Zac Efron recently spoke about the stress of getting into shape for his movie Baywatch. What comes from this is the startling reality of the pressure of looking the part. For most actors, it can have a lasting effect.
For almost 16 years, Zac Efron has worked on multiple films that showcased his progression from a singing 17-year-old basketball player. However, it was in 2017 that Efron’s physical transformation that had caught people’s attention. His Baywatch lifeguard body was the beginning of public scrutiny of his body. In an interview with Men’s Health, Efron is now detailing the exact process and mental strain achieving that stature had on him.
Perfecting the Look
Efron’s body transformed into what he would describe as an almost computerized look to fit the look of an Olympic swimmer. “That Baywatch look, I don’t know if that’s really attainable. There’s just too little water in the skin. Like, it’s fake; it looks CGI’d”. The actor was on a strict diet, eating the same meals three times a day. He was also using powerful diuretics that prevent the body from absorbing too much salt. Besides this, he was hardly sleeping, waking up at 4:00 am after finishing shoot at midnight to train. What came of this was not just a ripped look but a severe decline in his mental health:
“I started to develop insomnia,” he says, “and I fell into a pretty bad depression, for a long time. Something about that experience burned me out. I had a really hard time recentering. Ultimately they chalked it up to taking way too many diuretics for way too long, and it messed something up.”Lauren Larson, Men’s Health
It was only months after filming ended that Efron found himself feeling significantly lighter. He relocated to Australia in 2021, where he looked back on his approach to fitness, now speaking up so that others who desire a Baywatch body think twice.
“The superhero physique is created not through healthy practices of burning fat and eating your vegetables, but through a more extreme process of fasting and dehydration. Most actors can only maintain a truly camera ready body for a few days at a time because of the strain it puts on their systems.”Finnergan Pierson, Raindance
Hollywood and The Pressure of the Role
However, Efron is not the only actor who has seen the pressures of achieving the desired look. In 2017, Jennifer Lawrence was asked to lose 15 pounds in two weeks, a requirement she flat out refused to do. In her audition, glee star Alex Newell was told by the director of Kinky Boots that her weight was stopping her from playing the role.
Bringing a character to life in the most authentic way is one of the complex parts of being an actor. However, Hollywood has fixated on its vision of a perfect body for too long. The constant pressure to look a certain way has led too many to stop prioritizing their own well-being. For many celebrities today, losing an inordinate amount of weight can cause future health issues. But all this is more often than not unknown to the viewer, who may believe these looks are trendy or perfect.
“Unrealistic body expectations can cause several mental health issues for those watching, such as anxiety, body dysmorphia and eating disorders among many others”Ethan Bednash, The Dark Side Of Hollywood Body Transformations
It isn’t uncommon for celebrities to lose or gain weight for a role. But the issue stems from when it goes too far. There is a point in which the ‘perfect body’ is a mix of wild diets, extreme training, and unrealistic expectations. Many celebrities have since fought back against the impossible image they have been asked to recreate. Not just for their own health but their viewers. In an environment with such a heavy influence, it is essential that they also pose the question – Is it really worth it?