As mentioned in this morning's Movie News in 60 Seconds, twice-Razzie-nominated Twilight star Taylor Lautner will be working with twice-Oscar-nominated filmmaker Gus Van Sant on an indie film based on an as-yet-unspecified New Yorker article. The announcement apparently clarifies some horribly rude gossip story I'd never heard about involving Lautner, Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black having dinner together (GQ Australia actually asked the young actor if he was being hit on). What isn't clear, aside from the film's story details, is what this means for the careers of anyone involved. Is it a good move for Lautner? A bad move for Van Sant? Jointly up in the air following their respective latest disappointments -- as in the box office for Lautner's Abduction and as in the critical pans for Van Sant's Restless?
I think it's too soon to completely dismiss Lautner's post-Twilight potential, but then of course Van Sant (who had previously sought the gig directing Breaking Dawn?) has had plenty of total misses throughout his career, both with his indie stuff and his Hollywood fluff. We can appreciate his interest in experimentation, at least, even when it gives us something like the Psycho remake. Right now I'm seeing Lautner as a sort of reincarnation of Keanu Reeves, who got some early indie cred by working with Van Sant on My Own Private Idaho just as he was rising in Hollywood. Like Reeves, Lautner will probably end up balancing between action blockbusters (like the delayed Stretch Armstrong) and occasional indie dramas that no critics give him much of a chance with.
Seeing as how I've managed to avoid every thing he's done so far, I'm not one to make a true judgment, and as usual I'll just try and hope for the best while expecting the worst. So what are others saying about the pairing? Here's The Conversation heard around the blogosphere and Twitter:
Can't blame the kid for wanting to break out of the bestiality whispering franchise. - Niki Stephens, JoBlo.com
A smaller arthouse picture could end up being a good idea if Lautner manages to show off some real acting chops and prove that he’s more than just a set of rock-hard abs. - Angie Han, /Film
I think it's pretty admirable that he wants to take his career into a more artistic route, and Van Sant is certainly a good director to turn to for that. I look forward to see[ing] what happens, though it's more of a "I wonder what'll happen if I deliberately mix the wrong chemicals in chemistry class" feeling rather than any genuine interest. - Get the Big Picture
It’s this odd juxtaposition between director and star that’s only giving me a higher-than-normal interest in another Van Sant movie. Of course, it’s also doing the impossible by making me remotely intrigued by something starring Lautner. - Nick Newman, The Film Stage
The move by Lautner is an interesting one. But I like the move as it will hopefully attract a younger audience to watch indie films, the way that Black Swan did. - Mike Lee, Fused Film
We’re not even sure what to think about all this. It’s cool Lautner is using whatever clout he has left to get a project moving, but it seems going indie is his only option at this point since no studio is going to back a vehicle centered around the actor after witnessing the hard flop of “Abduction.” - Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
It appears that Team Lautner is doing a bit of damage control post-Abduction, but I’m not convinced he can handle weighty dramatic material; his stiff delivery is now pretty much a staple of the Twilight franchise. On the other hand, maybe it just takes a director like Van Sant to get a good performance out of the guy. - Adam Chitwood, Collider
Many predicted that [Abduction] would mark the end of Hollywood's great Taylor Lautner experiment, but it would seem that Gus van Sant didn't get the memo. [...] if Lautner wants to continue doing this whole "actor" thing instead of just moving to the world of male modeling, he has to make the most of this new Gus van Sant project. - Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend
It goes without saying that the young thesp can't afford many more clunkers like that if he's going to keep his career afloat once the "Twilight" series - the next entry of which is "Breaking Dawn - Part 1", releasing Nov. 18th - reaches the end of its run next year. - HitFix
The teen idol has not been short on opportunities. He won't have to work hard on this one to best Abduction's 4 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. - Brett Smiley, Vulture
Taylor Lautner's plan to just keep his head down, mouth open and let the roles drift in has hit a bit of a snag now that Abduction has shown that his propensity for sit-ups does not translate to box office. [...] It remains unclear how [this new] strategy will play into starring in a 3D movie about a stretchable toy man in bikini briefs. - Mark, I Watch Stuff
Unfortunately, details have yet to be released on the subject of the article, but here’s hoping for Lautner and Van Sant’s sake that it was about teenagers who work out their anger with the world by doing lots of sit-ups. - Sean O'Neal, A.V. Club
@misterpatches: I hope Van Sant convinced Taylor Lautner to star in Gerry 2 as a way of abandoning him in the desert.
@grking: My Own Private Twilight?
@MistaKwigz: Even Werewolves Get The Blues?
@HerrDirector: Surely a sign of the apocalypse?!?
@WickhamSpeaks: Two names that do not go together... Taylor Lautner & Gus Van Sant. WTF? Maybe GVS can help TayTay progress as an actor..
@jameswebtv: Gus is well known for working with non-actors.
@allflicker: Gus Van Sant wants to work with Taylor Lautner b/c of his acting skills. Sure...& Brandon Routh was the best possible Superman #castingcouch
@AroundNetworks: Wasn't this inevitable?
@patoeme: teaaaamm jacob
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.