Taylor Lautner was poised to be the next big thing when The Twilight Saga was at its peak…and then he just wasn’t. What went wrong?
Twilight hype died
Lautner’s Twilight co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were clever with their careers. While still attached to the franchise, they both starred in other films, like Adventureland (2009) and Water For Elephants (2011). As a result, the duo had an easier time transitioning to other roles post-Twilight. Lautner, however, had only a bit part in Valentine’s Day (2010) to tide him over until the franchise was over.
A source told The Hollywood Reporter, "It’s not easy to move out of the shadow of a hit like Twilight. But he’s still very young. There’s time for Taylor to become more than just Jacob." Unfortunately, it may be too late now for Lautner to escape the shadow of the supernatural drama.
His first star vehicle bombed
Lautner was the marquee name in 2011’s Abduction, but the movie didn’t do well at all. The film was critically panned, earning a measly Metascore of 25, and it only scored a 4 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. That wouldn’t be so bad if the box office numbers were better, but the flick made only $28 million domestically, not even breaking even on its $35 million budget.
An agent told The Hollywood Reporter, "His first movie just wasn’t very good, and it didn’t justify what he was asking for at the time." And on that note…
His acting has left much to be desired
For most stars, acting requires emoting, not just the removal of one’s shirt. When Lautner was expected to do the former, well, it didn’t go over so well. The reviews for Abduction didn’t speak highly of Lautner’s ability (or lack thereof).
Movieline‘s Alison Wilmore wrote, "This may be the first film I’ve ever seen where when an actor goes to put his hand thoughtfully on his chin, it’s so awkward I became afraid he’d somehow miss and poke himself in the eye." The Village Voice said Lautner "looks like a stranger in his own performance."
Abduction‘s flimsy story wouldn’t have weighed so heavily on Lautner’s resume if his performance wasn’t so clearly part of the problem.
He’s too expensive
Studios just don’t think Lautner is worth the money he thinks he deserves, and they might be right.
A source told Vulture that Lautner’s talent agency did "a brilliant job of convincing Hollywood that he’s the next big movie star" but "didn’t convince audiences of the same." Lautner demanded $5 million for Abduction. When that bombed, studios could no longer justify the $7.5 million he asked for to star in Stretch Armstrong (yes, that Stretch Armstrong) and the whopping $10 million to star in the re-telling of the Biblical David and Goliath. Both movies were shelved indefinitely.
Another source told Vulture, "I remember when [Universal co-chairman] Donna Langley cast him in Stretch Armstrong, she said to me, ‘He’s the real deal!’ And I thought, Based on what?! Based on Twilight?"
Tracers never even got a theatrical release
Tracers was Lautner’s second attempt at a leading role. It came four years after his dismal first outing as a leading man in Abduction and three years after the conclusion of the Twilight series. That should have been enough time for Lautner to distance himself from the franchise and start establishing a more varied resume. Unfortunately, the film never even got a U.S. theatrical release and only pulled in $2.8 million internationally.
With a combined 26 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus on this flick was not good. In fact, Steve Tilley of the Toronto Sun was particularly grating, opening his review with: "At the end of Twilight, poor shirtless werewolf Jacob didn’t manage to get the girl. And if he’s not careful, Taylor Lautner isn’t going to get a career, either."
With Lautner logging exactly zero big studio films and only two short lived TV parts in the two years since Tracers, Tilley seems to have hit the nail on the head.
The Ridiculous 6 was just that
Lautner seems to have gotten in tight with Adam Sandler as of late, landing a bit part in Grown-Ups 2 and a supporting role in the SNL alum’s first collaboration with Netflix, The Ridiculous Six. That would be great, except we’re long past the Sandler who delivered goofball classics Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. This is the Sandler who has now put Little Nicky, Jack & Jill, and Pixels out into the world, so appearing in one of his movies no longer has the clout that it used to.
This is especially true of The Ridiculous Six, Sandler’s parody of The Magnificent Seven, which not only has the distinction of pulling a whopping 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes but also happened to stir up a lot of controversy over perceived racist jokes. According to the Indian Country Today Media Network (via Variety,) several Native American actors left the set after taking offense to "racially charged jokes and inaccuracies during the filming of the movie," including costume inaccuracies and characters allegedly named "Beaver’s Breath" and "No Bra."
Sandler later chalked the whole thing up to being "taken out of context" and said that the film was "a pro-Indian movie." Critics thought otherwise, labeling the film "horrid," "a multifaceted bomb," and "replete with lazy, racist jokes." Yeesh. Lautner would probably do well to just leave that one off of his reel.
Lautner’s passion project was met with apathy
In 2016, Lautner took on the film Run the Tide, an indie drama with no budget and no big studio backing. It couldn’t have been farther from his Twilight roots or his attempts at becoming an action hero. Lautner described the film in a Metro interview as "a passion project for everyone involved." Unfortunately, it was a risk that didn’t pan out.
Reviews were dismal. The A.V. Club labeled it "bargain-basement schmaltz, too blandly folksy even for Sundance." The Young Folks claimed "the emotion felt forced and it lacked authenticity," and that the film "is best as a Lifetime movie special of the week." The review even zeroed in specifically on Lautner’s performance, saying "he just doesn’t fit" in such a dramatic role, and that "he just isn’t very believable, as much as he tries to be."
Is it any surprise that Lautner seems to take a sabbatical after this?
He’s been linked to lots of fauxmances
Lautner has had a lot of famous girlfriends with suspiciously convenient timing. He "dated" Lily Collins when they were promoting Abduction in 2011. When that didn’t generate quite enough buzz, they made headlines when Us Weekly reported that they broke up a week before the premiere. When he had a cameo in Grown Ups 2 in 2013, the Daily Mail noted that he was dating actress Maika Monroe shortly before the movie hit theaters. He dated his Tracers co-star Marie Avgeropoulos, but E! Online reports that they split shortly after the film debuted.
Lautner’s most famous flame was Taylor Swift, who he dated for a few months from late 2009 to 2010. What makes that pairing suspicious? Well, they broke up after their movie, Valentine’s Day, hit theaters in 2010, and he seems to be one of the few exes that Swift hasn’t penned a bitter song about. In fact, the Taylors were actually friendly post-split, per MTV News. That’s very unlike her, especially if the relationship was real.
Another werewolf replaced him
Twilight fans who were "Team Jacob" have likely moved on to other hot lycanthropes. Dylan O’Brien looks a bit like Lautner and stars in MTV’s Teen Wolf series, and his acting chops receive much better reviews. Additionally, O’Brien found success in an action franchise, starring in 2014’s The Maze Runner and its sequels.
He’s not career-focused right now
While promoting Run the Tide, Lautner expressed his desire to expand his professional resume, which includes him being pickier about the roles he’ll choose moving forward. When asked by ABC News if he was worried about being "pigeonholed" by his Twilight role, Lautner said, "That’s kind of why I want to choose things that are different."
While he considers his career’s direction, Lautner’s really not in any hurry to get back on a movie set. He even spelled out his intentional slowdown in even more specific terms to Reuters in November 2016, saying "For me the biggest thing is just surrounding myself with people that I love, just spending time, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing as long as I’m with my friends and my family. Ya know, I could be sitting in a cardboard box and that’s where I’m happiest."
Did he pause his career for love?
Lautner and Billie Lourd met on the set of Scream Queens, and their onscreen romance spilled over into real life. According to People, Lourd and Lautner’s rumored relationship began in December 2016, just before Lourd tragically lost both her mother, Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, and grandmother, iconic actress Debbie Reynolds, just one day apart.
Lautner attended the joint funeral for the screen legends, and from there, their whirlwind romance was well documented on Instagram, with Lautner posting photos of the couple jet-setting all over the world. According to Lourd’s uncle, Todd Fisher, the relationship was as serious as it was adorable. "The truth of the matter is, the guy is pretty spectacular," Todd told E! News. "He’s a really deep person, and he has supported her amazingly. He’s stepped up and acted like a husband would act. Not that that’s what’s going on, but it’s just an amazing support system for her, and I’m glad he’s in her life. That’s not easy for me to say, if you think about it!"
However, by July 2017, Lourd and Lautner were over as a couple, although they "are still friendly," according to a source for People. Is it possible that Lautner pressed the pause button on acting for this reverse May-December romance?
He might work with Greg Davies of Cuckoo again
One of the brighter spots in Lautner’s career has been the gamble he took replacing Andy Samberg’s character on the BBC comedy Cuckoo. Playing completely against type, Lautner stepped into a role that had him navigating the tricky waters of dry British humor, but he apparently nailed it. According to The Telegraph, Lautner was "very good indeed."
Series co-star Greg Davies also had nothing but praise for Lautner, telling Metro in November 2017, that he’s kept in touch with Lautner since the series ended. Davies hinted that they may work together in the future. "It’s an unlikely friendship. We’re doing two more series next year. I get on really well with him. He’s a thoroughly decent chap."
Granted, that’s not a confirmation that Lautner is on board, but it sure seems like he’s got an open invitation and a critically-lauded avenue to pursue should he choose to accept it.