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'Neighbors' star Zac Efron: Keeping quiet while being loud

Zac Efron's seeming strategy of keeping mum about rumors of addiction appears to be working -- to a point

It seemed juicy: A close-up shot of Zac Efron and his intense blue eyes flanked by a cover line about Alcoholics Anonymous.

After keeping mum about rumored rehab stints for months, was the onetime "High School Musical" star about to open up about his reported addiction struggles in a long profile in the Hollywood Reporter? After all, Efron's penchant for partying had been the elephant in the room at every one of his public appearances since last September, when TMZ reported the actor had secretly sought treatment for a cocaine addiction.

But what seemed like a moment of confession in advance of his new movie “Neighbors” turned out to be anything but. Sure, he said he used to drink "way too much" and had also dabbled in drugs, and acknowledged attending AA meetings. But he didn't address a TMZ report that said his addiction had actually spiraled out of control on the "Neighbors" set, nor many of the other salacious reports that had emerged.

In fact, Efron seemed more intent on describing his new life, in which he said he no longer lives in a Hollywood Hills bachelor pad, goes to bed at 9 p.m. so he can wake up early to work out and reads "Tao Te Ching" and "Siddhartha."

He continued that pattern in his multiple broadcast appearances in advance of the film's release, keeping things light and non-personal -- as when he dressed in drag on “The Tonight Show" or played along with a shirtless gag on the MTV Movie Awards.

In a time when embattled personalities looking for a comeback  routinely take the public-confessional route in the style of (and often actually with) an Oprah Winfrey or a Barbara Walters, the 26-year-old studiously stayed away, choosing less to apologize for any youthful misdeeds than to carry on as if they were never really there.

On its face this might seem odd in a culture in which public indiscretions usually come with -- and benefit from -- a broadcast mea culpa. But by going on a publicity tour and talking about little but, Efron may have been savvy after all. Audiences seemed to embrace him in the raunch comedy “Neighbors” despite all of that. The movie took in a whopping $51.1 million at the domestic box office this weekend, breaking a box-office cold streak for the actor.

Still, if the headlines don’t seem to be hurting Efron, that’s doesn’t mean he’s a box-office draw yet either. Efron is at best a secondary lure in “Neighbors,” behind the popular comedic presence of Seth Rogen. And the disappointing commercial resume -- "The Lucky One," “That Awkward Moment,” “Charlie St. Cloud” -- doesn’t go away. With every new charming media appearance, it’s become easier for the public to forget about Efron's rough year. Now the key for Efron is making them remember him as an actor.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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