For hundreds of hardcore Twilight fans who stood in line for hours at this year’s Comic-Con, pining for a peek at their heroes, the choice was simple: Team Edward or Team Jacob.
Last year, it was Robert Pattinson who captivated Stephenie Meyer’s loyal readers as the on-screen incarnation of Edward Cullen, the brooding vampire who falls madly in love with a mortal teenager named Bella. This year, Edward’s got competition. In The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Jacob, a rugged wolfman played by Taylor Lautner, makes a play for Bella after her bloodsucking beau splits town.
“Edward and Jacob are complete opposites,” says Lautner, 17, who previously starred in Robert Rodriguez’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. “They’re hot and cold, literally. Personally, I love Jacob and Bella’s relationship. They begin as best friends and it grows into something more. But there’s no question that Edward and Jacob both love Bella. Whom you prefer boils down to what kind of guy you like.”
For Lautner, a formerly top-ranked martial artist whose fierce karate chops earned him the Junior World Championship at age 12, landing the role of Jacob in Twilight was perhaps not as difficult as keeping it for New Moon.
While rumors initially swirled that the young Michigan native would be replaced due to Jacob’s dramatic physical transformation in Meyer’s novels – once a scrawny boy, he matures into a towering hulk in a matter of months – Lautner took it upon himself to gain 30 pounds of muscle, thanks to a strenuous workout regimen and a special diet.
“The most important thing was the eating,” he says. “I had to consume at least 3,200 calories a day just to maintain, and I needed to gain. So I had to put something in my mouth every two hours. I literally had to carry a bag of beef patties, raw almonds and sweet potatoes everywhere.”
Lautner’s efforts paid off, as evidenced by his star-making turn in New Moon and recent photo shoots for People and Men’s Health, in which he shows off his pumped-up physique. They also impressed his co-stars, who never doubted his ability to play a grown-up Jacob and eagerly anticipated his return to the franchise.
“We needed to be sure that whoever played Jacob was ready to step into an adult role,” says Kristen Stewart, 19, who plays Bella. “Jacob is such a different person in ‘New Moon,’ and it goes beyond just a physical transformation. We knew Taylor could do it, we just needed to make sure. And he proved himself.
“Even seeing him walk around on set was a different experience. He’s grown up. He’s become a different, more mature person. He’s more confident than ever. And I’m incredibly proud of him.”
Still, the question remains: With Lautner’s confidence running at an all-time high, is he finally ready to take down Edward?
“Rob does a lot of boxing, so it might be a good matchup,” Lautner says with a laugh. “There was a lot of debate on the set about who’d win in a fight, Edward or Jacob. If Jacob’s with his wolf pack, I think he’d take Edward, but if he’s alone I’m not so sure. We’d better get Stephenie Meyer on the line to find out.”
For his part, Pattinson, 23, says the outcome is a no-brainer.
“I wouldn’t want to fight Taylor unless I had some kind of weapon,” he says with a mischievous grin. “But Edward and Jacob? It’s a fact that Edward would win. At least that’s my understanding, if I read the books correctly. So I can hold on to that, if only for the sake of my ego.”
Kristen Stewart plays Bella, the mortal heroine of New Moon whose heartbreaking separation from Edward paves the way for a possible romance with Jacob.
On her newfound ability to handle the spotlight:
"I've become a lot more comfortable talking about myself, knowing that anything I say is going to be scrutinized. That always intimidated me so much – I couldn't finish a sentence because I was so concerned about how it was going to sound. I didn't want to come across as insincere about something I love to do. So instead of overthinking the answer to every question, I'm willing to say, 'I put my heart and soul into this movie, and I love it.' That's how I feel about New Moon. I can't give you a logical reason why I love it, I just do."
On working with director Chris Weitz, who replaced Twilight's Catherine Hardwicke for New Moon:
"To be a good director, you have to be a good person and you have to care about people. I don't know a more compassionate human being than Chris. I couldn't have done this unless I had a safe, comfortable environment to be so vulnerable in, and he provided that. And he really loved the project as well. So I didn't have to break him in at all. He even put together a syllabus of all the things he wanted us to achieve and how he'd help make those goals easier for us. I've never had a director do that before. He's incredible."
On her preference for living the quiet life:
"I’m a boring person. I don’t go out to bars unless I have to, for an event related to one of my movies. I don’t really go out very much at all.”
On the funniest experience she's had with Twilight fans:
"I've had lots of interactions with fans, some of them touching, some of them intimidating, and some of them crazy. It's great when you can relate to the fans on a human level, and it happens all the time. People assume that's impossible, but it's not. The funniest thing I've experienced just happened to me in Brazil. Taylor and I went to Latin America, and this one very persistent guy was chasing after us, screaming 'Where is Hobert? Where is Hobert?' I felt bad, because this man was very emotional, and I didn't have the heart to tell him the name is Robert, and that Robert was in Japan doing a promotional tour."
On the raging battle between Team Edward and Team Jacob:
"Edward is something [Bella] needs. He balances her, but that doesn't mean he's the best person for her. He's difficult, he's cold, he's reserved. But without his restraint, they could never be together. Jacob is the polar opposite. He's light. He's fun and warm, and he brings out the best in Bella. Basically he's her best friend, and if you could date your best friend, it would be a beautiful thing, but you're not always in love with them."
Robert Pattinson plays Edward, Bella's conflicted lover. As vampires go, he's positively gentle – so much so that he'd rather leave Bella than expose her to danger.
On working with Weitz:
"I've never been given a syllabus by any director. It was about 40 or 50 pages long, and that's in addition to all the letters and e-mails he wrote to us, just to show he was on the same page as we were, that he was completely behind us. And he never faltered from that attitude throughout the making of the movie. I mean, it's ridiculous how much praise this guy gets, but he deserves it. I was just with him and his wife in Japan, and I think she was getting a bit sick of it. But he is a saint."
On the most romantic thing he's ever done for a girl:
"I haven't done that many romantic things in my life, to be honest. I've never serenaded someone – you need to have such balls to do something like that. I put a flower in a girl's locker when I was 14 years old, and she thought it was from someone else. And he took credit for it, too."
On the funniest experience he's had with fans:
"Lately I've had less direct interaction with the fans because there's so much more security on the set. But I always find it funny when older people come up to me. A man approached me just a couple weeks ago, and he must have been 90 years old, at the very least. And it's remarkable to me, because the things he said were no different than the things 12-year-old girls say to me all the time. It's bizarre."
On the strangest rumor he's heard about himself:
"The weirdest thing I've read was in some magazine, very recently. It said I was pregnant, and it was written without a trace of irony. I didn't know what to make of that one. I don't even know if that qualifies as libel because it's obviously fiction, even though it appeared in a nonfiction magazine. But the comments that appeared below the article were priceless. People think I wear jackets to hide my baby."
On his aversion to publicity:
"I don't have a publicist. I'd go crazy having someone to tell me what I should be doing – I'm a bit of a control freak. And I think it's such a risky thing to do interviews. I try not do to too many because nobody's that interesting. I don't particularly want to be some sort of character in society. I just prefer to do my job and see if people respond to that."
Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) plays Aro, the leader of the Volturi clan and the unofficial king of all vampires. The Welsh-born actor, 40, also stars in Tom Hooper's The Damned United, now playing in theaters.
On playing a vampire in New Moon after portraying a werewolf in the Underworld movies:
"The tailoring is so much better as a vampire. I've been observing vampires for some time now, and it was great to finally get my own fangs – figuratively speaking, of course, because Aro doesn't actually have fangs. But it was nice to see how the other half lives."
On the inspiration for Aro's high-pitched, nasally snarl of a voice:
"Stephenie describes Aro as having a voice like feathers, so that made me think about what it would sound like if someone had a voice like feathers. Then, as I was starting to play around with it, I reminded myself a little of the Blue Meanie [from The Beatles' Yellow Submarine]. I was thinking about characters from when I was a kid, the ones that really freaked me out, and the Blue Meanie really freaked me out. [I also thought of] the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I liked the idea of a character who one the surface appears to be very friendly, a romantic at heart, and then he wants to eat your eyes. That was where Aro came from."
On Aro's unique capabilities:
"Aro's power is to be able to read people’s thoughts by touching them. In real life, I would like to have the power to always look like I’m three centimeters to the right of where I actually am. In fact, I do have that power. I'm doing it now, as we speak. More fool you!"
On working with Dakota Fanning, who plays Jane, the Volturi's most feared henchman:
"We had to tone Dakota down. She was too evil. Her natural personality is just that – evil. And she called me 'monster.' It's quite thrilling to have Dakota Fanning call you a monster."
On his experiences as a newcomer to the Twilight phenomenon:
"I haven’t really experienced much of the Twilight fan stuff yet. But I did go into a store in L.A. to buy a pair of jeans and I went into the little cubicle to try my jeans on. It’s always a quite nerve-wracking time when I come out of the cubicle to look in the mirror – I like that to be a private moment. As I came out, there was a woman standing there, shaking, saying, 'You’re Aro, aren’t you?' I just hid in my cubicle. So that’s been my only experience like that, apart from going into my daughter’s bedroom. She’s got pictures from Twilight and New Moon everywhere, and [she put] my own little picture up, which I think she did out of pity."
Ashley Greene, 22, plays Alice Cullen, Edward's adoptive sister and Bella's closest confidante.
On her first impressions of the Twilight books:
"I hadn't heard of Twilight prior to the audition process, but I read the first book in a day and a half and thought it was amazing. Then I read the second and third, just because I wanted to understand why people love them so much. When I finally got cast [as Alice], I was ecstatic and I cried. I didn't realize it was going to be such a huge deal until we were filming in Portland and my mom was like 'Do you have a fan site?' At the time, we appealed mostly to 13- and 14-year-old girls, but after the first movie came out, there was a snowball effect. Now there's no set demographic. We appeal to everyone from eight to 80."
On her favorite vampire movie before starring in Twilight:
"Interview with the Vampire. That's the movie that sprang to mind whenever I thought of vampires. Now I'm one of them!"
On the fashion designers who make Alice's perfectly put-together look possible:
"I got to wear the best costumes. Tish Monaghan, the costume designer, found these great jackets – a white silk trench coat a striped Michael Kors jacket – and paired them with black tights and a flat ballet shoes and long red gloves. They were great and so quirky."
On the rigorous shooting schedule that has a new Twilight movie coming out each November:
"I like our schedule. The shoots don't take very long, and doing them one after the other helps us stay in tune with our characters. Plus, we've become like a family. I look forward to being back on the set."
On her next, non-Twilight-related project:
"I'm going back and forth to Louisiana, working on this film called Skateland. It's fun and it's set in the '80s, so I get to have my hair and makeup done in the style of the era. It's a coming-of-age film."
Former Abercrombie & Fitch model Kellan Lutz, 24, plays Emmett Cullen, the adoptive brother of Alice and Edward, and the strongest member of the family's Olympic Coven.
On his approach to dealing with the paparazzi:
"I think it's great to adopt a pet, preferably a dog that bites. Ashley has a Toy Fox Terrier, Marlow, and she's very small and lovely but she can hurt you if she wants to. My dog does not like anyone I'm not friendly with, so the paparazzi never get past my front gates. It's crazy the way they'll wait outside your home, but the cool thing about shooting the Twilight movies in Vancouver is that the photographers there are respectable. They'll ask for a picture or an autograph, then they'll let you go about your business."
On co-starring in the upcoming remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street with Jackie Earle Haley, who plays infamous serial killer Freddy Krueger:
"I loved the script. I'm a big fan of Jackie Earle Haley – he's scary, and he's a great choice to play Freddy. I know fans of the original were skeptical when they heard about the remake, but we're not just going for blood-and-guts horror. It's more of a psychological thriller, and I think we're going to surprise a lot of people. I've only seen the trailer myself, so I'm just as curious as everyone else. But I'm sure it's going to be awesome."
On the movies that inspired him to become an actor:
"I love action movies. I love all the Bourne movies, and I'm hoping there will be a couple more because I want to be a part of them. Maybe I can play Matt Damon's brother. I'm a huge Robert Redford fan, too. He's just a stud. Beyond that, I can appreciate anything with guns and explosions."
On his childhood ambition to become a Navy SEAL:
"I grew up in a largy, military family, and my oldest brother has been in the Marine Corps for 10 years, so I really looked up to him. I always wanted to shoot guns, play army man and kill the bad guys, and I got to do that in [HBO's] Generation Kill. I spent seven months in Africa for that project, portraying the 2003 Iraq invasion by the recon Marines. It's really cool to be an actor and have a chance to play any profession, to get a taste of what it's like to be a doctor or a vampire or a soldier. And I've always loved to swim, so I thought being a SEAL would be completely badass."
On landing his big break as a model:
"Modeling was strictly for financial purposes. I had a buddy on my basketball team during freshman year in high school, and we made fun of him because he was in the Dillard's catalog. But when he told us he made $500 in an hour, well, that sounded pretty huge. I was supporting myself at the time – my family didn't have much money to spare with all the kids running around, and I was trying to buy a car. So I got into modeling, and thanks to him a lot of doors opened up for me. I probably wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him."