BEVERLY HILLS, California — Over the last few weeks [movie id="369195"]"Twilight"[/movie] Nation has been thrown into disarray, first over the appointment of a new director, Chris Weitz, for the sequel and then by rampant rumors that 16-year-old [movieperson id="373803"]Taylor Lautner[/movieperson] is going to be similarly replaced. (One bright light of the week: We just named Twilighters, collectively, the Woman of 2008.) On Wednesday night, Lautner spoke exclusively with MTV News and insisted that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
"I have been working out. I've been working out since the day we finished filming 'Twilight.' I just weighed myself today; I've put on 19 pounds," the noticeably larger Lautner told us, promising that he'll be big enough to fit Stephenie Meyer's physical description of Jacob Black in [movie id="414921"]"New Moon"[/movie] when cameras begin rolling in 12 weeks. "I'm guaranteeing Weitz 10 more [pounds] by filming. I get to meet Chris on Friday, in two days, so I'm excited. I'm going to have lunch with him."
The news of a Lautner-Weitz sit-down will undoubtedly launch a few thousand "OME!" exclamations, as Twilighters have spent the past few days launching Web sites, petitions and other shows of support for the young star. Speaking with us at Wednesday's Hollywood Foreign Press Association Salutes Young Hollywood event, Lautner also addressed actor Michael Copon's claims that he had landed the Jacob role, insisting that Copon's Facebook declarations might be a bit premature.
"I've heard a few things," he said of Copon. "I don't really know too much to comment on it. As far as I know, I haven't been told 'no' yet, so it's still all up in the air."
In regards to the series' recent musical-chairs situation, the affable actor offered nothing but kind words for both his past and possibly future directors. "I've seen a few of [Chris Weitz's] films, and he's really talented. The same thing with Catherine [Hardwicke]; I mean, Catherine had a really interesting mind," Lautner observed. "[Weitz] has that as well, and he's very talented. I've heard a lot of good stuff about him, so I'm excited to meet him. I heard he's like a surfer dude, and that he's really laid-back and friendly. It'll be fun."
The "Twilight" heartthrob also gave us his reaction to the studio's "New Moon" press release issued Saturday, which listed his co-stars [movieperson id="262629"]Kristen Stewart[/movieperson] and [movieperson id="365131"]Robert Pattinson[/movieperson], but caused widespread speculation in its omission of Lautner's name.
"I think it's because, well, Rob and Kristen were the lead roles in 'Twilight,' so they've got to be back," he reasoned. "I don't even know if they're officially signed; maybe they are, I don't know. They just hired Weitz, and now they're just moving down the cast. All I can say is, I'm going to be ready if my number's called."
In all the chaos of the past few weeks, Lautner added, plenty of things have been exaggerated by the media. Entertainment Weekly reported this week that his agent is talking to the effects people behind "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" about demonstrating how effectively Lautner could be transformed digitally. "Nothing [along those lines] has happened, and I don't know if it will," he told us. "I think there's a lot of things that have gotten blown up that haven't really occurred. That hasn't happened. I've just been working out for awhile, and I'm ready."
Sure enough, Lautner's partially unbuttoned shirt, larger physique and beginnings of a mustache sure seem to indicate that he's ready to show Weitz how he could effectively return as grown-up Jacob Black. And the actor said that in these uncertain times, he continues to surf the "Twilight" sites and take solace in the fans' support.
"Thank you, fans. Keep going, keep working hard, and we'll see soon," he said, addressing the recent MTV poll that had Twilighters choosing him over Copon (or anyone else) by a 12-1 margin. "That's good to hear. I appreciate all the fans who are doing stuff [to show their support].
"My job for 'Twilight' was to bring 'Twilight' Jacob to life — the friendly, happy-go-lucky little Jacob," Lautner explained, looking forward to the Friday lunch that will shape the future of his career. "And my job for 'New Moon' is completely different; I've been looking forward to that. I've been getting ready for it, and I can assure them that I will follow through with that job."
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