Zac Efron improves on the character of Charlie St. Cloud from the original book version in his Friday (7/30)-release film, “Charlie St. Cloud.” And that comes from a man who should know, Ben Sherwood, who wrote the book “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.”
“The character in the novel is kind of a sad sack, frankly,” says Sherwood. “He’s a darker and more damaged character. The genius of this casting move, of having Zac play the role, is that he fills Charlie with a credible sense of promise, hopefulness and dynamism.” Not to mention those biceps!
This is the kind of role Efron was looking for – a stretch into dramatic territory after his successes in musicals and comedy. His character, wracked with guilt over a car accident in which his younger brother is killed, discovers he can see and communicate – and play catch — with his ghost. Sherwood says he wrote it when he was in a fog of grief over the loss of his father, that “It’s deeply personal, but not autobiographical.” And no, he’s never seen a ghost.
By the time Hollywood came calling, Sherwood was working in his former post as executive producer of “Good Morning America.” So, “to be perfectly honest, I was very distracted, and I think that was probably an excellent way to manage the anxiety of the development process.” He only learned of Efron’s casting after, appropriately enough, receiving a congratulations phone text while he and his wife were sitting in a movie theater.
Lately, Sherwood has been focusing on the imminent re-launch of his “The Survivors Club” website with a major media company he won’t name as yet. Spun off Sherwood’s non-fiction book of last year, the site is designed to assist people who are going through adversity, whether health struggles, unemployment, loss of a loved one, or disaster. So the whole “Charlie St. Cloud” premiere and release experience, he says, “feels very surreal to me.”