Three years and three films into “The Twilight Saga,” Robert Pattinson can see the finish line for the role that made him famous.
With the release of “Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” he knows that the whirlwind surrounding him and his cast mates is about to peak. then subside. He says he’s relishing the end, and he’s taking it all in: the attention, the career boost and the way his peers have coped with the sudden fame of a film series whose fans are nothing if not fanatical.
“I am constantly amazed that no one has gone totally crazy,” he says, chuckling. “Everybody has their own way of coping. We’re all trying to be artists at the same time this whole thing is going on around us.”
The 25-year-old British actor has worked with Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz (“Water for Elephants”)and a former James Bond (Pierce Brosnan (“Remember Me”). But he says his contemporaries – his “Twilight” cast mates — “have taught me the most. They’ve grown up in the eye of the storm. I learn from how they’ve dealt with fame. For me, that’s obviously the most overwhelming … thing I’ve had to deal with. You learn a lot about the world and a lot about people when you and they go through something like this.”
That “something like this” has been in evidence since before the first film opened. Pattinson was an all-but-unknown 21-year-old, best known for a glorified cameo as Cedric Diggory in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” when he landed the role that would change his life the instant he was cast.
Tim Guinee, one of his co-stars in “Water for Elephants,” recalls the paparazzi in helicopters above that film’s set, the scores of fans hanging around, “hoping to catch a glimpse of him. What an extraordinary amount of pressure this was for such a young guy to deal with and I was always amazed at the dignity and fortitude with which he dealt with all of it.”
Pattinson knows that he’s in select company, having come from almost nowhere to star in three spectacularly successful movies — “Twilight” (2008), “New Moon” (2009) and “Eclipse” (2010) — with one more sure-to-be-a-hit installment opening this weekend and another opening next year at this time.
“It inevitably skews your idea of what this business should be,” he says. “But you have to fight against that. The whole fun, the whole point of being an actor is to keep re-inventing yourself.”
Pattinson has managed that, squeezing in a couple of non-vampire roles amid the run of the saga. He earned “acquits himself quite nicely” (Leonard Maltin) notices for last spring’s period piece “Water for Elephants.” He hopes his work will get a fair viewing once “Twilight” ends, that critics and fans won’t make as much of his “brooding beauty” (Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News) as they do now.
“It gets scary. You worry that this is all they’ll let you do. But I could take chances [with other roles] because I always had another ‘Twilight’ movie coming out.
“At the same time, it’s kind of nice that they’re coming to an end, to know I don’t have that safety net and that I have to really strive to do new things and wholly commit to them because there’s nothing to fall back on.”
Pattinson began the films by feeling he was just playing author Stephenie Meyer’s creation — the simmering, silent vampire dreamboat, Edward Cullen, who wins the fair Bella (Kristen Stewart) with just a furtive glance. But as the films have progressed, he’s taken ownership. “Things intermingle, and he becomes more like me, more ‘my character.’”
Pattinson’s take? “Edward spends this whole series trying to catch up to being 17 in today’s society. Even though he’s 108, his values are more old-fashioned. He doesn’t know how to have a relationship with a young modern woman his age. He has to learn. He’s been hidden away from the world for so long that through the saga he’s had to learn how to love all over again.
“Love makes you both feel you have reason to live, especially if you really needed one. Edward has the understanding. He knows what it’s like to live forever without loving. And Bella hasn’t quite gotten to that understanding, yet. I guess that’s what she learns during the saga.”
He can joke about the new film’s overheated sex scene, which necessitated a re-edit, and not missing “this pale, pale makeup, which is covering more and more wrinkles. You start to look like a faded clown with fangs, eventually.” But he’s pondered “Twilight’s” imponderables — why this mortal-in-love-with-a-vampire-but-loved-by-a-werewolf romance has become a global sensation.
“I think people are into endlessly impossible relationships. Maybe everything’s so easy to get these days — love, sex, whatever. People want it to be hard, at least in the movies.”
Pattinson doesn’t know what he’ll do after “Twilight.” But he isn’t worried, no more than usual, he says with a laugh. “It helps to have tremendous self-doubt. That keeps you humble. It’s a very English mentality, that glass is always half empty.”