Wolfish hunk Taylor Lautner faces Abduction
LOS ANGELES—Alert Team Jacob: Taylor Lautner is, ahem, even cuter in person than he looks on-screen. The young actor famous for playing hunky-but-lovelorn werewolf Jacob Black in the rabidly popular Twilight series about angst-ridden vampires, wolfboys, and their human obsessions, is in an L.A. hotel room discussing his new action thriller Abduction and flashing a set of startlingly white teeth.
“I would rather battle vampires,” he says, laughing and explaining the deadly serious individuals who pursue his character, a high-schooler named Nathan, in Abduction, which opens this Friday (September 23). “I mean, vampires will just, like, take you out, but these guys were bad. These guys were nasty.”
He is sporting a blue-plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up and stubble that can’t conceal the fact that he’s months from turning 20. He appears both more boyishly lean than the pumped-up teenager fans are used to shrieking themselves silly over in Twilight land and more mature than one might expect. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how life possibly looks if you’re Taylor Lautner, he also appears inordinately happy.
In Abduction, Nathan gets plastered with his friends at parties, is grounded by his parents (Maria Bello and Jason Isaacs), and eyeballs his fetching neighbour Karen (Lily Collins). Oh, and Nathan is also trained in martial arts, boxing, and wrestling by his hard-ass father, and he rides a motorcycle like a pro. These skills come in handy when things suddenly go very wrong and Nathan and Karen find themselves on the run from both seriously armed Euro-baddies and the CIA.
Lautner began studying karate at seven, was three times a junior world champ, and has a black belt. “I think the biggest thing that martial arts has taught me—and I mean, it works for acting, it works for anything in life—it’s that nothing comes without hard work,” he says. “You don’t just wake up one morning and everything’s fallen into place for you.”
Martial arts: check. But the champ wasn’t satisfied. “For the Twilight franchise it was so much about staying bulked-up and, you know, physically looking like Jacob Black,” he says. “For Abduction, it was less about lifting weights and how I look and more about physically being able to do things.” Months before filming began in Pittsburgh he trained in wrestling, boxing, and motorcycle-riding. “By the time I showed up to Pittsburgh I wanted to know what I was doing.”
One scene required him to ride on a speeding car’s hood. Ditching the movie’s script, Lautner decided—while neglecting to inform director John Singleton—to let himself tumble off into a potentially neck-breaking somersault. “I knew that John and everybody would throw a fit if I told them I was going to do that,” he says. “The car was supposed to come to a stop and I was supposed to get off, but for some reason I was feeling crazy so I just went for it. I was definitely making a lot of people sweat. But for me, weirdly, it was fun.” The somersault stayed.
He is disinclined to speak about the apparent off-screen romance of his Twilight castmates Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. “Do they?” he says, when a comment is made about the actors having a “relationship”. He further clams up about his own rumoured romance with Abduction costar Collins (daughter of singer Phil), with whom he shares some rather chaste on-screen spit-swapping and whose own star is rising with her casting in the buzzed-about Untitled Snow White project. “I mean, obviously you spend a lot of time together on-set. I mean, I think it just really makes you respect them as people and as actors…” He peters off.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 will colonize big screens this November, Part 2—as anxious Twilighters know—a whole year later. It’s the end of playing werewolf beefcake and the end of the series that sent his career and his life spinning into the Hollywood stratosphere. “It’s hard to even soak it in that it’s done. Just the fact alone that we won’t be going back to live these characters anymore is a weird feeling. Definitely emotional.”
Way back in 2008, just before Twilight rocked hyperventilating females’ worlds, Lautner and his equally dewy costars appeared at Comic-Con. “We were backstage,” he says. “We saw on the screen the word Twilight light up. And we hear this roar. It was the first time we’d ever heard that noise and we’re freaking out, like ‘What are they screaming at?’ To step out onto the stage and see six or seven thousand fans going nuts—that was the biggest surreal moment for all of us. It was like ‘What are we getting ourselves into?’ ”
Perhaps the star of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D’s true seminal moment of feeling heady fame happened when he was 13. “I was filming Cheaper by the Dozen 2 in Toronto. I was walking down the street and this, like, old man stopped me and he was like, ‘Excuse me, are you Sharkboy?’ ”
Watch the trailer for Abduction.