By Alan Drake
Move over Hugh Grant and Daniel Craig. Right now, Robert Pattinson is the biggest British movie star in Hollywood. Since hit vampire films Twilight and New Moon, R-Patz mania has exploded. Once, girls left notes on his car windscreen. Now they set themselves on fire outside his hotel.
"You start getting a bit paranoid," he admits. "Looking around when you're walking down the street, in case you get mobbed by teenage girls."
When Pattinson, 23, shot his latest film, romantic drama Remember Me, in New York, the hysteria almost killed him. Spotted by a bunch of 'Twi-hards' (as his obsessive fans are known), he crossed the road - narrowly missing being hit by a taxi. Everywhere, fans crowded to watch him shoot scenes with co-star Emilie de Ravin.
"It was mad," he says. "I didn't see it coming. I thought it was going to be a little film shot in New York, and I'd be able to just hang out!"
For Pattinson, those days are long gone. "I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to not be seen," he explains. "It's annoying but the pay-off is infinite.
If no one finds out where you're staying, if people aren't following you, or outside a restaurant if you have dinner there... then it's great."
The big question is over his relationship with Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart. The pair reputedly got together when filming New Moon, but when Stewart collected the Orange Rising Star Bafta in February, they arrived separately - presumably to avoid a 'Twi-hard' riot. Does he find it even more difficult to go out with Stewart?
"It's difficult either way," he says, refusing to elaborate. "When the spotlight seems centred on you, the best thing is to remain as much of a mystery as you can."
If R-Patz isn't quite ready to cuddle up to Kristen in public, his new film casts him as a modern-day Romeo. He plays Tyler, a rich kid rebel who falls for de Ravin's student, despite her father's objections.
"I wanted to play something grounded in reality, a solid story of normal people," he says.
Is he a romantic? "In a confused way," he nods. "I think I try. The way to be romantic is to be uncynical and innocent about relationships. I am innocent about that."
He admits going to slushy movies. "I really like The Notebook" - further proof he's every teen girl's ideal man.
But, in common with his Remember Me character, Pattinson admits a history of getting into fights.
"I've been beaten up a few times," he says. "I generally don't see it coming... it's been a few years, though."
It's hard to imagine this gentle-looking boy, who grew up with two elder sisters, slugging it out. Is he a peaceful guy at heart?
"Not really," he grins. "I just like wounds!"
But could the pressure of fame be getting to him? On its first US weekend, Remember Me took just $8 million (£5.3m) - way off the records New Moon set.
"You see articles, 'If this doesn't make any money, what's his worth to the world?'" he cries. "I don't know! Nothing!"
Does he ever think of rebelling against this life?
"Yeah," he nods. "I didn't go through a rebellious streak when I was younger and now I'll suddenly rebel against stuff completely unnecessarily."
In truth, Pattinson's upbringing was sound, his parents encouraging him to act. "They're really proud," he says. "They think it's more impressive than I do. It's just luck to me. I never set out to find fame. It's strange."
How so? "I still have to learn how to make my life work."
Not that the madness engulfing him will let up any time soon. Third Twilight film Eclipse is due in summer and he is now shooting Bel Ami with Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci. In October he films Breaking Dawn, the final in the Twilight saga. It's why he likes living in Los Angeles.
"I like the isolation. If you want to be alone, you're really alone in LA."
At least with Kristen by his side, Pattinson will be anything but lonely.
Remember Me opens today