SparkNotes Blog

Did Zac Efron Star in Romeo and Juliet in 1968? An Investigation

Obviously the answer is no. No, Zac Efron did not star in a film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in 1968; he was born in 1987, nearly twenty years after the fact. That would be impossible. 

Or would it?

I know you have questions. Luckily, I have the answers. Let’s start from the top.

Q: Who is even asking this?
A: Good question! And the answer is everyone. Everyone who’s ever taken a ninth-grade English class and was alive when High School Musical had an iron grip on the cultural zeitgeist, that is.

Q: Okay, but why are they asking this?
A: Every year, all across America, freshman English teachers finish off their classroom’s Romeo and Juliet unit by showing one of three movies.

  • The 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrmann
  • The 2013 version, directed by Carlo Carlei
  • The 1968 movie, directed by Franco Zeffirelli

Those who watch the 1968 movie are often struck by a single pernicious thought: Wait, is that…? It can’t be. But maybe…

Here on the left is Troy Bolton in 2006. On the right is Romeo Montague in 1968. Clearly, there’s something fishy going on here.

Yahoo! Answers is full of questions on the subject. It’s very affirming to know we’re all on the same page.

Q: I disagree. I don’t think he looks anything like Zac Efron.
A: It’s worth noting that the Zac Efron of today and the Zac Efron of 2006 are two entirely different beasts. Today’s Zac Efron stars in movies like The Greatest Showman, Baywatch, and that Ted Bundy movie. He sports a bleached coiffure, immaculately groomed facial scruff, and abs you could grate cheese on. But I’m old enough to remember when Zac Efron’s claim to fame was Disney Channel. He was adored by preteens and maligned by pretty much everyone else as “girly” because, I don’t know, he straightened his hair? He danced? 

Look, between 2006 and 2010, every floppy-haired white guy might as well have been Zac Efron. Zac Efron invented blue eyes and side-swept bangs paired with basketball shorts and a slim build. The guy in Romeo and Juliet did not have basketball shorts, but you know what he did have? Everything else. Back in the day, students all over the nation were watching Romeo and Juliet (1968) and having the exact same reaction, which was “I’d know that layered mop anywhere.”

Also, if I may present a counterpoint: you say he doesn’t look like Zac Efron, but he kind of does.

Q: You’ve convinced me. That really does look like Zac Efron. Is that Zac Efron?
A: IMDb claims it is not. According to them, Romeo was played by Leonard Whiting, an English actor. However, I find it extremely suspicious that both Leonard Whiting and Zac Efron are 5’8”. I don’t know what this could mean, but I do know it’s not nothing.

Q: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it is Zac Efron. How would he have pulled that off?
A: The way I see it, there are three plausible scenarios.

  • Zac Efron is the reincarnation of Leonard Whiting. This theory would hold more water if Leonard Whiting weren’t still alive, but I’m not ruling anything out. 
  • Zac Efron has figured out how to travel through time, but he can only do it when he’s going back to star in Shakespeare adaptations.
  • Zac Efron is a timeless immortal and “Leonard Whiting” doesn’t exist. He never did.

Q: Has Zac Efron ever acknowledged this? Has Leonard Whiting?
A: Not to my knowledge. I listened to several recent interviews with “Leonard Whiting” and Olivia Hussey, who played the Juliet to his Romeo, and not one single interviewer had the gumption to ask the questions that matter.

Although, did you know Leonard and Olivia reunited in 2015 (almost fifty years later!) to do an indie film loosely based on Romeo and Juliet? Neither did I! It was called Social Suicide, and it was directed by Bruce Webb. Any relation to Marc Webb, who directed The Amazing Spider-Man and 500 Days of Summer? I’ll check.

Q: Okay, I feel like we’re getting off-track here.
A: I wonder what Andrew Garfield’s up to these days. When’s the last time anyone Googled Andrew Garfield?

Q: Can we focus?
A: Fine. Anyway, I think we can all agree that Zac Efron played Romeo in 1968 somehow. Look out for my next investigation in which I Google Andrew Garfield and just list all the things I forgot he was in. (Doctor Who in 2007!)