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Zac Efron’s ‘Charlie St. Cloud’ Is Better Than in the Book

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."

FROM THE INSIDE LOOKING OUT: Talk about out with the old, in with the new! If all has gone according to plan, in the last three days, Adrianne Palicki has 1) played her final scene as Tyra Collette on "Friday Night Lights," 2) joined in a cast and crew wrap party for the acclaimed show and 3) flown to Dallas in time to begin production on her new series — Fox's "Lone Star" — today (7/27).

Palicki tells us she's glad for the immediate turnaround between the series. It keeps her from getting too down about saying goodbye to a show and cast she's loved. According to her, creator Peter Berg and all of the original cast members of "Friday Night Lights" planned to be on hand for the farewell gathering, which she anticipated as "a good occasion for all of us. It was such a beautiful thing to be a part of."

Another series was hardly on top of her wish list when she first heard of "Lone Star," she admits. "I'd had such an amazing experience on 'Friday Night Lights,' I couldn't imagine something else coming along of that level. I was thinking about a movie, which would only be a three-month commitment." Then her reps asked her to read "Lone Star," in which James Wolk plays a con man who has set up two different false lives for himself, including a rich fiancee (Palicki) in Dallas and an everyday hometown-girl wife (Eloise Mumford) in Midland.

"The character I would normally play is the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, so when they said Cat (the rich girl), I thought I'd love to play someone so different from anything I've done before." Meeting Wolk sealed the deal, she says. "You have to have the right actor to play Bob, or the show can't work. He's perfect."

And there's a side benefit — fashion.

"Oh, my God! Even in the pilot alone! I've never worn Manolos in my life, and now I have three pairs in the wardrobe. Amazing Versace and Valentino. I thought, 'Why didn't I put it in my contract that I want to keep the clothes?' I usually wear jeans, so kind of getting dressed up every day is really fun." Maybe she'll take to it and we'll be seeing her with a $40,000 handbag soon? She laughs. "Not unless it's a rental."

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: Mark Olson, whose "Many Colored Kite" album is getting released today, says he's wide open when it comes to doing more reunion shows with his former band, the revered alt-country group the Jayhawks. They've already done three such shows this summer, and "We'll see what's going to happen," he says.

Right now, he's busy with his own cross-country U.S. tour for the folky, lovely "Kite" — with appearances from Santa Monica, Calif., to Brooklyn, N.Y., and numerous points in between lined up this summer in support of the Ryko Records album.

The 48-year-old Olson says, "I have to admit, when people think of musicians, they usually think of coming out of the gate by the time they're 20 and doing their best work. I've kind of gone up and down, up and down — and it feels like in the past four years, it's finally all come together."

Olson's gone through personal travail including a marital breakup, and his last album, the acclaimed 2007 "Salvation Blues," was soul-baring and plaintive. The new album, with his girlfriend, Norwegian singer-musician Ingunn Ringvold, collaborating, has the sun coming out from behind those clouds of the past.

As far as touring, "We've done it before, and I know we can do it, know the kind of places we'll be playing. Getting to play every night — as long as you get to travel under reasonable circumstances, it's a lovely way to live," says Olson, who lives in the California desert in Joshua Tree — and in Oslo, Norway. He'll return to Europe to tour in the fall.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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