In May, Hero Complex contributor Gina McIntyre traveled north to Vancouver, Canada, to visit the set of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” and talk to the creative minds behind one of the most anticipated films of 2009. This week, as we count down to the release of the vampy sequel — which is now screening everywhere — McIntyre gives us daily dispatches from her trip. Today’s final post in the series is a Q&A with Jacob Black himself, 17-year-old actor Taylor Lautner.
GM: I understand you did a lot of your own stunts in the film.
T.L.: Yeah, I’m very lucky. I’m thankful that the stunt coordinators have some interest in me and they actually trust me. I got to do all my dirt bike riding. A lot of times I’m just standing on set and I’m looking around going, “What can I do that will look really cool and will give me some action in this film?” I’ll usually just find things and ask them if I can do it. They’re like, “Taylor, you can’t get hurt, but OK, go ahead.” That’s where most of the stunts come from, but I’m really surprised they let me do all the dirt bike riding myself.
GM: Had you done that before?
TL: No, not really, I did it when I was a little kid like once but then when I heard that they were wondering if I knew how to dirt bike ride before I came up here, I met with a friend of mine in L.A. who has some dirt bikes and did two practice days. I had a couple of practice days up here with the stunt guys and then just shot it. I don’t know how cool it looked, but I didn’t get hurt.
GM: What other stunts did you dream up for yourself?
TL: Jacob, in the books he’s described pre-transformation as very clumsy and he trips over his own feet. As soon as he transforms [into a werewolf] he becomes very agile. That’s what I wanted to show in the film. At first he’s just a normal kid, jogs up to Bella, then when he transforms all of a sudden he’s just hopping around the place, has incredible balance, can do cool things. So if we’re in the middle of a forest, I’ll be like, What can I hop over? What can I hop off of? How can I show Jacob’s agility after his transformation into a wolf?
GM: How distressing was all the talk of whether you’d come back for in the role for “New Moon” and when did you start taking steps to prove that you could continue on as the character?
TL: I knew when I was filming “Twilight” that Jacob’s character goes in a different direction. He transforms not only mentally and emotionally but physically as well. As soon as I was done filming “Twilight,” I literally got home and that day I went into the local gym and was like, I need a trainer because I need to get to big. I moved around gyms quite a bit and moved trainers and finally found one that I worked with the whole time almost. It required a lot of dedication, the fans and the whole series and the character motivated me, and I did it. It was a lot of hard work. I had to be in the gym a lot and I had to eat a lot, but I’m very thankful that I did it because it’s definitely worth it now.
GM: How long did it take?
TL: About a year.
GM: How many hours a day did you work out?
TL: It kind of differed. Now, it’s best for me just to do about an hour and a half at most a day because there was this one period of time where I put on a lot of weight and then all of a sudden I started losing it. I was dropping weight and I was like, “What’s going on, why am I losing all this weight I put on?” What I found out is that I was actually overworking myself. I was not taking days off. I was just going seven days in a row and I was in the gym for 21/2 hours a day. I was just burning more calories than I was taking in, so I was losing weight and that’s definitely not what I needed to do.
GM: Were you on a specific diet?
TL: At one point, my trainer was literally like, “We need to get some fat on your body so then we can transfer that fat into muscle.” I was 71/2% body fat and we just couldn’t build upon that. He would be like, “Eat as much as you can. We just need to get calories in your body.” That was for a short period of time. Definitely when it got closer to filming, it was strictly meat and protein and vegetables, egg whites. It’s not that bad at first, but when you have to have it every morning, then it starts becoming disgusting. And you have to be eating every two hours. It’s horrible. Everybody’s like, I’d kill for that job, to eat as much as possible. I’m like, go for it. For a year, you have to eat every two hours and very specific things; you try, see if you like it.
GM: What else did you do to prepare for the role?
TL: I think the best way possible to prepare for the role is by reading the books because that’s what we’re going off of and we should be going off of those because that’s what the fans love so much. I read the book a couple of times before filming and I was really excited because Jacob’s character in “New Moon,” he’s like a split personality. Half of the time, toward the beginning, he’s pre-transformation Jacob, where he’s just very sweet, very lovable, very outgoing. As soon as he transforms, he becomes a totally different person. I wanted to bring both of those sides of him to life. Also, it’s described in the book, he has three faces. That first face, the second face and his third face is called the combined face, that’s where he is the new kind of conflicted Jacob. But Bella sees through him to what he used to be and what she would love him to come back to. You have to bring all three of those faces to life.
GM: How challenging was that?
TL: The most challenging part was some days I’ll actually film all three faces on one day. I’ll have to, in the morning, pop the wig on and be happy-go-lucky little Jacob and then after lunch I’ll have to rip the wig off and take all my clothes off and become scary, mean, conflicted Jacob. I’ll have to switch on a dime. That’s probably the most challenging part, but all actors love challenging themselves with their roles. Jacob’s definitely a great role to do that.
GM: How much of yourself do you put into the character?
TL: I’d say a lot. What’s crazy is you actually become the character. It helps being surrounded by such talented actors, Kristen [Stewart] and Rob [Pattinson], and having an amazing director in Chris Weitz. It really helps.
GM: Would you say that you have a lot in common with Jacob?
TL: In some ways. Jacob loves people, he loves being around people. I would say that’s similar to me.
GM: What was it like to work with Chris Weitz on “New Moon” after working with Catherine Hardwicke on “Twilight”?
TL: Chris is so amazing. All the cast thinks so. We all get along so well and he’s so talented. It’s so relaxed. We’re not stressed and worried, but at the same time the outcome is great. Chris is so talented and easy to work with, I’d work with him for the rest of my life if I could. We did tons and tons of rehearsals with him, diving into the script… The fact that I was surrounded by Kristen [Stewart] and Chris and everybody behind us was a major help for those extremely emotional scenes.
GM: How would you characterize your relationship with Kristen?
TL: It’s so funny. We have such a similar relationship to Bella and Jacob. We’re very close. We get along so well. We’re so open with each other. We can talk about anything. We can be completely open and honest with each other and discuss anything and everything whenever we went. We were always discussing Jacob and Bella’s relationship.
GM: What about the other members of the wolf pack? Did you do some pack bonding?
TL: We did a few nights. They weren’t up here a ton, but when they were we went out to dinner, I went out to a movie with them and they’re really great guys. They are a lot of fun. They keep the set alive. They’re funny, they got energy.
GM: And Rob?
TL: Sadly, we don’t hate each other. We definitely can switch that on and off. It is fun. I have nothing against the guy, I think he’s great, but when you’re living Jacob and I’m experiencing that pain and I know that he’s in the way of what I want, then it’s really not that hard to be pretty [annoyed] at him.
GM: Have you gotten accustomed to the frenzied fan reaction that the series inspires?
TL: I don’t know if you can get used to it. You can’t really get surprised anymore because you’ve seen just about everything. We understand and have seen all of the passion and dedication in the fans so it’s not like we’re going to see something crazy and be like, “Wow, we have crazy fans.” We know that. It’s fantastic. We wouldn’t be here without them but they’re everywhere. You’re always experiencing the fans. Sometimes it does get a little overwhelming. I don’t know if you get used to it or not.
GM: How many times have you been asked about the status of the “Breaking Dawn” movie?
TL: A few times, and I wish I could give an answer. I really do.
– Gina McIntyre
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Photos: Top, bottom, “New Moon” premiere. Credit: Associated Press; second from top, Taylor Lautner. Credit Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times; third from top, “New Moon” scene. Credit: Summit Entertainment.