Twilight Star Taylor Lautner on GQ Magazine Cover

Young actor Taylor Lautner graces the cover of GQ Magazine.

At age 18, Taylor Lautner is pulling down $7.5 million a film and being lusted after by the female population of America. Here, the world's highest-paid teen wolf tries on fall's best trends, the kind of no-nonsense clothes that are built for the man that Hollywood hopes he'll become

The hysterical children. That's what stands out most. The red carpet is lined with these screaming tykes, hundreds of small wonders packed ten feet deep on raised platforms. They are reaching out their hands for Him, shoving little notebooks and pink pens into His hand. The desperation in their cries has a familiar, specific timbre; they sound like hungry newborn infants.

It is March 27, and I am inching down the red carpet at Nickelodeon's annual Kids' Choice Awards—embedded with Taylor Lautner, Twilight's boy werewolf, now reportedly the highest-paid teenage actor in Hollywood. He's one of the highest-paid actors period, having just signed a $7.5 million deal to play Stretch Armstrong in a big-screen take on a toy no one has seen in thirty years. Lautner's regular security guard, a professional badass, notices me flinching at the shrieking. He smiles: "On the New Moon tour, I took Advil. Preventively."

Lautner—dressed in a wool blazer over a white V-neck T-shirt (both gifts from the designer Neil Barrett), his dark hair shellacked into a skyward-pointing spear—seems unfazed. Is it always like this? I ask. So he tells me about Brazil. How he and his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart were trapped in a hotel suite when hundreds of teenage fans stormed the lobby, outwitted security, and charged the stairs to get to them. "We were in lockdown in this little room for forty-five minutes waiting for the SWAT team to arrive," Lautner says, his eyes wide. "We said to each other, 'Let's say they get into this room. What are they going to do? Tear us to shreds? What do they want?' "

Finally we are at the door to UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, finally inside the building, finally moving toward our seats in the front row, when I notice: For a kids' show, this is one fucking starry room. Adam Sandler, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Robert Downey Jr., Rihanna—they're all within earshot. Avatar's Zoe Saldana is sitting three seats away. Rosario Dawson and Olympic champion Shaun White will present the first award. It's a tribute to the primacy of the youth market. They've all come to kiss the (candy) ring.

Lautner, 18, sits down and begins to tell me how honored he is to be here, how honored he's been to be everywhere lately. Like at this year's Oscars, where he introduced a tribute to horror films alongside Stewart. "I would have passed out if she wasn't there!" Lautner says. "You're looking down and you're talking to George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio—and they're listening to you!" This is his baseline sentiment: honest, enthusiastic bafflement. It's probably the only suitable reaction. He talks about the MTV Video Music Awards, where he presented a trophy to his then maybe-girlfriend Taylor Swift, only to watch Kanye snatch the microphone. "I was standing behind her as it was happening, and 100 percent I was sure it was staged!" Lautner says, eyebrows raised. "I thought, 'This was something that they rehearsed.' I was enjoying the show! But then Taylor turned around and I saw her face."

Just then, at the UCLA auditorium, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, suddenly interrupts the conversation with a question. Katzenberg—59 years old, V-neck sweater, pleated khakis—leans in close. "Taylor," he says, "do you have two minutes? Will Smith wants to meet you."

A minute later, Lautner returns to his seat, winded. He looks around the arena, at the 7,000 fans and the lights and the cameras, and asks out loud, "Is this really happening? Am I really here?"

Those are pretty good questions. He might also ask: What on earth did I do to deserve that $7.5 million contract and the adoration of millions? He's handsome, yes. But in two Twilight films, Lautner has logged fifty minutes of screen time. Total. In the first movie, he spoke 239 words. Oh, and he was nearly fired from the sequel before filming began. (More on that soon.)

Finally the lights inside the UCLA arena dim, signaling the start of the show, and when Lautner's photograph appears on the JumboTron, the shrieking resumes. Lautner's security guard rushes over with one last message, whispering something into his ear before disappearing again into the darkness.

"What did he just say to you?"

Lautner locks eyes with me, touches my leg and laughs. "He said, 'If anything happens—' " Lautner points towards the exit sign—" 'we're going left.' "


One week after the Kids' Choice Awards, Taylor Lautner pulls up for lunch in Valencia, California, a suburb forty-five minutes north of Hollywood. This is where he lives, with his parents and younger sister, in a home that's almost indistinguishable from the others in the neighborhood. Lautner suggests the Olive Garden for lunch. "Do you like this place?" he asks, a little unsure, adding: "My father turned me on to it." Without glancing at the menu, Lautner orders the Toscana soup, then asks to substitute the Caesar salad for the house. Before the waiter can reply, Lautner interrupts innocently: "I know," he says, "it'll be a dollar fifty extra. That's fine." Well, yes. Yes, it will be.

If the Olive Garden seems an unlikely place to meet one of the most watched teenagers in America, so be it. The location is as clear an indication as any of how far he's come, and how fast. His is a story filled with extreme coincidence, as if the heavens opened up and said, You. You with the teeth. Next year at this time, people will be able to draw your abs from memory.

Because he's only 18, his creation story takes about thirty seconds, but it begins at a karate school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is 7 years old when (Random Fate-Sealing Circumstance #1) the school's owner invites his students to a martial-arts tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. There, Lautner meets Mike Chat, a karate coach who's been (Random Fate-Sealing Circumstance #2) a successful actor. Okay, he was the Blue Power Ranger, but still. Chat encourages Lautner to come out to L.A. for a martial-arts summer camp and later a monthlong stay. He hooks the boy up with an agent, and while Lautner returns home to Michigan without a job, he's still getting calls about auditions.


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