Taylor Lautner sat down with USA Today to promote his new film Abduction and bidding farewell to 'Jacob'.
Taylor Lautner stares at the tiny white cup in front of him with steely purpose. His first-ever double espresso has proven so strong that Lautner's eyes widen with each sip and he makes comical "whoops" as the powerful-tasting liquid goes down.
Lautner is not one to back down from a challenge. The stakes grow considerably higher for the young actor on Friday with the release of Abduction, his first lead role since breaking out as werewolf Jacob Black in the Twilight movie series.
"This is it," says Abduction director John Singleton, summing up the pivotal moment in Lautner's career. "This is that first starring role. People don't know what to expect from Taylor. And when they see it, it's going to be like, 'Whoa!'"
The highly charged action flick centers on Lautner's all-American character, who realizes all is not as it seems when he sees his picture on a missing-persons site. Lautner says he was so floored by the page-turning script that he knew immediately he had found the right movie for his debut leading role.
"It took a long time to decide what the first movie outside of the franchise was going to be," Lautner says. "I wanted it to be special.
"You go with your passion and what your gut tells you. But I would be lying to say there's no pressure involved."
Frequently flashing his famous smile before falling into a giddy laugh over lunch, Lautner shows little sign of feeling any pressure. In black jeans, work boots and a black T-shirt, he talks of a morning spent power-washing the pool area at his family's home in Valencia, Calif.
The film provides a showcase for talents greater than household chores, from his martial arts skills (Lautner was a junior world champ from age 6) to his eagerness to perform his own stunts.
"Pretty much everything you see on-screen is me," he says. "Which is super-exciting."
This includes sliding down a massive glass awning atop Pittsburgh's PNC Park ("After 20 takes, I had some bumps and bruises") to rolling on top of a speeding truck in the movie's opening scene. Though wearing a safety harness, Lautner says, he had to persuade worried producers to allow the truck to speed up.
"I made sure (the straps) were loose so I could slide around on the truck and have a little bit of fun," he says. "So it was like, 'Make them looser and make the car go faster!' We got up to about 50 (mph)."
Lautner and Singleton secretly took the harness off so Lautner could propel from the truck hood into a lawn party scene. "(The producers) were not happy, then happy because it looked pretty cool," Lautner says. "Needless to say, it was only done once."
Lautner's character also manages to find love, even while most of his life unravels — something that has never happened in the Twilight series, where Jacob has long pined for Bella Swan.
"I don't know any character in the history of movies who faces more rejection than (Jacob)," Lautner says with a laugh. "He's not a lucky guy."
Lautner describes their heated love scene aboard an Amtrak train in geological terms: "It ended up being like a volcano. It started off very soft and just took off. It's intense."
Singleton, who allowed Lautner and Collins to choreograph the scene, says he was surprised with the end product, which he rates a 12 out of 10 on the heat register.
"There was a lot of stuff going on," Lautner says with a laugh. "I was trying to make sure it was all in service of the movie."
"There was a lot of extra there," Singleton says coyly, adding fuel to the reports that Lautner and his co-star enjoyed an on-set relationship.
Lautner, however, insists he is single, adding, "Lily and I are really good friends.
"I like to keep some things private. If everything is out there for everyone to know, then nothing feels special to you."
"When I'm older and when it's very serious," he says. "But I don't need to be thinking about it that much right now." His focus now is promoting Abduction before he shifts his attention to the widely anticipated release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, which hits theaters Nov. 18.
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 is scheduled for release in November 2012, but beyond that, Lautner's not sure about his next career steps. He and Singleton discussed patterning his career along the diverse lines of his idol, Tom Cruise.
"I so respect his career choices," Lautner says. "If I could have one-tenth of the career Tom Cruise has had, that would be a dream come true."
A movie bringing action toy Stretch Armstrong to the big screen "is in the mix but probably won't be next," he says. "There are a few new things that haven't been announced that I'm super-excited about which will probably be up first."
"But it will definitely be different," Lautner adds. "My goal is being able to challenge myself."
More immediately, that challenge involves the still-unfinished double espresso. Lautner takes one more look at the white cup, braces himself and throws down the final dreaded sip.
"I'm done," he exclaims, letting out a victory whoop and clapping his hands. "That was fun."
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photo by Dan MacMedan for USA Today