For a time, there was nothing bigger in pop culture entertainment than Twilight. With a hit book series that spawned an even-more-successful film franchise, Twilight was the next Harry Potter in terms of multi-media domination. Twilight’s trio of heroes were girl-next-door Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, and her two love interests, the brooding vampire Edward, played by Robert Pattinson, and the hunky werewolf Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner.
Fans divided themselves into Team Edward and Team Jacob, and couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen. From 2008-2012, Twilight reigned supreme at the box office with five hit films. Since the series ended, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have stayed on top of the A-List and been given headlining roles in other franchises, including Charlie’s Angels and Batman. But it seems Taylor Lautner’s Hollywood star has fizzled out. What went wrong with the former It Boy’s career? Here’s why Hollywood doesn’t cast Taylor Lautner anymore.
He was too slow moving on from ‘Twilight’
Whereas Stewart and Pattinson both secured starring roles in other films while Twilight played out, proving their range in projects like Adventureland and Water for Elephants, Lautner seemed late out of the gate to find his next film. In fact, his first film role outside the Twilight franchise was a bit part in the disastrous ensemble piece Valentine’s Day in 2010. The critically-panned film holds an 18% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. If Lautner wanted to prove he could have a career beyond Twilight, he needed to find a starring vehicle fast. Unfortunately…
His first star vehicle bombed
In 2011, with Twilight fever reaching a height as the series neared its end, Hollywood decided to see if Lautner’s good looks and brooding intensity could translate to box office gold in other films. Lautner’s star was put to the test when he landed his first solo starring role in Abduction, a thriller about a young man on the run after finding out the people he thought were his parents actually abducted him as a child.
Unfortunately, this thriller was not thrilling and bombed both critically and financially. The film sits at an abysmal 5% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed only $28 million domestically on a $35 million budget. With Twilight coming to an end the next year, Lautner needed to prove Abduction was a one-off and he could carry a film.
His next starring role went straight-to-DVD
After Abduction, Hollywood seemed reluctant to cast Lautner. It took four years for Lautner to land his next starring follow-up, the 2015 parkour action film Tracers. Unfortunately, Tracers fared even worse than Abduction. It wasn’t even released in theaters in the U.S. and made barely $3 million worldwide. While its Rotten Tomatoes score is higher, at 25% that’s not saying much. Even though it was four years after Twilight ended, Lautner still hadn’t emerged from the series’ shadow.
Critics roasted his acting skills
Worst of all, the critics were merciless in their assessment of Lautner’s acting skills.
“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,” Movieline wrote of Lautner’s performance in Abduction.
His acting in Tracers was similarly lambasted. “Lautner’s here to move at top speed, leap over walls, and make pained faces when the going gets tough…. Anything more than that is beyond his skill level,” Blu-ray.com declared.
Even when Lautner attempted a serious passion project in 2016 with the low-budget drama Run the Tide, critics wouldn’t give him a break. “He just isn’t very believable, as much as he tries to be,” The Young Folks said in its review.
He was accused of dating his co-stars as publicity stunts
It seems the only showbiz lesson Lautner learned from Stewart and Pattinson is to date your co-star. But unlike K-Stew and R-Patz, Lautner broke up with them when the films premiered. Both Abduction and Tracers’ female stars were romantically linked with him but only briefly, leading to accusations that the relationships were publicity stunts to boost his career. Then there was his most famous one…
He dated Taylor Swift and didn’t even get a breakup song
Swift and Lautner, aka “Taytay,” were linked romantically during the filming of the aforementioned Valentine’s Day. True to form, they broke up right before the premiere. But what is not true to form is that Swift, notorious for using her breakups as fodder for her song catalog, never wrote a track about Lautner. Was he not good enough, or bad enough, to merit a diss track? There’s no such thing as bad publicity, but no publicity in this case is really sad.
He demanded ridiculous paychecks that got his movies shelved
Being one-third of a hit property let Lautner ask for more money than the usual Hollywood up-and-comer. He earned a staggering $5 million for Abduction and asked for more for future films. In 2010, before Abduction came out, Lautner was set to make $7.5 million for starring in Stretch Armstrong for Universal, Deadline reported. But after Abduction bombed, Deadline reported that Universal had dropped Lautner and shelved the film.
Similarly, Lautner had been tipped to star opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in an adaptation of the Biblical tale of David and Goliath that was shelved. As early as one month before Abduction came out, The Hollywood Reporter said, “Both actors command upwards of $10 million in asking prices, depending on the project.” But it appears Hollywood realized his box office returns were not worth the investment, and that film was shelved too.
His Netflix project was accused of racism
Bereft of other venues, Lautner latched himself onto a big name project with a big name creator in 2015: The Ridiculous 6. This Adam Sandler vehicle for Netflix is notoriously bad. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not only that, it was famous during production for its Native American cast members leaving and protesting the terrible stereotypical jokes and names at their expense. Lautner, who claims to have distant Native American ancestry and is himself famous for playing the Native American Jacob Black, ended up looking insensitive by taking part in the film.
He’s not focusing on his career
In 2016, Lautner appeared to confirm to Reuters that he’s just not as focused on his career right now. When asked where he career was going, he responded, “For me the biggest thing is just surrounding myself with people that I love, just spending time… You know, I could be sitting in a cardboard box and that’s where I’m happiest.”
And who are the people that he loves spending time with? His most high-profile relationship in recent years has been with Billie Lourd, his Scream Queens co-star. The couple started dating shortly before Lourd’s mother Carrie Fisher died in December 2016. Although the relationship ended by July 2017, by all accounts, Lautner was a supportive boyfriend to Lourd during that time.
“The truth of the matter is, the guy is pretty spectacular,” Lourd’s uncle Todd Fisher 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.”
Hollywood fat-shamed him
There’s nothing wrong with putting on a few pounds, but as we know, Hollywood is merciless. Lautner made headlines for his six-pack abs in Twilight, and he suffered some fat-shaming for putting on a bit of weight in recent years. But he has found some success on TV as his turn on Scream Queens showed, despite its cancellation. And the fact that both Taylor Swift and Billie Lourd remained friendly with him after their breakups says something about his character. So, here’s hoping that one day Lautner finds what he’s looking for, whether in or out of the Hollywood machine.