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Zac Efron challenges himself as doctor in ‘Parkland’

This film image released by  Exclusive MediEntertainment shows ColHanks left Zac Efrscene from 'Parkland.' (AP Photo/ Exclusive MediEntertainment Claire

This film image released by Exclusive Media Entertainment shows Colin Hanks, left, and Zac Efron in a scene from "Parkland." (AP Photo/ Exclusive Media Entertainment, Claire Folger) ORG XMIT: NYET128

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:49PM

Zac Efron has a lot to celebrate when he turns 26 on Oct. 18.

Reports of rehab surfaced last month, which surprised fans of the actor who rarely makes a headline between films. But these days he’s feeling great and his career is firmly on track with the new film “Parkland,” opening Friday.

“I’m doing what I set out to do,” Efron says of his career.

His life mission is simple when it comes to acting.

“You have to go for it. You have to try. I want to challenge myself with tough parts. I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he says.

In a press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival, Efron didn’t talk about any personal issues in Toronto where his focus was “Parkland,” about the moments after the bullet entered President Kennedy.

The film – also starring Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver and Paul Giamatti — chronicles the Kennedy killing from deep in the trenches of Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day that Kennedy was assassinated.

Efron plays an emergency room doctor named Jim Carrico.

“He’s a young resident who suddenly has the most important man in the world thrust in front of him with fatal injuries. He’s called to action in a big way. You can’t ask for more to do as an actor,” he says. “It was just exciting and scary.”

And a bit of a history lesson.

“I didn’t know all that much about the details. The film is eye-opening,” he says. “This was in a time before Twitter and cell phones. People watched this unfold for days on TV.”

Efron didn’t think of the wider scope of what the president’s death meant to the nation. He had to stay focused on his character’s task at hand, which was saving the president.

“I had the luxury of being so focused on the objective which was saving the president. I was trying to save a life.”

Efron, who hails from San Luis Obispo, Calif., grew up the son of a secretary and electrical engineer. He started acting at age 11 when his parents noticed that he could really sing. Soon, he was starring in a production of “Gypsy” and later was cast in “High School Musical” (2006) and the sequels.

He also starred in “17 Again” (2009), “The Lucky One” (2012) and “The Paperboy” (2012).

Next up for Efron is “That Awkward Moment” and “Neighbors” with Seth Rogen.

“As an actor, my goal has always been to continue to challenge myself and learn and grow as an artist. I’ve been very lucky to have the chance to work alongside of great actors and directors.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he says.

Big Picture News Inc.

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