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"This superhero is well on his way. Faster than a speeding bullet."
"At the time, I didn't even know what a pose was!"
"He got to do a lot of acrobatic stuff, move like a shark, and throw lots of temper tantrums!"
"What's so amazing about Robert is that he directs his films, he writes them, he edits them, and he's even the camera man."
"It was fun watching how much fun we had on the set and how it turned out as a movie."
"If I couldn't (be an actor), I would want to be like Robert Rodriguez - a writer and director."
Taylor Lautner  

Interviewed by Mark Sells
June 2005

Taylor Lautner is a superhero on and off the screen. As the leading character, Shark Boy, in Robert Rodriguez's latest action adventure, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D, Taylor punches, kicks, bites, and erupts in a shark frenzy. It's an exciting role for the energetic 13 year-old, one that showcases his acting chops as well as his formal martial arts training. Somewhat of a karate super star, Taylor began training at the age of 6 and has since gone on to earn a black belt and three Junior World Championships. And it was his karate instructor that first introduced Taylor to the world of acting.

Since moving to Los Angeles, Taylor has put together quite a resume. His motion picture acting debut was in 2001's sci-fi, action thriller, Shadow Fury. But much of his success came on the television side, with appearances on "The Bernie Mac Show," "Summerland," and "My Wife and Kids." Even more amazing, Taylor broke into the highly competitive voice over industry, providing voices for characters on Nickelodeon's "Danny Phantom," "What's New Scooby Doo," "The Adventures of Silas and Brittany" and "He's a Bully Charlie Brown."

Today, Taylor is on location for his next project, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. No longer competing in karate, his focus has turned solely toward acting. It's a move he hopes will translate into a super career. But if it doesn't work out, says Taylor, "I want to be just like Robert Rodriguez - a writer and a director." Either way, this superhero is well on his way. Faster than a speeding bullet.

Reel Questions, Reel Answers

You were born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You became a World Karate Association champion and gold medallist at a very young age, winning the World Junior Weapons Title in 2003. You are featured on ESPN 2 and asked to perform all over the country. How did you end up in California? And what made you decide to act?

Well, I did extreme martial arts and my karate instructor was actually the Blue Power Ranger. He was the one who suggested I audition and thought I would do well. And he was right. I really liked it. So, I came out to California for a month to audition. And then six months later, we moved out here.

Do you remember your first audition?

The first audition that my karate instructor sent me out on was a Burger King commercial. It was kind of like a karate audition in that they were basically looking for martial arts stuff. And they were looking for someone older, but he wanted to send me anyway to get the experience.

So, I met with the casting director, we talked, and she asked for some poses. It was funny though, because at the time, I didn't even know what a pose was (laughing)! I was only seven. But I learned quickly and did some poses for them. And I really liked it. I thought it went well, but I didn't get it.

So then we came out for a month to train with my karate instructor. And while we were here, he set me up with an agent. I did a few auditions and then six months later, we moved out here.

How difficult was it to move?

It was a very, very hard decision. Our family and friends did not want us to go. But our choices were: We could stay in Michigan and I could give up acting. (I would have had to because it would have been crazy to continually fly out from Michigan to California each time there was an audition!) Or we could move to California and I could continue to act. I told my parents I didn't want to give up acting. And after weighing the good with bad, they agreed to move.

Of course, we were all sad that our house was gone in Michigan. But it turned out for the best because we're having a lot of fun in California now.

What was your audition like for Shark Boy and how did you get involved with the project?

Well, my agent got me the audition to meet with the casting director. And I just did my scenes that my agent faxed to me. About two weeks later, we found out that Robert Rodriguez and his son, Racer (who came up with the idea for the film), wanted to meet with me at their hotel room in L.A. So, I went down and met with them and did my scenes for the casting director and Robert. And then Robert took out his own video camera and wanted to tape me. He asked for a super hero pose and I did one of my martial arts moves called a kapueta kick. And I have no idea how to spell that (laughs)!

But I stand on one hand and I'm upside down and my legs are in a split position. And his son really liked that. Unfortunately, L.A. was just the first spot that they stopped at before auditioning throughout the rest of the country. But fortunately, thousands of auditions later, they came back to me and told me I got the part.

What can you tell me about the story?

It's about a 10 year old named Max who doesn't fit in well in school. He gets picked on by bullies. And one day he dreams up two super heroes, Shark Boy and Lava Girl, while day dreaming in class. Eventually, Shark Boy and Lava Girl become real and they need Max to help them save their home world, a world which Max created. It's under destruction and being destroyed by Mr. Electric (George Lopez). And the film is about the series of adventures they have in order to save the planet and defeat Mr. Electric.

Tell me a little bit about your character. Who is Shark Boy and what makes him special?

Well, first of all, he's a super hero. When he was younger, about five years old, he was separated from his father in a storm. His father was a marine biologist and after his father disappeared, he was all alone...except for the sharks. Raised by sharks, he became very self-confident. And he winds up being half boy, half shark, occasionally going into these shark frenzies, where he starts biting and ripping stuff. He gets really, really crazy. And that's when you don't want to be near him.

But he was fun to play because he got to do a lot of acrobatic stuff. And he gets to move like a shark and throw lots and lots of temper tantrums!

I recently spoke with your co-star, Taylor Dooley, and after doing some research, found that you guys have an incredible amount of similarities. She was born in Grosse Pointe Michigan. You were born in Grand Rapids. Both born in the month of February, a year apart (you on the 11th, she on the 26th in 1993). You both have the same first name, you both star in the same movie. And she told me that you guys live only a few blocks apart? Is that true??

I can name off so many. It's really weird. Our Moms have the same name, we both have younger siblings, and we live practically across the street from each other in L.A. If I were to drive to her house, it would take only take seconds!

What was it like working with her? Are you good friends?

Yes, definitely. We had a lot of fun on the set, with Cayden too (who plays Max). After we were done shooting, the three of us would go behind the set and play hide n' seek and climb trees. We had so much fun on the set. And we all see each other a lot since we live only a few blocks from one another.

We go out to dinner together and we have many of our friends from the set over for sleepovers.

What was it like working with Robert Rodriguez and the rest of the cast (David Arquette, George Lopez, etc.)?

What's so amazing about Robert is that he directs his films, he writes them, he edits them, and he's even the cameraman. Best of all, he's a terrific pizza maker. He makes the best pizza! In his house, he has this big, stone oven. It's about 15 feet tall and he makes the most incredible pizza and ravioli!

Everybody loved working with him. He played video games with us on the set. For instance, while I'd be shooting a particular scene, he'd be off playing video games with Taylor. It was so much fun.

And he's such a great director. While shooting a lot of scenes with the green screen, he would tell us exactly what was going on, painting the picture in our heads of what it's supposed to look like and what we're supposed to be doing.

As for David Arquette, we didn't get to see him that much because while he was on the set, we were in school. For the most part, he seemed very, very quiet. And very, very nice, always cracking jokes on the set. While the jokes would go along with the individual scenes, nobody would be able to stop laughing and they'd always have to start over.

And George Lopez was great too. We had paper wad fights while we were shooting and in the movie, he has one go right into the camera. He was a lot of fun too!

Do you have a favorite super hero? Super power?

I love watching the Spider-Man movies. Although he's probably not my favorite super hero, I love watching the movies. As for a super power, I like x-ray vision, like Superman, who can see right through things. I think that's pretty cool.

What was your favorite memory from the making of the film?

There'd be a lot. We played jokes on Cayden all the time. You see, he's a big Aggie fan and we were shooting on the University of Texas campus. And of course, UT and Texas A&M have a huge rivalry. So, we'd have lots of fun with him. There was a dog on the set named Tippy and we'd put UT stickers and a UT collar on her and would say that it was UT's new mascot. We also went back and forth, posting different messages and stuff on our doors. And I just remember all those kinds of moments on the set. It was a very family friendly environment.

What was your worst or least favorite part?

There wasn't really a worst moment. But my least favorite part was the three hours of school on the set every day. School is good, but it's not really fun (laughing). If it had to be anything, it would have to be that!

You had a chance to attend the premiere of the film last week. What was it like to be on the red carpet for your own premiere?

Well, the first time I saw it was at a cast and crew screening. It wasn't as different as I thought it would be. But it was fun watching how much fun we had on the set and how it turned out as a movie. It made me think of all the memories and moments from all the different scenes we shot.

Previously, I'd done the red carpet five times before, attending the premieres of Sahara, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Ladder 49. But walking the red carpet, you wouldn't believe how many photographers are there! 'Taylor, turn over here. Turn to the right. Hold it here. To the left. Now over here.' It's really crazy on the red carpet, but knowing that it was your premiere made it even more fun.

You've been pretty active in the voice over circuit with such work as "Which Way Is Up," "He's a Bully Charlie Brown," and "The Adventures of Silas and Britney." What has been your favorite character to voice and why?

My favorite one so far was probably Youngblood on "Danny Phantom." I've done three episodes so far and he's a lot of fun to voice. Probably because I'm a kid - bully - pirate. I'm an evil ghost and a pirate and get to say stuff like: 'ARRRGH!'

I read that you love football. I do too. Who are your favorite teams, college or pro?

My favorite college team is the Michigan Wolverines because I was born and raised in Michigan. And they're actually pretty good too! As for NFL, I don't really have a favorite. I like the Atlanta Falcons because I think Michael Vick is really, really good. And I like the Philadelphia Eagles. But I'm a big college fan. We watch college football a lot.

I notice that you didn't mention the Detroit Lions.

(Laughs). Well, we try to be Detroit fans, but it's really tough. We are however, big Detroit Pistons fans, who were champions last year and are in the finals this year. And I can't wait to watch them play the Spurs.

If you couldn't be an actor, what would you be? Where would we find you 10 years down the road?

I would love to go the acting route, but if I couldn't, I would want to be like Robert Rodriguez, a writer and director. Because I do a lot of home movies with Taylor Dooley and her younger brother. We make a lot of films together and we're actually in the middle of one right now. So, we have a lot of fun doing that. And I'd really love to do that if the acting thing didn't work out.

What projects are you currently working on? Where can we see you next?

Right now, I just flew in from Toronto because I started shooting Cheaper by the Dozen 2. And that's going to be a lot of fun to shoot.

It's about the disorganized family, Steve Martin's family. And they have competitions with this new family that they meet on summer vacation. My mom is Carmen Elektra and my dad is Eugene Levy. We're this straight- A, athletic, organized family. And we just have all these competitions like canoeing and jet skiing.

Ashton's not in this one. But it stars Tom Welling, Bonnie Hunt, Steve Martin, Hilary Duff, Eugene Levy, and Carmen Elektra.

And you!

And me (laughs)!

And lastly, when you're not working on a film or television show or commercial and not in school, what kinds of things do you like to do in your free time?

I love playing football and baseball. And I also love making home movies with Taylor and my friends. Between those two things, that's how I like to spend all my free time.

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