By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
No one hopes the teen vampire flick Twilight is a hit more than 16-year-old Taylor Lautner.
Lautner plays Jacob Black, who in Twilight chiefly serves to tell the heroine, Bella (Kristen Stewart), that her boyfriend, Edward (Robert Pattinson), is a vampire, explaining a Washington state Indian legend.
Things pick up for Jacob in New Moon, the second book in Stephenie Meyer's series, when his own supernatural quirk sets in, making him leader of a pack of werewolves with his own crush on Bella.
That's the stuff Lautner hopes he'll have a chance to perform.
"Jacob's character definitely becomes really interesting in the following book, so we'll see," he said in a telephone interview from Miami. "That would be really cool. The heart of the books is the competition going on between Jacob, Edward and Bella.
"I've been trying to not think about it too much. There's no confirmation on any sequels. Everyone's waiting for opening weekend to see how (Twilight) does, and make a decision right after that.
"So, tell all the fans to go out and see it five times, minimum."
Not that Meyer's readers need prodding. Her books evoke devotion, especially among teenage girls, rivaling any series this side of Harry Potter. "Twilighters" immediately began online debates on the casting of a movie version of Twilight, and still argue about director Catherine Hardwicke's choices on fan sites.
Lautner appears to be a popular decision. The former "Sharkboy" of Robert Rodriguez's 3-D mess, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, gets generally positive reaction, if sometimes a bit over the top.
"One of my friends sent me a (Web) link with a note saying: 'What is this?' " Lautner said. "I clicked and it was women's underwear being sold with my name on it. That was very interesting, but I have no idea what it's about.
"I mean, we have teenage girls (as fans) but I think there are just as many Twilight moms out there. It's crazy.
"Fans are so dedicated to the book, so passionate about it. They want to make sure (the movie) is perfect. I don't blame them for prejudging things. It's hard not to.
"What they'll love the most is that we stayed so unbelievably true to the book. They're going to be so happy about that."
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.