As a child actor, Taylor Lautner got a big break in 2005 when, at the age of 13, he won the role of Sharkboy in Robert Rodriguez’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D.
But his biggest break came in 2007, when he was chosen to play Jacob Black in Twilight, starring alongside Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 opens on November 18th with the final installment of the franchise scheduled for November of next year.
But life goes on, and Taylor is currently starring in a new espionage thriller, Abduction, playing Nathan Harper, a teenager who stumbles upon an image of himself as a little boy on a missing persons’ website. Realizing his life has been a lie, he begins to piece his true identity together, all the time being chased by a team of trained killers.
What’s the difference between battling European bad guys in this and vampires in Twilight?
I would rather battle vampires. These guys were bad, they were nasty. Vampires will just take you out, but the fight scene that I had with this guy in the train was brutal, but it was fun.
Were there any injuries?
Nothing too terrible; the worst thing that happened was just a few bruises or red marks, which probably came either during the boxing scene or that train fight scene.
Was there anything that you did where you thought, ‘Maybe I’ll have the stuntman do this?’ The stunt where you slide down the escalator looked very dangerous.
No, the scariest thing was that I was not scared at all. I was scaring some other people. I know insurance wasn’t too excited about me doing a few of those stunts, but I was excited to do them.
What kind of training did you do for this movie?
I started boxing training three months before I left to film in Pittsburgh. I found a trainer here in LA, and then I did the same thing with motorcycle and wrestling training. By the time I showed up in Pittsburgh I wanted to know what I was doing. I didn’t want to show up there and, in the two weeks of prep, try to learn how to box. So there was a lot of physical preparation.
More importantly was the emotional preparation. It was great to be involved with this project from the ground up, because I was there during the development process of the script and of the character. By the time I showed up to film I knew everything about this character, opposed to any experience I’ve had before where you show up to film and that’s when you start thinking about the character.
Was there anything about this character that you could relate to?
I could probably relate more to the early side of Nathan in this film, when he’s just a normal teenager out with his friends. What I appreciated about Nathan is that he has a goal and he will do anything and everything to get to that goal. He’s very determined, he’s very persistent and I strived to be that.
When you shot at the high school, were the kids being extras respectful or were there teen Jacob crazies everywhere?
There were a lot of fans, but they were respectful. I think the toughest thing extra-wise, because they weren’t extras, was we filmed one day at the baseball stadium during a live game. There were literally tens of thousands of fans there to watch the baseball game and we come barging in trying to film a movie during it.
So there were huge giant cameras everywhere and actors walking around and these fans are trying to enjoy the game, and they would turn around and start staring at the cameras. Obviously we can’t have that for the movie, so we’d hold up these huge signs that said ‘Please do not look at the cameras,’ which of course made them look at the cameras that much more. If you watch the movie a couple of times, you will be able to see random people staring at the cameras.
When did you first become aware that you were famous?
The very first time I was ever recognized was after Sharkboy and Lavagirl. I was filming Cheaper by the Dozen 2 in Toronto and I was walking down the street and this old man stopped me, and he was like, ‘Excuse me, are you Sharkboy?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ That was the first time.
I know the first big moment where we experienced this screaming and this passion from fans was the very first Comic-Con for Twilight. We’d never experienced any fandom before, and we showed up at Comic-Con, we had no idea what to expect, and we were backstage.
We didn’t know if there were a hundred fans out there or a thousand, and we saw on the screen the word Twilight went up, and we heard this roar of six or seven thousand fans. It was the first time we’d ever heard that noise, and we literally started freaking out, we were like, ‘What are they screaming at?’ We had no idea what was wrong.
We didn’t know what was going on, and we stepped out on the stage to see six thousand fans there going nuts. That was the biggest, surreal moment for all of us. We were like, ‘What are we getting ourselves into?’
Wasn’t this before the first movie had even come out?
It was about three months before the movie came out.
How has being idolized by the fans changed you?
I hope it doesn’t, that’s my goal. I have this new life where I do what I love, I get to film movies and travel the world promoting them, and see the fans and talk to you, all this new exciting stuff. But I also have the same life that I had before.
I go back home, spend time with my family, see my friends, play football, all the same things that I’ve always done my entire life, and I think maintaining that life is what keeps you grounded and what makes you appreciate this life so much.
So instead of just completely changing my life and being this new person and living this one new life, I’m able to bounce back and forth between each, and I think that’s what’s so important.
You’ve finished shooting the final two Twilight movies – can you talk about ending the franchise, as it’s been such an enormous part of your life?
Yeah, after playing these characters for so long it’s hard to even soak it in that it’s done. We’re going to be promoting them for the next year and a half, but just the fact alone that we won’t be going back to live these characters anymore is a weird feeling.
It is definitely emotional.