Zac Efron on playing Chickie Donohue, the man who delivered beer in a warzone – BBC

The Greatest Beer Run Ever is the kind of title you might expect from a LadBible video, rather than a feature film released during awards season.
And while Apple TV's new movie, which stars Zac Efron and Russell Crowe, may not be traditional Oscars bait, it's worth looking beyond its somewhat trivial title.
Director Peter Farrelly's previous film, Green Book, won best picture in 2019, which means there is significant interest in the story he's chosen for his latest project.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever follows the true story of Chickie Donohue, a US marine who, in 1968, travelled across the world to deliver a crate of beer to his mates who were fighting in the Vietnam War.
At that time, morale among the soldiers was low, so the New Yorker set out on a four-month journey with a (presumably very heavy) bag of beer on his back, to lift their spirits.
Delivering beer to enlisted men from your neighbourhood is all fun and games, until Donohue actually gets there and is confronted with the quite brutal realities of war. (One character tells him the expedition is "the dumbest thing I ever heard".) Donohue himself had served four years in the Marines, but hadn't experienced combat.
"Tonally, it starts light," Farrelly told journalists earlier this month after the film's premiere in Toronto. "The silliness of this guy trying to bring a beer to his friends in Vietnam is just nuts, and you see him smiling, then when he gets to Vietnam the reality hits and the tone changes, but it's natural.
"It didn't take a lot of work on my part, it took a lot of work on [Efron's] part because he had to become a different guy along the way."
Efron says: "I couldn't believe it was a true story, it just sounded like a very silly idea and young and stupid. But the journey that starts there is very magical and profound. So it's ended up one of the coolest gestures you can possibly make."
The tone of the film feels a little muddled, but that's partly because the tone of the original expedition must have been the same. The backdrop of bombs, deaths and blood jar somewhat with what Donohue is trying to do.
But, Efron argues: "I love the human element you're able to find in some of the darkest moments, and there's always something that is unique or comes out of tension that can make you laugh."
"What interested me," Farrelly adds, "was it was a guy going into a war zone, during an act of war, to bring beer to his friends. I love that person, the stupidity of it, the hubris, and the amount of heart it takes for him to want to do that, and actually pull it off."
Early reviews of the film have been mixed. IndieWire's Kate Erbland said Beer Run "is not a gritty war picture; it's glossy and entertaining and often fun. Farrelly has got a story that requires both blind faith and nutty optimism".
But, she acknowledged: "For some viewers, the distance between straight-up entertainment and the Tet Offensive may be a bridge too far."
Other critics were much less enthusiastic. The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffen called it "a meandering, disjointed production that struggles throughout to find a satisfying tone", while The Guardian's Charles Bramesco accused it of "regurgitating every Vietnam cliché with the laziest possible visual diction".
But with one best picture win under its belt thanks to the 2021 surprise hit Coda, Apple TV+ will be hoping The Greatest Beer Run Ever is firmly on Academy voters' radar.
For Farrelly, it marks the latest in a long line of road trip movies – something which he says is sheer coincidence.
"If you look at all my movies, they're almost all road trips," he notes. "Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary, Three Stooges, Green Book, they're all road trips, and I don't know why that is.
"I lived in the same house for my entire life growing up, we never moved, never went anywhere." ("You're making up for it now!" Efron chips in). "Maybe that's part of it, I love road movies, but consciously I don't really think about them."
The film is adapted from the book Donohue wrote about his adventure, published in 2020, but the story first came across Farrelly's desk thanks to a 12-minute YouTube doc about the expedition, released five years earlier.
"Most of all, [Donohue] is motivated by this pure sense of love for his friends," Efron says.
"But he doesn't have all the answers. He's brave enough to just kind of throw himself out there and follow through with a pretty crazy idea that he had while he was drunk."
Farrelly concludes: "I think there's a lesson in this movie – Vietnam was a bad war, and we didn't know it at first. When I say we, Americans thought it was World War Two, but it wasn't, it was a completely different thing.
"It took years for the truth to come out, and finally by the 1970s Americans started seeing the reality of what that war was, and it was a disaster, it was bad, it didn't help anybody. Many Americans died and many more Vietnamese people died, and it was unnecessary."
The Greatest Beer Run Ever is released on Apple TV+ on Friday.
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