Taylor Lautner is no stranger to red-carpet fanfare. As a veteran of the "Twilight" franchise, he's become accustomed to girls lunging toward him, desperate for autographs or photographs.
But at the premiere of each "Twilight" film, all of the attention isn't centered on the 19-year-old — fans also go wild for his costars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. That wasn't the case Thursday night, when Lautner's new film, "Abduction," premiered in Hollywood.
The John Singleton-directed film is the actor's bid to become an action star and leave his identity as a young heartthrob behind. But if the reception Lautner got outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre was any indication, it'll be a while before he can entirely abandon his teen pinup reputation.
Hundreds of girls lined Hollywood Boulevard, chanting "Taylor!" repeatedly in unison as Lautner made his way down the street, stopping to greet fans for nearly 40 minutes. Though "Abduction" is Lautner's first major role on the big screen, he came across as a veteran movie star, looking polished in a tailored suit and waving to those he didn't have the time to meet.
It's no coincidence that Lautner exudes the presence of a Tom Cruise or a Matt Damon, said Singleton: The director asked the actor to watch the films of such stars to prepare for "Abduction."
"We studied Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon — I mean, we even studied James Dean — because I wanted him to see people that were kind of in his position when they were young and how they evolved and changed as artists, just so he could get a sense of what his own path would be," the filmmaker said.
Lautner, who said he was dazed by the "surreal" scene unveiling around him, said Singleton's suggestion helped him to "get the tone" for "Abduction."
"For Harrison Ford, we chose 'The Fugitive,' for Tom Cruise, 'Minority Report' — like, leading man on the run," he said. "And we got that tone right before we went to film."
In the film, Lautner is Nathan, a high schooler who discovers his face on a missing-persons website and begins questioning his identity. Nathan's psychiatrist is played by Sigourney Weaver, who said she believes Lautner will have a long career in Hollywood.
"He wants it, and I think that's the most important thing," Weaver said on the red carpet. "I always thought he was very good as the Indian-slash-werewolf or whatever he is [in the 'Twilight' films]. I actually think that's a harder role. Because this is in a way — he's playing a normal kid who's thrust into this incredible adventure. So I think actually you get to see more of who Taylor is in this."
For more on Lautner's transition from teen hunk to leading man, check out the profile of him that will be published in Sunday's Los Angeles Times print edition. Yes, ladies, with pictures.
"Abduction" opens Sept. 23.
— Amy Kaufman
Photo: Taylor Lautner at the premiere of "Abduction." Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press.