Interview: Robert Pattinson Talks About 'Twilight' and 'Little Ashes'

Pattinson sinks his teeth into the character of Edward Cullen in 'Twilight'

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two - UK Film Premiere
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One word can sum up Twilight star Robert Pattinson's acting style: intense. Pattinson analyzed his character of Edward Cullen, a 17-year-old vampire who falls in love with a human named Bella (played by Kristen Stewart), in Twilight to an almost obsessive level. He actually had disagreements with Twilight author Stephenie Meyer over Edward, would engage in intense conversations with Stewart over the relationship between Edward and Bella, and even would stop in the middle of scenes to question director Catherine Hardwicke over exactly how a line should be delivered. Pattinson took the role extremely seriously, never wanting to play Edward as just the love interest in a teen vampire movie.

Pattinson launched into stardom with his lead role in 2008's Twilight and afterwards, every move the actor made was scrutinized and reported on by fansites and celebrity magazines. There was a lot riding on the film adaptation of Meyer's bestselling novel, which was followed by four sequels. At the Los Angeles press junket for the first Twilight movie, Pattinson spoke with us about how he approached the character and why it was so important to him that he get Edward right.

How weird is it to see reports on your hair on the internet every day?

Actually, I was in New York doing a radio interview and they're people sending in messages. 95% percent of the messages were saying, "Take your hat off." I was just like, "Okay." When people say something has become a trademark you have got to get rid of it. It's the worst.

Are you really ready for the fandom that's going to result from this film?

Yeah. My brain doesn't really accept it, so it's fine. I can be put anywhere and it just goes completely over my head. I just don't want to get stabbed or something. Literally, my representation asked me, "Do you have any problems with this? Is it going to be okay?" I said, "I just don't want to get shot or stabbed. I don't want someone to have a needle and I'll get AIDS afterwards." That's only my real fears.

Do you really think that's going to happen?

Whenever I see a crowd I always think that. It's like being on a plane. I think the bottom is going to hit the runway when it's taking off.

A recent Entertainment Weekly article leaves the impression you were obsessive about playing this role and had a lot of angst about taking it on. Is that true?

Yeah. I didn't want to do a stupid teen movie. I specifically hadn't done anything which anyone would see since Harry Potter because I wanted to teach myself how to act. I didn't want to be an idiot. This came kind of randomly and I didn't really know what it was when it first started. I was going to wait for another year. I wanted to do two or three more little things and then do something bigger. And then this kind of happened and I was like, "Well, okay..."

I had done another movie where I'd gotten really intense about it before and I felt kind of satisfied afterwards, much more satisfied than I had from other movies. I don't know how it turned out or what the result from getting intense about something is, but you definitely feel more satisfied. I wanted to take that into Twilight and also try to break down the assumption that if a movie is being made from a book which is selling a lot of copies - which every single book that sells a lot of copies now is made into a movie immediately and they're virtually all not very good and everyone knows, even six year-olds know, that it's just to make money – I didn't want to be involved in something like that. I thought Catherine [Hardwicke] and Kristen [Stewart] would be supportive of that. But they've also got reputations whereas I don't have a reputation at all. So I wanted to make sure that, by the time people got to Portland, that I knew everything about everything and just be like really… I didn't talk to anyone about anything other than the part for about a month and a half of the shoot. I think it kind of galvanized people. I think most people read the book and it's an easy read. It's a nice book. So I think most people went in thinking, "Yeah, it's a happy film." I'm like holding the book and saying, "No! This is going to win Oscars!" [laughing]

Did that approach make him harder to let go of when the movie was done?

No, not really. It broke down as I was doing it, mainly because people wanted me to make it lighter. At the same time, me thinking that my idea would work and all of that, it was different to the book where he makes little quips and stuff. He's a confident character and no girls, if you're writing the perfect guy you wouldn't write him as some manic depressive weirdo who's trying to kill himself all the time - whatever his six pack is like. So I spent a long time fighting with producers. Catherine got me a copy of the book with every instance that he smiled highlighted and I was just like, "Okay, fine."

Stephenie Meyer wrote Midnight Sun, or started to anyway, from Edward's point of view. Did she share any of that with you when you talked about character?

Yeah. She gave it to me about two-thirds into shooting. I didn't even know that it existed. I knew that the first chapter existed and I based a lot of my angst from that on the character, from that first chapter that was on the internet. It's talking about how little control he has. In the book it seems that when he says, 'I'm a monster and I'm going to kill you – and she says, "I'm not afraid –" you kind of know the whole time in the book that he's never going to do anything bad. But then you read that first chapter in Midnight Sun where the full extent of how much he wanted to kill her, and how he's considering killing the entire school just so that he can kill her, becomes evident. I wanted that element of him to be very prominent. I wanted Bella to be saying, "I'm not scared. You won't do anything to me," but not so certainly. So that it'd suddenly be like, "You won't do anything to me, will you?" I kind of wanted something like that. I think it makes it sexier if there's a very real chance of him just flipping out and killing her.

You and Kristen have a great chemistry, but you also have great chemistry with your family in the film. Can you talk about that dynamic both onscreen and off?

It was strange. Like, I definitely had a thing with Kristen like that. I mean, all the scenes are pretty intense and when you're working with one person most of the time, especially on a relationship that seems impossible when you first start it, you get like a little bubble. But with the family, they're just really funny people and so I just got on with them. It wasn't really acting. I just had an American accent. Peter [Facinelli] is one of the funniest people I've ever met. Is the line in there where Rosalie breaks the bowl and Peter says, "Oh, Rosalie always busted my bowls'?"


It's cut out? That was literally my favorite line in the whole movie.

What do you think is the secret to the chemistry that you and Kristen developed and shared throughout the movie?

I think it was just doing the opposite of what the actual story is, thinking about it in the opposite way. Right from the beginning in the audition we did the meadow scene, which isn't in a meadow in the film, but it's supposed to be about, I guess, him trying to intimidate her and her looking at him with nothing but love and adoration and awe, as if this god has just come down to meet her. But I really thought and I played it as this god is broken at this normal girl's feet. Even the position that we were in…at the end, I was literally kneeling at her feet. I can't remember what happens in the movie, but that was in the audition. She was doing this mothering thing as he's looking to this normal girl for support. I think that really works. She's very strong. She's not a damsel type girl. It's weird. They just cast the opposite people. I'm a wreck and she's really strong and it's supposedly the other way around. I think that's why it kind of worked.

Peter Facinelli said that you were really sucking at baseball and that he had to help you with that.

I keep hearing that. He must be going into every single meeting saying that. I'm terrible at baseball. Catherine was so intense about wanting me to look like a pro baseball player and I just didn't care at all. For a lot of the rehearsal period that we could've been doing stuff there, I wanted to be doing proper rehearsals and she was like, "No. You have to look like a baseball player." So I was like f--king having this teacher show me the ready position and Catherine was like, "Okay, let me see it." I was like, "Listen, I'll do it on the day. I'll do a ready position. I can f--king squat!" So I finally did it and then for the rest of the shoot whenever she had a question about blocking or something like that I was like, "I think I should do my ready position. I think it's really, really necessary."

What was up with you proposing marriage to Kristen? Was that just a rumor?

I can't even remember when this happened. Kristen is like, "Yeah, you did." I was like, "Oh." I think that someone else sent me a text the other week saying, "Are we still on for our marriage?" I think it was yesterday that I was supposed to marry someone else."

Is this a regular thing with you?

I guess it must be.

Did anything from your Harry Potter experience prepare you for the whole pop culture phenomenon of Twilight?

Having it die down afterwards. Having it being the hot thing for a few months and then it just going and no one giving a sh-t. It helps. It helps once you get used to it and know that no one will care. Once you're immune to failure, it's like nothing matters.

Are you still doing music?

[Laughing] Not so much anymore. Since I was on the soundtrack I've given up.

If they want to do a Twilight sequel, it'll take time to get it all together.

Yeah. The thing is that I have to stay the same age unless they recast me. So they'd have to shoot it quite quick because I already look about three years older than I did then. So they can't wait too long.

You're playing Salvador Dali in Little Ashes. What's it been like playing this iconic painter?

It's not that similar, but again it's iconic because I guess that Edward is an iconic character too. But I just did the same thing, breakdown what you know about him. Also, there's a ton of literature which he wrote and about him and then you just kind of build that back up again. Also, when I was playing him it was when he was very young, 18 to 26 and the story is about his descent or assent into this caricature of which everyone knows. He was this chronically shy kid when he was younger. So it's really not playing Dali, per se, apart from towards the end of it—and I'm still not really playing him. It's more the mood of Dali I think.

I just researched tons and tons of stuff because everyone spoke Spanish on the set and so I just read all day. It was the first time that I ever really got into characterization, trying to work on movements. There was a photo of him pointing and I kept trying to figure out how he pointed for like three days. I've never done that for any job. I was doing tons of stuff on his walk and such. By the end, I have no idea [how it turned out]. Someone said to me the other day, "I had no idea it was about Dali until you had the mustache at the end." I was just like, "Oh, great." I think it's a kind of homage to him, I guess, in that performance. I've never related to a character more than him, which is really weird because everyone thinks that he's some nut job. When he was younger, if you read his autobiographical stuff – he wrote three autobiographies which completely contradict each other. Literally, in one of them, he said that his mother sucked his d-ck and all this stuff. And then in another one, he says that his mother was the greatest mother in the whole world and gave him the best childhood he'd ever had. There are chapters called 'Truth' and other ones are called 'Lies' and then lies and the truths and stuff, it's just really funny. There was so much about him that I found fascinating. It's depressing how he did it himself and yet everyone sees him as this mask. He wanted that, but it's so funny how he was so much more than just this bizarre clown that he was at the end of his life who only cared about money. He was an incredibly complex person. I'm not saying that I am. I'm not at all.

What do you have coming up?

I'm doing a little movie called Parts Per Billion with Dennis Hopper and Rosario Dawson in January, and hopefully something else just after. We have to wait and see if a sequel is happening. I don't want to jinx it so I don't want to say anything.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick