Robert Pattinson is bewildered. Toying with a half-empty bottle of Coke set in front of him, he thumbs the cap a few times before answering a question at the Four Seasons Hotel. He rumples his bronze-flecked mane (which he’s not allowed to cut until after the promotional tour) and answers haltingly in the English accent that’s been responsible for pandemonium at America’s malls. The female journalists swoon, the male ones try to piece together the nouns and verbs Pattinson spews out in no particular order, and the actor leans back in his seat, perplexed by the reaction he’s caused.
Best known for his role as the wizard Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter franchise, Pattinson stars as the lead paramour in Twilight, the new movie based on Stephenie Meyer’s books that center on love between a human and a vampire. Playing the part of Edward Cullen, the centenarian vampire with topaz eyes and Casper-esque skin, Pattinson romances co-star Kristen Stewart with all the gentlemanliness he can muster. “Girls are attracted to Edward because he’s like Mr. Darcy and Heathcliff, with all their… chivalry? Chivalrous-ness?” He pauses, laughing, as he searches for the right word. “You can see how familiar with it I am.”
Pattinson considers himself a method actor, arriving in Oregon two months before shooting to get acquainted with the area and then barely speaking with Stewart on set. Maintaining this distance, he claims, helped foment the crucial sexual tension that permeated the books. Pattinson had also hoped to embody Edward’s conception of himself as a monster in the final scene. “I wanted him to be 100 percent demonic in the last fight,” he says. “But it took 13 takes because they wanted me to tone it down.”
The vivaciousness he describes is missing from this interview. It’s not that Pattinson is unengaging. Far from it — he’s charming and genial, quick to grin and even quicker to chuckle at his disorganized syntax. But you get the feeling he would rather be drinking a pint in an East London bar, or smoking a joint with his mates or be anywhere, really, except at King of Prussia, where thousands of girls have been waiting since noon three days ago to stare at his Victorian features. He’s not averse to his newfound fame, but he doesn’t seem to want it all that much, either. “I hear about People magazine’s sexiest guys and it’s all quite funny to me,” he says. “My mum likes all that stuff.”
Onscreen, Pattinson has stuck to supernatural or period pieces, playing Reese Witherspoon’s son in Vanity Fair and Salvador Dalí in the upcoming Little Ashes. He hopes to land a role “free of derangement,” but still relishes magical dilemmas, championing Cullen’s invincibility in a hypothetical duel between the vampire and Diggory. But what about Diggory’s ability to perform the killing spell Avada Kedavra? “He couldn’t say it,” Pattinson retorts with finality. “He’s too much of a good person.”
He perks up toward the end of the interview. Asked whether he believes in everlasting love at first sight, he impishly replies, “With love like that you’re usually too shy to talk to the person, so, yeah, that ends up lasting for a long time. If you never speak to them, it will last the rest of your life.” He flashes one last grin and flits out the doorway, off to encounter the hordes of teenagers who, for him, are far more terrifying than vampires.
Additional reporting by Brian Tran