Seasonal romcom that ticked Zac’s boxes

Michelle Pfeiffer as Ingrid
Michelle Pfeiffer as Ingrid
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If Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron can’t find someone to kiss at midnight, we’re all in trouble. Kate Whiting meets the cast of New Year’s Eve

Actors take on film roles for very different reasons. For Zac Efron, seasonal romcom New Year’s Eve gave him a chance to tick something very important off his wishlist.

“It was everything I dreamed it would be,” explains the High School Musical star who gets to kiss Michelle Pfeiffer in the new film despite being less than half her age.

“Apparently he has a bucket list of people he wants to kiss before he dies,” jokes co-star Pfeiffer, 53 and effortlessly glamorous.

For Hilary Swank, the film fulfilled her mother’s wish that she’d finally play a character who survives until the end, having perished in both of her Oscar-winning roles.

“She said, ‘Do you have to die in every movie you do? Can you ever live to see the credits?’”

The trio are among the cream of Hollywood that Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall assembled for his latest movie, set in the Big Apple as a million partygoers descend on Times Square for the countdown to 2012.

A year after his last film Valentine’s Day had Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway and Bradley Cooper all exploring love, Marshall has teamed up again with writer Katherine Fugate to focus on hope, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts.

Like Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve is a series of vignettes showing the lives of singleton and attached New Yorkers on the last day of the year when the most important question becomes: who are you kissing at midnight?

“There’s a French word, portmanteau, that I sometimes mispronounce, but it means a series of stories that all intertwine and come together, like Love Actually,” says 77-year-old Marshall, who proposed to his wife Barbara on New Year’s Eve almost 50 years ago.

“After Valentine’s Day, some people called and said, ‘When are you going to do New Year’s Eve?’ and some said, ‘When are you going to retire?’ But if you can get up in the morning and see Hilary and Michelle, why would you want to go fishing?”

Swank plays Claire, the new vice president of the Times Square Alliance, whose job it is to see that New York’s celebrations go off without a hitch, including the iconic crystal ball drop.

“As an audience member, you think someone pushes a button and it just happens, but there’s so much that can go wrong,” says the actress, who shadowed her real-life counterpart for the role.

When the ball’s propulsion mechanism seems to be faulty, Claire turns to laid-off engineer Kominsky, played by Hector Elizondo, who’s appeared in all 17 of Marshall’s films and is often cited as his good luck charm.

Meanwhile Pfeiffer plays Ingrid, a frustrated, overlooked assistant, who decides to tackle her unfulfilled resolutions after a brush with death.

“Afraid of her own shadow, she’s carved out a simple, safe existence that won’t throw her any surprises,” says the actress.

With a little help from bike courier Paul (Efron, who Pfeiffer starred with in Hairspray), Ingrid races against the clock to cross off her wishlist.

The actress first worked with Marshall 20 years ago on Frankie & Johnny and admits: “He’s definitely one of my favourites. You’re willing to try anything and make a fool of yourself with him because you trust him.”

It seems the feeling’s mutual.

“One of my favourite scenes of the entire film is at the end when Michelle’s in the crowd, she’s all alone and suddenly Zac shows up and kisses her,” says Marshall.

“He says his line and the last cut is of Michelle, and that smile she has on her face at that moment, you can’t buy that any place, that’s the money.”

New Year’s Eve went on general release this week.

New Year’s resolutions

Michelle Pfeiffer: “To reflect and look at ways that I can just simplify my life, and find ways that I can appreciate the many blessings that I have.”

Hilary Swank: “I always try and find at least 20 minutes in the day to just to be reflective, but all of a sudden it’s bedtime and you haven’t found that 20 minutes. So usually it’s the same resolution every year.”

Garry Marshall: “To stop swearing at inanimate objects.”

Zac Efron: “I want to take my little brother and my dad hiking on the Appalachian trail, and then go somewhere unforgettable with my mum and say thank you.”