Hollywood: Hello to 'Hairspray'

Zac Efron is going from basic cable to the big screen. Efron, who plays basketball-star-cum-crooner Troy Bolton in the Disney Channel megahit "High School Musical," tells NEWSWEEK he's landed the role of Link Larkin, the lead character in New Line Cinema's new version of the Broadway musical "Hairspray" (originally a John Waters film). Tween America's reigning heartthrob beat out as many as 200 other contenders to costar with John Travolta (doing his first musical since "Saturday Night Fever") and Queen Latifah, among others. "I'm pretty stoked," says Efron, 18.

At first, director Adam Shankman worried that Efron's clean-cut, teen-idol look was "very Disney, very Mouseketeery." But in the auditions, Efron showed he could muster the "little bit more edge" required for the role of Link. "He's a really special kid and is arguably the biggest teen star in America right now," says Shankman.

"Hairspray" will stretch the actor musically, too, say Efron and Shankman. It will feature him--and only him--singing all of his songs. In "High School Musical," Efron admits, it's not all him doing the singing: his baritone was "blended" with the tenor of a 24-year-old actor who tried out for the production but didn't get cast. "I'm going for authenticity," Shankman says. "Hairspray," Efron adds, will allow him to "regain some of my vocal dignity."