Efron's Pfeiffer Crush, Swank's De Niro Moment, and 7 Other Revelations from the New Year's Eve Junket

newyearseve_efronpfeiffer300.jpgWith the year 2011 drawing to a close, the stars of Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve were a sentimental -- and cheeky -- bunch talking up the portmanteau rom-com recently in Los Angeles. "When I stopped wanting my New Year's Eve to be perfect, to ring in the New Year right, is when it started working out right," admitted Hilary Swank, seated at a podium about as long as the credit roll for the star-studded holiday pic. At the other end of the panel, Zac Efron faux-wooed co-star Michelle Pfeiffer. "You're coming out with me this year," he winked at her. "I'll show you how we do it."

Like the wide-ranging press conference itself, New Year's Eve is jam-packed with an assortment of stars (Sarah Jessica Parker! Halle Berry! Yeardley Smith!) a la Valentine's Day, director Marshall's first effort in the holiday-themed ensemble franchise. Just try and guess which disparate plot threads will run into another as a host of New Yorkers from all walks of life (A bike messenger! A rock star! The lady in charge of dropping the ball at midnight!) despair, rejoice, and collide on the biggest night of the year.

The unifying theme, of course, is self-reflection and hope for the future, and the idea that on New Year's Eve, everyone in the world is sharing the same experience. Even, it seems, Hollywood's biggest stars. Read on to find out who'll be watching the ball drop in their jammies just like you this year.

1. Worst. New Year's Eve. Ever? (Or, how to have a better time with lowered expectations.)

The stars and filmmakers agree: Manage your expectations of the big night and you'll be much happier when midnight rolls around. "When I stopped wanting my New Year's Eve to be perfect, to ring in the New Year right, is when it started working out right," said Swank. "I always found when I was young I was looking for the next best party to be at to ring in the new year and I always ended up in a car going, 'Happy New Year.'"

Marshall added his own disappointing New Year's memory: "I got to kiss the girl I really liked... and she turned around and kissed seven other people. Not a good night."

2. Ever hear master raconteur Hector Elizondo tell one of his stories? Here's your chance.

"I think that restriction leads to imagination, and imagination leads to reinvention. Having everything you want is not a good thing, usually. Usually what you want is not good for you anyway."

"I did have one lousy New Year's, because I expected something from it, you see. I used to be a jazz musician; I was playing with a quintet and this was in the days of rocks and caves, before they knew the world was round. We had our jazz quintet... anybody heard of Carl Tjader? Four people, OK. Piano, vibes, conga, bass, timbales. Very hip, beautiful group. And we had a gig! New Year's Eve was the big gig, that's when you made $50! So we got to go to a place called Greenwich, CT... we usually gigged around New York City and the environs, the metropolitan area. People knew how to dance on two, as they say in New York. You know what 'Dance on two' means? [Silence] O-K! So we're here in Greenwich, CT and we kick it off: [Makes jazz percussion sounds] Great little mambo, man. It was a trolley song, great little arrangement. And it was like an oil painting, looking at us. I realized, 'We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.' We're not in Harlem. We kept on playing our best tunes, man, and nothing. Not a foot tap, nothing, they just kept staring at us. Until we finally said, 'OK, get out the brushes.' The timbale player got out the brushes. We started playing Lawrence Welk, everybody danced! By the end of the evening they were snookered, they were doing a conga line, which is about as corny as can be, but smashed they would dance to anything. [Pause] That was a big letdown for us."

3. Working with Robert De Niro was on Hilary Swank's 'bucket list,' but going deep Method with him in a scene didn't quite turn out as expected.

"I got to work with Robert De Niro, and for me he's on my bucket list, he's at the top of the people I have to work with before it's all said and done," Swank explained. "So I got to check that off."

Walking into her first scene with the legendary De Niro, Swank felt an intense connection as they plunged into character. "I'm just trying to get a sense of the vibe. I walk in and Robert's in the bed. He's kind of laying there. I hear he's Method; you hear all this stuff about Robert De Niro, and this is a comedy, but he's dying!

Their eyes meet. They get into the mood. "I'm going deep with De Niro!" Until... his head snaps up, and he asks for a coffee. "And I realized, 'Oh my god, he was sleeping!'"

4. Lea Michele, who spent two weeks working in an elevator with Ashton Kutcher, came home to research world news every night so they'd have something to talk about.

"He's really smart and would talk about everything going on in the world, which I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. So I would go home and Google everything and try to brush up on everything that's going on in our world and come in the next day and try to have a conversation."

5. In the middle of the press conference, Zac Efron betrays his longtime crush on Hairspray co-star Michelle Pfeiffer, who convinced him to come onboard New Year's Eve by suggesting a very enticing script tweak.

"I met Michelle a few years ago doing Hairspray, and had a huge crush on her from Day One. Back then I was very, very young and very bashful, and around her I tended to put my foot in my mouth a lot. I didn't really know what to say to her and everything just came out wrong. It was like, 'Do you want to rehearse... the scene?' I didn't know what to do, I was very shy. But then I got to talk on the phone with [Pfeiffer] about this part, and she said 'I think we should take this to the next level... let's get a kiss in there.' And I was like, 'I'm in. I'm in this movie! Sign me up.' [Efron turns to Pfeiffer] Every second with you was amazing.

6. When it comes to New Year's Eve plans, stars are just like us! Meaning they drink champagne at home in their PJs and fall asleep early.

Michele will be watching the 5K marathon in Central Park, as she does every year. "I did the Times Square thing once, and I'll never do it again."

Swank will have an even more low-key evening: "While Lea and those other people are running, I'm eating pie and drinking champagne. I stopped trying to chase the perfect place to be and realized the perfect place is with your loved ones and your closest friends, around a dinner table, talking about the past year and the year to come and the things that you want to change in your life, hearing their stories and what you'd like to see happen in the world... and I never make it to midnight. Ever."

Pfeiffer has the right idea: "I celebrate New Year's at 9pm West Coast time. I watch the ball drop in my jammies with some champagne, maybe some pie... I stopped setting those unrealistic expectations for New Year's Eve many years ago."

...but this year, Efron might shake things up: "We're gonna change that. You're coming out with me this year... I'll show you how we do it, Michelle."

7. Meanwhile, Abigail Breslin's mom will not let her spend New Year's Eve in Times Square unsupervised. "I don't think that's going to be happening any time soon."

8. Read what you will into this Hilary Swank reflection on New Year's optimism in light of the year she's had (i.e. Attending that Chechan human rights offender party and the PR nightmare that followed):

"The idea of this woman who takes her job really seriously and is responsible, I felt very in touch with that. I take a lot of things pretty seriously. But I also love that speech that I have, because it's certainly universal. I can't imagine one person not thinking about the year that just passed and the optimism for the next year, and the idea of being able to have a second chance to be a better person. To love more, and to forgive. Essentially that's life in a nutshell, right in that monologue."

9. Finally, enjoy yet more Efron-on-Pfeiffer flirting as the charismatic young Efron waxes poetic about their big kiss.

"Every actor performs three scenes: There's the one you rehearse the night before, in your bedroom. There's the one you actually get to do when you're filming. And there's the one you wish you would have done afterward. I was in my hotel room the night before imagining how I was going to kiss [Pfeiffer], and it was awesome. I was the man, in every way. It was glorious. Confetti started to come up, the wind swept up, newspapers, there was electricity, a big dip. I went to execute on the day, and right when I came to the crucial moment... a huge piece of confetti flew into my mouth. It was everywhere. It was in our eyes."

Pfeiffer: "It wasn't sexy."

Efron: "Yes, it was! [Pause] I thought it was awesome."


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