Nice-guy “High School Musical 3” Director Kenny Ortega (left) sounds genuinely moved when talking about his big screen comeback.
“You know, I went after (the first) ‘High School Musical’ because I was hoping that, ‘Hey, if I do a good job here, maybe this might reveal the curtain on me again and give me the shot to do another full-length feature motion picture,” he explained recently during a Los Angeles interview.
“Little did I ever imagine that ‘High School Musical’ would actually be (it). So, for me, moving into ‘High School Musical 3’ was a real dream fulfilled, and it was great fun imagining it, designing it and playing with these kids.”
“HSM3,” Ortega’s first film feature venture since “Hocus Pocus” (which came five years after his massive success in choreographing “Dirty Dancing”), opens this week with the promise of becoming perhaps the highest grossing musical ever. “Tweener” fans everywhere and beyond made the first two cable TV movies the most popular ever on the Disney Channel. Now they’re poised to break some box office records, too.
“We had a little bit more money and lot more detail to pay attention to, but we wanted it to be recognizable to our audience so they would know who they were with,” Ortega said. “We wanted to go for a bigger design but not lose ourselves in the process.”
Of course, all of the” Musical” gang is back, too, including breakout star Zac Efron, whose individual popularity certainly will be tested on the big screen. Naturally, his director /choreographer is not worried.
“Zac says we didn’t leave anything on the dance floor but a pile of sweat,” Oretga added. “We raised. the bar on ourselves, we challenged ourselves, and we always set out to do something special that would have some lasting power.
“I’m always looking for a special individual when I’m casting. Over the years, I’ve discovered that, when I’m auditioning dancers, technique is important and experience is important, but I want to know that I’ve got dimension, and I want to know that I’m going to sort of bring forward ideas and creative partners, you know, who will bring something to the play.
And so, I can say that about Patrick Swayze (in “Dirty Dancing”) and also with Zac Efron. I felt that from the moment that they walked in the door. Even at just 20 years old, Zac is one of the brightest actors I’ve ever worked with. Like Patrick, he brings something with him other than talent.”
Efron, who already has filmed '”17 Again” and “Me and Orson Wells,'” apparently will continue singing and dancing, too.
"A remake of 'Footloose' is coming together,” Efron said during his own “HSM3” press confab. “We're trying to figure out the right way to do it, but yeah, it does look like it's going to happen.”
Maybe there is some justice in the world, since – right now – Ortega is scheduled to direct for a 2010 release.
For more on "HSM3," read what the stars told me about "graduating" from the franchise in Thursday's Sun News, as well as my reviews of "Rachel Getting Married," "Pride and Glory" and Madonna's "Filth and Wisdom."