Jacob is a blue-collar high schooler who will stop aging as he continues to shapeshift, has animal magnetism to spare, is half-naked most of the time since his body temperature is 108.9 degrees and is a gifted mechanic. Drawbacks: He has a nasty temper that causes him to change into a raging wolf the size of a horse. And he isn't Edward.
"New Moon is really a lay-up to the triangle," says Melissa Rosenberg, the screenwriter for all the films based on the book franchise so far, including next summer's Eclipse. "Edward is the ultimate guy in Twilight, and there is a massive following for him. The challenge of New Moon is to set up the third leg of the triangle, with Jacob being strong enough competition for him. That way, Bella's choice in Eclipse is an actual dilemma. But in New Moon, it's the audience who is torn."
Pattinson, 23, the bed-headed Brit who plays Edward, jumped out early in the cover-boy sweepstakes after the first film took a nearly $400 million bite out of the worldwide box office. Jacob, a mere human then, had only a couple of scenes. But Lautner is already catching up, especially after his maybe-girlfriend, country cutie Taylor Swift, blew him a kiss and mouthed his name while hosting Saturday Night Live.
In New Moon, "Edward does make a stupid mistake by leaving Bella, and that allows Jacob in," says director Chris Weitz. "You can understand why Bella starts to develop feelings for him. He's the right man at a frightening time for her, and his devotion is touching. Even die-hard Edward people will understand."
Stewart, 19, certainly enjoyed the change of pace on camera. "Both of them make me feel completely different," she says of her co-stars. "Taylor is an impulsive actor, not Method at all. It's very easy to smile with him. With Rob, we both tend to worry and over-analyze everything."
As for any rivalry between the two male leads, "I think Rob enjoyed teasing Taylor about his exercise regimen," Weitz says. But Pattinson appears more than ready to share the paparazzi-propelled burden of Twilight mania. "Rob would like me to say, 'This is Taylor's film. Rob isn't in it at all.' But subtraction equals multiplication in this case. It will create more hysteria, not less."
Lautner says there is only one team when it comes to making the movies. "We all get along great and we're in this together. Rob did a terrific job of bringing Edward alive. I just hope fans believe I did the same for Jacob."
Even Twilight's creator isn't above playing favorites, however.
While she was bringing Jacob to life on the page, Meyer herself couldn't help but fall for his charms. The character initially existed in the first book as a device to explain the tense relationship between his Quileute tribe and the Cullen clan to Bella, a newcomer to Forks, Wash. He grew into a central character, however, in New Moon, and Meyer even went back and put more of him and his father in Twilight while it was in the editing stage.
As she wrote on her website: "Jacob was my first experience with a character taking over – a minor character developing such roundness and life that I couldn't keep him locked inside a tiny role. ... Even when Jacob only appeared in Chapter 6 of Twilight, he was so alive. I liked him. More than I should for such a small part."
Still, the werewolf has been the underdog from the start, even if Bella would have to make the sacrifice of becoming a vampire herself to stay with Edward.