Twilight fans should avert their eyes as Robert Pattinson’s latest offering is a far more adult affair. Susan Griffin talks to the pin-up about sex, violence and intimate examinations
THANKS to his role as “vegetarian” vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight saga, Robert Pattinson is now one of the biggest stars on the planet. But for that very reason he nearly turned down his latest role in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis.
“It was a little nerve-racking and it scared me because I was shooting the last Twilight movie when I got offered it and I was really self-conscious thinking ‘Ugh, I’m just so over-saturated everywhere’,” says the 26-year-old.
“I really wanted to do ensemble things and then this comes along, which is so in your face, (and I’m) speaking all the time but there was something about it which I thought was amazing. And it was David as well so I couldn’t really say no to it.”
In the movie, Pattinson plays 28-year-old billionaire Eric Packer, who’s determined to be chauffeured across New York City in his extravagant limousine to get a haircut even though the city is in turmoil compounded by a visit from the President of the United States.
As the day goes by, wild activity erupts on the streets while Packer watches helplessly as his empire collapses, and his growing paranoia leads him to piece together clues to a terrifying secret: his imminent assassination.
It’s a visceral trip for cinema-goers. Dialogue is almost poetic and the majority of scenes take place in Packer’s limousine.
Cocooned within, he conducts business meetings, meets lovers, eats, drinks, urinates and even has his daily check-up by a doctor.
But it wasn’t the sex or violence, or even a certain probing scene, that fazed Pattinson.
“The toughest part was just the first day,” he says. “The only thing I didn’t really know how to do, even when we started shooting, was (say) the first line, which is ‘I want a haircut’.”
Far from feeling embarrassed by the scene in which he undergoes a prostate examination (while seducing his financial advisor), Pattinson says he was excited about it.
“I mean it’s doing a scene that you know has never been done before and is never going to be done again,” he says, laughing.
Fresh from Cannes Film Festival (where photos of him kissing his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart seemed to finally confirm one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets) and a European tour promoting Cosmopolis, Pattinson looks tired.
Exhausted he may be, but he’s still polite and down to earth, which is no mean feat given the adoration he receives all over the world. He’s also passionate about this film, despite knowing that certain film critics could be out to “get him”.
Rubbing the back of his head, he says, “(When) there’s someone who makes a lot of noise early on when they’re young, it’s irritating to people. I completely get it because I judge people the same way.
“You have to earn respect. As long as I can keep making movies like this...” he says, trailing off.
“I know that I’ll like this movie in 10 years’ time and that’s all I really care about.”
It must seem like a long time since he ventured to his local theatre club in Barnes, south-west London and took part in a production of Tess Of The d’Urbervilles.
His performance landed him an agent and a role as Reese Witherspoon’s son (they’d later play lovers in Water For Elephants) in the 2004 big screen adaptation of Vanity Fair.
His scene ended up on the cutting room floor and, according to rumour, the casting agent felt so bad for not telling him about it that she put him forward for the role of the doomed golden boy Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.
“When I went into Harry Potter it was the fourth one, so everybody knew each other and everything was so well-oiled,” says Pattinson.
Three years later, he was cast as Edward Cullen (despite protestations from fans of the best-selling book who thought him too scruffy). “With Twilight, it was very weird doing a franchise at an embryonic level and interesting to see so many warring energies,” he says.
While Cullen is the archetypal brooding lead and his roles in Remember Me and Bel Ami have both seen him work his wide-set eyes to great effect, he insists “the next few things I’m doing are all quite different”.
His latest projects have yet to be titled but he reveals one is “actiony and funny as well, and the next one after that is pretty strange”.
Pattinson adds: “It’s not like a cool part. He’s a really strange person and a bit of a simpleton, which I haven’t really done before.”
He pauses and laughs. “Apart from in my real life,” he says, gurning.
Not that the millions of fans would agree. To them, he’s a nothing short of a cinematic god but Pattinson seems to take it all in a laid-back stride.
“I’ve done three premieres for this and to see screaming teenagers coming in to see Cosmopolis is the craziest thing in the world.
“One of the most interesting things about it I think is the fact that it’s making two audiences collide.
“And if you get one out of every 500 people to get into Cronenberg movies who wasn’t before then it’s great.”
Cosmopolis opens in cinemas tomorrow.