Precisely what happened has given rise to endless tabloid speculation, and Efron is coy about the details."I had a friend come pick me up late at night -- we were looking for a place downtown to get a bite and catch up," he says, without identifying the friend."When you have success young, and you accept the good things, you have to accept all of it.You have to accept the moments of glory but also a great responsibility.I saw that [the homeless man] was carrying some sort of a knife, or shank, and I got out of the car to disarm him.At some point, he dropped the knife, and I got hit pretty hard in the face -- and almost instantly the police were there to break up the fight." After that, the two friends went home.But as we sit for lunch at West Hollywood's Soho House, I'm surprised to find him thoughtful, gracious and candid about the growing pains he has endured while navigating the shoals from teen celebrity to adult stardom."I was drinking a lot, way too much," he says, acknowledging there were drugs, too. I mean, you're in your 20s, single, going through life in Hollywood, you know? I wouldn't take anything back; I needed to learn everything I did.
He is trying to shed an unwanted skin, cleanse himself mentally and physically, purge a past that has come to haunt him.
But it was an interesting journey, to say the least." PHOTOS: Exclusive Portraits of Zac Efron That journey is one well traveled by other young stars, with varying degrees of success -- from Judy Garland to Corey Haim to Lindsay Lohan to Robert Downey Jr.
Like them, Efron has had his travails well documented: First, he entered rehab for an addiction to alcohol and drugs last spring; then he suffered the indignity of having his jaw wired shut following a fall in his Los Feliz home, when he skidded by an indoor fountain; and finally came the March incident when his car clunked to a halt in a dubious part of town, after which Efron grappled with a homeless man.
"He passed me, and I just stopped and was compelled to say something," recalls Efron.
"I blurted out: ' Hey, Seth, my name's Zac.
Cohen and Brendan O' Brien on -like fraternity that moves in next door to Rogen and his onscreen wife (Rose Byrne).