Zac Efron by Dan MacMedan/WireImage.com and Zack Wilson by Adam Larkey/ABC
High School Musical 3
director Kenny Ortega has found the perfect new dancer and stand-in for his mega-star,
, and he even shares his first name!
Zack Wilson, one of the winners of
Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann
and the former fiancé of
Dancing with the Stars
pro Julianne Hough, was brought in because Efron has been tied up with filming
Me and Orson Welles
for the last month, which coincided with the first three and a half weeks of
rehearsals. That meant that Efron, arriving in Salt Lake City this week, had to catch up fast to learn the complicated dance routines. "A lot of the dancers they use for
come from the studio (Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Provo, Utah) where I grew up studying dance," says Wilson. "So Kenny Ortega contacted the director of the studio and asked if he knew anyone who was a quick learner who could learn a bunch of choreography and then possibly teach it [to Zac Efron]. And the director referred him to me."
Ortega already knew about Wilson from watching
and signed him immediately. "I'm so excited for him," says his mentor,
's Bruno Tonioli. "He had to take it."
Wilson says that working with Ortega and Efron has been a dream. "Zac works very hard," says Wilson, 26. "It might take him longer to get the dance steps than somebody who is trained, of course, but he looks great. And some of the dance steps in this movie are a little bit harder than in the previous two."
Wilson apparently did his job so well that he'll be dancing on screen as well. "I'll be in a few dance numbers in the movie," he says, now booked through June to work on the movie with Ortega, a legendary choreographer and one of the people who inspired him to become a dancer.
As for Hough, Wilson says she was "really excited" when she heard about his new job. The two, who broke their engagement during Hough's first season on
Dancing with the Stars
last year, have remained very close. Wilson was in the studio audience almost every night when Hough, 19, was competing with comedian Adam Carolla this season. Hough's father, Bruce, says that the whole family is still hoping that the two of them will end up together. "You know, I think that's what everybody wants," says Wilson, "including me and her. But right now, she's just trying to focus on getting her album out and getting her career set. And I am, too. We talk on the phone all the time and we see each other as much as we can. But we're not trying to get too serious with anything like that right now." -
Deborah Starr Seibel