Born Taylor Daniel Lautner in Grand Rapids, MI on Feb. 11, 1992, he was studying martial arts at the age of six and earning first place trophies in competition only a year later. Under the guidance of seven-time world champion and actor Mike Chat, he received such a degree of proficiency that he was asked to represent the United States in the 12 and under division at the World Karate Association. There, he took home three gold medals and earned the title of Junior Forms and Weapons champion. At the advice of Chat, he also began auditioning for acting roles at nine. After flying to Los Angeles to try out for a television commercial, he found this new pursuit to his liking and began auditioning on a regular basis. Eventually, the constant flights proved wearying enough for Lautner and his family - as well as detrimental to his school work and training - that they relocated permanently to Los Angeles in 2002.
Lautner continued to compete regularly on the martial arts circuit, which yielded top honors at the World Karate Association in 2001 and a first-place ranking in the world for several disciplines in 2003. He also broadened his interests to include jazz and hip-hop dance; even finding time to play on his school's football and baseball teams. Despite an extra-curricular schedule that would overpower most children his age, Lautner still found time to audition for film and television roles, which he began to land with some regularity in 2001. He made his television debut in the 2001 TV-movie "Shadow Fury," and soon logged appearances on episodes of "The Bernie Mac Show" (Fox, 2001-06) and "Summerland" (The WB, 2004-05). In 2003, director Robert Rodriguez was won over by Lautner's abundant self-confidence and cast him as Sharkboy, a young hero raised by sharks, in his CG-driven kids' fantasy "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D." Rodriguez was apparently unaware of Lautner's extensive martial arts training prior to hiring him for the role, and later asked him to choreograph all of his fight scenes in the film.
After completing filming on "Sharkboy" in 2004, Lautner transitioned to another larger-than-life character - the highly competitive son of Eugene Levy in Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005). The role, which afforded him some exceptionally mild moments of romance with pre-teen actress and dancer Alyson Stoner, helped to elevate him to heartthrob status among girls twelve and under. Lautner also added voice-over work to his growing resume by playing Youngblood, the malevolent, hook-handed ghost of a young boy on the animated series "Danny Phantom" (Nickelodeon, 2004-2007). By this point, Lautner had officially retired from martial arts competition to focus solely on acting.
More voice-over work preceded his first turn as a semi-regular character on a TV series with the short-lived "Love, Inc." (UPN, 2005-06). The sitcom fell victim to the merger of UPN and the WB, but Lautner was back on television in 2008 with the highly touted "My Own Worst Enemy" as the son of amnesiac secret agent, Christian Slater. Unfortunately, it was also pulled shortly after its debut due to low ratings. Lautner's up-and-down fortunes on television were soon eclipsed by the whirlwind of excitement surrounding his next feature, an adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's extraordinarily popular Gothic romance Twilight (2008). Lautner was cast as Jacob Black, a young Native American and the descendent of a long line of werewolves. Though the character was relatively minor in the original novel the character proved exceptionally popular with readers, leading Meyer to develop his character in subsequent books.
In the films, Black provided both romantic interest and essential information to the female lead, Bella (Kristen Stewart) about the vampire population in her hometown. His key scene - shirtless, of course - helped to make him a second-tier crush object for the book's abundant teenaged fans. Over the hype and huge box office numbers of the sequels, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009) and "Eclipse" (2010), Black began to be considered for adult roles outside the franchise. Garry Marshall gave him his first shot when he cast him in the romantic comedy Valentine's Day (2010) alongside some of the hottest young names including Emma Roberts, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel.
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