In the film, Zendaya plays a young trapeze artist named Anne who falls in love with Zac Efron’s determined impresario, Phillip. Their love defies the odds — and gravity. Their intimate, acrobatic musical number, “Rewrite the Stars,” is a real showstopper in the film, as Anne and Phillip take to the sky for a high-flying duet on weighted trapeze ropes.
Gracey came to Pasek and Paul with a song brief that outlined the fantastical moment. “He was like, ‘This is this moment of these two lovers who can’t be lovers but want to be, and the other element is they’re flying through the air.’ We’re like, ‘That’s crazy and awesome,'” Paul said. “As we wrote it, we wanted to have in mind the idea of the electricity between these two characters… there’s that longing.”
The emotion of the moment only intensified once Efron and Zendaya were cast in the roles. “When we heard them sing it for the first time,” Paul recalled, “it was like, ‘This is fire.'”
“Who doesn’t want to see Zac and Zendaya kiss, you know?” Pasek added. “That’s all you want… They have such amazing chemistry.” And, lucky for Pasek and Paul, they also had “cool” voices. “We were told to write the song in a contemporary way, but you never know who the performer will be,” he said. “Zac and Zendaya both have really cool, really contemporary voices. They sound like pop stars to me when I listen to it.”
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. During their pre-production workshop with the actors, there came a point when Pasek and Paul realized that “Rewrite the Stars” just wasn’t working. Seeing as the number directly follows an emotionally heavy scene between Anne and Phillip, Gracey didn’t want the moment to immediately transition into song; he wanted it to linger. That’s when Zendaya stepped in and suggested starting with a bit of acapella.
“She was like, ‘Why does there have to be music?'” Pasek recalled. “And we were like, ‘Well, there has to be music. It’s a song!’ Then we go to the corner, and we’re like, ‘Maybe she’s right. It’s kind of a good idea. Should we admit that?'”
Ultimately, it was the right call. It elevated the scene’s emotional weight and captured the intimacy of two star-crossed lovers at a crossroads. “So we looked at Zendaya,” he concluded, “and we were like, ‘You’re the queen of all things. You should be doing our jobs too.'”