In some roles played over long periods, performers can find a way to make their character evolve, bend to their will. But in the glittering vampire world of "Twilight," star Robert Pattinson found that some things really do last forever.
"It's a strange character because there's not too many places to go," says Pattinson of much lusted-after, noble "vegetarian" vampire Edward Cullen. "He's gonna be around forever, he can't die, can't get hurt, his emotions are quite fossilized as well. I think (series author Stephenie Meyer) mentioned this in a book: With vampires, once you start feeling one thing, it just stays like that for ages. Once he's fallen in love with Bella, that's it. There's no other place to go but worrying about her."
Pattinson looks fit, if surprisingly thin, and perfectly put together as he puffs on an electronic cigarette in this Four Seasons suite in Los Angeles. However, with the promotional blitz for the franchise's final film - "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" - only just begun, he's already sounding a touch weary, though unfailingly polite and willing to answer questions. Perhaps it's the sound of a man with one more hill before the finish line.
"It's a very strange character to play when you're projecting absolutely every human emotion onto another human. You're living vicariously through them. That's why he'd almost become a noncharacter, up until the last two movies - 'Breaking Dawn' is when he suddenly realizes, 'Oh, I have to actually live for myself. I'm not just living for her.' He spends the first three books completely saying, 'I don't exist.' I mean, that's how I read it.
"I guess I made the boldest choices in the first one. I was really thinking, 'How do I fix problems in my performance?' " He laughs at himself, then wistfully adds: "The first one was crazy; you could do anything you wanted. Entirely different thing."
The fifth installment is the only one to have a repeat director: Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters") directed both parts of "Breaking Dawn." Still, it has a distinctly different feeling from the rest of the franchise, even from "Breaking Dawn Part 1." The film concerns newlywed Edward and Bella's struggle to defend their family against the encroaching Volturi, who want to execute an extremely hostile takeover. As such, it's an urgent, globe-trotting epic that contains the series' biggest surprise for fans (no spoilers here).
Over the course of the past five years and these five "Twilight" films, Pattinson has also appeared in some high-profile projects outside the franchise. Among these, "Water for Elephants" co-starred Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, and "Cosmopolis" was directed by David Cronenberg. But Pattinson says he had trouble translating the lessons learned from them to the series that made him one of the highest-paid actors in the world:
"Everything stayed the same; the audience stayed the same. Even doing interviews to promote each movie, you're literally asked the same questions as the first one. It doesn't happen with other movies. Even the fans, they had the same reaction to it. It's crazy, it's visceral, but it's the same. So it kind of exists in this bubble."
The actor doesn't seem ungrateful - just grateful for the opportunities he has before him. His next project will be "The Rover," by Australia's David Michôd, director of the acclaimed - and very adult - "Animal Kingdom." Pattinson's involvement with other indies harks back to a very brief formative period for an actor who became a superstar at 22.
"The first ('Twilight,' directed by indie queen Catherine Hardwicke) definitely felt the most free, and scary, as well. You don't really feel the same nerves after that first moment. I'd never even done a movie in an American accent before. A lot of the clothes I was wearing in the first one ... I got stuck in Vancouver getting my visa - I was supposed to be there for three days and I was there for three weeks by myself. I ended up buying a lot of the costumes I had in the movie. You could kind of do anything. We changed lines all the time.
"But as soon as that one hit, the second one was very much about - we were all saying," he says, dropping to an enthusiastic, conspiratorial whisper, " 'We're gonna make it way better, way better!' It was much more slick on the second one. You could feel the kind of machine growing. By the third one it was like, 'Yeah, we're definitely doing a franchise.' " He laughs.
"So the idea of changing a line by the time we got to the third one? Unthinkable. Also, it kind of combined with the losing of anonymity. On the second movie, we could still kind of go out together as a cast. By the third one, the hotel we stayed at, every exit was covered at all times. Really different experience." This time his laugh is a touch rueful.
As he prepares to move on from such a significant chapter of his life, the 26-year-old says some of his fondest memories of the series still emanate from the first installment. But they weren't all warm and fuzzy.
"I remember the fights, seeing it transition into the franchise," he says. "I remember towards the end of the shoot, when the studio kind of realized, 'Oh, we've got something bigger than we thought on our hands,' and suddenly there were all these news crews on the set. And we all got so furious about all these people coming around." He laughs yet again. "All those little fights. Now there's 10,000 paparazzi every single time you do an exterior.
"Everyone was so passionate on the first one. We didn't want it to be just a teen movie or anything. It's good to know that's how this huge thing started. And we kept fighting. It was just a much bigger thing to fight against. But in the beginning, yeah, it was a great energy to be born out of."
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