The rumors started last spring. Girls at Hampton High School gathered around their lockers, debating whether it could be true: Was heartthrob Taylor Lautner, the sexy werewolf from the "Twilight" movies, actually coming to their school to shoot a movie?
Amber Beemer, finishing her junior year, was skeptical. Things like this don't happen in Hampton, she says. Her little sister Kaylee, a freshman, put it this way: "We're really not that popular."
But soon location scouts were poking around classrooms, making notes for the filming of "Abduction," a thriller in which Lautner's character discovers his own photo on a list of missing persons.
He was really coming.
Lautner, for the uninitiated, is an 18-year-old actor with the exact blend of boyish sweetness and rippling muscles that can leave teenage girls speechless. His "Twilight" character, Jacob Black, is both deeply sensitive and capable of tearing limbs off bad guys. In the world of fan magazines and celebrity websites, he is a prized commodity.
Girls at Hampton High have daydreamed about Lautner in these classrooms. Now he would sit in these rooms himself, walk these hallways, wrestle in this gym. He would film at their school for just two days but remain in suburban Pittsburgh all summer.
Whose locker might he open? Whose homeroom would he hang out in? Senior Vicki Reitlinger heard Lautner would film in the art classroom and reasoned that since she's taken lots of art classes, "he has to sit in a chair I sat in." She can't explain why that means so much. But it does.
For teenagers, especially in a prosperous suburb like this one barely 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, life is all about possibility. What will you be someday? Who will you fall in love with? More to the point: Who will fall in love with you? Could he be handsome and famous and fresh from the cover of "Tiger Beat"?
At Hampton, if you weren't going to be in the movie, you knew someone who was. The cheerleaders, dance drill team and marching band were hired as extras. In the movie, Lautner's school will have the same name, same colors, same mascot as theirs.
Wrestling team members were cast as Lautner's fictional teammates and opponents. Students spoke reverently about the fact that their math teacher and wrestling coach, Joe Bursick, a Hampton grad, would train Lautner for the movie and appear in it.
"My guys are pretty excited," Bursick said of his team. "Even some who graduated came back for this." Wrestling Hollywood's sexiest werewolf hasn't exactly hurt their popularity.
Last week, shooting finally began. A sheet with "Welcome Taylor!" printed in enormous letters was draped over a fence outside the school. By late morning, as a crane hovered above and bright lights drew their eyes to filming in the cafeteria, about 100 girls (and, yes, women) had arranged lawn chairs and blankets to watch the making of this movie as though it were, well, a movie.
It got better. Lautner shot a scene right there in the parking lot. Riding a motorcycle. Wearing tight jeans. He even blew a few kisses to the crowd between takes (cue screaming). And at 6 p.m., this impossibly cute object of their affection walked toward them.
He began signing autographs and posing for photos, but as the crowd surged a young girl got knocked down. Within minutes, he was whisked away in a black Escalade.
As Day Two dawned, a handful of girls were camped out by 7 a.m. More arrived, perhaps twice as many as the day before. Some were younger: Maryah Rosenwald, 13, wrote "I heart Taylor" on her arms and legs with a Sharpie and carried a hand-lettered "Marry Me" sign and a Ring Pop for the engagement. Others were older, just a few months younger than Lautner and decked out for a date.
Not everyone was thrilled. The football team sweated through morning practice without a girl so much as glancing at them. "I kind of want him to leave," groused freshman football player C.J. Arch.
Arch's friend Jayden Korber, also a freshman, looked on the bright side: Lautner "brought all these new girls to town," he said. "I'll just do the clean-up work."
By afternoon, it was humid and boring. Nothing to see except the brick exterior of their school. Hannah Rice, 14, mentioned that her mom had contacted the production company to offer up the family's house. "It would have been cool to say he slept in my bed," Hannah said. "I'd start drooling."
Then squeals, and a chorus erupted:
"I would have stolen his clothes."
"I would have stolen his underwear!"
"I would have stolen him! I'd have locked him in my closet and not let him go!"
As giggles subsided, reality seemed to suck the air out of their fun. "He's so close," Amber Beemer said. "But you can't get him."
Day Two wore on — 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. It started to rain. Kathleen DiPerna, Jessica Brodman and their friends, all 17, were getting frustrated. It becomes harder to imagine your celebrity crush falling in love with you when he's actually here and clearly isn't.
"Usually you can go into your school whenever you want," DiPerna said. "We spend so much time in there, and now we have to stand back and watch and we can't go in."
9 p.m., steady rain. It was getting cold. Some girls had left. But dozens stuck it out until a handful of others emerged from behind the building. He's gone, they said — waved a quick goodbye and left through a back entrance.
Some were near tears. Others were sure he'd return. Many complained. Yet they struggled for words to excuse him.
He's here to do his job. He's just a guy at work. He's not a mythical creature. Only DiPerna said it aloud: He's human.
No one seems pleased about that.