Baywatch's Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario on body parts and why the movie is perfect escapism

Spare a thought for poor old Zac Efron.

As cocky, pretty-boy Olympic swimmer turned lifeguard Matt Brody, it's Efron who cops it the most among all the stunts, gags and gross-out moments in the big-screen revitalisation of the '90s buff-bodies television behemoth Baywatch.

Efron is in Sydney this week for the Australian premiere alongside co-star Alexandra Daddario, who plays fellow lifeguard Summer Quinn, and says he doesn't mind being the butt of so many jokes.

"I loved those moments," he says. "That was one of the main reasons I signed on to it. The idea of remaking Baywatch in all its glory and then being some golden boy who comes in to save the day would be a heinous crime in my opinion.

"The only righteous way to do it would be to completely make fun of myself in any way any of us can find possible and so Dwayne [Johnson] found the best way to do it. We just threw it all out the window and everybody dumped on me."

It's Johnson who is the lead figure on-screen in Baywatch, stepping into David Hasselhoff's shoes/sandy feet as head lifeguard Mitch Buchannon. He also serves as executive producer and, along with producer Beau Flynn, has been responsible for taking the original idea of Baywatch and turning into an R-rated comedy that affectionately pokes fun at itself and its origins as an "entertaining but far-fetched TV show", to quote a line from the movie.

The film is set in the fictional town of Emerald Bay and follows an investigation by Buchannon and his team into some dastardly goings-on at the swanky Huntley Club, run by the movie's chief villain Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra).

But it's the jokes that make the movie, with lots of slapstick, risque and raunchy moments, with one part in particular featuring prominently - in every sense - where Brody gets up close to a dead body in a scene with Daddario and Johnson.

"They made this prosthetic dead body," says Daddario. "And the prosthetic person was so real looking, I think we got to set and were like 'Well, we have to do something with this. We have to put a camera on this and we must get Zac's face as close to it as possible.' I think it was probably Dwayne's idea."

Jokes aside, a movie that features the cast mainly wearing swimwear meant that a fair amount of serious training had to be put into to literally shaping up for the role.

"Part of the joke is that we're supernaturally good-looking lifeguards that take our jobs way too seriously," says Daddario. "It's part of the character to look as good as possible so it was hard work ,but it was all for the role. For me, it was about you want to do the best job possible.

"By the time I got to set I was like, OK, I think I'm ready. I was proud of the work I'd put in but it was a lot of swimming, and weight-training and dieting that I didn't enjoy doing."

Efron says what the movie adds to the legacy of Baywatch is that it's a source of positivity in current times.

"The world of Baywatch, you know - the beach, sunshine, happiness and life, saving people and being selfless as a team," he says.

"The message, albeit it's got some humour and raunch behind it, is the world needs to see this right now."

Daddario concurs that the film is perfect "escapism" from the current barrage of negativity accessible on social media around the clock.

"It's escapism and you laugh for two hours," she says. That's what Dwayne is amazing at, he has such a great sense of humour about himself and I knew that with him at the helm of this film, he was going to make something that had a great sense of humour about itself and not take itself too seriously.

"And that's what we did. We had the opportunity to do ridiculous things and put Zac's face near a penis, and the women are tough and badass and not just objectified and you get to laugh for two hours."

Baywatch is out on June 1.

The story Baywatch's Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario on body parts and why the movie is perfect escapism first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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