Friday, March 12, 2010
NEW YORK — Robert Pattinson is understandably a little fidgety and distracted these days. Everywhere he goes, it seems, he’s followed by lightninglike flashes and shutter-clicking hordes of paparazzi. When word gets out that he’s in town — and, somehow, it always does — screeching gaggles of young female fans gather nearby and swoon over his every move.
So it is that the hunky, 23-year-old British star of the hot teen vampire films "Twilight” and "New Moon” seems a bit preoccupied as he is ushered into a midtown hotel suite to discuss his new movie, "Remember Me,” during a recent press event hosted by Summit Entertainment.
Flanked by a team of stern, clock-watching publicists who admonish everyone around,
"No pictures; no autographs,” Pattinson looks slightly sheepish as he’s handed a bottle of Fiji water and settles into a chair.
His hair tousled and his face fashionably stubbled, he’s decked out in gray shirt, gray wind-breaker jacket and rumpled dark jeans, appearing every bit the successor of moody-broody heartthrobs in the James Dean-Johnny Depp lineage.
"Remember Me,” a contemporary romantic drama about two young lovers struggling to deal with family relationships damaged by untimely deaths, was shot on location around New York City, and Pattinson admits through a series of rueful laughs that his red-hot celebrity made the production a chaotic ordeal. Everywhere they filmed, groupies and paparazzi crowded in and created turmoil.
"It’s weird,” Pattinson said. "I did this film, and I hardly knew anyone on the crew because I couldn’t get out of my trailer, especially the first month. I mean, I didn’t know anyone on the set. It was really odd.
"But at the same time, it’s really a quite nice lesson in discipline because you literally have to do it,” he said. "You can’t say, ‘I’m not performing until all these people go away.’ It was way more intense than any of the ‘Twilight’ films even.”
Director Allen Coulter said he knew going in that Pattinson’s feverish celebrity would require extra layers of security around the filming.
"I knew when Rob was going to the bathroom accompanied by about 14 guards that we had real security issues,” Coulter said. "I mean, we expected something, but not what we got. Joe Reidy, a masterful assistant director who’s been with DiCaprio working with Scorsese and others, even he was staggered by the intensity of it. It was tough.
"The first few days in particular, when we had to get our footing, Rob and the others managed to perform intimate scenes when we had 30 to 50 guys on the sidelines with cameras, that we were barely able to control, not to mention 700 to 1,000 young girls all vibrating. It was not easy for the cast to act, and it was not easy for us to do our jobs.”
Despite rigorous security efforts and lots of burly production assistants to keep crowds at bay, "you simply couldn’t defeat it,” the director said. "They (groupies) had inroads and ways of finding out where we were going to shoot. And we’d show up somewhere at 5 a.m., and there would be girls standing there waiting for us so they could see Rob walk from his trailer to the set. They’d see him for maybe 15 seconds. They’d wait all day for that.”
Still, Pattinson, who went from a supporting role in two "Harry Potter” movies to international stardom as sexy vampire Edward Cullen in the first two films of "The Twilight Saga” series, said he’s learning to deal with the daunting distractions of fame.
"It really is just about blanking it out,” he said. "I mean, at the beginning I was having loads of problems with it because it was really crazy. When we were filming around Washington Square Park, it was just complete mayhem. There was this one moment where one of the security guys saw me getting more and more and more angry with the paparazzi guys, and he said to me, ‘Imagine like going up and trying to hit one of them and missing, right there in front of 40 cameras.’ And that was enough to break my rage. It didn’t really bother me after that.”
The noisy commotion of celebrity, however, did detract from his performance, Pattinson admitted.
"It makes you a little more self-conscious. I mean ... yeah. You can’t really experiment with things. You can’t really do silly things to get yourself comfortable. So it did in a way detract. But at the same time, there is a certain quality to Tyler (his character) that’s a little bit clenched, that’s about suppressing his emotions, so maybe it helped.”
Pattinson said he received a valuable lesson in handling the demands of celebrity with grace from co-star Pierce Brosnan, who plays his emotionally withholding, business tycoon father in the film.
"Pierce did one thing the first night I went out to dinner with him before we started shooting,” Pattinson said. "We were in this place, a sort of old-fashioned French restaurant, and all these sort of banker-looking guys were there. They didn’t recognize me, but they obviously recognized him, he was probably like their idol, and Pierce said he noticed these people looking over.
"And I’m sitting there getting more and more self-conscious and ready to leave. And he goes over and introduces himself to everyone at the table. And at first I thought, ‘You are completely insane.’ But it worked so well. I mean, he talked to them for about a minute. And people did not look around afterwards, and you can tell that they’re going to go home and say, ‘Yeah, he’s such a nice guy.’
"And after that there was nothing weird about us being in the restaurant,” Pattinson said. "You’re no longer a kind of freak. But, of course, he’s got enormous confidence, so he can do that. If I did that, it would probably look like I was trying to start a fight or something.”
Finally, Pattinson said he is trying to maintain a calm sanity about his dizzying fame and to be aware that it could go away as quickly as it came.
"I think it’s all really simple,” he said thoughtfully as handlers swooped in to wrap up the questioning. "I mean, you look at how people are judged in the public arena, and I think the majority of people kind of get beaten by it, the people who are seen all the time. I mean, the less you’re seen then you’ll be all right. As long as you keep attempting to make quality films, then eventually your name stands for something other than meaningless celebrity. It’s a kind of difficult battle, but you have to make the work mean more than your celebrity. I think Johnny Depp has done that, and that’s what I’d like to do.”