Before shooting the last two installments of the Twilight franchise, Hollywood teen heartthrob Taylor Lautner dipped his toes in action movie Abduction, also starring Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina. The actor sat down with Buzzine to talk about the discipline that is instilled in him from learning martial arts, his incredible luck in life, and his steamy sex scene with Lily Collins...
Izumi Hasegawa: Glad to see you survived all the fans at last night's premiere...
Taylor Lautner: It was great. I was surprised by the outcome. I haven't experienced a premiere outside of the Twilight franchise in a while, besides Valentine's Day, so I was wondering what this would feel like last night. The energy was just insane. It was absolutely amazing.
IH: It was all focused on you, though, as opposed to you, Kristen Stewart, and Robert Pattinson, right?
TL: It was focused on the movie as opposed to the franchise. I mean, we had a lot of people there. Sigourney [Weaver] was there. Jason Isaacs... Everybody. But it was a great feeling.
IH: How is it for you to finally see your name above the title? This is your film.
TL: It's different, definitely. It's very exciting, and I'm so proud of this movie, but I definitely can't take all the credit. I was surrounded by a ridiculously amazing cast. The filming process was such a team effort with the cast and our director and the crew. We had a lot of fun making it, but I'm very proud of the movie and I can't wait for people to see it.
IH: How does the discipline that you applied to martial arts and bulking up for the Twilight movies translate into the discipline you need for acting?
TL: It's all the same. I've always told myself that nothing comes without hard work. This role specifically required so much preparation physically and emotionally. Emotionally, that was the most important part for me -- to be able to dive into this character's shoes and try to relate as much as possible to this journey that he goes on. And also trying to relate to the emotions that he has to deal with, but there was a lot of preparation involved in that.
IH: I know you were gung-ho about doing the action scenes, but once you started the work, did you ever think, "What did I get myself into"?
TL: No. The only time I ever had that thought cross my mind was when I did the giant slide on the glass in the baseball stadium. I was so excited about that stunt and was so thrilled that they were allowing me to do it. But after, and I'm being honest, about 15 or 20 takes, I was like, "All right. Where's the stunt double?" It was fun for a while, but then you get a few bumps and bruises. That's about it.
IH: What was the most fun scene you did in the movie, in terms of action?
TL: Probably the opening of the movie, where I'm riding on the hood of the trunk, flying down the road. That one took some negotiating from me to allow them to let me do that. At first, they were like, "No, that's not happening. You are not getting on the hood of that truck." Somehow I convinced them to allow me to do it, but then they were like, "Okay, but you're only going 20 miles an hour." I was like, "Come on, people. Haven't you ever heard of method acting? I need to be able to relate to the adrenaline that this character is experiencing." So we got up to about 50-55, which was not quite the 80 on the speedometer, but it was fast.
IH: You talked about prepping emotionally for this film. What was going from Twilight, where you work with Kristen, to working with Lily Collins here? Because the onscreen chemistry is crucial...
TL: It is, and thankfully it was a pretty easy transition. Lily is so talented that she just shines on the screen and she shines on set. It was great working with her, and I can't wait for everyone to see her in the movie.
IH: You two have the scene on the train...
TL: A steamy scene, yeah.
IH: How was that? Was that a negotiation?
TL: [Laughs] There was no negotiation needed there.
IH: But you had to be reminded that it was a PG-13 film, right?
TL: Yes. That's why the cut-off or the little "I'm getting hungry" excuse right before. It was great. We went for it, and sometimes those scenes can be awkward. It just depends, but thankfully it was all good.
IH: How does it feel to finally get the girl?
TL: Right, I know. Still, even in the last one, he ends up with the kid. It was a great feeling to actually end up with the girl.
IH: One of the most dynamic sequences in the film is the backyard fight -- the sparring scene with Jason. How did you two prepare for that, and could you have kicked his ass?
TL: Probably not. I actually don't know how tough Jason is. He's so nice and so funny, but I'm sure he'd put up a good fight. We had to prepare for that fight quite a bit. I started boxing training in general three months before I went to Pittsburgh just so I knew what I was doing a little bit when I showed up. But the choreography of that fight was so intense, and it was a really long fight. There were so many maneuvers, and if either one of us was off by one punch or one block, we were going to be knocked in the face. So we'd literally be filming a scene at the kitchen table, and it was a few days away from the big fight scene, and in between takes, we're rehearsing our moves for the fight scene. It was really important to us. It turned out great and is one of my favorite scenes.
IH: What was the thing that sparked your interest in martial arts when you were a kid back in Michigan? Was it seeing a movie?
TL: Honestly, I just gave everything a shot right away. When I was six years old, I just loved being active and I loved sports. I said, "All right, I want to enroll in as many sports as possible." So I gave everything a shot -- from football, baseball, basketball, soccer, karate, swimming... It was insane. Then, as I got older, I started narrowing it down to the things that I was most passionate about. It ended up coming down to football and martial arts. What I think I ended up liking about it the most was the competitiveness, but then probably the life lessons that it teaches you. Martial arts has been really important to me, and the lessons that it's taught me, from hard work and self-discipline, all of that stuff -- that's probably the biggest thing I got from it.
IH: Do you have an eye for it when you watch films, like, saying, "That guy can't really do that"?
TL: [Laughs] A little bit, but they do a pretty good job of faking that stuff in movies nowadays.
IH: What's it like working with a director, at this point in your career, like John Singleton? He talked about you, and he seems like he really wants to help you and your career.
TL: John is great. I was very familiar with his work, and he's really talented. We had a great time on set. We got along really well and we kept the mood very light, but he's awesome.
IH: He said he showed you guys some films for personal inspiration. Do you have a favorite film that he showed you guys, or even one that's your favorite in general?
TL: The movie I have watched a million times -- and if I meet somebody that has not seen it, I force them to sit down and watch it – I don't know why I'm so obsessed with it: Man on Fire with Denzel (Washington) and Dakota Fanning. It's so good. It's very brutal and weird, but I think Dakota is amazing in it, and he's so cool in it.
IH: Did you tell Dakota about Man on Fire?
TL: I think I played it cool.
IH: She's old enough now that she can be a love interest for you...
TL: How old is she?
TL: She's younger than me, yeah.
IH: What are your thoughts on hearing people saying that you're the next Tom Cruise?
TL: It's a little intimidating. Tom Cruise is probably number one on my list and always has been. I've looked up to him since I was really young. I think the biggest reason I've looked up to him is just his career choices. He's always continued to challenge himself and do different things, going from Risky Business to Top Gun to Jerry Maguire to Born on the 4th of July. The variety in those roles and genres is absolutely insane, and that's what I admire about him the most. That's my goal. My goal is to be able to challenge myself like he did. If I end up with a tenth of the career that guy has had, I would be completely happy.
IH: Have you met him?
TL: I have met him. The first time I met him, he was in his Les Grossman outfit because we filmed this thing for the opening of the MTV Movie Awards two years ago. So it was kind of weird for me to meet my idol, Tom Cruise, and he's in this giant fat suit and he's bald. That was kind of weird, but then I did meet him a couple of times after that.
IH: Is that a role that you'd do in the future?
TL: Les Grossman? My version of Les? Yeah. I had the time of my life with SNL, where I got to dress up as a girl and dress up as this foreign blonde pop star, playing these weird roles like he did with that. I have a lot of fun doing that. So I'd definitely be open to that.
IH: John talked about how he told you about what Tom Cruise and Matt Damon did to get the careers that they have. What are the things that you want to do to ready yourself for bigger movies and more challenging opportunities?
TL: It's a good question, and I hope there is a way to ready myself. I'm always keeping my eye open for things that I'm passionate about. I try to not focus on what's the right and wrong decision. I try to just go with things that I love and tell stories that I want to tell, but I am looking for something different. I had a great experience with this, and this was a dream-come-true for me. But now, after this, I want to find something that's different. There are a few things right now that I'm really excited about and that are different. I should be making my mind up soon on what will be next.
IH: What lessons did you take from working with Alfred Molina and Sigourney -- people who have an enormous amount of experience?
TL: I think the biggest thing I got from working with them was being able to watch and observe them. Just being on the same set, acting opposite them is like a dream-come-true for me. I think, more importantly, the things that I observed was not the fact that Sigourney Weaver can act, because I knew that, but probably who they are as people. Watching them on set and seeing how caring they are to everyone on set and how hard working they are still today -- that's the biggest thing that I watched and observed. That was really important for me.
IH: Do you feel like you were destined to be famous? When we look at your resume, you became a karate world champion, and now you're this amazing actor. Do you feel like it's your destiny, and how do you handle it?
TL: I definitely don't feel that way because I wasn't expecting it at all. It all came really quickly and it took a while to soak in, and I still don't fully understand it or understand why it happened. So I'm still a little confused, but I'm happy and not complaining. It happened, and I'm sitting here today, and I'm the most thankful guy on this planet. I'm having the time of my life.
IH: What's your relationship to the Twilight franchise going to be like after it's all over? It took Harrison Ford 30 years to start talking about Han Solo again. Are you interested in setting it aside for a while?
TL: Not really. I'm so close to that franchise and to that character and to everyone involved in it that it'll be so close to me for as long as I live. It was really emotional finishing filming. It's sunk in, but then I don't really know if it has, because when we finished filming before, we'd be bummed, but we knew in another couple of months we'd just be back filming another one. This time around, that wasn't the case. So, it was tough, and it's definitely going to be tough to let go. Thankfully, for the next year and half, we'll be able to talk about it and promote it together, but when it's all said and done, it'll be really weird.
IH: Maybe you'll have the Abduction franchise by then...
TL: We'll see...
IH: How has an experience like this rekindled your creativity or challenged you in a different way from Twilight so that you're recharged and maybe went back having learned something for the final two of those films?
TL: This actually was perfect timing because I filmed this one right before I filmed the last two Breaking Dawns. This movie stretched me as an actor more than I'd ever been stretched before. It was perfect before in Breaking Dawn - Part 1. Specifically, my character gets so emotional and he changes so much. That was by far the most I've ever been stretched, and it was great to ease into it with Abduction right before that. So this was a great experience, and then leading into that. Breaking Dawn - Part 1 -- I can't wait for everyone to see because you're going to see every one of the characters in a different light than you've ever seen them before. It was by far the most challenging experience I've ever had as an actor.
IH: How much did you seek out the fan reaction to the trailer that was released last week? Do you pay attention to that?
TL: I haven't heard the reaction to the trailer. I assume it's pretty good because I love the trailer.
IH: They're really happy.
TL: Are they? That's good to hear. They're going to be really happy with the movie. I know that. But their reactions mean everything to us because they're who we're making the movie for, and they're the reason that we're making movie number five.
IH: Where do you see your life and career going in the future?
TL: I hope that this new and exciting life, professionally, maintains, and I just hope that a few years down the road I'm doing this. Then, what I've been so thankful for so far is to be able to have the same life that I've always had. I have this new one, which is great, but I have the same life that I've always had before with my family and my friends. I do what I love to do, and I'm kind of able to bounce back and forth, which is really important to me.
IH: What did you personally take away from the experience of Abduction?
TL: The biggest thing that I personally took away was the relationships that I made with the cast and then the crew. We all became very close, and everyone, as I said earlier, are such amazing people. Those relationships mean a ton to me.
IH: Most young people get pigeonholed into a certain role. You have Twilight and this. Would you be interested in doing other action films?
TL: Absolutely. I want to challenge myself to do different things, but I had a great time with this, and what I loved about this is that it's not just an action movie. I never wanted to do a movie that's just like blow-them-up, shoot-'em-up nonsense action. What I loved about this is that it's really about this character's journey and the journey that he goes on, and it's surrounded by action. That makes it exciting.
IH: What's the working relationship like between you and your father (Dan Lautner), who's a producer on the film?
TL: He's simply there to help me because I'm really busy. For instance, in the past year, I've only been home for five weeks. So when I'm on set and I have no time to think about anything except the character that I'm living at that moment, he helps me out with that.
IH: Have you heard what Brad Pitt said about you in the most recent Entertainment Weekly?
TL: No, what did he say?
IH: He said that Sharkboy & Lavagirl is a fixture in his house.
TL: For his kids probably. I'm picturing Brad Pitt right now watching that.
IH: He said, "I watch only kids' movies, and that's what we watch."
TL: That's hilarious.
IH: He didn't know anything about 'Twilight.'
TL: That's awesome. I couldn't picture Brad Pitt watching Twilight, but I also couldn't picture Brad Pitt watching Sharkboy & Lavagirl. That's pretty cool, definitely.
Lionsgate's 'Abduction' is released on September 23, 2011.