Taylor Lautner

"It's just absolutely unreal and I didn't see it coming at all," says Taylor Lautner of the stratospheric level of fame that has come his way after starring in the Twilight films. "None of us did. My mind doesn't even go there. I'm just crazy thankful."

The exotic-looking youngster was plucked from obscurity to play werewolf Jacob Black in the vampire saga. At the time Twi-hards weren't sure this skinny 16-year-old wouldn't be able to cut it as vampire Edward Cullen's beefed-up love rival.

But in the space of three years the biggest screams on the red carpet were reserved for him. After bulking up the youngster was suddenly heart-throb material, topping 'most attractive lists' the world over, and the highest paid teen actor in the business.

Hailed by film critics as the most promising star to emerge from the franchise, Taylor's place in Hollywood seems assured. After starring in Abduction - his first starring role outside the vampire saga, one film exec described him as "a young Tom Cruise".

Yet as his profile has risen, the young actor hasn't forgotton where he cam from – he's funny, sometimes shy and always grateful for the opportunities that have come his way.

Taylor Daniel Lautner was born on February 11, 1992 in Michigan – the first child of Daniel Lautner, a pilot, and his wife Deborah, who works in IT.

At a very young age, Taylor discovered a passion for martial arts. Aged eight – two years after he took his first karate class – he earned his blackbelt, and by the age of twelve had become three times Junior World champion.

The young sportsman got interested in acting when his coach, who was involved in showbusiness, suggested he audition for a Burger King commercial. Though he was unsuccessful, Taylor enjoyed the experience so much he came home and told his parents he wanted to go into movies.

Soon the family found themselves travelling from Michigan to LA so Taylor could attend auditions. And after a few years his parents decided to move Taylor and his younger sister Makena to California so he could attend casting calls full time.

Now based in LA, Taylor's career started to take off, and his CV soon filled up with small parts in TV and film. But the budding actor found himself the target for bullies because of his desire to be a screen star.

"I just had to tell myself I can't let this get to me," he remembers of the time. "This is what I love to do. And I'm going to continue doing it."

Luckily he wasn't put off from following his dream, and in 2008 he landed the role that would change his life.

Twilight filmmakers searched far and wide for a suitable actor to play Jacob Black, Bella Swan's Native American friend. Taylor – who has distant Native American ancestry – as well as Dutch, German and French – fitted the bill.

He read lines with Kristen Stewart, who had already been cast as Bella, and producers knew they had found the right guy for the job.

Taylor's performance in the original film was praised, but when a new director stepped in for the sequel New Moon, there was talk of re-casting the role to account for the physical changes the character underwent as he became a muscle-bound werewolf for the first time.

Desperate to keep the role, Taylor embarked on a punishing weight-training regime and modified his diet to help him gain 30lbs of muscle.

The hard work paid off, and his place in the saga was guaranteed. "I saw him and thought 'Jesus, I'm going to get fired'," said Robert Pattinson – aka Edward Cullen, his on-screen love rival – of the teen's dramatic transformation.

Suddenly everyone was talking about Taylor – who was described by Mark Wahlberg as "better looking than Leonardo DiCaprio".

Over the course of the final films the 'Team Edward vs Team Jacob' debate began to tip in favour of Taylor's hunky character, and marriage proposals became commonplace on the red carpet.

But his busy schedule leaves little time for a girlfriend - although the eligible young star has been linked to Disney actress Selena Gomez and country singer Taylor Swift after starring with her in Valentine's Day.

The future is bright and Taylor has had his pick of film offers post Twilight. But despite the fame, and the $12.5 million he commands per film, he says none of it has changed him.

"The thing I love is that my home life hasn't changed. I still help out with the garbage. I still help out with the lawn," he says.
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