The Stunning Transformation Of Taylor Lautner

You probably know him best for his role playing heartthrob werewolf Jacob Black in the "Twilight" movies, but Taylor Lautner has been gracing us with his presence on the screen since he was a gawky pre-teen: It's hard to forget his iconic song and dance performance in 2005's "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl." The multi-talented actor, who was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is also a decorated martial artist.

Since rising to superstardom during the height of the success of the "Twilight" film franchise, Lautner has maintained a relatively low profile. He's careful about taking on new projects and is relatively private when it comes to his life nowadays, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to make headlines here and there.

Keep reading to discover how Taylor Lautner transformed from a martial arts-loving kid into one of the highest-paid actors of the 2010s and even more.

He had a typical upbringing in suburban Michigan

Taylor Lautner was born on February 11, 1992, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Deborah and Daniel Lautner. He grew up in the suburb of Hudsonville (via IMDb). He has a younger sister named Makena, with whom he has remained close. His dad was a pilot and his mom worked for a software company. He had a happy and peaceful childhood — though he did reveal to MLive that his house burned down when he was just four years old. Luckily, he and his family were staying at his aunt's house when the fire occurred, and no one was injured in the blaze.  

Lautner attended Catholic church as a child, and his parents instilled in him a strong work ethic (via Rolling Stone). As a result, he spent much of his childhood playing and excelling at sports, including football, baseball, and karate, and even went on to compete in the latter at the global level.

Martial arts paved the way for his acting career

Before Taylor Lautner became a beloved actor, he was a child martial artist with serious moves. Lautner began participating in martial arts when he was just six years old and took first place in three events at his first national tournament by the time he turned seven (via MMA Underground). By the time he stopped practicing martial arts at 14, he was a four-time world champion, as he noted on "The Jonathan Ross Show" during a 2018 interview.

Lautner said that his coach, Mike Chaturantabut, encouraged him to give acting a shot. Chaturantabut also helped Lautner immensely at the beginning of his acting career by offering the family a place to stay in Los Angeles while Lautner auditioned. His coach truly believed in him, as is evidenced by the praise of his pupil he extolled to Rolling Stone: "People say Taylor got where he is because he has it. But he worked hard for it. He practiced like a disciplined Navy SEAL."

The Lautners moved to LA so Taylor could pursue acting

Soon, Taylor Lautner and his family moved their household to Los Angeles so he could pursue acting in earnest. At the very beginning of his career, Lautner mostly won minor roles in commercials and on sitcom television shows such as "The Bernie Mac Show" and "My Wife and Kids (via IMDb)." He also performed voiceover work on childhood favorites "Danny Phantom" and "What's New, Scooby-Doo?"

One downside to Lautner's burgeoning career? He reportedly became the subject of bullying at school. "Because I was act­ing," he told Rolling Stone, "when I was in school, there was a little bullying going on. Not physical bullying but people making fun of what I do ... I just had to tell myself I can't let this get to me. This is what I love to do. And I'm going to continue doing it."

He got his breakout role in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl

After a string of minor roles, Lautner got his first big break as one of the titular characters in 2005's "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl," directed by Robert Rodriguez of "Spy Kids" fame. The role allowed Lautner to show off his martial arts skills in its various fight sequences — and singular dance scene — though Rodriguez only learned of the young star's martial arts prowess after he'd already been cast. 

A young Lautner told "Access Hollywood" (via YouTube) that he was so excited he "couldn't sleep" after booking the job and added, "It's Robert Rodriguez, so I hope it'll do really well. I think it will." He also said that he thought his acting resume needed a bit more variety. (We wonder if a certain 2008 supernatural romance counts?) 

Despite all his enthusiasm, "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl" wasn't the career boon he'd hoped it would be, as the film didn't perform very well in theaters (via Box Office Mojo). 

Getting cast in Twilight changed his life

Though Lautner had a few roles after Sharkboy, none would skyrocket him to worldwide fame until a little movie called "Twilight," based on a vampire book of the same name, came along. He recalled to MLive that his agent told him about the role of protagonist Bella Swan's best friend, Jacob Black. Still, Lautner didn't grasp how much of a phenomenon the movie would become until he was already in the casting process. "I realized how big it was," he said. "Suddenly, it was all over the internet. I started hearing about all the hype, all the fans. I thought, 'Oh my goodness. If I get this, it'll be huge.' I realized I really want this."

"Nobody knew what 'Twilight' was going to be," Lautner also told Rolling Stone. "Nobody. We thought we were making it just for passionate fans of the book. People kept telling us, 'Oh, yeah, the movie is going to do so good.' And we were like, 'All right, whatever. We'll see.' But when the movie came out, I was just blown away. That's when I realized, 'Boy, what am I getting myself into?'"

He quickly became a globally-recognized actor after "Twilight" made more than $400 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo). And the rest, as they say, is history.

He was nearly recast in the Twilight sequels

While the first "Twilight" movie was an overnight success, the real vampire-werewolf-mania didn't begin until the sequels were released — and Taylor Lautner nearly missed out. In the second installment of the saga, "New Moon," Lautner's character Jacob Black bulks up and gains insane muscle mass due to his transformation as a werewolf. But there were reportedly initial doubts that Lautner could physically transform the way his character needed. Ashley Greene, who portrayed vampire Alice Cullen in the films, said on her podcast, "I don't remember if they had someone actually waiting in the wings, but I do remember there being discussions on whether or not he could transform into what he needed to be. I think we were all, at that point, replaceable" (via Insider).

But Lautner proved everyone wrong — and managed to secure his job — when he re-emerged looking the part of a super buff werewolf after drinking protein shakes, eating a lot, and training for several months putting on 20 pounds of muscle (per Rolling Stone).

"Honestly, if I would have let myself get to that darkest moment, it wouldn't have been good," he told MTV of the time when he thought he might lose the role. "So I tried to focus on what I could control the whole time and not let whatever was going on outside get to me. And that's what I did."

Taylor shot to major fame with the Twilight sequels

With the increasing success of the subsequent "Twilight" movies, Taylor Lautner's star only continued to rise. He won the People's Choice Award for Best Breakout Movie Actor in 2010 (via YouTube), hosted an episode of "Saturday Night Live," and was ranked No. 2 on Glamour U.K.'s Sexiest Men of 2010 list — losing the top spot only to his "Twilight" co-star and on-screen rival Robert Pattinson

The public could not get enough of Lautner — and the paparazzi and fans alike constantly followed him. He's told some interesting fan stories throughout the years, like the woman who asked him to sign her panties (via Entertainment Weekly) and another who got his signature tattooed on her arm (per Reuters).  

Lautner also acted in other projects in between his werewolf stints: He starred in 2010's "Valentine's Day" and 2011's "Abduction," the former of which saw him playing opposite his real-life girlfriend at the time, music superstar Taylor Swift (and yes, her song "Back to December" is about him). By then, Lautner was a globally recognized household name. 

He became reclusive after Twilight wrapped

After the "Twilight" hype died down, Taylor Lautner did his best to keep a low profile. The extreme level of fame that he achieved seemingly overnight was overwhelming to the young actor, especially since hordes of screaming fans followed him everywhere he went. He revealed that he didn't go to a movie theater, mall, or grocery store for 10 years to avoid being recognized. "I went so many years either not leaving my house, or if I did, hat, sunglasses, and just like, scared," Lautner said in an interview with "Today" (via People.) "It built up something inside of me where, I didn't know it, but I was scared to go out. I'd get super anxious to go out. So I just didn't."

He also reflected on the fickle nature of fame. "In the moment, it got frustrating because you just wanted to live a normal life. But then when that's taken away from you at all, you start to question yourself and start to be like, 'Oh, do people not care about me anymore?' When it goes away a little bit, you notice it, and that's the dangerous part because that can mess with your mind," he said at the time.

He took on a few roles after his time as a werewolf came to an end

After the "Twilight" movies wrapped, Taylor Lautner continued to act, mostly in smaller-budget films and television shows. He starred in "Tracers" and "Run the Tide" and appeared in two movies for Adam Sandler's production company, Happy Madison: "Grown Ups 2" and "The Ridiculous 6," the latter of which featured his "Twilight" co-star Julia Jones, aka Leah Clearwater (via IMDb).

He also joined the cast of "Scream Queens" for its second season playing Dr. Cassidy Cascade. He also held a recurring role on the BBC sitcom "Cuckoo."  After the series wrapped, Lautner took a long break from acting and wouldn't be seen onscreen again for a few years. After returning to acting from his break, he told "Today" that he feels "so much better today than I have in the last 4-5 years" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

He shocked fans by not reprising his Sharkboy role

In 2020, Netflix released "We Can Be Heroes," a Robert Rodriguez-directed spin-off of "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl." Fans of the original were excited that the OG Lavagirl, Taylor Dooley, would be returning but disappointed that Taylor Lautner was being replaced. 

When asked why he decided not to reprise his debut film role, he told Screen Rant, "You know, it just was during a point in my life where I took a step back ... to focus on things that were important in my life, and that was my family and my friends and my fiance. ... the timing just wasn't right for me, but I mean, Sharkboy will forever have a very special place in my heart."

In a later interview with Decider, Rodriguez explained, "I did call Taylor to let him know, 'There's no dialogue. It's not about the parents. It's not really a sequel — you'd have your face covered the whole time.' ... There wasn't a big enough role for him to do. It wasn't about those characters. ... Could you imagine if he was in it, and then [audiences] see it, and they're like, 'Wait! His face is covered the whole time! Hey, he didn't have any dialogue!' It'd certainly look like a demerit against him, and I wouldn't want that."

He got engaged

In 2021, Taylor Lautner and his girlfriend of three years, Taylor Dome, got engaged. The proposal was romantic, and Dome — a nurse from California — was said to be so overcome with emotion that she reportedly couldn't speak. "It actually did take her a little longer than expected to say 'yes' because she was weeping so hard," Lautner told "Access." He explained that Dome had initially requested a simple proposal — and while he popped the question in their kitchen, he took a simple gesture to the next level by including flowers, candles, and a neon sign asking for her hand in marriage.  

As for the whole having-the-same-name thing? "It's so narcissistic to be engaged to someone with your same name," he joked to "Access." "It's going to get very confusing ... the narcissism is incredible," he added about sharing a last name once the couple ends up getting married. 

The Twilight Renaissance has turned one of his lines into a meme

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the "Twilight Renaissance," a resurgence of the fandom's love for everything "Twilight." The resurrection of "Twilight" can be seen on TikTok, where one of Taylor Lautner's lines as Jacob became a meme: "Bella, where the hell have you been, loca?" (via the Daily Dot.) Lautner even stopped by "The Tonight Show" to recreate the scene with host Jimmy Fallon (via TikTok).

Lautner reflected on the renewal of "Twilight's" popularity during a January 2022 interview with ET Online. "The past few years ... it was just the TwiMoms stopping me in the street," he said, referring to the original fans of the films who have now grown up. "It just kinda outgrew itself. I love the TwiMoms, but only recently has it resurged."

"We have these young teenagers starting to watch it," he added. "It's crazy to see it come back around." He also told People that he's increasingly been stopped by teenagers in the streets again. But it seems that Lautner is now in a more comfortable place regarding his fame and being recognized. 

He reemerged from his acting hiatus

Taylor Lautner's years-long break from acting ended when he returned to the screen for the Netflix comedy "Home Team," co-starring Kevin James (via IMDb). The film is based on the true story of NFL coach Sean Payton's one-year suspension for his role in the 2012 "Bountygate" scandal, during which he assisted in coaching his son's middle-school football team. Lautner plays the 6th-grade team's coach, Troy Lambert. The role was a perfect fit for Lautner, given his love of football and his real-life friendship with Payton. He said the film "was a dream project for me because I got to make a movie with my friends about my friends" (via Decider).  

Another reason this movie got him to come out of his hiatus? "I love Happy Madison, [Adam] Sandler, the entire family," he told of the production company and creative team behind "Home Team." "None of their projects feel like work. ... I'll say yes to a Happy Madison project for the rest of my life."

He also added that working with the kids who make up his character's team was a fun experience. "It was really nostalgic and really cool to just hang out with these kids knowing what it was like for me 17 years ago being in that position," he said. "I just wanted to be there for them and just be their friend more than anything."

These days, he spends quality time with his loved ones — and two dogs

The actor has been enjoying what appears to be a far more low-key lifestyle since his werewolf days have ended, and now he has a fiancee and two dogs (named Remi and Lily, who, yes, have their own Instagram page) to enjoy it with. During a brief interview at the 2022 CMT Awards, Lautner noted that his favorite ways to spend his free time include hanging out with his fiancee and friends (via Twitter).

On their respective Instagram pages, Lautner and fiancee Taylor Dome can often be seen hanging out on the beach and around their house, and even at country music events like the 2022 CMT Awards, where Lautner presented an award. We're so happy to see this former teen heartthrob is no longer feeling the pressures of Hollywood, and is apparently living his best life!