Shining in the Twilight
FOR millions of teenage girls around the world, the sight of Robert Pattinson on the big screen is an emotion-charging experience.
But for the British actor, who has become Hollywood’s hot new pin-up with his starring role in vampire romance Twilight, seeing himself prompts an emotional response of a different kind.
“I don’t watch my stuff, ever,” he says, with a shy glance.
“I can’t stand watching it — it makes me feel nauseous watching myself.
“I pick out every single little bit of my performance and just want to destroy it, so it’s really not a good idea to watch it any more.
“I’m just stupidly self-conscious.”
The sentiment about his awkwardness is hardly the regular conversational fodder of a movie heart-throb-on-the-rise, but it’s a common theme for Pattinson, 22, who is surprised by his new fame.
After all, Pattinson almost gave up acting last year after his poignant break-out role as the ill-fated Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
“My career wasn’t going the way I wanted,” he says.
“After Harry Potter I was offered a lot of generic teen things and I didn’t want to do anything like that.”
And then along came a little film called Twilight.
Based on the best-selling novel by US author Stephenie Meyer, Twilight tells the story of schoolgirl Bella, played by Into The Wild’s Kristen Stewart, who moves interstate and becomes intrigued by mysterious student Edward Cullen.
Director Catherine Hardwicke, who was behind youth-driven films including Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown and The Nativity Story, had auditioned countless young Hollywood actors for male lead.
But it was not until Pattinson flew to Los Angeles to do a screen-test with Stewart that the leading man was found.
Pattinson says he is still surprised at the turn of events.
“It’s funny how it just came out of nowhere,” he says.
“Last year I was doing nothing and I was going to give up acting, then suddenly one day (you) just do one job and then everything’s different.
“I kind of did the Twilight audition by accident, I just really liked how it went. It was actually the first movie I really wanted to do in ages.”
He says he never wanted to be an actor, with ulterior motives behind his first foray into the industry.
“I went to a little drama club when I was 15, only because lots of pretty girls went there,” he says.
“I had no interest in acting, I didn’t do it at school or anything. I thought it was silly, all the people who did acting at school I just thought ‘Urgh’.
“I wanted to be a writer and I worked backstage for a year and then I got an agent and I got a couple of movies and kept doing more.
“I only made the decision to take it seriously last year when it was too late to go to university.”
Pattinson’s intoxicating combination of matinee-idol looks and his intense, sometimes awkward, demeanour are reminiscent of 1950s star James Dean and late Australian actor Heath Ledger.
Like those actors, Pattinson is struggling with his new fame.
With an army of teenage girl readers whose enthusiasm for Edward and Bella’s supernatural romance is nothing less than frenzied, the film became a phenomenon across the world before it opened. The streets outside American cinemas offering midnight screenings of the film on the day it opened were lined with eager girls — not to mention their mothers, who have also voraciously absorbed the text.
I T has proved to be box office gold in the US, knocking James Bond off the No.1 spot and taking more than $200 million in North America alone in less than a month.
Pattinson, whose public appearances are met with hysteria, shudders as he recalls attending an early screening in Mexico.
“It went crazy. I just remember people surrounded the car and didn’t let me leave,” he says.
“It’s terrifying, but at the same time completely ridiculous. I mean people haven’t even seen the movie.
“All they’ve seen is the trailer and they still go nuts.”
Pattinson, who graces the covers of magazines across the world, says he is nervous about his heart-throb status.
“Once you’re becoming the ‘hot thing’ or whatever, magazines say ‘Oh we want to do a feature’ and I’ve just started to say ‘No’, because as soon as you start putting yourself out there — especially if you’ve only really done one American job — people want to tear you down,” he says.
“And I don’t want to tempt anybody to want to tear me down.”
In trademark self-deprecating fashion, Pattinson can’t even cope with praise from his family.
“My parents are always saying ‘Oh we’re so proud of you’ and I’m always like ‘Why? It’s just luck — I haven’t done anything’,” he says.
For Pattinson, who used to sleep on his agent’s couch when travelling to LA for auditions, fame does have its benefits.
“It’s good for work,” he says.
“I’ve been coming to LA for a few years and when you go to auditions where you know you have done the best audition, but you’re not famous enough, you know you’re not going to get it, just because of that.
“It’s nice when something is commercially viable — you are on more of a level playing field with other people.”
Not so good is being part of the big movie marketing machine, particularly when it comes to studio requests about his trademark hair.
Pattinson, who you get the feeling doesn’t like to play by anyone else’s rules, nods when asked about rumours the studio demanded he keep his golden-hued quiff out of sight while on the promotional trail.
“And I cut it yesterday,” he says.
“It wasn’t in the contract, it was just one of those silly things where they said ‘Oh people aren’t going to like you looking messy’, and then as soon as fans start saying ‘Oh we like him looking messy’, they’re like ‘You have to look messy all the time’.
“It’s annoying. It’s all dictated by what they think the fans want, but no one knows what anybody wants.”
P ATTINSON says his concerns about being tied to a studio franchise made him consider not signing on for the career-making role, which will likely span three films, with the novel’s sequels New Moon and Eclipse.
“I did hesitate, but there were two things that made me go ahead,” he says. “I (in character) had to be 17 the whole time so they can’t suddenly decide when I’m 28, ‘Let’s do another one’, so the time period was limited.
“Also, I liked what happened to the character in the second one where he’s not really in it, but he’s this ominous presence and has this dramatic comeback at the end. It’s like you wait the whole book for his reappearance.
“I’m barely in the second one and not in the third that much either. Plus I wanted to have a box-set as well.”
Twilight opens on Thursday.