"High School Musical" star Zac Efron has finally named his production company and it's a doozy, folks: Ninjas Runnin' Wild Productions.
Really, Zac Efron? That's the best you can come up with? What if you somehow produced an awards-caliber movie for Steven Spielberg? Imagine the opening titles; DreamWorks Pictures proudly presents … a Ninjas Runnin' Wild Production … I mean, c'mon, man! There'd better be a good reason for that silly name.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, former Fox executive Jason Young will serve as NRW's head of development and point person, so for Efron's sake, let's hope Young's taste in projects are better than the films he worked on at Fox, which include the disappointing action sequels "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "Live Free or Die Hard," as well as nearly unwatchable movies such as "Max Payne" and "Meet Dave."
If I were Young, my first move would be to resurrect a long-forgotten project known as "The Holiday Club" and develop it as an Efron vehicle. I remember reading that screenplay years ago and thought it had a lot of potential. The script follows a group of embassy kids who are immune to the laws that govern ordinary people as a result of their diplomatic status. Sounds perfect for Efron, right?
Instead, Efron will star in and produce an untitled workplace comedy from Jason Filardi (Efron's surprise hit "17 Again") that Warner Bros. has picked up and is negotiating with Offspring Entertainment's Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot to produce. Efron's manager, Jason Barrett of Alchemy Entertainment, will also produce.
Barrett has helped Efron assemble his team of Ninjas and will oversee NRW's operations with the young actor. Annie Edgar, a former assistant and creative executive at Alchemy, will act as NRW's creative exec.
NRW is developing four other projects, which Deal Central will list from most to least intriguing:
1. Efron is producing a remake of Daniel Espinosa's Swedish thriller "Snabba cash" with Atlas Entertainment's Charles Roven ("The Dark Knight") and Richard Suckle, as well as Fredrik Wikstrom. Barrett will exec produce with Michael Hjorth.
Swedish thrillers are all the rage right now thanks to the movies based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, plus the remake offers Efron a gritty role that will help him shed his cutesy "High School Musical" persona.
2. NRW is producing "Art of the Steal" with Kevin McCormick's Langley Park Productions. The project, which was set up at Warner Bros. three weeks ago, is based on Joshuah Bearman's exhilarating article in Wired magazine about a master thief. The producers are currently seeking writers to adapt the material.
Efron is a little young to play a master thief, but it's possible that he doesn't even intend to star in "Steal," as NRW is also charged with producing projects that won't feature Efron in front of the camera. That said, if Leonardo DiCaprio could do pull off "Catch Me If You Can," it's possible Efron could grow enough as an actor to be able to perform a similar cinematic trick.
3. Efron and Barrett are exec producing "Fire," Universal's big-screen adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis' graphic novel about a college student who is recruited to join a special CIA training program. The author is writing the adaptation himself for producers Neal Moritz and David Engel.
That's not much description to go by but Efron would be playing a Jewish spy, a scenario that certainly offers the opportunity to do something interesting.
4. "Get Him to the Greek" director Nick Stoller, Mark Gordon and Bryan Zuriff are producing "Einstein Theory," a time-travel story from Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski that is set up at WB and intended to be an Efron vehicle.
Personally, I'm a little burned out on time-travel movies so this one brings up the rear on my slate despite the involvement of the writers behind "Assassination of a High School President."
Outside of NRW, Efron and Mandate Pictures president Nathan Kahane are exec producing an untitled thriller from writer Leslie Dixon. Barrett will produce with Oscar winner Greg Shapiro ("The Hurt Locker") and Dixon. Plot details are currently being kept under wraps.
Clearly, NRW is developing an ambitious and wide-ranging slate of projects, which goes to show that Efron and his handlers have a definite plan in place to take the young actor's career to the next level.
Efron next stars in the coming-of-age drama "Charlie St. Cloud," which Universal opens July 30.
The 22-year-old heartthrob is represented by CAA.