With a toothy grin permanently planted on his face, Taylor Lautner comes across as one of young Hollywood’s most confident actors. His expression can also look forced, as though he's trying hard to prove how gracious he is.
But Lautner insists he’s not nearly as stiff as he can sometimes seem.
"I probably do a good job of hiding it -- but I’m definitely pretty sensitive," he told 24 Frames. "I’m not a huge crier. I can’t think of the last time I cried. But I definitely am very sensitive. Like, I don’t like disappointing or hurting other people. And watching movies -- I can’t say I didn’t cry during ‘The Notebook.’"
On Friday, Lautner will seek to show a more vulnerable side when he opens the action movie "Abduction." It's no Nicholas Sparks tearjerker, but there is a more dramatic storyline about a young man seeking a connection with his father.
It's the actor's first major role in a film outside of Stephenie Meyer's teen series, and it features Lautner in nearly every frame. The 19-year-old plays Nathan, a high school student forced to go on the run after realizing his true identity has been concealed from him since he was a baby.
The role required Lautner to put in some intense physical preparation, but he says it also stretched his acting ability.
"I definitely felt more comfortable and confident as an actor after 'Abduction,' because this movie took me to places that I'd never been as an actor before," he said in a recent interview. "Like, this character shows a lot of emotion. More emotion than Jacob has shown yet."
Lautner was referring, of course, to his character in the "Twilight" films, Jacob Black, the teenager-turned-werewolf involved in a love triangle with a vampire. He and costars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have already wrapped filming on the final two movies: the first installment, "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," hits theaters in November, and "Part 2" will be released a year later.
In the upcoming installment, Jacob must come to terms with the marriage between his love interest, Bella Swan, and the vampire Edward Cullen. Lautner said that the emotional turn was the most challenging he's had thus far on the big-screen -- though the work he had done on "Abduction" helped.
"For 'Abduction,' it was the first time I was ever able to cry and let loose emotionally. And then I did 'Breaking Dawn 1' after that, so it was really a great transition," he recalled. "When we filmed 'Breaking Dawn,' I was like, 'All right, I can do this. I'm just gonna go there.' And I did. I'm really proud of it."
Lautner still has another year of press to do for the "Twilight" films, but admits that when that comes to a close, it'll likely "be very strange. It already is."
Lautner can seem like the most self-assured of the "Twilight" bunch -- smiling and waving to fans on the promotional circuit -- while co-stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart can appear more uncomfortable in the limelight.
"Everybody handles it in a different way," he said of the attention. Plus, he insists, he's not always the laid-back one. In 2010, when he and Stewart presented an Oscar at that year's Academy Awards, it was his costar who had to calm a jittery Lautner down.
"For Kristen, when she gets nervous, she gets shy and quiet -- and I find it very cute. And then I think I over-exaggerate with smiling and laughing," he said. "The only thing I can remember about presenting at the Oscars is we were up on the stage, and I could literally feel my pulse, like, through my neck. And Kristen was just like, 'It's gonna be OK, just breathe.'
"I think it was just the fact that I was up there on this stage, talking to people that I've looked up to my entire life. I'm talking and presenting something and then, out of the corner of my eye, there's Leo [DiCaprio] and then there's George Clooney. It was tough for me to handle the situation."
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Taylor Lautner will be seen in "Abduction" and "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" this fall. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times