Taylor Lautner - Career - 2008–09: Breakthrough and The Twilight Series

2008–09: Breakthrough and The Twilight Series

In 2007, filmmakers began a search for actors to portray Jacob Black, a Native American friend of lead character Bella Swan in Twilight, the first film in the The Twilight Saga film series. In January 2008, an open casting call was held in Portland, Oregon. Lautner had not heard of the Twilight series before, but was urged by his agent to audition. At his audition, he read lines with Kristen Stewart, who had already been cast as Bella, and they acted out scenes from The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The film was a commercial success, earning $69 million its opening weekend, and has grossed $392 million worldwide. It received mixed reviews from critics, having a "Rotten" rating with a weighted average of 5.5/10. In describing the critical consensus, it stated: "Having lost much of its bite transitioning to the big screen, Twilight will please its devoted fans, but do little for the uninitiated." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 reviews from film critics, it has an average score of 56 from the 37 reviews. At the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, Lautner was nominated for Male Breakthrough Performance, which was won by co-star Robert Pattinson.

Initially, director Chris Weitz wanted to recast the role of Jacob Black for Twilight's sequel, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, due to the major physical changes that occur in Black between the two novels, and have an actor that would accurately portray "the new, larger Jacob Black." Black's role in the novel also increases significantly, with him falling in love with Bella and becoming a werewolf, putting the actor in a starring role. Representatives for Weitz had stated that they were make a full effort to recast the "high-profile gig," and MTV News confirmed that Weitz was looking at Michael Copon to take on the role; however, Summit Entertainment said a decision had not been made. In an attempt to keep the role, Lautner weight-trained extensively and gained approximately 30 pounds of muscle. In January 2009, Weitz and Summit Entertainment announced that Lautner would continue to play the role of Jacob in the sequel. In an interview, fellow cast member Kristen Stewart talked about Lautner's transformation saying, "He's an entirely different person physically." Stewart later said, "He gets a lot of attention because he's buff, but I think as soon as the movie comes out, people are going to realize that's not why he got the job." Co-star Robert Pattinson said after seeing Lautner's body, "I saw him and thought 'Jesus, I'm going to get fired." In an interview with The Wrap, Weitz said Lautner deserved a lot of credit for the movie's box office, stating, "If you look at the movie, it should have been the weakest in the franchise, because Robert Pattinson doesn't play as big a role." Weitz said Lautner had to "pick up that slack, and if his character hadn't been emotionally, not just physically, appealing, the movie wouldn't have been as big a hit." The commercial performance of the film outpaced the first film, setting several box office records including the biggest midnight opening in the United States and Canada and the biggest single-day opening. The opening weekend of New Moon is the third highest opening weekend in domestic history with $142,839,137. The Twilight Saga: New Moon also has the sixth highest worldwide opening weekend with $274.9 million total. Critical reception was less favorable, with the movie getting a 4.6/10 average from Rotten Tomatoes, and a 44 on Metacritic. Lautner won Favorite Breakout Movie Actor at the 35th People's Choice Awards.

Although it began after the release of the first film, upon release of New Moon, Lautner and his co-stars Stewart and Pattinson transitioned to teen idol status, with Lautner particularly admired by teens for his new physical characteristics, becoming a sex symbol. The trio appeared on many covers and televised appearances together. In between the second and third films in the Twilight series, Lautner was a part of the ensemble cast in the movie Valentine's Day as Willy Harrington, acting alongside his rumored girlfriend at the time, American country pop singer Taylor Swift. The duo was nominated at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards for Best Kiss. Although it received generally negative reviews, the film grossed $213 million and had the second biggest opening in the United States for a romantic comedy film. Lautner presented at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and the 82nd Academy Awards. Lautner hosted Saturday Night Live on December 12, 2009, making him one of the youngest celebrity hosts in the show's history.

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Famous quotes containing the word twilight:

    cover the pale blossoms of your breast
    With your dim heavy hair,
    And trouble with a sigh for all things longing for rest
    The odorous twilight there.
    William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)