Why We Shouldn’t Dismiss Young Actors So Quickly


There’s a rumor floating around from Latino Review that two actors have come in to audition for JJ Abrams Star Wars Episode VII. It’s Ryan Gosling and Zac Efron, reportedly trying to play the sons of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo respectively.

I’m not going to comment on whether or not this is true, and what the implications would be if it was. I really doubt that either actor will make its way into the film in the end, but I do believe we are probably going to see some Skywalker and/or Solo descendants in the new feature. We almost have to.

But rather I just wanted to touch on the collective internet reaction to this, mainly focused on Efron. “Zac Efron in Star Wars? **** that!” is more or less how I’d sum up the views of both fans and most journalists about this news.


I really don’t think it’s fair to the guy, nor does it really jive with reality in terms of how we find our future stars.

Efron is most famous for starring in High School Musical, a trio of Disney movies where he sang, danced and played basketball, usually some combination of all three at the same time. He became an instant Tiger Beat heartthrob for a few years, and then graduated into making the women, young and old, swoon on film. Efron starred in 17 Again (more baskeball!), showed up in New Year’s Eve and recently was in the Nicolas Sparks feature, The Lucky One.

Yes, it’s a mostly girly collection of films, but does it sound at all familiar?

I’m speaking about his rumored future cast mate, Ryan Gosling, whose career followed a somewhat similar trajectory before he became one of the premiere badasses of cinema. Gosling’s Disney career started even earlier, all the way back in the Mickey Mouse Club, and then he became well-now as the rain-kisser in Nicolas Sparks’ The Notebook.


Eventually, however, Gosling graduated from cutesy and sweet to a serious actor. I’d say Half Nelson was his turning point, where he played a drug-addicted inner city teacher, and then he had another great dramatic turn in Blue Valentine. Eventually, he reached action star status with a brutal performance in Drive, and that point, Gosling was barely recognizable from the actor he used to be. Now he’s murdering aplenty from The Place Beyond the Pines to Gangster Squad, and he’s not immediately laughed off when it’s rumored he could take up a lightsaber as a Skywalker.

The point is I don’t think it’s fair to judge any young actor still in their 20s by the roles they’ve had so far or the “persona” we’ve given them as a squeaky clean Disney prince or something like that.

Truth is, so many of our favorite, respected actors have started out that way. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was on 3rd Rock and starred in 10 Things I Hate About You. Now he’s in every other badass film out there from Inception to Looper to The Dark Knight Rises. The same goes for Leonardo DiCaprio who started out as a teen heartthrob on Growing Pains of all places, then landed the lead in Titanic, a role that easy could have put him in a box the rest of his life. I don’t even need to mention the string of incredible films and amazing characters Leo has played since then.


I’m not saying that Zac Efron is necessarily the next Leo or JGL or Gosling, but we can’t really know that yet. All an actor his age needs is a singular defining role that proves everybody wrong about them. Who’s to say it couldn’t be a spawn of Solo?

I guess we’re all just worried about another repeat of what happened when Hayden Christensen was cast as Anakin. Not every actor has the talent to live up to the role, even if it’s a good one. I just don’t think people should immediately start laughing when Zac Efron, or someone like him, is up for a part like this. It’s how we got some of our greatest actors, and it’s how we’ll find plenty more I’m sure.

  • MattChi

    Yea, I think this can be expanded to any actor who is type-casted.
    The bourne identity certainly changed some of the outlook on Matt Damon as far as action movie viability.

  • Steve2

    Good point. Yeah, it’s usually age and the right “against-type” roles that help young actors break out of their “teen-beat” image. Or sometimes just time in general. I doubt many people under the age of 35 realize that both Kurt Russell and Jeff Bridges were child actors first. Hell, even Clint Eastwood released an album of country songs where he sang…when he was in his 30’s!!

  • Lucas

    Watch Liberal Arts where Efron actually has a very small role but to be honest it’s the best acting in the entire movie (at least in my opinion)

    I think his acting talent is there – he just has to get over the hump of being seen as that “heart-throb” “teeny-bopper” guy and be seen for being a good actor.

    Gosling did it in spades – and I’m sure Efron is capable …

  • SliceofLife

    I agree with the premise of this argument, but you’re off about Gosling. He had darker roles in both Murder by Numbers and The Believer, both of which came out before The Notebook.

    The Notebook certainly thrust him into the spotlight, but he had already shown his acting chops before that movie ever came out.

  • David R

    Also, it cannot be overstated how dependent an actor is on direction and editing. Not that there aren’t great actors (there are), but when I was working in a post-production facility I literally saw editors turn awful performances into decent ones. That works the other way, too.

    And there’s a reason why certain directors always seem to be getting actors who give great performances.

  • Joe O

    I liked this article, some of the biggest stars today were former ‘heart-throb’ younger actors. Maybe that’s why Ryan Reynolds keeps bombing.

    Efron did do ‘The Paperboy’ which was rated R. Like everyone else, I didn’t see it but it looks like the type of movie that is against his type.

  • Lisse

    Ryan as a Skywalker and Efron as a Solo makes no sense though, if they keep the age range of the corresponding EU characters. Like, it would make far more sense for Ryan to play the Solo, especially because the Solo kids are far more layered and interesting than Luke’s kid. I’m just terrified that they’re going to erase the existing Solo and Skywalker kids (Jacen and Jaina Solo, the twins, Anakin Solo their younger brother, and then waaaay younger by more than a decade comes Ben Skywalker).

  • uriel

    One of Zac Efron’s earliest acting roles was playing young Simon Tam in the Firefly episode “Safe”.

    That’s all I need to know.

  • John W

    You could have included Michelle Williams in that list. From Dawson’s Creek fourth banana to multiple Academy Award nominee.

  • MegaSolipsist

    The entire internet will probably crucify me for this, but while I agree that Hayden Christensen is a bad actor, I think he was good as evil Anakin. Good Anakin was wooden and forced, far too angsty, but after he turned to the dark side I thought he really came alive and played the character well.