All grown up as an Iraqi war veteran in The Lucky One.

McCauley Culkin, Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe. No amount of beefing up in the gym, acquiring a bad-ass motorcycle or playing tongue hockey with a Hollywood It Girl could ever make these three gentlemen look like they have evolved from their image as child stars-turned-adult stars who still look like children.

Remember when the Lord Of The Rings star was PUNK’D by Ashton Kutcher a few years ago? He was coaxed into throwing some trash into a bin before it exploded and caused a major fire hazard in that neighbourhood. It wouldn’t be surprising to find that some viewers took bets on how quickly he’d probably start crying for his mommy.

It’s hard to break out of the child star mould but there have been plenty of people who have been successful at it. Like Drew Barrymore. It’s usually easy to tell who is going to be able to play an adult without many people side-eyeing them, but sometimes, as in Zac Efron’s case, the jury’s still out.

While he’d been acting before 2005, Efron really shot to main-stream awareness in the cult smash hit franchise High School Musical. Look, if even South Park is parody-ing your movement, you know it’s time to pry your kids away from the television.

Don’t let Justin Bieber’s new haircut and short-lived baby-mama drama fool you, it takes work to get old fans to see you as an evolving human being while acquiring new Beliebers (are they still called that now that he’s all grown up?).

But we’re here to talk about the Maturation of Zac Efron.

In his latest film, The Lucky One, Efron is looking all grown up. As an Iraqi war marine veteran, he moves to a small town and falls in love with a woman who honestly looks way too old for him. But that’s probably because he hasn’t completely shed his Disney looks. In High School Musical he played Troy Bolton, a sensitive jock. He was cute and non-threatening and the ladies loved him like his name had Cool J in it.

After that, he took the teenager look to the max when he starred in 17 Again – a movie that was really proof that someone can be typecast and be okay with that. Here he is trans-formed from a shaggy-looking frustrated man and gets a second chance to be 17, again.

Guess who he looks like there? Troy! Charlie St Cloud offered another view of Efron, one that painted him as someone who was turning from boy to man, and not nearly at the end of the road. I’m going to stop with these R&B singer references, I promise.

Anyway, he’s a big brother and sailor who sports a stiff golden short cut and bright blue eyes.

In New Year’s Eve, he was almost unrecognisable in the ensemble cast. He wore biker jackets and even had traces of a moustache. He’d officially broken out of the kid star mould and – get this – he didn’t even dance or sing in this movie. Woohoo.

In fact, it looks like Efron may really be coming into his own, and his looks are part of the reason his acting net can be thrown far and wide now.

He has managed to do away with the kid gloves and even has some steamy sex scenes in The Lucky One. These days, the only place you will find Efron willingly playing a kid in a film is if he is the voice of one – like in The Lorax.

* An all-grown-up Zac Efron stars in The Lucky One which hits cinemas this weekend.