HIGH School Musical star Zac Efron's character in new comedy Bad Neighbours couldn't be further removed from the all-singing, all-dancing role which made him famous.
The 26-year-old heart-throb plays fraternity leader Teddy who, much to the consternation of the couple next door, oversees a series of increasingly raucous house parties.
Unlike Teddy, Efron's coming of age was carried out in the spotlight, having found fame in 2006 as Troy Bolton in smash hit High School Musical.
He'd started acting while still at school, performing in theatre shows before landing his first small TV jobs in 2002 in his early teens.
Disney's High School Musical proved a game changer, and the subsequent ups and downs of the actor's life – including a reported stint in rehab for substance abuse last year – have been well documented.
"I was really blessed early on, but then you're sort of under that microscope," Efron admits, looking tanned and healthy in a plush hotel suite.
The actor generated headlines again recently when he was photographed at a basketball game in Los Angeles with actress Halston Sage, who plays Teddy's love interest Brooke, in the new film. Asked if he's single, the star replies: "I... yeah... sort of."
Bad Neighbours also stars Knocked Up funny man Seth Rogen and Bridesmaids actress Rose Byrne as the new parents living next door.
Since flying the Disney nest in 2008 (when the third and final High School Musical film was released), Efron played a US Marine in 2012 drama The Lucky One, and Nicole Kidman's toy boy lover in thriller The Paperboy.
When he received a call from "comic genius" Rogen, who also co-produced Bad Neighbours, the California-born star was "stoked".
The writers have revealed one of the reasons they wanted Efron to play Teddy was because he'd be "the last person you'd want to see shirtless on the front lawn talking to your wife".
Indeed, the actor – who had his shirt ripped open a few weeks ago by singer Rita Ora at the MTV Movie Awards – spends a significant proportion of the film with his gym-honed body on show.
But Efron says there were days when he didn't feel like stripping off.
"Seth would be like, 'Dude, just take it off' – I had no choice!" he teases. "I found that most of the time they were just screwing with me – the camera wouldn't even be on."
When Rogen and Byrne's characters report the Delta Psi Beta fraternity to the police for their wild antics, a turf war kicks off. Both sides resort to increasingly drastic measures in a bid to force each other out – from honeytraps and spy cameras, to vandalism and sword fights with sex toys.
Efron admits that Teddy does some "truly heinous and messed up things", but insists it all stems from wanting to protect his fraternity.
"There are moments when you realise that he's actually a nice guy who is motivated purely by the belief in this family he's created," says the star.
There were moments, however, when Efron feared the crudity boundaries had been pushed to the limits.
"Every single day was crazy. No matter what we were doing, it seemed like we took it one step too far, and then we'd go another step past it," he says with a smile.
"These guys are definitely extreme. So what you're seeing in the movie, as crazy as it is, is actually scaled back. It was pretty intense."
Efron isn't worried about what High School Musical fans will make of the film.
"I think it's a good film, so I'm excited for those people to see it," he adds. "And they're all grown up, anyway."
As for missing out on the college experience himself, he shrugs.
"You can always look back and say, 'What if? Did I miss out on something great?' But that's the beauty of what we get to do as actors.
"We get to step into this world, really live it out to its fullest for several weeks and then quit."