(CNN)When Taylor Lautner started acting in the “Twilight” movies, he was just 16 years old. In order to keep weight on after long days filming and working out, he’d need to consume 5,000 calories a day and would fill up on greasy Carl’s Jr. meals, chasing them with milkshakes.
Now, he laughs at the thought of it.
Lautner is 30 years old, engaged, has dogs and lives a quiet life outside Los Angeles. He tells CNN that he likes to pop into the city for a meeting here and there, but that he is happy seeing himself as a regular guy — with just enough Hollywood pull to put it to good use.
“I like a little bit of space,” he tells CNN. “I like being able to come into town and do my thing when I want and also be able to get away when we want as well and have some peace and quiet.”
Lautner began his acting career at 8 years old, working in commercials, doing voiceovers and eventually landing the role of Shark Boy in “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl” when he was 12.
In 2008, he starred in the first “Twilight” movie and his life changed dramatically, as the franchise’s rabid fans turned him into a teen icon. He says he leaned on his parents to keep him grounded.
“In ‘Twilight,’ I was the youngest — I was 16 — and so my parents were a huge part of (grounding me) and even when I was filming movies, when I was home, I still had to take out the trash. I still had to mow the lawn,” he says. His parents, he joked, would tell him, “We don’t care that you’re on the big screen. You still gotta do your chores.”
While he says he’s grateful for the role of shapeshifter Jacob Black in film series — and the paychecks that came with it — he decided to take a step back from Hollywood after starring in all five “Twilight” films.
“My parents definitely just put it into perspective. I think even for them it was uncharted territory for parents that have a 16-year-old going through that,” he says. “It was a learning curve for all of us as a family. And that’s why I think the step back is just a good refresh and just to make sure you’re doing things for the right reasons.”
“I sound like I’m on ‘The Bachelor’ — doing things for ‘the right reasons,'” he laughs, a famous line often cited on the reality dating show, a guilty pleasure of his.
He was searching for something meaningful, and that’s when he found love with his now fiancée, a nurse who worked brutal hours helping patients during the pandemic.
Lautner’s sister introduced the two when she brought her along to a game night at Lautner’s house.
“We’ve been together for four and a half years,” he says. “It’s been amazing. She makes me a better person.”
The two live together with their two rescue dogs — Lily, who was his fiancée’s dog before they got together, and Remi, their second dog — and Lautner has thrown himself into animal rescue work. He teamed up with Hill’s Pet Nutrition this year to promote the Clear The Shelters Campaign, which encourages people to adopt from local shelters.
“She had Lily already when we met and Lily quickly became my best friend,” Lautner says. “Next thing I know, she sends me a photo of Remi and (tells me) how Remi and her seven siblings and mom were abandoned in a field. Remi just has been a life changing dog for us over the last year.”
As for Hollywood, he says he’s reading scripts and producing a few things, but he’s not pressuring himself to work for the sake of it.
“I’m reading stuff and what I wanna be doing at this point is I only want to do something if it means something to me,” he says. “Whether that means it’s a story I’m passionate about or if it’s working with somebody that I really want to work with.”