Zac Efron may only be 24 years old, but he's already tackled a series of genres in his acting work, beginning as a song-and-dance kid in Disney's High School Musical, dabbing in comedy, drama, and romantic roles, and now reminding us that he's all grown up with his next film, The Paperboy, an erotic thriller also starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack and directed by Lee Daniels of Precious.

Efron has not yet taken on a gay role, though he says he's quite confident that lies in his future. "I'd never take a role just for the sake of playing gay," Efron told the Advocate, "but I'm always looking for a role that's challenging, different, and entails some risk, so there's no doubt in my mind that one of those characters will be gay at some point in the future. It's always interesting to delve into unexplored territory, and that would be a new avenue for me. I definitely wouldn't be afraid."

Efron, who famously dated his High School Musical costar Vanessa Hudgens, 23, for many years before their split in December 2010, also feels that he owes at least part of his Hollywood success to the gay community. "After High School Musical and Hairspray, I've always felt embraced by the gay community," he told the magazine. "And I feel incredibly grateful and honored."

Marriage equality is also a cause that's very important to Efron. "It's an issue that affects so many people in my life — a lot of my close friends and some of the most influential people around me. I just want them all to be happy, It would make me so happy to see them able to live their lives and do what they want to do."

The Paperboy, in which Efron shares an intimate scene with Kidman, who is 21 years his senior, hits U.S. theaters on October 5.

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