Taylor Lautner wants to clear something up: He has no problem with going shirtless on screen.

“One thing that I have heard recently, which is not true and I didn’t say, was that I will never take my shirt off for a movie again,” says the 17-year-old actor, whose abs and pecs have been under an unprecedented amount of scrutiny since he packed on 30 pounds of muscle for New Moon, the second film in the Twilight series.

“I didn’t say that,” he insists. “If the character requires it, I will.”

That’s good to know, since with the rabid fan response to early shots of a shirtless Lautner in New Moon, he’ll probably be asked to appear that way a lot. Of course, before getting to this point, Lautner had to prove to the powers behind the hugely successful franchise that the cute little guy who played Jacob Black in the first film could transform as his character does for the sequel.

And while there was a lot of talk in the press that the producers were looking to replace him, Lautner said he had to ignore all of that.

“Honestly, I knew where my character went in New Moon, and that’s all I tried to stay focused on,” he says. “I couldn’t control things outside, I couldn’t control the media. But I could control what I was doing to portray Jacob Black correctly, so that’s what I stayed focused on the whole entire time.”

That focus paid off, as is evidenced by his gym-toned physique, plastered over New Moon ads and the cover of Mens Health. But Lautner claims the hard part wasn’t hitting the gym.

“The most important thing was the eating side,” he says. “Everybody thinks it was the actual getting in the gym, but that was easy. I was motivated. But the eating was pretty hard. We found out that I had to consume at least 3,200 calories a day just to maintain, and I was trying to gain.”

That meant stopping to eat every two hours or so, regardless of where his busy schedule took him, and carrying around bags of high-protein food, sometimes pausing mid-meeting to wolf down a couple of burger patties.

But Lautner insists it was all part of the job. “A year from now, if I love a character and I love a story that requires me to lose 40 pounds, I’m ready to do it,” he says.

Still, all the attention he’s been getting must be distracting, right?

“I don’t think there’s any way to prepare yourself for this phenomenon,” he says. “None of us expected it when we were filming Twilight. I don’t think there’s a way to ever get used to it. It’s not normal to drive down a street and see your face up on a billboard. But it’s Twilight. It comes with the job.”

As for all the tabloid attention, he does his best to keep a level head about it. “I try and stay away from what’s been written about me, because if (you) let that stuff get to you and it’s not true, it can drive you crazy,” he says.

Latest From ...