"It was so cool, he was so proud of all of us," Zac Efron said of meeting Kevin Von Erich at 'The Iron Claw' world premiere. "It was a huge honor for me"
At a Q&A following the movie's New York City premiere on Monday, Efron — who plays the real-life former professional wrestler Kevin Von Erich in the new A24 movie — said that knowing Von Erich, 66, would see the movie encouraged him to work hard fine-tuning his performance (and muscles) for the role.
"Playing somebody who's real and still alive adds an extra layer of complexity, I think," Efron, 36, said during the question-and-answer session. "As an actor, it's a fine line. You want to do everything you can to make sure it's an honest portrayal of the character, without going so hard that it's an impersonation. And for this movie, just knowing that he was going to be out there and would ultimately see it, I didn't know if I was going to do a good job or not."
"It was very motivating. It was incredibly motivating," he continued. "That would keep me going in the gym and in the ring, just wanting to make him proud."
Efron also said that he finally got a chance to meet Von Erich at the film's world premiere in Dallas last Wednesday.
"I got at least an hour and a half of just one-on-one time, and a lot of hugs," Efron shared on Monday. "And we had a really great conversation just hearing what came across to him in the film. It just meant the world, man. It was so cool, he was so proud of all of us. It was a huge honor for me."
Efron costars in The Iron Claw along with Jeremy Allen White as the late Kerry Von Erich, while Harris Dickinson and Stanley Simons round out the movie's lead cast as David and Mike Von Erich, respectively. The movie follows the Von Erich brothers as they make professional wrestling history and struggle to live up to high expectations placed upon them by their father, the pro wrestler Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany).
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Efron noticeably bulked up to film the movie, with fans noticing his muscly physique in photos taken from the film's set in October 2022. While The Bear star White, 32, also got in shape for his role, he joked during Monday's Q&A that he could not compare to the physical work Efron put in.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to stand near Zac. I saw him and I went, ‘Can Harris [Dickinson] stand next to him?'” White joked. “No, I mean, Zac looked so amazing and I think, yeah, just being around him was a motivator for me to eat more, train more.”
“I knew I couldn’t get as big as Kerry," White added. "I just don’t think it was physically possible for me. I’m a pretty little guy, but I tried. I don’t think it’s possible for any human on the planet.”
The Iron Claw releases in theaters on Dec. 22.
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