“Within a week of my name being released for the part, there was a petition on the Internet—over 75,000 people signed it—to the production company,” said Robert Pattinson, who plays the love-struck vampire Edward Cullen, who falls for average high-school girl Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) in “Twilight,” the first picture made from Stephenie Meyer’s series of young-adult books that have attracted legions of readers, especially tween girls. The petition, he explained, protested his being signed for the role, and some of the messages were pretty vicious.
“That was a taste of it,” Pattinson continued in a recent Dallas interview about the fan frenzy surrounding the picture. Every leg of the tour his Texas stops were part of had added to his realization of how passionate the books’ adherents are. “Mexico City was the craziest one. It was virtually like a riot. We couldn’t get out—people were on top of the car. We had over a thousand people running after us in the car park. And they had to stop and pay for the parking! It’s just completely nuts.”
Pattinson isn’t entirely unfamiliar with fan fever—after all, he played the ill-fated Cedric Diggory in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”—but this is the first time he’s at the center of the storm. And he hasn’t let the mania go to his head. “It keeps you kind of grounded, [the knowledge that] it’s not really for you,” but for the character. “Maybe I’ll find it annoying next year. Right now it’s just totally unexpected.”
Pattinson explained that he was far more used to appearing in small, independent movies like the one he completed just prior to “Twilight” called “Little Ashes,” in which he plays surrealist Spanish painter Salvador Dali. Though it was made on a very small budget compared to “Twilight,” he replied to a question about how the shoots differed for him by saying, “In a lot of ways [they were] quite similar. I mean even though it was a tiny, tiny budget, it was the first time I’d really obsessed over a part. It kind of taught me how to read a script and try to build a character differently. There were only three people who spoke English, so I didn’t socialize with the crew. The only thing I did was work the whole time. And I kind of brought that to ‘Twilight.’ I had a very similar work attitude on both.”
The filming surprised him, though, because he imagined that director Catherine Hardwicke (“Thirteen”) would approach things differently than she did. “I thought initially when I was going into it that she was going to be doing it like her other films—kind of gritty, real, a hand-held, independent-type movie. And I was surprised when it really wasn’t that—there were a lot of stunts and stuff.
“Everything surprised me about it. I never thought there were going to be any stunts, I didn’t think it was going to be so glossy—it’s a lot glossier than her other films, with a lot more smooth camera movement. But I think that she was a good [contrast]—Kristen and I generally tried to find the absolute darkest side, especially in a story like this that could be quite camp. And Catherine has such an un-cynical, un-ironic view of perfect love.”
Asked about the daunting prospect of becoming a new teen idol, Pattinson said, “If you do a part and you’re not ashamed of the part and you haven’t done it for the money or to get famous—I didn’t know I’d be famous after this, had no idea—if you stay honest, it doesn’t really matter. Anyway,” the twenty-two-year old added with a laugh, “I’m aging so rapidly, I don’t think I’ll be able to be one.”
And to a question about whether he’d yet seen “Twilight” with an audience of fans, he replied, “I never watch my films—ever.”
Summit Entertainment, which made it as the first installment in a projected “Harry Potter”-like franchise, undoubtedly hopes that fans of Meyer’s books—even those who originally objected to Pattinson’s hiring—won’t follow his lead.