February 11 is Taylor Lautner’s birthday! The actor is best known for his role as Jacob Black in the Twilight film series.
Lautner was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1992, and began practicing karate heavily at the age of six. Within just one year, he was winning tournaments. After meeting the found of Xtreme Martial Arts, Michael Chaturantabut, he attended one of his karate camps and trained with him for the next several years. He received a black belt at the age of eight and won several junior world championships. Chaturantabut, who played the Blue Ranger in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, convinced Lautner to try out a career in acting. Lautner was already very active in many extracurricular activities at school, so he often flew back and forth from Michigan to Los Angeles for auditions before his family finally relocated to California.
After a string of minor television roles and voiceover work, Lautner landed his breakthrough role as Shark Boy in Robert Rodriguez’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D. For three months, he lived in Austin, Texas while filming the movie. Three years later, in 2008, Lautner was pushed by his agent to go to an open casting call in Portland for the first screen adaptation of the widely popular Twilight series. The young actor auditioned for the role of Jacob Black, the Native American friend of the lead character, Bella Swan. With no knowledge of the series or the character, Lautner went into the audition and read lines with Kristen Stewart, who had already been cast in the role of Bella. He landed the role, not knowing that it would quickly propel him into celebrity status.
The Twilight saga followed a love triangle between three characters – Bella, a human, Edward, a vampire, and Jacob (portrayed by Lautner), a werewolf. Though it was not given favorable reviews by critics, the movie was a commercial success due to its cult following, grossing $392 million worldwide. The adaptation of the second film was immediately picked up, though the director was hesitant to recast Lautner in the second film because of the major physical changes his character went to between the first and second part of the saga. To avoid being recast, Lautner gained almost 30 pounds of muscle to get himself into proper shape. He went on to star in the following four Twilight movies, which grossed a total of $3 billion worldwide. His role as Jacob Black built up a significant fanbase with people of all ages rooting for “Team Jacob.”
Lautner has taken on a few other projects including roles in romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, action flick Abduction, and comedy Grown Ups 2, though none have been as commercially successful as the Twilight series. Voted as one of People’s “100 Most Beautiful People” in 2009, Lautner has also been romantically linked to other young celebrities like Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. In his spare time, he roots for some of his favorite sports teams like the University of Texas Longhorns and University of Michigan Wolverines and has been known to make home movies with his Shark Boy co-star, Taylor Dooley.
Happy birthday, Taylor!