Three years before Taylor Lautner was cast as a young Jacob Black in the first 'Twilight' movie, director Robert Rodriguez plucked him from relative obscurity to star as the titular young superhero in his 2005 family film 'The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D.' It was Lautner's first shot at a leading role, but Rodriguez says he always knew it would not be the disciplined young actor's last. Considering Rodriguez is also responsible for giving stars like Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo and Salma Hayek big breaks, the filmmaker knows how to scout talent.

"He was the first Sharkboy we ever saw," Rodriguez told Moviefone, referring to the casting sessions he and his son/co-writer Racer sat in on to find the right young actor. "I turned the camera to my son after he left the room and asked, 'Do you think he's Sharkboy?' and he said 'Yes,' and we hadn't even seen any other actors. He was so convinced"

Rodriguez added that although they went ahead and screened other boys, it was "just undeniable" that Lautner, then 12, was the one.

"This kid was just from another planet. He was just so good, so physical, standing on one hand," he recalled, referring to Lautner's well-known martial-arts skills. "He was as close as we could get to a real kid who could be a sharkboy. We didn't have to do anything, just point the camera at him and let him run."

It was so obvious, Rodriguez said, he just knew Lautner would find success in Hollywood.

"If you had told me that day, 'Oh by the way in five or ten years this kid is going to be a huge star,' I would totally believe it."

In fact, Lautner, now 19, was so disciplined during the three-month shoot in Rodriguez' Austin, Texas-based studio, that Rodriguez has since made it a rule (for his family movies) to always hire at least one kid with an extensive martial-arts background.

"They are the leaders of the group, keep the other kids in line, and have so much discipline and focus they become good role models for the rest of the young cast," Rodriguez said. "He was so professional, even as a kid. He had the focus of an adult."

Unlike some of the emo young actors who play tortured souls, Lautner has none of that starving actor insecurity about acting.

"A lot of what gets you through Hollywood is confidence and overcoming fears, and Taylor has that, and he is just able to do everything."

Sounds like Lautner should collaborate with the director who gave him his breakout role for one of Rodriguez more "grown-up" films.

'The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D' is now available on Blu-Ray DVD.

[Photo: AP]





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