Tess (Amanda Crew) and Charlie St Cloud (Zac Efron) © Universal Pictures

Canadian actress Amanda Crew made her first American movie in 2006 with Final Destination 3, which led to roles in She’s the Man, Sex Drive and The Haunting in Connecticut. In her new movie, Charlie St Cloud she stars opposite teenage heartthrob Zac Efron. She portrays Tess Carroll, an old high-school friend of Charlie’s (Efron) who shares the same love of sailing as he does – in fact, she’s planning on an ambitious solo voyage around the world.

Did you know Zac was in the movie when you went to audition?

Tess (Amanda Crew) © Universal Pictures

My agent sent me the script and she was like, ‘This is an amazing script. You have to read this,’ and, at the time Zac was attached. I was like, ‘Who’s Zac Efron?’ [she laughs]. Then I was like, ‘I don’t know if this will work. I don’t know if there’s any chemistry there’.

Then the audition process started. I met with Burr Steers, the director, first and then got the call on my birthday that I’d be doing a chemistry read with Zac which was just like, ‘Oh my God!’ To be considered for the part was such an honor. I was actually in my agent’s office (when they called to say I’d gotten the part), and I’ve got a photo of me because I’m hunched over crying. It was a dream come true.

What was going through your mind then when you got the part?

I was so shocked and honored. You work so hard and you have your ups and downs in this industry where you question, ‘Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes?’ After all that hard work you have that moment of, ‘I earned this and I deserve this,’ and you’re validated. It’s a great moment.

What attracted you to the role?

Tess (Amanda Crew) and Charlie St Cloud (Zac Efron) © Universal Pictures

What I was drawn to in the character was it’s really hard to find strong roles for girls my age. A lot of the time it’s just the pretty girl who serves as the love interest and that’s it. What I loved about this character was she’s such a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants in life. She’s unapologetic about it. She has these goals and she’s going for it. I think that’s a great role model for girls.

Even myself, I admired this character. She going to sail around the world by herself. She’s brave and ambitious. So I’m just trying to carry that strength with me for the rest of my life.

Did you talk to any young sailors?

We had a lot of different sailing coaches and trainers on the set. One specifically was this guy named Sterling Ashcroft. He’s young, early 20’s so he was great. He’d always be on set. On the scenes on the boat he’d constantly check in with me, ‘Touch this,’ or, ‘Play with this rope, tie this up,’ so Zac and I actually looked like we knew what we were doing.

Are you ready for a lot of girls and teens to be jealous as hell of you?

Charlie St Cloud (Zac Efron) and Tess (Amanda Crew) © Universal Pictures

Well, so far I’ve met a lot of Zac’s fans because they would be around the set. He has really great fans. I haven’t (met) any mean fans. They just want to know what he’s like and, thankfully, I have only amazing things to say about him.

What was it like to meet him first day on set and make out with him?

Well, I’d met him before because we’d done chemistry reads and screen tests. It’s so interesting. The first time I met him in the chemistry read, obviously he’s a good-looking guy but I was never that girl that had his poster above my bed, but when I met him, all of a sudden he has this effect on people.

He’s a dreamboat. All of a sudden I’m turning into a 12-year-old girl and giggling. ‘Where did that laugh come from?’ He puts you at ease so quickly. He’s just so down to Earth. He is genuine. He’s humble. He’s normal with no ego.

We did a lot of rehearsals before we actually started filming which was great because we did build this great friendship between us. I think part of that is to do with the fact that he’s not this guarded guy, ‘I’m God. I’m Zac Efron’. I didn’t know him before he had all this success but I feel like the person I’m meeting today is the same person as before all the success hit him.

Can you talk about the rehearsal process because Burr is very much an actor’s director?

We did rehearsals for three weeks or so before. It was everything from doing various acting exercises, me and Zac together just to get comfortable and not be scared to take risks in front of each other and falling on our faces. We did a lot of character work. He showed us a lot of old films and different actors and actresses to look at, like Vanessa Redgrave.

He showed me a lot of her work and we watched different movies for different reasons to see this dynamic (in) this love relationship. A lot of times, he was just showing us one scene, one moment. We did a lot of work with repetition, actor exercises where you just repeat back and forth. It’s crazy but it’s kind of like actors’ boot camp. We got free acting classes. Thanks Burr.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane