Bart Johnson Interview On ‘High School Musical,’ Zac Efron
Bart Johnson plays a high school coach and the father of Zac Efron‘s character in the teen sensation High School Musical. Johnson had doubts about the potential of the movie. “It was shocking. My agent didn’t want me to do this film,” Johnson told Uinterview exclusively. “ ’It’s a little Disney film. The kids are going to be the stars.’ ”
These days, Johnson is working on a film of his own — Deep in Barja, which he wrote, directed and starred in. His other projects include a documentary series that follows his two brothers on a road trip 6 Bucks and a Bottle of Water. Johnson still feels the pinch of working the high school crew. “I never felt so old,” he told Uinterview. “They dressed me in old-guy clothes and gave me the old-guy haircut.”
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I think everybody did especially when they first brought it up. The whole cast was skeptical. We didn’t really want to over-do it or run out of luck. I think everybody felt better when [director] Kenny Ortega signed on. Many of the higher ups said they would only do it if the entire cast signed on. When the whole creative team got back together, people were excited.
Well, originally we were just signed to do one film. Then they started to look at the dailies, and they the students were originally seniors, they changed that so that they could have a few extra years. If they had any idea it was going to be this big thing, everyone would have been on a three-picture deal. I don’t see how they would do a fourth one because they don’t want it to be one of those "college years" things. They are not going to make a film with the seniors, which would mean that there are a just few people left. I complained about being the old dude in the movie, but I guess there is some upside.
I think they’ve gone through a lot together. They are more mature and ground now. In this version, there were 5,000 people from outside the country who requested to be extras and said they would pay their own way. There were a couple people on the set who were going through some tough adjustments. There definitely some people who thought they were a little too cool. But Zac and Vanessa have been able to keep a normal, healthy relationship. Every time I go with them anywhere everyone is tugging and pushing them. They have a normal relationship. They mess around and hold hands. They’re cute together and don’t let the other stuff influence them. Vanessa's turned into such a sweetheart I love her to death. Zac has always been a good friend.
It was shocking. My agent didn’t want me to do the film. 'It’s a little Disney film. The kids are going to be the stars. We’ll make more money on a couple episodes of television.' But I’ve known Kenny for a while and he requested me for the film. I know if he was involved it the potential of being something special. But no one saw the phenomenon turning into this. I remember the very first sign was when we shooting the musical number "Stick to What You Know" in the cafeteria. Originally, there were only supposed to be six dancers in the scene. Kenny thinks on such an epic scale. We did some really hard core choreography, and he had three cranes going up at the same time. We all just looked at each other and thought this is going to be big. When the film premiered, and I use that term loosely, it was maybe a 150 people in a small screening room on the Disney lot. There was one person taking a picture by a poster. I remember when they did the DVD party they said we want to send you a limo. I thought it was overkill, but I didn’t want to turn it down. When we got to Hollywood Blvd., the street was shut down. There were 20 limos there lined up and that’s when we knew it was a big deal. When we had our premiere of High School Musical 2 at Disneyland, it was bigger than Pirates of the Caribbean.
I’ve never felt so old. I’ve always played the athlete or the guy who's the center of attention. In this movie, they gave me a clipboard and whistle and said stay on the sidelines. When did that happen? They dressed me in old-guy clothes and gave me the old-guy haircut. Kenny Ortega had called me up and said he wanted me to play the part. The Disney execs said I was too young, he’s supposed to be an older guy. Ms Darvis and I were supposed to have been classmates. He had a make-up artist put gray in my hair and dressed me in the sports coat. The Disney guys were shocked and relented. When I got to the set, Kenny said, 'Get that gray crap out your hair, it looks stupid.' I'm much closer to being the kids' older brother than to be their parent.
The thing I’m most excited about is a film I wrote and directed called Deep in Baja, where you’re almost always in trouble. I took it to a couple companies, and they said I could produce and star in it, but there’s no way I could direct it because I’ve never directed anything. I ended up passing on the offers, and I ended up rewriting it as short film. I raised 100 grand to make this film which had been my total passion for the last few years. I wrote directed and starred in this movie. Now I have four different offers from companies to make it into a feature. It’s going to a $5 million feature, and we are about to go into pre-production.