Interview: Taylor Lautner Talks New Moon and Valentine's Day

If New Moon, the latest chapter in The Twilight Saga, has a break-out star, it would have to be Taylor Lautner. While Lautner appeared in last year's Twilight, it was a small role, a tease of what was to come for the book series' fans. This time around, the teenaged actor has packed on more muscle than you've probably got on your body just to play Jacob Black, a young Native American who -- and I'm not ruining anything here, since trailers give it away -- discovers he didn't just get a bit beefier over summer vacation. He became a werewolf. I sat down with Lautner recently to discuss what went into the role, as well as his upcoming part in the romantic comedy Valentine's Day.

Cole Haddon: Your character, Jacob Black, goes through a lot of changes in New Moon.

Taylor Lautner: Basically, my job was to continue what I started in Twilight, which was this extremely happy, friendly, outgoing guy. Best friends with Bella [Kristen Stewart]. I had to continue that for the first half of the film, but, as soon as I transform [into a werewolf], I snap and I become a completely different person. I'm dealing with my issues, and it's really hard for me.

CH: I imagine the preparation for that transformation began by hitting the gym, to pack on 30 pounds of muscle.

TL: Absolutely. Jacob transforms a lot in New Moon, not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. So it was a matter of getting to the gym, and eating the right food, and a lot of it. But also reading and studying the book and the character over and over and over again so I could have his character down as well, because he changes in many, many different ways.

CH: The filmmakers certainly took advantage of the new physique. You spend most of the movie shirtless, starting with that moment where you rip off your tee-shirt to wipe a cut on Bella's forehead.

TL: I start laughing so hard every time I see that scene. "You're bleeding? OK, let me fix it [with my sweaty shirt]." It's so embarrassing. Yeah. I mean, here's the thing: there's a reason that he's not wearing clothes all the time. One, when he transforms, all his clothes get shredded. He can't help it. And when he goes into the woods to get something to put on so he's not naked, it's just a ripped pair of jean shorts. He's also hot. He's 108 degrees. So that's another reason. The thing is, I love this character, I love this story, and putting on the weight and not wearing much clothing was required by the role. A year from now, if I love a story and I love a character that requires me to lose 40 pounds, I'm ready to do it.

CH: But those scenes in the forest, all that cold rain. Putting on or losing weight is hard enough, but working in those kind of conditions, half-naked, couldn't have been much fun.

TL: Yeah, the challenging thing is Jacob is supposed to be extremely hot, so he's not supposed to feel cold at all. And the worst scene for that was the rain scene, the breakup scene where Bella first sees Jacob after his transformation. We're standing on this little hill right behind Jacob's house, and it was 35 degrees, and it was pouring rain on top of us, not regular rain, rain tower rain, which comes straight from the springs. And the scene was very long. It took four minutes to film the scene, and we filmed the same scene all day long. So it was really, really rough. It was hard. And as soon as we'd call cut, we'd run over to a heater quick and wrap ourselves in blankets, and we'd have, like, two minutes off before we'd have to go do another take. So the weather was definitely extremely challenging. I just had to take myself to another world so during the scene I wasn't sitting there shivering. It was hard. Sometimes I'd catch myself, and I'd have to stop.

CH: With Edward Cullen largely taking a backseat to Jacob's romance with Bella in New Moon, was there ever any concern that you would overshadow Robert Pattinson's presence in the movie? In other words, did you have to temper your performance in any way? Because you're very winning in the role.

TL: Thank you very much. I think it depends on what kind of girl you are, what kind of guy you like. Edward and Jacob are complete opposite guys. They're hot and cold. Literally. So yeah, I mean it's just, I personally love Bella and Jacob's relationship, how they begin as best friends, and it starts to grow into something more and more. Both guys are in love with Bella. Both guys are always going to be there for Bella, and they're protective. I just think it's what kind of guy you like.

CH: And how did you handle all the stunt and wire work? Was that very difficult to get used to?

TL: The physical side was really fun. Some of it was challenging. I'd never ridden a dirt bike before. And yes, I rode the dirt bike for a total of about five seconds in the film, but, for those five seconds, I had to look as cool as possible. So it did require a lot of practice just, for safety-wise, so they'd let me do it. And the wire work, like when I run up the side of her house, that whole thing, the wires were there so, if I slipped and fell, I didn't face plant into the ground. But it was definitely challenging. That stunt was really complicated. You need to be on. I'm using a little plug in the side of the wall to take off from and jump, so it's really complicated and it required a lot of practice. Every single weekend I would practice that stunt for three hours a day. It was the last thing we filmed.

CH: What did you think of your CGI wolf when you got to see it on screen?

TL: I was blown away. I was really excited. Because when I'm filming, the famous trailer shot when I'm running through the field and I jump up and try and fly in midair, I'm attached to wires and I'm running, and I let the wires pull me up in the air, and jerk me to a stop, and I just have to freeze there and let them convert my body into a CGI wolf. The whole time I'm like, "I hope I look cool." And yeah, after I saw the final version last week, after I saw the wolves, it was amazing. And the fight scene that comes right after that, the fight between Jacob and Paul Wolf, was so cool. I thought they were extremely powerful, and looked very real.

CH: With you being so busy with work on The Twilight Saga, and this being the end of your teenage years, how are you trying to relish all this and make sure it doesn't all become a blur in five years?

TL: I must say I'm having the time of my life. It couldn't be a better end to my teenage years. I'm doing what I love, and I'm spending time with the people that I love. So it's great. I'm definitely never, ever going to forget this.

CH: Aside from the physical, how has being part of this phenomenon transformed you?

TL: Really, I'd have to say the biggest transformation would be my schedule. I'm really, really busy, but it's a lot of fun. I just got back from South America yesterday, and here I am today for three days. And then I go to Europe. So I'm really, really busy, but it's been a lot of fun. It's been a great experience. I'm really excited to be part of this thing.

CH: Can you talk about Valentine's Day, which will be your next movie to hit the big screens?

TL: It's going to be fun, there were a lot of fantastic actors in it. I got to work with legendary director Garry Marshall ... so I'm excited for everyone to see that.

CH: Was it hard to squeeze it into that busy schedule you were talking about?

TL: It was hard, yeah. We had a very short break between New Moon and Eclipse, and I knew that I wanted to be part of this film somehow, just to work with Garry and the entire cast [which includes Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, and Jamie Foxx]. So I was able to squeeze a short thing in, quickly.