Zac Efron Reveals How The Iron Claw Reminded Him Of His Own Body Struggles: ‘It’s Taken A Hold Sometimes’

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Written By Maya Cantina

Zac Efron has taken on what is possibly his most complex and demanding role yet. The actor plays Kevin Von Erich a wrestler with a complicated and tragic family dynamic in his latest film, The Iron Claw. The film explores themes involving masculinity and the nuances involved when men try to achieve it at no end. In addition, the part required Efron to bulk up, and the results were beyond impressive, as the film shows the Firestarter actor in insane physical shape. Efron pushed his body in ways that many may not believe is possible, and now is opening up about how the film impacted his own body images and feelings about masculinity. 

The actor was recently interviewed by Deadline about his role in The Iron Claw, for which Efron is receiving heavy praise from critics. With the movie being such an unflinching look on masculinity, it required The Greatest Showman star to be introspective on his own thoughts on the theme, while simultaneously transforming into the most traditional image of masculinity. He got candid about how the film impacted his worldview, saying:

It’s interesting because I think the definition of masculinity is always changing. It’s ever evolving, and this story drew on a specific type of masculinity that I felt I could identify with. It was something that, for some reason, was close to me. There’s been various times of my life, whether it’s for a role or even just for myself, where I’ve been driven to push my physicality to different inhuman proportions, and it’s taken a hold at times.

These pressures Efron has experienced and how it’s affected his own body image made him feel even more reverence for the ideas explored in The Iron Claw. The honest look at the world of wrestling and how blunt it is about how this pressure can impact mental health was very important to Efron, who explained: 

I think being able to express and share how that happens, and what it feels like…I’m incredibly grateful for this story, for going to this area that is difficult to talk about, and something that I think is in the realm of what films have the responsibility to do. This is what movies should do, and I think we owe it to our audiences to explore topics like this, and leave them with something that they can think about and feel and experience. It truly is beautiful, how turning something that could be a negative into a movie can transform the experience.

Efron has been uniquely expected to achieve specific aesthetic physiques throughout his career, so it makes sense that his most physically demanding role would require him to be introspective about that. He has participated in movies like Neighbors and Baywatch, which have both required a certain look from the actor, and there was probably a lot of behind the scenes to bulk up and obtain an unachievable body type. He even previously admitted to pushing himself too far for Baywatch in particular. 

While there’s certainly an irony to him having to do the same thing again for The Iron Claw at an even more extreme level, the honesty and rawness of the story and themes in the A24 film probably made the physical imposition worth it. Efron and the rest of the cast, which includes The Bear‘s Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson, are all playing real people, so it was also important for the actors to honor their subjects in the most truthful way possible. They do so beautifully, and the fact that Efron has been so candid about how the themes made him reflect on his own life and career, shows how important the 2023 truly is. 

You can see Zac Efron’s tremendous physical performance in The Iron Claw, which is currently playing in theaters nationwide. Fans of the actor can also look forward to him starring alongside Nicole Kidman in The Family Affair, which is expected to be available to Netflix subscribers later this year. Be sure to check out the 2024 movie release dates to plan your next trips to the movies. 

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