Taylor Lautner is the latest international endorser of local lifestyle brand Bench.-- Photo from the official website of Bench
MANILA -- "Twilight" star Taylor Lautner treated as an "honest conversation" his first-ever sit-down interview in the Philippines.
The Michigan-raised heartthrob, who started acting as early as 10 years old, said he had years of training to become media-savvy. It helps, he added, that he tends to engage any interviewer as if he's having a casual conversation.
"It wasn't like a sit-down coaching session, but I'll give a lot of that to my parents," the 21-year-old actor said, when asked how he developed a certain warmth in interacting with fans and the media.
He added: "My parents helped me a lot growing up, because I did, I started out at such a young age. I mean, I was doing interviews when I was 10 years old, and that's just not normal."
Long-time fans of Lautner may remember him as a teen star in the 3D sci-fi adventure movie "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl," which was released in 2005.
Three years later, Lautner would land his biggest role yet as the lovelorn werewolf Jacob Black in the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series of books.
Lautner has since enjoyed international success, but noted that despite the initial media frenzy surrounding his part in the "Twilight" franchise, "I've always been able to be myself."
As he related to "Bandila" anchor Boy Abunda in a one-on-one interview on Friday, Lautner, unlike some celebrities, always enjoyed interacting with the press.
"I'm a people person. I love meeting new people, I love talking with people, I love getting to know people, and you just treat it as an honest conversation. And that's the easiest way," he said.
The actor also brought this up in expressing his excitement for his fan conference, which will be held Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City as part of his endorsement deal with the local clothing line Bench.
Ahead of the "fun meet," Lautner related in his 10-minute chat with Abunda his impression of the Philippines so far, how he handled the "Twilight" craze, living up to expectations, and whether he'd give up his famous abs for a sure ticket to heaven.
When you were told you were coming to the Philippines, what was the first thing that came to mind?
I heard a lot about it. I've heard that it's beautiful, I've heard that I would love the humidity, but I came prepared. And I heard that, you know, the people here are great. So I was looking forward to seeing all the fans!
You're a "Global Benchsetter." How does that feel?
It's an extreme honor. I love the brand. I love everybody involved with it. I love wearing it, so I'm very honored to be recognized with it.
"Twilight" happened. Were you ready for fame?
No, definitely not. I don't know if anybody could be ready for it, or be prepared for it especially at the level that "Twilight" gave to all of us.
Is it true that you almost weren't hired back for the second "Twilight" film?
Yeah. I mean, the role of Jacob Black changes so much from the first book to the second that I don't think it was anybody's plan all along to use the same actor. Because in "Twilight," he was a boy -- a skinny, scrawny boy, a 15-year-old. And in the second one, he goes from a boy to a man, and he grows massively not only physically and emotionally as well.
You will be Jacob Black for a long, long time. Isn't that limiting for a young actor who wants to explore diverse characters?
You're completely right. But you could also look at it a different way. I don't look at it as, "It limits me." I first look at it as, "That role gave me the opportunity to do this." And it's now my job to take what that gave me and go with it, and work even harder to grow.
But at the same time, I would be fine being known as Jacob Black forever, because that role and that experience means so much to me. And in a way, if you're known as that, you know you did your job. I mean, our job was to make those "Twilight" fans believe that we are those characters. But absolutely, as an actor, you want to grow and move on.
Do you enjoy fame?
I enjoy what comes with it (fame). I mean, there's good and there's bad. But would I change it? Absolutely not. I'm extremely lucky to do what I love to do and, I mean, it's fun. The loss of privacy, there's all that, but you adapt to it.
How do you keep your privacy in a very public job like yours?
I live in California, but I don't live right in the heart of Beverly Hills. I live out of the way, I spend a lot of time with my family and my friends. So, I mean, that helps. And you also have to accept the fact that it's going to happen sometimes.
The massive adulation and the perks can take you away from the core. How do you manage?
I think what helps me is my close relationship with my family and friends. I mean, I spend time with the same people that I did before any of this happened to me. I didn't completely change my close circle of friendship and my family. That is all the same, and everybody in that close circle treats me the exact same way now as they did five years ago.
You make it a point to spend time with your fans. Not everyone is as kind. Where do you get this?
I don't know. I can't picture not being that gracious because the truth is, yes, it has required a lot of hard work that has gone into it. But I wouldn't be here without all that support, and I wouldn't be here without those fans.
People's expectations and Hollywood's expections -- how do you manage?
I mean, you try and not focus on the expectations as much as possible. You try and focus on you and what you want and what your personal goals are.
You've worked with Kristen Stewart in "Twilight" and Marie Avgeropoulos in "Tracers." Tell me what you can about these ladies.
I mean, they're similar in ways, and yet they're very different. Kristen and I are extremely close. I mean, we've worked together for five years, and when we weren't filming together, we were promoting the movies together. The entire "Twilight" cast, we're all great friends now.
There wasn't any moment when you fell for her?
(Laughs) No, there wasn't. We're very, very good friends.
And Marie (Lautner's rumored girlfriend)?
Marie's extremely talented, she did a great job in the movie. We had a blast making the film in New York City. It was my first time filming anything in New York. I mean, that movie was very different for me. It was a challenge, so we had a great time together.
You're always asked about your abs and girls. Do you mind?
(Laughs) I don't mind. I mean, you know, it comes with the territory. When you play a role for five years who takes his shirt off at any given, random moment, you know, you just got to go with it.
Is it true that as a child, you were a biter?
A biter? You know what, that's true! I had no idea that was out there, but I was a biter as a child. (Laughs)
Let's do fast talk. Shirts on or shirts off?
Shirt on, absolutely.
Shark or wolf?
Short hair or long hair?
Football or baseball?
Good girl or naughty girl?
Boxers or brief?
Lights on or lights off?
Los Angeles or Michigan?
Las Vegas or New York?
Oscars or Golden Globes?
Oprah or Ellen?
Geez, I don't know if I'll be able to choose. I've been on both of their shows. I can't do that one! (Laughs)
Twitter or Facebook?
Day or night?
Beyonce or Lady Gaga?
Karate or boxing?
Spurs or Heat?
Oh, I'm going to piss off a lot of people here. Heat. I'm a LeBron (James) fan.
Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise?
Oh, I like them both. I will go for Tom Cruise, but that's a tough one.
Black or white?
Sunrise or sunset?
Um, sun... set.
Superman or Batman?
Smart or sexy?
Abs or heaven?
Abs or heaven? What? (Laughs) I don't even understand that one! Heaven!
Fame or money?
Love or career?
Taylor or Jacob Black?
Let's stick with Taylor.
Your message to your Filipino fans?
First of all, thank you for finally having me. I've always wanted to come here, so it's super exciting to finally be here, and thank you for all the support over the years. I look forward to spending time with you in the future as well.
Describe Taylor in just one word.
One word? Oh, man. I... geez. I mean, I don't know. At the moment, "excited." I'm excited about everything!