Friday, November 20, 2009

The Twilight Zone

I had a sort of email interview with teen vampire du jour Robert Pattinson and Day and Night magazine carries the result today. Spent Wednesday night in a cinema-full of pubescent girls with my ears clasped protectively over my ears. I'm trying to think - did we have any Beatlesque-mania movies when I was a teen? I liked Dirty Dancing but I don't think I actually SWOONED when Patrick Swayze came on screen...

ROBERT PATTINSON is going to have to start wearing earplugs in public. When he took on the role of brooding young vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight last year, he was transformed overnight into a teen idol. Now that the sequel, New Moon, is on the cusp of release, the screams from the hordes of adolescent girls who follow his every move are set to be deafening.

The English actor is baffled by his sudden elevation to every teen girl's sexual fantasy. Glamour magazine named him Sexiest Man in the World in August. OK! magazine called him Hollywood's Most Eligible Bachelor in April. Those are a lot of superlatives for a 23-year-old guy who says his hands are so feminine-looking he was once a ladies' ring model for a mail-order catalogue.

"I don't feel that I am sexy at all," argues Pattinson. "Really, I don't feel very connected to that kind of talk, anyway. I know that other people say it, but I never thought like that. I never got any of the good-looking guy roles before this, so that says something!"

Before Twilight-mania, Pattinson was most famous as doomed schoolboy Cedric Diggory in Goblet of Fire, one of the Harry Potter franchise of films. Ironically, he's arguably as famous now as the star of the Twilight series as Daniel Radcliffe is as the bespectacled wizard, Potter.

Radcliffe, moreover, is not what you might call a sex symbol. When Pattinson was in Cannes last May to promote New Moon, he was shadowed ceaselessly by a chorus of swooning French schoolgirls. Never mind that Pattinson wasn't in any of the movies screening at Cannes film festival, nor that New Moon was not due for release for another six months: his presence is an event in its own right these days.

He concedes that the attention can get a little weird. "I did get this really bizarre horoscope thing from someone. It was a full-on zodiac reading, charting and intersecting all this stuff. It was over 20 pages long, basically saying we were destined to be together!

"I don't really believe in that stuff anyway, although I do believe in karma, mainly because it's bitten me on the ass so many times!"

He insists that his teen fans are more in love with the idea of his otherworldly character Edward Cullen than with Pattinson himself.

"It is funny because even the people that think like that [that he's a sexual fantasy], if you talk to them for five minutes and if one of them came up, after about five minutes the illusion has gone," he insists.

"I think people don't really know what they want, and often it is an imaginary thing that they want."

He could probably argue that this is also a factor in the constant buzz about the nature of his relationship with his co-star Kristen Stewart. Fans would just love to see the romance of Edward and Bella's impossible on-screen love bleed over into real life. Even though Pattinson has insisted he is just good friends with the 19-year-old who plays Bella, tabloids have built up a flurry of speculation that the pair are lovers/ engaged/expecting a baby.

Pattinson's antidote to the hype is to stick to friends from his old life. The son of a car salesman dad and a mother who worked in a modelling agency, he is careful to keep in touch with life under the teen-scream radar.

"I hang out with people I have grown up with, with a lot of people who are musicians," he says.

Even so, the Twilight phenomenon has not passed all of his friends by.

"Actually I worked a bit with them [the musician pals] on the soundtrack and it is so funny what has happened with them, just from having their name on a Twilight soundtrack. They have been doing gigs in America and they sell out every single time they play and they have really started on careers.

"But they should have had a career anyway. They are good enough to do it, but it certainly is a positive knock on effect.

"A friend of mine is doing a gig at The Whiskey in LA. This is a guy who is unsigned, completely unadvertised, just on his MySpace page, and the tickets and presale sold out quicker than any gig at the place ever. They sold out within an hour."

His friends' parallel success makes it clear to Pattinson that there are some positives to be milked from the juggernaut that is Twilight. He is happy to ride it for the time being, having just begun shooting Eclipse, the third episode in the series based on the Stephenie Meyer books of the same name. Filming on the fourth, Breaking Dawn, will begin at the end of next year.

In between, he has managed to play Salvador Dali in the low-budget Little Ashes last year. He filmed a family drama called Remember Me opposite Pierce Brosnan immediately after wrapping on New Moon. Next up is Unbound Captives, a western directed by actress Madeleine Stowe which also stars Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman.

He says he worries ("a little, maybe") about being typecast, so his diligent work ethic is to address that fear. The idea is that when, and if, girls stop pestering him in the street to bite them he will still have a career outside Edward Cullen to fall back on.

To this end, Pattinson also likes the turn of events in New Moon, which see his character fade a little into the background. Edward and Bella have been separated over Edward's fears that his vampire instincts to hurt his human girlfriend might overcome his love for her. In his absence, Bella finds herself drawn to her childhood friend Jacob, who is played by Taylor Lautner. Lautner packed on 30 pounds to show Jacob's growing maturity (as a man -- and as a werewolf, natch).

Pattinson has jokingly told how embarrassed he felt having to take off his shirt next to his newly-buff co-star, but he is relieved that the spotlight is a little more shared between them.

"I'm not carrying New Moon, which is nice, I'm just supporting really," he says. "It means I'm looking forward to it -- which normally I don't. I don't usually like watching myself!"

But while his teenage fans will continue to do that for him, Pattinson also believes the Edward of New Moon is one he can more easily relate to as a regular guy.

"He can feel that he is making the wrong decision, but he makes it anyway," says Pattinson. "You do feel that a lot as a guy in relationships and I felt I knew how to do that. In New Moon, he can see he is making the wrong decision, the audience can see it, Bella can see it, everybody can see it but he is compelled to mess it up."

Pattinson seems very keen on finding something normal to relate to in the midst of all the fantasy. Shouldn't he just relax and take advantage of the things his position at the top of the hunk food chain could afford him?

"It's funny, I don't have any massive desires. I really don't," he says emphatically. "I like shitty stuff. I still have a crap car somewhere lost in LA. I don't recall where I parked it.

"I don't request anything from anyone, so I don't want them to ask things of me. There are actors who want that attention, and the paparazzi feel they have a right for me to give them something. But I don't care about any of that stuff."

New Moon is out today

- Susan Daly

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