Zac Efron’s Iron Claw Co-Star Explains The Story Behind Surprising The High School Musical Actor With A Performance Of ‘Breaking Free’


Zac Efron may be garnering career-best reviews for his heartbreaking work in The Iron Claw, his wrestling movie with Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and Stanley Simons. But don’t think that any of his co-stars are letting the movie star forget where he came from. 

During an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, the quartet of actors joined the titular talk show host in discussing filming the A24 movie, which included a surprise throwback to one of Efron’s most famous roles: as singing basketballer Troy Bolton in The High School Musical trilogy. Simons, who portrays younger brother Mike Von Erich in the wrestling flick, revealed how he jokingly honored Troy in an impromptu musical tribute during one of The Iron Claw‘s “lively” party scenes: 

I think it would be a disservice to anyone from my generation if I didn’t do something…I was playing music, I was fretting about this scene. And the night before, I learned the chords to ‘Breaking Free’ and I gave a little rendition in front of Zac…

“Breaking Free” is, of course, one of the most famous tracks to come out of the 2006 Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical. In the teen classic, it is sung by Efron and his on-and-off-screen love interest Vanessa Hudgens, who played Gabriella Montez in the trilogy. 

Dickinson added that Simons was “sneaky” in how he played the cover while they were all filming: 

He did it kind of sneaky as well, he was like [pretends to play guitar and sings] ‘We’re soaring…’

Jeremy Allen White added that the rendition was “well-received” by all on set, but Efron said that it did throw off his own performance for a second:

It was right before my coverage…it was pretty funny!

Clarkson said she’s still happy to be stopped all these years later from American Idol fans who voted for her on the star-making singing competition, and asked if Efron still enjoys fans coming up to him and referencing High School Musical, to which he responded:

It means the world, it’s so fun.

White interjected to proudly alert Clarkson and her studio audience to the fact that Efron was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday, December 11. (The Bear actor was also on hand to support his buddy at the star unveiling.) 

Efron revealed how much it meant to him to look out and see bystanders wearing “Wildcat jerseys” and cheering him on during the ceremony, though he joked that the High School Musical fanbase is slightly older than it once was:

There was so many Wildcats jersey out, the fans are still out there in force. It’s fun though because you know, they used to be really young and now there’s like 40-year-old dudes out there. It’s awesome. I love it, I love it, pretty grateful.

And speaking of breaking free, Efron is seemingly breaking free of what Hollywood thought the song-and-dance man was capable of, with the former Disney star getting major critical notice and awards buzz for his emotional turn and massive physical transformation as WWE pro Kevin Von Erich. Now that is something worth singing about. The Iron Claw is now playing in theaters.

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