Taylor Lautner Is MTV News’ #4 Man Of The Year

With a meatier role in the 'Twilight' franchise and a beefier physique, Lautner reached new heights in 2009.

Which stars had the biggest year? All this week, we’ll be unveiling our top nine men and women of 2009, counting down to the #1 man and woman on Friday.

4. Taylor Lautner

In early 2008, li’l Taylor Lautner was getting his learner’s permit, hoping “Twilight” might get him some attention , and trying on his itchy Jacob wig for the first time. Now he’s on the cover of dozens of magazines, adored by fans and one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. Not bad for a 17-year-old — and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

2009 Highlights: As the calendar page turned to 2009, there were few entertainment stories as compelling as Taylor Lautner’s crusade to convince the “Twilight” powers-that-be to employ his buff new bod for “New Moon,” with co-stars like Ashley Greene , Elizabeth Reaser and Kristen Stewart among those firmly in his corner. The 17-year-old “Twilight” star spoke extensively about his dedication to the material and his workout regime , which delighted fans and convinced Chris Weitz that his casting search for Jacob was over before it really began.

Once he happily got back to work on the “Twilight Saga,” Taylor surfaced only rarely to do things like unveiling first-look footage from “New Moon” at the MTV Movie Awards, or arriving at the Video Music Awards to debut an expanded trailer alongside co-stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Keeping his nose to the grindstone, Taylor left it up to others to determine whether he was “swoon-worthy.”

One person who undoubtedly did swoon in 2009, however, was Taylor Swift. The country superstar struck up a supposed relationship with Lautner that built steadily as they shot the upcoming romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day,” a film in which their characters spent an entire day reportedly making out. Unfortunately, it also placed him at ground zero for one of the year’s hugest controversies, as he presented Swift with a Video Music Award then watched as her acceptance speech was interrupted by Kanye West.

With the start of the “New Moon” promotional tour including a stop at Hot Topic , the young actor proved his movie-star powers when he arrived to fans chanting his name at the “New Moon” premiere. He also managed to land on the cover of both Rolling Stone (wet T-shirt and all) and Entertainment Weekly, and graced the couch of Conan O’ Brien.

Getting back to work, Taylor started filming “Eclipse,” and dropped by San Diego’s Comic-Con to share near-kisses with Kristen. He helped unveil new footage from the movie and gave Bella a bike ride she’d never forget , and hung out with the geeks. Getting nerdy with the comic book geeks for the second consecutive year, Taylor seemed to be ascending nicely into his newfound status as a top-tier “Twilight” star.

As the flick hit theaters, Taylor told us exclusively about the “dark times” in retaining his role, what happened to all of his missing clothes, his love of fan-made trailers and why he won’t translate the key phrase Jacob speaks in Quileuete.

Sure enough, his casting proved to be the right move, as “New Moon” not only broke the midnight screening record previously held by “Harry Potter,” but also went on to become the third-highest opening weekend on record . So convincing was his portrayal of Jacob, in fact, that some Twilighters thought he deserved an Oscar nomination . Now, with “Eclipse” set for release next year , and the possible two-movie split of “Breaking Dawn” on the horizon, Taylor’s future only looks brighter.

Some of you might be thinking: It was a great year for the “Twilight” stars, but how could Taylor finish higher in our rankings than Kristen or Rob? Well, for starters, his stock had a further journey to soar, and soar it did. Now he’s a household name who recently achieved the honor of hosting “Saturday Night Live,” the first “Twilight” star to do so. He spent the night making us laugh and partying into the wee hours , and now Hollywood seems on the verge of giving the muscle-bound rising star his own franchise . These days, it seems like it’s Taylor’s world — and we’re all just living in it.

Which stars had the biggest 2009? Over the next week, we’ll be unveiling our top nine most newsworthy, controversial and fascinating men and women of the year. We based our list on factors like music sales, box-office performance, MTVNews.com headlines and traffic, overall reach (crossover singles, appearances in movies, licensing of songs for commercials, clothing lines, etc.), plus X-factors like “impact” and “buzz.” (And no, President Barack Obama didn’t make the list — we’ll leave that to the folks at Time.) This is by no means an exact science, but we think the list we’ve put together represents the men and women who helped make 2009 the most exciting and memorable 12 months in recent history.

We’ll be rolling out our list of the Top 9 Men and Women of 2009 two per day until Friday, when we unveil MTV News’ Man and Woman of the year! As always, we also want to know what you think, so weigh in with comments below, or upload them to Your.MTV.com!