x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Robert Pattinson doesn't understand what all the fuss is about

The Twilight star, who plays the lead in Water for Elephants, Robert Pattinson looks forward to when he can write his own material and live in a regular house.

Robert Pattinson, who stars in the recently released Water for Elephants, was surprised to have been cast as the vampire Edward in the Twilight movies. The New York Times Syndicate
Robert Pattinson, who stars in the recently released Water for Elephants, was surprised to have been cast as the vampire Edward in the Twilight movies. The New York Times Syndicate

His co-star is waiting for him in the car park of a seafront hotel in Santa Monica, California, when Robert Pattinson arrives from the airport.

He has been working all night in Vancouver filming scenes for Breaking Dawn 1 and 2 - the final two movies in The Twilight Saga that have made him the idol of teenage girls around the globe - and his morning flight to Los Angeles is late.

But any sign of tiredness disappears and his eyes light up when he sees who is waiting for him.

"Tai! How are you, girl?" He hugs the elephant's trunk and Tai nuzzles him appreciatively. "I was afraid she wouldn't remember me but I was hoping she would," he says.

He is a heartthrob to millions, but Pattinson seems more at home and at ease with animals than with humans and, he says, he treats four-legged and two-legged creatures the same way. He and Tai, a 42-year-old African elephant, bonded on the set of Water for Elephants. The film is a romantic melodrama adapted from a best-selling novel in which Pattinson plays a veterinary-school dropout in the 1930s who joins a travelling circus after his parents' death and falls in love with the star attraction (Reese Witherspoon, whom M featured last week).

Pattinson and Witherspoon have reunited with Tai, and the two stars are keen to talk about the film, although the 24-year-old Pattinson has Breaking Dawn scenes still to shoot and understandably has that saga on his mind, too. After all, he has lived virtually non-stop with the adventures of the brooding vampire Edward Cullen and his romance with the mortal schoolgirl Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, for more than three years.

It is the role that, whether he likes it or not, has made him one of the hottest and most in-demand young actors in the world and caused an army of female fans to follow him to film sets around the globe. When they discovered the Water for Elephants circus set had been built on location about 95km north of Los Angeles, they swarmed the set clamouring for a glimpse of him.

"I've never seen anything like it," says an amazed Witherspoon.

Adds Pattinson, with a bemused shrug after he takes his temporary leave of Tai and we settle in a hotel suite to talk: "I don't understand them and I don't know what they're thinking. I understand Tai a lot more than I understand the fans. She seems to be a lot more logical. She likes peppermints and she does tricks and she's phenomenally intelligent. We got on really well together and I had an amazing time working with her.

'When the fan thing first started I didn't realise I had to accept it to a certain extent, and now I embrace it more. But generally my life isn't really affected by it because I'm working nearly all the time and I don't do things like draw attention to myself by walking through Times Square with my shirt off."

Pattinson laughs easily and often and seems much more relaxed and at ease now with his fame and star status than he has in the past, when he resembled a deer in the headlights. But that doesn't mean he enjoys every aspect of it. He earned an estimated US$27 million (Dh99.2 million) last year but is unable to buy a house because he is paranoid about fans finding out where he lives. Instead, he keeps on the move, occasionally renting houses for short periods but mainly staying in hotels.

"I'd love to be able to buy a house and live in a neighbourhood without worrying that people are going to break in," he says.

He is wearing a dark blue jacket, beige trousers and a black shirt and he sips from a bottle of water as we talk.

Despite the massive changes in his life in such a short time, Pattinson has kept himself grounded and, although work commitments mean he cannot get back to England often, he retains that English trait of self-deprecation and is happy to tell stories against himself.

Born in Barnes, West London, he joined the local theatre club as a teenager and was spotted by a casting agent. He made his screen debut in 2004 in a German television production and then was bizarrely cast as Witherspoon's son in Vanity Fair, although his scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor.

"I only worked with her for two days but she was lovely to me," he remembers.

He achieved some recognition and plenty of female fans for his role as the brave but doomed Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and he had a cameo in a flashback in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He had been torn between an acting career and going to university but the Harry Potter roles convinced him to stick with acting. He played a shell-shocked Second World War airman in a BBC Four production, The Haunted Airman, but then spent the best part of the next two years unemployed.

His agent persuaded him to try his luck in Los Angeles, so - armed with little but an English accent and a sense of humour - he did.

"I'd been unemployed in London for ages and when I came to Los Angeles all the casting directors would ask what I'd been doing for the past few years and I'd say 'Oh, I was at Rada' [the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] and because I had an English accent I got away with it," he says with a laugh. "I'd say I went to Oxford University, too, but I started realising it didn't work any more when loads of English people started moving to Los Angeles. So then I pretended to be American for a bit. And when Twilight came out I still tried to pretend to be American but people thought I was insane so I stopped it."

He wasn't sure whether he wanted the Twilight role when he was offered it after auditioning by performing a love scene with the already-cast Stewart, who persuaded the director, Catherine Hardwicke, that he was the actor to play the troubled vampire Edward.

"I'd read the book and couldn't really picture myself in the role of this handsome, perfect guy," he says. "I didn't know how big it was going to be. Now it's this huge thing and me getting the part was a complete fluke."

It's hard to believe now but when he was first announced as the actor to play Edward, fans were furious.

"People sent me hate mail and the internet was full of messages from Twilight fans who didn't want me, but then the trailer came out and everything turned around. I started getting love letters and fan mail instead of hate mail."

Pattinson has been in a relationship with his Twilight co-star Stewart since filming on the series began, but it is not something he is willing to talk about.

"I think it's really important to preserve any mystique you have and also I just don't feel it's anyone else's business," he says. "I'm not a man for short and superficial love affairs and I don't talk about my relationships with female friends, particularly with Kristen Stewart."

So is he a romantic?

"I guess I am when I like someone," he says reluctantly. "I like being in love with people and yes, I guess I am quite sensitive to things."

He is more forthcoming about the Breaking Dawn movies, although he admits he will be glad to leave them behind him, along with the make-up and coloured contact lenses he has to wear for his role which, he says, cause him so much pain.

"There's some really interesting new weird stuff going on in this one," he says of Breaking Dawn 1. "It's great - it's more of a horror movie. There are a lot of really graphic moments which I find shocking and which I hope people will be really stunned by."

He is looking forward to stretching his talents in what he calls "serious" movies. He has the period romance Bel Ami awaiting release, and when he finishes Breaking Dawn and promoting Water for Elephants he will return to Canada to film the drama Cosmopolis for the director David Cronenberg. In it he will play a financial wizard stuck in Manhattan traffic and anxiously monitoring the limousine's computer as his money dwindles.

"I have no idea what to expect as I've only talked to Cronenberg a few times," he says. "He sounds great and the script is incredible so hopefully it will be a wonderful experience."

Overall, life is good for Robert Pattinson.

"I'm pretty happy with things really," he says. "My life is pretty complete to be honest and I'd be happy with living for a long time, but other than that, I don't know what I want. I'd like to write some of my own material and have a little more time to do things rather than just everything being a rush. I used to write all the time when I was younger so as soon as I have some time off I'm going to try and do that - probably under a pseudonym because otherwise everyone will just tear me apart."

He laughs again, then becomes serious.

"I would love to be able to have more control over the jobs that I do," he says, "and the older I get I hope my career will allow for that. But I don't know. You can't predict anything in this industry. "

Then, with a twinkle in his eyes and a mischievous smile: "Maybe I'd like to do movies which don't mention 'twilight' in the first line every time."

Water for Elephants opened in UAE cinemas this week.


Yes, he's rather handsome

From his famous green cat's eyes to his chiselled jaw line to his artfully messy hair to his stylish wardrobe, Robert Pattinson has won the hearts of millions of young women. Among the many honours magazines have bestowed on him for his good looks are:

GLAMOUR Sexiest Man Alive, 2009; Best Dressed Man of the Year, 2010; Sexiest Man of the Year, 2010

GQ Best Dressed Man of the Year, 2010; No. 4 Best Dressed Man in the UK, 2011

OK! Sexiest Man Alive, 2010

PEOPLE Sexiest Man Alive, 2008, 2009; World's Most Beautiful, 2010

VANITY FAIR Most Handsome Man in the World, 2009


The Pattinson file

BORN May 13, 1986, Barnes, West London

SCHOOLING Tower House Preparatory School, Richmond (where he was described in 1998 as "a runaway winner of last term's Form Three untidy desk award"; Harrodian School, London

FAMILY Father Richard, car importer; mother Clare, works for modelling agency; older sisters Lizzy, a musician, and Victoria, in advertising

FIRST JOB Model at the age of 12

LAST BOOK READ Money by Martin Amis

LISTENING TO Van Morrison, the composer and conductor Penderecki, old Delta blues

SECRET PLEASURE In-N-Out hamburgers

CAN'T STAND The contact lenses he has to wear for the Twilight movies