It's almost pointless to try and understand the phenomenon that is Twilight. It's like Star Wars for teen girls, I guess, except a lot of women love it, too. All that pining and forbidden love between human Bella (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is like literary and cinematic crack to them. For the rest of us, it's pop culture run amok. That said, three movies in now -- Eclipse is about to be released -- I have to admit I'm finally starting to make heads and tails of it. Much of this has to do with the many interviews I've conducted with the movies' stars and filmmakers, but also because Eclipse, as it turns out, is the best of the Twilight flicks so far. I sat down with Lautner recently, to discuss the new installment, the next two movies in the series, and a few other projects he's got on his to-do list. Check back later this week for an interview with Robert Pattinson, and read our Kristen Stewart interview here!
Editor's Note: Limited spoilers in interview.
Cole Haddon: So in your opinion, what's different about Eclipse compared to the first two movies?
Taylor Lautner: I was actually bummed. There's a lot more action in this picture, but, for me specifically, I'm a wolf when there's any action going on. So I was bummed I wasn't involved in too much action. I got to kiss Bella for the first time, so that was probably the biggest thing.
CH: Jacob definitely seems to have matured in Eclipse. But how much of that is his character, and how much is it you, coming into your own as an actor, showing up on the screen?
TL: No, I don't know if it really has anything to do with me. It's kind of all in the books and that's what we go off of. That's exactly what the fans want to see. But yeah, Jacob definitely matures quite a bit because he's been dealing with his new self now. He's come to know his new self and the situations he's been put in romantic-wise. He deals with a lot. He becomes frustrated in this one a little bit because he gets this close all the time, and gets told no over and over again. So it's quite a bummer, but he's quite persistent.
CH: You worked a lot more closely with Robert Pattinson this time around.
TL: Yeah, that's right. I had a scene or two in New Moon where I was able to work with Rob, and I was really excited to work with him for Eclipse quite a bit. The hardest thing I found about working with him is that usually I have to hate him in the scenes, and it's difficult. He's such a funny, nice guy. Literally we'll be doing a scene where we're yelling and screaming at each other, and he's slapping my shoulder, and I'm shoving him off me, and we're screaming and spitting in each other's faces -- and then, as soon as they call cut, we bust out laughing. It is really hard to be mean to Rob, definitely.
CH: The best line in the movie is also its most self-aware, when Edward asks Bella if Jacob owns a shirt since your character is always running around topless and ripped. Was that in the script, or improv?
TL: I believe it was actually in the book, but it was definitely in the script. When I read that for the first time, I couldn't wait for Rob to deliver that. It was funny. It was quite obvious when they pull up in the middle of the street, even in the position I'm in. I'm leaning back up against the car with my hands behind me. It looks like I'm waiting, flexing for her as she comes up. Those are the awkward scenes. When everybody is fully clothed, it's raining and I'm just the only person there waiting, kind of posing for them.
CH: It's been announced that Breaking Down, the fourth book in the Twilight series, will be broken into two movies and Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) will be directing it. What are your thoughts on the breakdown, and have you spoken with Condon yet?
TL: I have only met Bill once, and then only very briefly, so we have not had time to discuss it. He seems like a very nice guy, and obviously he's extremely talented. I think whatever comes our way he's going to deal with it fine. I'm looking forward to talking to him for sure.
CH: And the movie being broken up into two?
TL: I think that was definitely the right thing to do. It's hard enough to break down 500-plus pages into a 110-, 120-page script, but this one is 800 pages, and there's just so much going on with the wolf pack and the baby. There's a lot of stuff, so to condense that into one film would probably be a challenge. I'm very excited that it's two. Looking forward to it.
CH: What are your thoughts on keeping Breaking Dawn faithful to the book?
TL: It's definitely super important to us to remain as faithful as possible to the books because that's exactly what the fans want to see -- they want to see the books. There may have to be a few changes here and there, but as long as we maintain the basic story and everything the characters go through, all those emotions, we're going to be fine. I think whatever Bill Condon does is going to turn out amazing. I definitely trust in him, and I think the fans should as well.
CH: Curious: Have you had much feedback from Native Americans about the wolf pack?
TL: I haven't heard too much feedback from them, but two years ago, maybe even longer -- back when we filmed Twilight -- I met with some real Quileutes. I kind of just wanted to get to know them before we started filming. I went there with a pad and paper and a pencil. I was thinking I was going to have to write down notes and transform myself into this different person. I was like, "What do you guys like to do in your free time?" And I was expecting some different answer, and they were like, "We go to the beach and we play basketball, but most of all we like to check out girls." I was like, "Oh really? Alright." It would definitely be interesting to hear feedback after the movies have come out.
CH: So you're Hollywood's new "it" guy. You're attached to a flurry of projects and your quota has skyrocketed. What's it been like from your point of view?
TL: I don't know about that, but it's exciting. This franchise has been such an incredible platform. It's amazing. I'm so thankful for this franchise and the opportunity. I've had the time of my life these last two years, and I'm just so thankful to be in this position now. I'm having fun making movies. It's great. I've met a lot of cool new people, and had the opportunity to work with a lot of new talented people, and amazing is the best word for it.
CH: So how do you choose your projects now?
TL: It's kind of a gut instinct. It's whatever I'd want to watch. You read a lot of scripts, and whenever you can finish one, you really love it. It's all based on story and the character. I want to challenge myself to do many different things. I definitely don't want to stay on one road, so I try to change it up.
CH: And you're playing your first superhero next, right? Stretch Armstrong?
TL: Not next, but hopefully soon. Next is Abduction. I'll just be a regular guy who is in an interesting situation, but maybe a superhero about a year from now.
CH: Any sense yet of how Armstrong will be executed?
TL: You know, they're doing all of the designing and all that stuff right now. They're writing the script and everything, so I haven't seen any finalized version.
CH: Do you know what the character's backstory is going to be? It's not a well-known character anymore, I think.
TL: No. They're not finished with the script yet. I think they should be shortly, so hopefully we'll know soon. The cool thing with the toy is that there is no story. Like with a superhero you have to stay along these lines, but with a toy you get to create everything, which is super exciting and creative.
CH: Final question: Why should people want to see this movie [Eclipse], including those who haven't seen the previous two?
TL: If you like the first and second movie, then you are definitely going to like this movie. If you haven't seen the first or second movies, you're still going to like it. It basically takes everything -- the romance, the action, the suspense, the danger -- everything in the first two movies, and times it by five in this one. It's by far my favorite movie. It's exciting. It's very dangerous. They're at war the entire time, but you still have that romance and it's elevated because this is the height of the triangle. Edward and Jacob are forced to team up together and protect Bella from [the vampires] Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Riley (Xavier Samuel) who are after her. [Laughs]. All that was a very long way of telling you: you should see the movie.