“He was a mentor to me, and we made a really cool film together,” the Greatest Showman star, 36, told People on Wednesday, November 8. “I looked up to him. I learned comedic timing from that guy. I mean, when we were filming 17 Again, it was so surreal for me to look across and have him be there, because I’ve learned so much from him, from his whole life.”
Efron played a younger version of Perry’s character, Mike O’Donnell, in the 2009 film.
Perry previously mentioned Efron by name to take on the role while speaking with entertainment reporter Athenna Crosby, who was photographed dining with Friends actor just one day before his death on October 28. The reporter said Perry told her he “wanted to make a movie about his life and have a biopic made,” and he specifically “wanted Zac Efron, who’s played him already, to play him again because he said he did such a good job.”
“I’m honored to hear he was thinking of me to play him,” Efron said, adding that he was “devastated” by the news of Perry’s death. “We’ll see. I’d be honored to do it.”
His castmates, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer, released a joint statement mourning their costar and close friend two days after his death on October 30.
“We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than just cast mates. We are a family,” the group’s statement read. “There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss. In time we will say more, as and when we are able. For now, our thoughts and our love are with Matty’s family, his friends, and everyone who loved him around the world.”
The sitcom’s core six characters last reunited on screen in 2021 for HBO Max’s Friends: The Reunion special. In addition to Perry’s experience starring in the beloved sitcom, he also scored roles in The Whole Nine Yards, Fools Rush In, Serving Sarah, Scrubs, and more. He wrote a memoir about his experiences, including his decades-long battle with his addition, in his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.