You can't help but love Taylor Lautner, the 17-year-old co-star of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." Taylor spent months beefing up for his role as the werewolf Jacob, eating meat patties all day long and working out five days a week. He gained 30 pounds for the part! In an interview with IML, Jacob talks about his transformation, his adjustment to becoming a teen idol, and the challenges of staying true to himself through it all.
IML: Do you think you were ever in danger of not getting the role of Jacob in this movie?
Taylor: Honestly, I knew where my character went in "New Moon" and that's all I tried to stay focused on. I couldn't control things outside. I couldn't control the media. But I could control what I was doing. So that's what I stayed focused on the whole entire time.
IML: Did that start with going to the gym and gaining 30 pounds to make the physical transformation necessary to play Jacob?
Taylor: Yeah. 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, eating the right foods and a lot of it. But also reading and studying the book and my character over and over and over again so I could have this character down as well. Because he changes in many, many ways.
IML: Can you talk about those changes?
Taylor: Well, when he transforms basically my job was to continue what I started in "Twilight," which was this extremely happy, friendly, outgoing guy, best friends with Bella. And I had to continue that for the first half of the film. But as soon as I transformed, I snapped and I became a completely different person. I'm dealing with my issues and it's just really hard for me.
IML: You certainly have a lot of opportunities to show off your body. Our favorite was when you take off your shirt to dab blood off Bella's head.
Taylor: I start laughing so hard every time I see that scene. Oh, look, you're bleeding? Let me fix that. [He mimes removing his shirt.] How embarrassing. Here's the thing: there's a reason 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. His body temperature is 108 degrees. So that's another reason. And the thing is, I love this character and 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.
IML: Could you be more specific about your regimen? What did you eat? How much did you exercise?
Taylor: I was in the gym about five days a week because it's important to get your recovery time. Not over working yourself. I was trying to put on weight. And if I were in the gym too much I'd be burning the calories I was trying to take in. The most important thing was the eating side. Everybody thought it was actually getting in the gym. That was easy. I was motivated. The eating was pretty hard. We found that I had to consume at least 3200 calories a day just to maintain. I'm not trying to maintain, I'm trying to gain. I had to eat more than that and putting something in your mouth every two hours. And I'm busy. I'm going from meeting to meeting so there's not time for me to be eating. So I would literally have to carry a little baggy full of beef patties, raw almonds, and sweet potatoes. So it's not like every two hours I was eating ice cream. It was difficult.
IML: Can you talk about the stunt work and wire work you had to do?
Taylor: 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 five seconds in the film, but for those five seconds I had to look at cool as possible. So it did require a lot of practice for safety purposes so they would let me do it. And the wire work when I run up the side of Bella's house and that whole thing? The wires were there just 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 just 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.
IML: We were wondering about wearing the wig, and then removing it for the second half of the film. Was that freeing?
Taylor: It was not only uncomfortable. I'd look at myself in the mirror and I wouldn't be able to recognize myself! It was very itchy and hot. Annoying. Also it slowed down the filming process, whenever it got caught in my eye or whatever, we'd have to cut and start over. It would get caught in my mouth and I'm spitting hair. I'm coming this close to kissing Bella and I've got to stop and spit my hair out! My last day filming with the wig, we ripped it off, held it up in the air and said "That's a picture wrap on Taylor's wig." And the whole crew gave it a standing ovation. It was amazing.
IML: Can you talk about the bonding with the other werewolves?
Taylor: Bonding with the werewolves was very fun. Those guys are characters! They're fun guys and what's so great is they each fit their characters so perfectly. They made the set so exciting.
IML: They were talking about possibly getting a wolf pack tattoo. Are you in?
Taylor: I don't know. I'll have to think about that. I'll have to discuss it with my pack.
IML: The media definitely seems to love you. What's the funniest or strangest thing that's ever been written about you?
Taylor: I try and stay away from what's been written about me because if you let that stuff get to you and it's not true, it can drive you crazy. One thing that I have heard recently which is not true - I didn't say it - was that I was quoted saying I will never take my shirt off for a movie again. I didn't say that. If the character requires it, I will. That was interesting to see.
IML: How do you balance letting the public and fans know who you really are but also trying to keep your private life private?
Taylor: It's definitely important to stay true to yourself, to stay close to those people you were close to before, your family, your friends. And just not let that outside stuff get to you.
IML: This movie is going to make you a bigger star. Already there are young girls who idolize you. How did you prepare yourself for that?
Taylor: I don't think there's any way to prepare you for this phenomenon. None of us expect it. When we were filming "Twilight," we didn't expect anything. We were just filming a movie that we wanted the fans to enjoy and then it just blew into this whole other world. But you could definitely say I felt a little pressure trying to bring Jacob the character and Jacob and Bella's relationship alive for the fans. "New Moon" definitely develops their relationship. And it sets up the love triangle. So it's a very important story.
IML: What's it like for you to have your face on the billboards and on the sides of buses. Is that weird for you?
Taylor: Yeah! Of course. I don't think there's a way to ever get used to it. It's not normal to drive down the street and see your face up there. But it's "Twilight." It comes with the job.
IML: There's practically an international countdown for your 18th birthday. Have you even thought about making any plans for that day?
Taylor: I haven't even begun. We are so busy. We take one day at a time. I don't even know what room in this hotel I'm going to after this!
IML: What is a touching and really sweet fan encounter you can tell us about?
Taylor: We have fans all the time that just burst into tears. It's just moving. It must mean so much for them to meet us. It's an amazing feeling that we can touch somebody in that way. You don't know what to do. It's hard. You feel bad for them, but you're also happy at the same time.
IML: When would it help in your real life to turn into a werewolf?
Taylor: When you're in school getting picked on by some bullies. When you're in a fight with your little sister? That's a good question. It would get really, really ugly!
IML: Can you talk about working and living in Canada?
Taylor: Canada's great. I spent a while there. Six months this year. The first time it was really rainy and dark and cloudy and snowing. And that was difficult weather. But this last time it was beautiful, filming "Eclipse." So I'm really going to miss it a lot.
IML: Can you tell us more about "Eclipse?"
Taylor: "Eclipse" was my favorite book so I was really excited to start filming this one. I just love that it's the height of the love triangle. "Twilight" develops Edward and Bella's relationship. "New Moon" develops Jacob and Bella's relationship. And in "Eclipse," the three of them are physically together. It has one of my favorite scenes ever in that movie. The tent scene. Edward is forced to let me sleep in the same sleeping bag with Bella just so she doesn't die because she's shivering to death. And I'm warm. And I'm the only thing at that moment that can keep her alive. It's a funny scene. There's a lot of ribbing that goes on between Jacob and Edward and it's going to be a really good movie. And visually stunning. David Slade is incredible visually.
IML: In this movie when you have to show up naked in the rainy forest. How challenging was it to resist shivering?
Taylor: The challenging thing was Jacob was supposed to be extremely hot. 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 that little hill right behind Jacob's house. It's 35 degrees and pouring rain on top of us. And we filmed that same scene all day long. It was really, really rough. As soon as we'd call cut we'd run over to a heater and wrap ourselves in blankets. 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.
IML: What did you think of your computer generated wolf the first time you saw him?
Taylor: I was blown away. I was really excited. Because when I'm filming I'm attached to wires and I'm running and I just 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 computer generated wolf. And the whole time I'm like, "I wonder if I look cool." After I saw the final version last week, it was amazing. I thought they were extremely powerful.
IML: As your teenage years are coming to a close, how do you relish this time in your life?
Taylor: 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 I love. It's great. I'm definitely never ever going to forget this.