Taylor Lautner was expecting to slip quietly into Manila; after all, his flight would land at almost 4 in the morning. But he was surprised by hundreds of excited fans as he exited the airport.
“It was extremely amazing, a great welcome to the Philippines,” he said in an exclusive interview with Inquirer Lifestyle minutes before his press conference at the Makati Shangri-La.
Taylor will get the chance to spend more time with his Filipino fans—first at his Benchsetter Fun Meet held Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, and at his mall shows Sunday at Glorietta (3 p.m.) and Mall of Asia (5 p.m.).
It’s Taylor’s first time in Manila. He told media, “I heard it was beautiful, I heard that the people are amazing, very gracious, very kind. From what I’ve seen so far, they are. It’s awesome to be here.”
Bench flew in the 21-year-old who joined its roster of Global Benchsetters earlier this year. The lineup includes Hollywood hunk Liam Hemsworth, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, pop star Bruno Mars, Korean star Lee Min Ho, “Pretty Little Liars” actress Lucy Hale, singer Jessica Sanchez, musician Joe Jonas, Siwon and Donghae of Super Junior and 2PM’s Nichkhun. “Bench to me is about being yourself, expressing yourself. Being relaxed, having fun. I think it was just the perfect marriage,” he said.
Taylor thinks his personal style is a great fit for the brand. “I’m simple. I like simple. I’m a jeans and T-shirt guy, I love some of Bench’s shoes, really comfortable jeans, simple V-neck shirts and other stuff. This jacket, for example, what I love about Bench is you can dress it up or down. It’s the same outfit. I can show up to something in this jacket, I can make it look really fancy or spiffy, or I can just wear it out now and be cool and relaxed.”
The good stuff
Taylor shot his Bench campaign in Los Angeles a few months ago with director and photographer Anthony Mandler who has worked on the music videos of many hot names in music—from Rihanna, Beyonce and Jay-Z to Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Selena Gomez.
“As soon as myself and Bench teamed up, I knew the perfect person to do the photo shoot and the commercial was Anthony. He is extremely talented, I’ve worked with him, we did a Men’s Health cover a few years ago, so that’s where we met. I became a massive fan of his and I just want to work with him across the board for the rest of my life.”
Taylor had a lot of fun in the shoot and he got to test Bench’s clothes and discover just how comfortable they were. “It was awesome, I was doing a lot of activity in the commercial and that’s something I love about Bench’s clothes the most—they’re super-comfortable. You can do whatever in them, and the most important thing for me, if it’s not comfortable I’m not going to wear it. So the fact that I got to do all that in their clothes, I was sold. This is the good stuff.”
Bench CEO Ben Chan has good memories of the shoot with Taylor as well. “He was such a nice guy. He’s so down-to-earth. We were on the set and we were on the side just watching him and watching him on the screen and he would approach us and ask, ‘You like it? Are you happy with that?’ Ganun siya kabait.”
Taylor is a nice guy—that’s an observation made by everyone who came in contact with him during his visit.
Although Taylor started his career early (he says he was eight or nine when he realized he wanted to be an actor), it was his role as werewolf Jacob Black in the “Twilight” movie franchise that catapulted him to fame. Upon his arrival here, some fans greeted him by screaming, “Jacob! Jacob!”
He doesn’t mind, he says, he feels strong affection for the character that opened doors for him. “I love Jacob and the franchise gave so much to me. We made those movies for fans, and fans only. So yeah, it’s great, I love being called Jacob.”
Asked why he thinks the “Twilight” movies did so well, he said, “It’s something about those books because that is what the fans fell in love with. They fell in love with the books and they fell in love with the characters Stephenie Meyer created. All we did was bring those words on a page onto a screen. Stephenie Meyer is a genius, she knows how to make an amazing book, create very appealing, relatable characters. Most of the credit goes to her and the books.”
Press con host Sam Oh disagreed, “You’re so modest. I insist your abs had a lot to do with it.”
Taylor laughed and said, “Nooooo.”
But those abs didn’t come for free—he worked hard at transforming his body while battling his teenager’s metabolism to look like the werewolf that Jacob would become in the second “Twilight” film “New Moon.”
“It was really tough. I think I was 16 or 17, I was in the gym all the time for two months because my metabolism worked so fast and I couldn’t sweat too much, so I could not play any of my sports. I just had to sit in a gym, lifting heavy weights, eating healthy foods, I had to consume so many calories it was ridiculous. I’m not talking calories like ice cream and pizza, like healthy. Very lean meats, very healthy 4,500 calories a day. It was a big challenge.”
The last film of the franchise hit cinemas last year and after filming “Tracers,” his film about a New York bike messenger drawn into the world of parkour, Taylor has simple plans: “Right now this is what I’m focusing on, I’m excited to be here and see all the fans in the Philippines. When I go home I’m going to start filming something in September. It’s too early to say anything yet. I’m looking forward to doing something different. I believe you never stop learning and growing so I love challenging myself to doing different things.”