by Jason Whyte
Taylor Lautner, Actor
ďHe IS Shark Boy!Ē beams Taylor Lautnerís publicist in an email to me a few months back. At that point, I knew very little about Robert Rodriguezí new film ďThe Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3DĒ but like any film from the manís Troublemaker studios, I was naturally curious about it. Rodriguezí ďSin CityĒ was just hitting theatres as this email arrived in my inbox and an entire media attention was focused on that film. And here I am already wondering about the next one.
But anyway. I was wondering who this kid was, what made him tick and why his publicist was so eager to schedule an interview with me, and after reading about him and seeing some of his work, he is an up-and-comer worth noticing (as well as a perfect candidate for the Profile Interview Series which is all about noticing talented newcomers to the industry). A martial arts champion, professional dancer AND actor, Taylor Lautner is only 13 years old but is slowly building a successful career ever since he began learning karate at age 6 in his native Michigan. Acting in commercials and various TV work, it is with the recent release of Shark Boy that Taylor is becoming more noticed in the industry.
I had the opportunity to chat on the phone with Taylor recently while he was driving with his dad towards Los Angeles. (Cell phones are sounding clearer and clearer these daysÖ)
Jason Whyte: As is the case with everyone I talk to, what is your favourite movie of all time? Do you have one?
Taylor Lautner: For me it would probably be The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise... I thought Tom Cruise did a good job in that movie, doing all of the traditional Japanese fighting and stuff.
JW: Now have you been to any good movies as of late; Star Wars or anything like that?
TL: Not really (laughs), weíve been just so busy right now. I want to see Star Wars soon though.
JW: Are you into any TV shows?
TL: Yeah, both of my favourite TV shows, American Idol and The Contender, just finished and I canít wait to see whatís next for both of those.
JW: What kind of music do you listen to?
TL: I donít really have that much time to listen to music, but I do like Outkast and Black Eyed Peas.
JW: Iíve been reading about your work and what you do, and you seem to have been busy from an early age with your interests. In your own words, how did you get your start in this business?
TL: Growing up, I did a lot of stuff in school. I did wrestling, football, baseball, martial arts and before long, I was forced to narrow things down because you just canít do everything. (laughs) I still plan to do baseball and football, although I couldnít do it this year because itís really been busy. I have been doing extreme martial arts for over six years and Iím a four time world champion. For years, we took that really seriously and stuck with it.
My karate instructor, who played the blue Power Ranger years ago, sent me out on an audition for a Burger King commercial. After that I was auditioning monthly and I was living in Michigan at the time, and eventually, because of so much travel, we decided to move out here.
JW: Do you have a particular acting coaches or classes that you train at?
TL: I go to acting classes every Thursday and we keep really busy with training.
JW: Do you have a personal process for how you prepare for each role?
TL: When it comes to auditioning, I go through the script, go through the emotions that the writers want us to portray and we go through them and into the audition and meet with the casting director. Sometimes, when itís really big and itís a feature film, we meet with our acting coach for about an hour and go over the scene.
JW: Shark Boy is your first starring role in a motion picture. How did this role come to you?
TL: My agent got me the call for an audition. We went in and met with the casting director and I left thinking that was that. About two weeks later, I got a call to meet with Robert Rodriguez at a hotel he was staying at in L.A. I met with him and his seven year old son Racer Max (who inspired the idea for the film). L.A. was one of the first places they auditioned before going to other parts of the country to audition, but when they came back they told me that they wanted to book me as Shark Boy and I was very excited.
JW: Would you say that Robert Rodriguez is a mellow director? I ask because I talked with Cayden Boyd (who plays Max in the film, interview can be read HERE) recently and he mentioned that Robert was mellow when he auditioned.
TL: The first audition was just with a casting director and they were like ďOkay, thanks Taylor! Bye!Ē after doing the audition, but with Robert I was there for quite some time. I was interacting with Racer Max for a while and Robert was filming tests with his video camera as well as getting several pictures.
JW: In your own words, how would you describe the character of Shark Boy?
TL: Shark Boy is very self confident and sometimes he gets way, way too confident and thatís what starts wars in the film, and he was separated from his father when he was very young. He is also very jealous of Max (the human character who creates Shark Boy and Lava Girl) because Lava Girl is very over-motherly to Max, so Shark Boy doesnít really take that well. Heís very acrobatic, he shoots water out of his handsÖheís pretty fun. His personality is quite a bit different from my own. (laughs)
JW: Now you worked with a lot of visual effects sequences involving large sets, green-screens and 3-D. What were the biggest challenges you faced in working on the film?
TL: It was my first time working on a green screen; and thereís just NOTHING around, itís all green screen. You have to interact really carefully with your actors, because thatís the only thing that is real. You really have to have a good imagination, and Robert helped us a lot with that. He would be really specific about the actions that we would have to make and what would appear behind us. He made many sketches and drawings of the surroundings.
And that was just for the visual effects. For the 3-DÖletís say that I was holding an object and it was supposed to be sticking out at the audience, I had to hold the object still and not move whatsoever, because otherwise the object would be in the audienceís face and itís would appear as shaking. You work differently with digital effects and 3-D, and Robert helped us a lot with that.
JW: On working with Robert himself, how does he compare to other directors that you have worked with?
TL: Most directors are like ďGet your work done, and go home. Do this, this, this, this, this and goodbye. Weíll see you tomorrow. (laughs) Robert will be with us during breaks and even after shooting. He would take us out on his boat from time to time. Iím used to football and karate coaches yelling all of the time for whatever reason, and Robert will not do anything like that. He was great to be around.
JW:Would you be interested in doing a commentary track for the DVD release of Shark Boy?
TL: Oh yeah, definitely!
JW: I think it would be really cool to get a cast commentary track together since you, Cayden Boyd and Taylor Dooley were working together for so long. Do you still keep in touch with either of them?
TL: Oh yeah, definitely. We all met for the first time because of the film. Taylor Dooley lives right across the street from me; if we drove from my house it would take about two minutes. We see each other all the time, go over for dinner, eat out and so forth. Cayden is about 20-25 minutes from me as well, so we get together when we can.
JW: Youíre balancing school, martial arts, dancing and acting at such a young age. How do you handle all of this?
TL: I donít compete nationally for martial arts anymore, but I still train at my house to keep up the skill. For my dancing, I really donít do that anymore because Iím so busy with my other things in life. I was unable to even do football this year in school. When I did, the day went something like this: get down to school for football practice, drive to an audition WHILE doing my homework, drive BACK to football practice, drive home at about 8:00-8:30, eat dinner and go to bed. That was really busy but now itís just acting and school.
JW: Do you have time to just relax?
TL: Well (laughs), I donít really have time for that. I havenít had that in a long time. If I did, Iíd go over to a friendís house and play video games or something.
JW: How do you see yourself continuing down this path? Do you see yourself as an actor or do you have any other interests?
TL: I hope to continue down the acting road, but if for some reason the acting doesnít pan out, Iíd love to do something sports related, or be like Robert Rodriguez and become a writer-director.
JW: Would you say you had any ideas for a future movie? Letís say you could make a movie right now, what would it be about?
TL: I make movies with my sister, Taylor Dooley and her brother all the time. Weíre making one right now with my video camera and my stills camera, and itís a lot of fun. We have credits and music that we edit on the computer.
JW: What was the last one you did? What are your stories like?
TL: The one weíre doing now is called Ladynappers and it stars Taylorís brother as the Ladynapper, and he kidnaps Jamie, who Taylor Dooley plays, and he takes her away in downtown New York City. I play a CIA Secret Agent who has to go on an adventure to find Jamie and bring her back and capture the Ladynapper, and on my way I find difficulties because itís downtown New York. And I find Goth Girl, played by my sister, who lives on the streets and therefore knows all of the townís secrets. Itís a group of action and comedy and itís just a lot of fun to make. (Laughs) We were making one like that when we were down in Austin, Texas filming Shark Boy and Robert Rodriguezí wife Elizabeth told us that if we could finish it, maybe we could put it on the DVD, but we never finished it. (Laughs)
JW: How often are you recognized in public?
TL: Itís happened a couple of times. Weíve been at In-N-Out Burger and a little kid went ďHey, itís Shark Boy, dad! Shark Boyís over there!Ē We were just in an Old Navy and they have these Shark Boy and Lava Girl T-shirts that theyíre selling, and one kid kept staring at me and the sticker pack that he just received with my picture on it! That was really funny, having the kid go ďOh my gosh! Youíre the REAL Shark Boy! One sec, I have to go tell my friend,Ē and he runs over, grabs him and we talk for a few minutes.
JW: You have an official website, taylorlautner.com that you seem to be very involved with. Any future plans for the site?
TL: We post messages and put up new pictures for wherever we go, so itís a good way to keep a diary of what we do. Thereís also a contact page where you can email me Ė I try to respond to every email we get -- and thereís a P.O. box for autographs. Weíre just keeping things updated and plan to keep it that way.
JW: Thatís the best kind of official website, in my opinion. How many emails do you usually receive?
TL: We usually get about twenty a day. My visits about a month ago was about 100-200 hits, but since itís closer to the Shark Boy, we recently had over 3000 visits!
JW: Are there any people in the industry, be it actors or filmmakers, that you would love to work with in the future?
TL: Iíd love to work with Tom Cruise! (laughs) Iíd love to work with him, and Robert Rodriguez is great and Iíd work with him again in a heartbeat, but just that.
JW: So just that. Tom Cruise. Letís make War of the Worlds II together and have Rodriguez direct it. (laughs)
TL: Yeah. I canít think of any others from the top of my head. (laughs)
JW: I heard that you have a three-picture deal with Miramax. Is that true?
TL: Yeah, true. Dimension and Robert will decide if they want to do any more. I guess weíll see how well the film does and go from there.
JW: Do you have any future projects coming up that you can talk about?
TL: Weíre going to be in Toronto soon to film the sequel to Cheaper By The Dozen. Thereís the huge Steve Martin family on vacation, and then I play one of the kids in the competing family; Carmen Electra plays my mom and Eugene Levy my dad, in a family full of athletes and straight-A students. I have seven brothers and sisters, and we have competitions and wars with the Steve Martin family
JW: What do you love the most about acting and doing what you do?
TL: I love being able to play characters that are nothing like you, like Shark Boy, and becoming them. Itís also getting to meet new people like Robert Rodriguez and actors and the relationships that are made from meeting those people that is very rewarding.
This is another chapter in a series of interviews where an actor or filmmaker, whether s/he is up-and-coming under or overlooked, is interviewed for our website. Comments about this article are encouraged and can be directed to Jason at email@example.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1520
originally posted: 06/17/05 19:41:00
last updated: 06/17/05 19:53:13