Being a heartthrob to legions of young women and starring in an immensely successful series of movies might not be all its cracked up to be, although it’s safe to say most young men would love to give it a whirl. What happens when the “Twilight” fades, and the harsh glare of expectations focuses on what comes next?
For Taylor Lautner, 21, that’s the dilemma. As fans of the “Twilight” franchise can attest, he plays Jacob Black, the odd werewolf out in the supernatural love triangle.
On Sept. 23, Lautner will step into bold new terrain when his new action film, “Abduction,” comes out. The John Singleton-directed thriller stars Lautner as Nathan, a young man whose past is a mystery and who suddenly finds himself hunted by assassins.Video: Watch the 'Abduction' trailer (on this page)
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Lautner wasn’t a newcomer to acting when he entered “Twilight” land; an interest in martial arts led to commercial auditions as a child, and his family relocated from Michigan to Los Angeles when he was 10 so he could pursue the business full-time.
But “Abduction” represents the first major effort by Lautner to carve out some career space beyond “Twilight.” It’s an early harbinger of his post-Jacob chances for a lengthy residence in Tinseltown.Story: Taylor Lautner splits with Phil Collins' daughter
“Taylor Lautner may not be Colin Firth, but they aren’t putting him in overly taxing thespian roles,” noted Michael Musto, columnist for the Village Voice and author of the new book, “Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back.”
“He has a big following, and if he squints, races around, and takes off his shirt a lot, I’m certain he will have at least one very nice weekend at the box office," said Musto. "Beyond that, I’m not sure. The history of Hollywood is littered with the remains of franchise stars trying to break out into leading man status. But maybe he’ll be the one to beat the odds.”Slideshow: Hollywood’s shirtless studs
Lautner will naturally try to do what his “Twilight” co-star, Robert Pattinson, has already set out to do. Pattinson received fairly solid reviews as young Salvador Dali in the 2008 indie, “Little Ashes,” and also opposite Reese Witherspoon in “Water for Elephants,” released earlier this year.Report: Robert Pattinson to record an album
If Lautner can receive comparable love for “Abduction,” he’ll be off to a good post-“Twilight” start.
George Otiono is administrator and owner of Taylor-Lautner.com. He said Lautner Nation would rather see their hero stretch than simply relax as Jacob.Slideshow: ‘Twilight’ stars light up Hollywood (on this page)
“We fans are definitely picky about what kind of roles Taylor Lautner takes,” he said. “One of our first concerns is that he plays a role that is challenging and interesting. We want to see Taylor Lautner use his talents and not waste them on menial roles.
“Seeing (him) play another Jacob type would be cool. But we would prefer to see him move away from that arena. ... One of the site supporters summed up perfectly how we feel about (his) future roles: ‘If Taylor picked a role, there is a reason for it, and I’m going to be supportive.’”Video: Taylor Lautner's 'Abduction' premiere (on this page)
Naturally, there is a celebrity element to Lautner’s persona that can’t be dismissed. The “Twilight” phenomenon has thrust him into another stratosphere, where scrutiny of his personal life is just as intense as that of his professional forays. With that in mind, there are few better to assess his stature and future prospects than gossip columnist Perez Hilton, who it’s safe to say has mentioned him more than once or twice on his site.Story: 'Breaking Dawn' trailer gives glimpse of birth
“Not only do I think Taylor Lautner has the talent and star power to have a long career as an actor in Hollywood,” Hilton said, “but I also think he has the looks, winning personality, work ethic and — most importantly — the ability to choose the right projects.
“‘Abduction’ is just the beginning. Unlike Zac Efron, Taylor is giving audiences what they want. That got Tom Cruise very far.”Video: Does Lautner like Cruise comparisons? (on this page)
Hilton pointed out that enormous success off one particular project or projects can cause a career to go either way, depending on which way that actor steers it.
“The ‘Twilight’ films are a phenomenon,” he explained. “But they’re not a guarantee for success outside the franchise. Look at Hayden Christensen. His career fizzled after the ‘Star Wars’ movies. What matters the most is not ‘Twilight’ but what Taylor does with that great launching pad.”Video: Are Taylor Lautner and Kris Humphries twins? (on this page)
Still, there is a fan base out there established by the “Twilight” phenomenon that is patient and willing to let Lautner’s professional life grow and develop over time. Naturally, when an entertainer brings fans enjoyment, they tend to be supportive.
“He seems like the kind of kid parents hope to raise,” said Stacy, a devoted “Twihard” from Oklahoma City. “He’s hard-working, grateful for what he has, and doesn’t complain about the negative things that come with fame. I became a fan because of Jacob Black, but I remain a fan because Taylor’s just the kind of guy you want to succeed.
“He seems like a sweet guy, and you want to root for him. He deserves it.”
Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to TODAY.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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