Iâ€™ve ever been to an opening night showing of a â€œTwilightâ€ movie, youâ€™ve heard the shrieks, the shouts. Itâ€™s â€œED-ward!â€ on one side and â€œJA-cobâ€ on the other, a little taste of fan bedlam.
And Taylor Lautner, the 19-year-old who plays the werewolf (Jacob) who adores Bella (Kristen Stewart) and resents the vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), has sampled that crazy scene himself. In disguise.
â€œI showed up at a theater, not really knowing what to expect,â€ he says. â€œI thought, â€˜Itâ€™ll be FINE. Maybe a few people will show up. Maybe one or two people will recognize me.â€™ It was, oh, letâ€™s say INTERESTING. And that was just for the first film, where I was just in a couple of scenes.â€
Lautner has spent the past four years as Jacob in the â€œTwilight Saga,â€ enjoying and enduring the adulations of millions thanks to these high-school vampire blockbusters. But with the series winding down â€” they have finished filming â€œBreaking Dawn,â€ parts one and two of the last book, with the first of those hitting theaters in November â€” Lautner was ready to take his first starring role â€œoutside of the franchise.â€
The film he chose was an action picture, â€œAbduction,â€ which opens Friday.
â€œAs an actor, my dream is to be able to challenge myself in many different genres,â€ he says. â€œWhat I liked about this project was that it has action, but it wasnâ€™t all about the action. I see it as an action-drama, thriller-romance. I knew that it would stretch me.â€
In the film, Lautner plays Nathan, a high-school student and wrestler who learns that his parents have a secret life when their home is attacked and he has to flee for his life. The cute, aloof neighbor (Lily Collins) comes along on his quest to find out who he is and who might be trying to kill him.
â€œIâ€™ve never been able to use what martial arts I know in a movie role,â€ he says. He studied karate and competed, earning his black belt when he was 8. â€œIt was good to be able to kick off some rust, get back into training again, using it in big fight scenes. I had new martial arts to pick up. Boxing, for instance. And wrestling.â€
Back in 2008, when â€œTwilightâ€ was about to debut, Lautner came off as a shy kid not quite sure what was about to happen to him. Now, he seems comfortable in the career and the fame it has brought.
Lautner has kept his family close to him, using their advice in his choice of film roles. His father even has a producing credit on â€œAbduction,â€ because, as Taylor puts it, â€œyou should always be able to trust that your family wants whatâ€™s best for you.â€
He can joke about â€œnot being able to pull off a convincing disguise any moreâ€ when he wants to go out in public, and laughs at the idea that things â€œmight get touchyâ€ if he and his lone competition in the â€œmost shirtless scenesâ€ sweepstakes, Matthew McConaughey, ever met.
Lautner is frank enough to admit that yes, Nathan and Jacob are similar enough to fall within his comfort zone as he explores roles beyond â€œTwilight.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re both outsiders, both guys who donâ€™t feel they quite belong. And another thing I picked up on is that they both have this goal and they are incredibly persistent as they pursue that goal. They donâ€™t let anything stand in their way.
â€œNathan just wants to know the truth and heâ€™ll stay on the run until he gets it. Anything and everything he can do, he will. Same with Jacob. He just wants that girl, to be loved. He will risk it all for that. I kind of respect that about both these characters.â€
And yes, they both take their shirts off. As Mickey Rapkin once noted in GQ magazine, since his first â€œcutâ€ and â€œrippedâ€ shirtless moments in â€œThe Twilight Saga: New Moon,â€ Lautnerâ€™s physique has become â€œhis calling card.â€