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Zac Efron says making The Iron Claw changed bond with John Cena

After playing Kevin Von Erich, Efron worked with WWE legend Cena on new Prime Video comedy Ricky Stanicky.

Watch: Zac Efron discusses John Cena's reaction to The Iron Claw

Zac Efron had to learn a whole new skill to portray wrestling legend Kevin Von Erich in The Iron Claw, so it must have been very daunting indeed to go straight into working with a living icon of the sport — WWE Champion turned Hollywood star John Cena.

Efron's next project is the Prime Video comedy Ricky Stanicky, in which he stars alongside Cena, and Efron told Yahoo UK that he gained even more respect for his co-star after learning about wrestling.

"We don't talk about it that often, but I feel like I've got a glimpse into what he has been going through his whole life," says Efron. "I think we both just acknowledge that we respect it and it's fun to have that underneath everything. I think it strengthens our bond."

Zac Efron has worked with John Cena on comedy movie Ricky Stanicky since he made The Iron Claw. (Getty/A24)
Zac Efron has worked with John Cena on comedy movie Ricky Stanicky since he made The Iron Claw. (Getty/A24)

The Iron Claw follows the tragic true story of the Von Erich family, who were wrestling icons throughout the 1980s under the leadership of former wrestler and promoter Fritz Von Erich. By the time he died in 1997, five of his six sons had already lost their lives.

Efron plays Kevin Von Erich — Fritz's only surviving son — and the movie follows the many tragedies that befell the family, leading to rumours they were cursed.

Read more: Zac Efron reveals 'magical' wrestling secrets behind The Iron Claw

It's a terrific central performance from Efron, while Holt McCallany wows as Fritz and the likes of Harris Dickinson and The Bear's Jeremy Allen White also stand out as other Von Erich siblings. But director Sean Durkin also put great effort into the in-ring sequences, bringing the unique performance art of wrestling to life. This clearly impressed one of the best WWE stars turned actors, according to Efron.

"[Cena] has seen it. He came to one of the premieres that we had," says Efron. "It was awesome, man. I know he's a big Von Erich fan, of the whole family, and Fritz and all of them impacted his whole career coming into this."

Zac Efron learned the basics of professional wrestling to play Kevin Von Erich in The Iron Claw. (Lionsgate/A24)
Zac Efron learned the basics of professional wrestling to play Kevin Von Erich in The Iron Claw. (Lionsgate/A24)

Efron certainly threw himself into his training, which was overseen by wrestling legend Chavo Guerrero Jr, who also helped to teach the cast of Netflix series GLOW. "You realise that there's so much to this sport," says Efron. "There's the performance element, then there's the physical element and the action and the characters. It's such a colourful world.

Read more: The most extreme actor transformations onscreen

"I can understand why there's not a lot of movies made about it. It's so intricate. Getting a crash course in it was really fun and really eye-opening in all the right ways."

We've seen Cena make the shift from the ring to Hollywood, so now we have to ask whether we might see the newly-trained Efron go the other way. Zac Efron in the Royal Rumble next year? You heard it here first.

The Iron Claw will be in UK cinemas from 9 February and Ricky Stanicky is on Prime Video from 7 March.

Watch the trailer for The Iron Claw: