Not too many actors get to headline an action thriller while still in their teens, but then career trajectories can be a little different when you’re an alumnus of a certain billion-dollar vampire franchise. Still just 19, Taylor Lautner was always the most likely of the Twilight triangle to embrace the action genre: his chiseled physique and Cruise-junior profile suggest a screen life of tangling with bad guys, which is precisely what he does in director John Singleton’s Bourne-like paranoid escapade, Abduction . (Also useful action credentials: Googling “Taylor Lautner Abduction” yields as many or more hits for “Taylor Lautner abs” — let no one say we don’t do our hard research here.) In the film, Lautner plays a high school student who discovers his entire life has been fabricated — and swiftly finds himself on the run from various sinister agencies out to use him as the bait in their game of espionage. Hey, it’s not that far-fetched when you consider his previous job involved shape-shifting into a wolf.
With Abduction in theaters this week, we had the chance to chat with the personable Lautner about working on the film, where he sees his career heading, and his experience living inside the crazy celebrity bubble of the Twilight series. But first, he talked about his five favorite films. Take it away, Team Jacob.
Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995; 79% Tomatometer)
My all time, classic favorites come down to Gladiator and Braveheart. Those are definitely my top two. Braveheart might even get the edge. I’ve seen those movies so many times. I’ve probably seen Braveheart like 10 or 15 times. It’s just, it’s classic; Mel is amazing in it — and I believe he directed it as well, right? Braveheart is absolutely unbelievable, and the ending of that movie is the best part.
This one I am so obsessed with. This is the movie I’ve seen the most out of any movie. I’ve probably seen it 25 or 30 times. Anybody I meet that has not seen this movie, I force them to sit down with me and I show it to them: Man on Fire. I don’t know why; it’s a weird obsession. I just think Denzel [Washington] is great in it and I think Dakota [Fanning] is amazing in it. It’s a brutal one. You know, it’s Denzel out for revenge, and their relationship — Denzel’s and Dakota’s — is so touching. And the ending of that movie is by far the best part, too. Tony Scott is one of my favorite directors. Everything they do together is gold.
Number five… oh, I just thought of another one and I’m having a hard time thinking if I wanna switch it. I’m gonna go with The Notebook. So that’s my romance; that’s my love story. Gosling is amazing in it and I love Rachel McAdams. I love that movie.
Did you see Drive?
Yes. I loved it. People need to see that movie. I love that director, Nic Refn.
Next, Lautner on tackling his first major lead in the action thriller Abduction and dealing with the celebrity of Twilight.
RT: Abduction is your first major role post-Twilight. What drew you to it?
Taylor Lautner: Well, my goal is to be able to challenge myself with a wide variety of roles and genres. This movie was kind of perfect for that because it was extremely challenging for me, physically and emotionally. I mean, obviously physically with all the action and all the stunt work, but emotionally my character goes on such an amazing journey — the emotions that he faces in this movie are unreal, and so difficult to relate to. That’s what attracted me to this movie. I had a great time with this and now, after it, I look forward to challenging myself with something completely different.
There are almost hints of Tom Cruise here — if he’d made, you know, a teen Mission: Impossible.
I will take that compliment. [Laughs] Cruise is definitely at the top of my list. I have looked up to him as an actor my entire life. I really admire his career choices — going from Risky Business to Top Gun to Jerry Maguire to Born on the Fourth of July. I respect the fact that he has continued to challenge himself throughout his entire career.
How hard did John Singleton work you? You look like you did a lot of your stunts in this.
I did all my stunts.
You slid down that glass awning?
How many injuries did you sustain?
[Laughs] The worst I got from it was a few bumps and bruises. The boxing scene with Jason Isaacs and then the brutal fight scene in the train gave me a few red marks and maybe a bruise or two, but that’s about it, thankfully.
When you were car surfing, were you strapped on to that truck?
We had these little wires that were hooked up to the underbelly. They’re very loose so it allows me to slide across the whole trunk. But we got up to 60 miles an hour, so if I fly off they’ll be there to catch me. It’s still kind of dangerous. Trust me, it took some negotiating. I definitely wanted to do it and at first [the producers] were like, “There’s no way you are doing this.” Eventually they said “Fine, but you can only go 20 miles an hour.” And I went, “Come on — ever heard of Method Acting? [Laughs] I gotta be able to experience the adrenalin.”
What about that slide at the stadium?
That stunt was never in the script. But now it’s on the poster. It was a good find. We were scouting the baseball stadium one day and we saw this huge glass awning and we were like, “We have to find a way to incorporate this into the movie.” It’s just so cool. So we created the stunt, where I’m trying to evade the bad guy, and I jump down this giant glass awning and over the escalators and use it as a slide. It was quite a bit of fun. A little dangerous, but fun.
It’s a change for you, shooting a paranoid thriller.
My favorite aspect of the movie is probably the mystery-thriller suspense stuff. When he starts finding things out slowly and he starts to become a little suspicious — I just loved that vibe to it.
How did you prepare? Did you Google pictures of yourself?
That’s something you probably don’t want to do.
I know, right? [Laughs] It was tough to prepare for this, because, I mean, it’s tough to relate to. The biggest thing I would do is just try and take a step back and ask myself what I would do in that situation. If I found out today that my entire life was a lie, where would I start looking for answers? Who would I trust, what would I do? Truth is, I was never able to answer that question. I would have no idea where to start.
I guess you are used to people following you around to a certain extent.
[Laughs] Yeah. A little bit.
How do you deal with that kind of constant attention? Does it get tiring?
I mean, it really still… [pauses] I don’t know if it’s fully sunk in yet. It’s really surreal. You just try and carry on with your normal life. Of course you have to make adjustments and maybe think about things more, but you don’t wanna change who you are or what you do just because of that.
Do you ever slip out incognito among the fans?
I try. I try. I don’t have the best outfit.
Do you have to wear a disguise?
I mean, you don’t have to — but if you wanna go somewhere really public then maybe you’ll try. I just throw on a hat and sunglasses. I keep it simple.
And you still get spotted?
Yes! When I look in the mirror — I put the hat down, put it really down, with big sunglasses — I don’t think I look anything like myself.
So you don’t recognize yourself, but somebody else does.
Oh yeah. It’s unbelievable. I think I look nothing like myself, but the second I walk out the front door: boom! It’s amazing. It just goes to show the passion that the fans have.
Are there ever people camped outside your house? Does it get that intense?
Sometimes, yeah. We’ve had people knock on the door that flew from India. I don’t know how they found my house. And then sometimes there’s like, tour buses and things like that. It’s definitely very surreal.
You talked about admiring Tom Cruise’s career. Would you be able to cope with that extremely heightened level of public scrutiny?
That’s definitely to the extreme. If that’s what it takes to do what you love, then yeah — absolutely. I go with what I’m passionate about.
Abduction is in theaters this week; September 28 in the UK.