said.
“I can’t wait to deliver this bold, visceral and cinematic film to audiences all around the world.”
Gold is on cinema release from January 13 and exclusively on Stan on January 26