Firestarter: Interview With Zac Efron & Ryan Kiera Armstrong

In a new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic thriller FIRESTARTER, a girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers fights to protect her family and herself from sinister forces that seek to capture and control her.


  • Stephen King’s best-selling classic, FIRESTARTER, was first published in 1980.
  • The novel was developed into a film in 1984 and starred a young Drew Barrymore
  • The new FIRESTARTER adaptation stars Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong.
  • Visit for more stories.


For more than a decade, parents Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) have been on the run, desperate to hide their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) from a shadowy federal agency that wants to harness her unprecedented gift for creating fire into a weapon of mass destruction. Andy has taught Charlie how to defuse her power, which is triggered by anger or pain. But as Charlie turns 11, the fire becomes harder and harder to control. After an incident reveals the family’s location, a mysterious operative (Michael Greyeyes) is deployed to hunt down the family and seize Charlie once and for all. Yet Charlie has other plans.



Can you talk about what appealed to you about the opportunity of being in FIRESTARTER?
Zac Efron: I have to start with Stephen King, who creates these incredible worlds – writing stories with supernatural elements that are rooted in the human predicament, family, and relationships. They are just made for the screen. So, I was personally excited that this came around for that reason and because I wanted to work with Keith Thomas, our director, who is so brilliant. He did this movie a few years ago called The Vigil that blew my mind, and he was the right person for this job. If there was anyone that was going to make this fantastic and real, it was him.
Ryan Kiera Armstrong: Everyone that made this movie was amazing. Keith was so helpful and always there for Zac and I and the rest of the cast and crew.


You play the two central characters of the story, Andy McGee and his daughter Charlie, that have quite a unique family dynamic?
Zac Efron: Yes, our family dynamic is pretty interesting because we are constantly on the run and in hiding, trying to protect Charlie from this kind of shadowy agency that is after her for her special abilities.


Charlie is a young girl with extraordinary powers, not so?
Zac Efron: Charlie has developed over time these emotionally triggered pyrokinetic abilities, but they are starting to get out of control. So, not only do her parents realize that she is more powerful than either of them, but they are having a harder and harder time hiding her from the people that want to use her for not-so-good reasons.
Ryan Kiera Armstrong: Yes, those people want to use her for military reasons, and they even believe she could be capable of making nuclear explosions.
Zac Efron: So, we are trying to keep her safe, which takes us on this epic run away from these guys that want to turn her into a dangerous weapon.


Firestarter is the first horror film that Efron has done, and he was excited to push beyond his comfort zones and into emotional, raw territory. Image: United International Pictures

Her parents are trying to keep Charlie safe, but they have different opinions on how to deal with her uniqueness?
Zac Efron: Andy, my character, is somewhat scarred from having to deal with his own powers in life and trying to protect Charlie. He thinks that the best way for her to stay safe is to neglect her powers, hide them and not use them.
Ryan Kiera Armstrong: He wants her to shove these powers down and never use them, to protect her.
Zac Efron: And my wife, Vicky, played by Sydney Lemmon, is more of the opinion that Charlie should learn how to use her powers and control them. In a way, it reflects the questions that most parents have about the proper way to raise their children, especially if they are struggling with anything.


Stephen King’s stories are always rooted, even if they have fantastic elements. Would you say that Charlie’s struggle could be a metaphor for how we handle pain, grief, and other emotions while we grow up?
Ryan Kiera Armstrong: 100%! I think that even if people are not in the same situation as Charlie, they still have different things conflicting in their lives. So, my character’s struggle is truly a metaphor for things we can all relate to.
Zac Efron: I definitely believe that Charlie’s powers are a metaphor for grief, anxiety, and a lot of the things we struggle with growing up. Learning to navigate those feelings and emotions as a young person is hard. And it’s challenging as a parent to know how to help your child navigate through it all.


You both have great chemistry on screen. How much did you enjoy working together?
Zac Efron: We had a really good time. Ryan did so well, and she is such a brilliant actor.
Ryan Kiera Armstrong: I loved it! It was a fun journey, which included multiple ping-pong battles, and Zac was there with me every moment of it. Just watching his performance helped me a lot and made me want to improve my work.
Zac Efron: It was a little bit unnerving watching your daughter get set on fire that often. And she has this scream that can knock a building down, which is pretty impressive!


And what do you believe Keith Thomas brought to it all as a director?
Zac Efron: Keith is fantastic! He has an incredible eye and a gut instinct for what is authentic and will move the story forward in the right way. He is a very open director that likes to work with the actors, and it’s just great to have someone you can rely on like him next to you. Keith is also very clear about what he wants because he knows what works; so, you don’t waste time dancing around scenes.
Ryan Kiera Armstrong: I had a lot of questions, and Keith was always there for me. It’s very helpful to have an actor-friendly director like that, who is open to everything. And he really helped me in the scenes where I scream and produce fire. Keith was amazing.
Zac Efron: Also, as Keith is a dad, I could go to him and ask him any questions about fatherhood, and he would bring his own experience to the table and talk to me in an intelligent and emotionally connected way about certain fatherly aspects that I don’t know about yet. It was nice to work with him on that as well.


FIRESTARTER opens in cinemas nationwide on May 13.


Stand a chance to WIN with The Sandton Times.


Advertise on The Sandton Times today!


Head back to The Sandton Times Home Page for more stories.


Picture of Sandton Times Correspondent

Sandton Times Correspondent

Curated content from The Sandton Times newsroom desks.


Related Posts