Actor, action-movie star, farmhand, Calvin Klein underwear model, and nascent motivational speaker, Kellan Lutz is the man of the moment. The determined 25-year-old Lutz has made a name for himself with roles as a cocky, good-looking jock with rich parents on CW’s 90210, a soldier stationed in Iraq in HBO’s Generation Kill (2008), and a vampire in the Twilight series—a trifecta of mainstream masculinity. He is a superhero-in-waiting, unbothered by an unbuttoned shirt, and thirsty for a franchise phenomenon of his own.
Born in North Dakota and raised in Arizona with frequent visits to the family farm in Iowa, Lutz has a backstory that is authentically rugged and thoroughly American—a Bruce Weber–esque narrative that became an actual Bruce Weber narrative in 2004 when Lutz appeared, photographed by Weber, on the cover of the A&F Quarterly magazine. But it’s Hollywood time now, and Lutz is hard at work. There’s this month’s A Nightmare on Elm Street remake; a turn as a hotheaded lacrosse player opposite fellow Twilight-er Ashley Greene in Warrior; the independent murder mystery Meskada with Nick Stahl and Grace Gummer; and then, most importantly, more Twilight (the third installment, Eclipse, is out in June). Lutz believes in paying it forward and the laws of attraction. Even stray pups follow him home.
MARK JACOBS: Hi, Kellan? Where are you right now?
KELLAN LUTZ: I am in my backyard in L.A. hanging out with my two dogs.
JACOBS: Who are your dogs?
LUTZ: Kola is a shepherd-husky mix I adopted from the Compton animal shelter. Kevin is the newest, most adorable member of our family. He’s a Chihuahua. I found him on the street when I came back from one of my trips.
JACOBS: You spent time on a dairy farm in Iowa while you were growing up?
LUTZ: Iowa is where the big farm was, where my grandparents lived. After my parents divorced, we would visit them. My mom would send me out to the pigpen, where we had these huge, huge pigs. I would stand there for six hours holding a hose, watering pigs. They’d dive in the mud and shake it off, and I’d go home covered in it. I loved the whole thing of getting wet and dirty and then getting in a warm bath.
JACOBS: You also have experience spraying crops and building silos. Are you aware of how this story reads in New York and L.A.? Anything involving uncontrived hard labor is irresistible to the style industry.
LUTZ: I’d rather do manual labor than sit behind a desk. And as my grandparents got older, I’d fly out there and help out around the farm. We’d tear barns down; we’d build barns. I’d rather be outside rolling hay or driving the tractors.
I know a lot of people who run shirtless because they don’t want their clothes to get sweaty. I’m just a normal person. And I have four paparazzi who sit outside my house all day.KellAn Lutz
JACOBS: Then how did you choose Hollywood?
LUTZ: I have a lot of older brothers who messed up in different ways in my mother’s eyes. So I learned from all of their mistakes. I can’t go into detail, but while I was growing up, I always tried to make it a goal to relieve some of the stress my mother went through. I applied myself to school very diligently. I wanted to go out of state so I wouldn’t have to depend on my mother. And L.A., where my father lived, seemed to call to me.
JACOBS: Why acting?
LUTZ: In L.A., I was meeting people who were all actors. My mind started to open up to what acting was. I didn’t realize that Brad Pitt was a real person. I didn’t think he was a robot or a machine, but I thought you were just born into acting—that it’s a family tree, kind of like NASCAR. No one can just say, “Hey, I’m going to be a
NASCAR driver.” They need to have some way in. Once I was in L.A., I realized anyone could do this. Why not give it a shot? I started going to a ton of acting classes, and I found I had a real passion for it, probably the biggest passion I’ve ever had in my whole life. So I decided to put school aside, put all my scholarships aside, put everything that I worked hard on for my mother and myself aside, and pursue this roller-coaster ride.
JACOBS: How old were you when you got the -Abercrombie & Fitch cover?
LUTZ: Eighteen. I was actually working in L.A. at an Abercrombie to make friends. I had no friends.
JACOBS: On the sales floor?
LUTZ: I was selling clothes. But I believe my personality helped, because I was the worst folder. I just couldn’t care to do it. I felt like I had ADD. I would just goof around and shoot rubber bands everywhere. Somehow the manager didn’t fire me, and I became a greeter, when you have to stand outside, you know, topless, and kind of finagle people into the store. Then Abercrombie had an audition, and my agency sent me out. I met Bruce Weber, and they chose me. I wasn’t the strongest, most fit, best-looking guy on that shoot, but somehow Bruce put me on the cover. I was just lying on the grass playing with this beetle, and they used that shot. I was still working at the store when the magazine came out two months later. I was just very lucky, and that opened up doors to acting.
JACOBS: Unlike some actors, you don’t seem to have a need to distance yourself from modeling.
LUTZ: It’s weird that the world sees modeling as a negative. It just blows my mind how many people think that because I was a model, I think I’m pretty and that I can use my looks to get ahead. I’m not pretty!
JACOBS: You really don’t think you’re pretty?
LUTZ: It’s funny when people say you have sex appeal or call you the next Brad Pitt. I just laugh. I’m not that. I don’t want to be that. “You’re a sex icon.” Why? Because I played a vampire in a movie? It’s all very unearned. If I had the best freaking abs in the world or if I looked like Brad Pitt does in Fight Club , then cool, but I’m not starving myself. I eat what I want, and I’m not a workout fiend. My genetics are good, but they aren’t crazy He-Man style. I don’t get it, but I appreciate it. [laughs]
JACOBS: And sometimes you just like to go on a shirtless run with your dog, and people need to deal with it.
LUTZ: I don’t see why it’s special. I know a lot of people who run shirtless because they don’t want their clothes to get sweaty. I’m just a normal person. And I have four paparazzi who sit outside my house all day.
JACOBS: Your humility is charming, but do you ever look at other guys going up for a role and think, “I can destroy you with my good looks”?
LUTZ: I love competition. I thrive on it. I love being able to win the room over before even walking through the door. When I was going out for Twilight, I was a big guy, especially after Generation Kill. I was close to 200 pounds and just all muscle. The character description was a big, bulky fighter, a wrestler, a bear of a guy with a smile. I walked in the waiting room and I noticed nine other actors, and half of them were trying to do push-ups, and half of them were trying to be all tough. I chuckled to myself. I’m very perceptive. I love seeing guys out of the corner of my eye be like, “Great.” Because they see a guy walking in who totally looks the role. It’s funny. I don’t try to be cocky, but I’m just very confident because I know I did all of my homework. I also really love, love, love doing character pieces. I love wearing wigs to auditions, even though sometimes they don’t work. I love trying to play the not-confident guy, the guy against my normal character, because that’s when real acting comes into play.
I know a lot of people who run shirtless because they don’t want their clothes to get sweaty. I’m just a normal person. And I have four paparazzi who sit outside my house all day.Kellan Lutz
JACOBS: So you have four very different films coming up.
LUTZ: I’ve had a great run with great projects. Especially the new ones. I love this industry. It keeps you young; it really does.
JACOBS: You’re pretty young.
LUTZ: I’ll always see myself as young at heart. I mean, I’m 25, and some people see that as getting up there.
JACOBS: Who’s telling you you’re getting up there?
LUTZ: People are saying that you can’t play high school anymore and I’m like, “Thank god.” I want to be the Jason Bourne type. I don’t want to play high school.
JACOBS: You’re unapologetic about wanting to be an action star.
LUTZ: It’s all about goals. If you just take whatever comes to you, then you’re not going to get anywhere. The more you say it around town or in meetings, it starts happening. That’s what’s going on right now. People are seeing me as the guy who wants to get hurt, who wants to break a bone, get bruises. And that’s how it was growing up with six brothers. I got beat up, and I beat up people. I have no real tattoos. I wear my bruises and tons of scars as my -tattoos. And I’ve grown up loving action movies. I’d love to work with Sylvester Stallone, and I almost had the chance to in The Expendables [out August 2010], but that didn’t work out because of scheduling. I’d love to work with him and Mickey Rourke, Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme. . . . Bloodsport  was one of my favorite movies. I feel like there’s only so many roles out there and such a surplus of actors that if you don’t have a goal, you just get lost.
JACOBS: You’ve covered your bases. You even did a Hilary Duff video [“With Love”].
LUTZ: My agent and my girlfriend at the time both wanted me to go out for the audition. There’s a quote, I think it’s Wayne Gretzky, that says you miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. That’s so true. That’s why I love going out for any audition. I’m very professional, I study my stuff, I work on it, and even if I’m not right for the job, so what? I know I did my best.
JACOBS: You keep getting roles because you’re a talented actor and you’re dedicated to what you do.
LUTZ: I’ve got a lot to learn, and I’m very blessed to work with such talented actors. I’m nowhere near my goal. It’s all about applying yourself and taking time to work and train. I want to be doing this until the day I die. I want to be in movies and working with people who push me to be a better actor. That’s what I look forward to, and that’s what’s important to me. I just want to test out all that Kellan is and push him to the limits and create new Kellans.
Mark Jacobs is a New York city–based writer and creative consultant.