Old picture in better quality:
Our first meeting is coincidental, “Haven’t we already met somewhere?”. That’s the icing on the cake of four days in Los Angeles. As though it weren’t enough to have booked into the Beverly Hills Hotel, dined in restaurants with the stars (though seated too far away), and having done all those things that make girl friends burn with envy. But who cares about their curses when Robert Pattinson, the new face of Dior Homme, tells you “I think I’ve seen you before”? I did indeed meet him five years ago, at the Film Festival in Rome, for the premiere of Twilight. In those days errors of judgement concerning the phenomenon were legion, even as the books of the saga were selling like hot cakes. Perhaps he did not realise he was so famous and, with the watery eyes of a deer caught in the headlights, flanked by Kristen Stewart with her syndrome of the unstoppable leg, he had found himself facing hormonally raging young girls and a platoon of journalists. I was there too, and if he really does remember me I’m ready to put him in for the Mensa admission test. But he explains that he just cannot forget those first encounters. It is that simple.
He dressed casually in those days; will he take more care now? He smiles, his teeth gleaming all the way back, and he points disarmingly at this attire, with his baseball cap back to front, his dark shortsleeved shirt open, revealing a grey t-shirt beneath, and black jeans. “I don’t suppose so”, he laughs. “I don’t feel like spending more time than I have to on what I’m going to wear. I do my shopping as it comes, depending on my mood. I might put on the same things for days on end – after all, it’s not like always eating from the same plate. Even a baby’s romper suit would be fine, with little buttons on the flap”. In actual fact, during the screening of the Dior ad at Soho House the previous evening, he had appeared perfectly at ease (and perfectly handsome) in a dark suit. Do you at least wear the fragance?, I insist. “For the past few days, yes I have!”, he laughs. His press agent flashes a stern look; he recovers his composure. “Joking aside, it’s something new for me. I tried at the age when you start getting interest in girls and you smother yourself in cheap cologne, and they say ‘what’s the stink?’. But now I’m learning”.
A few hours earlier, I had a word with Romain Gavras, the director of the commercial. “Looks like there’s some intrigue between you”, I say to Pattinson. “Oh really?, What’s he told you?”. “That during the sequence when you drive the car on the beach, you had gone straight into the water”. He blushes, but he’s insanely delighted. “But he also said you’re cultured and intelligent”, I add. “And that you exchange text messages with things like ‘What are you wearing now?'”. He bursts out laughing. “It’s true! He started it – I couldnt’t believe my eyes and I thought ‘What? Who the hell’s that?’ The In answered back, tit for tat. Romain is young and ambitious, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has a keen sense of humour and, in his way, he’s a bit anarchic. I like him”. I see he is not so pale after all. His skin, as smooth as Chinese lacquer, is taking on a Californian tan. What else did I want to ask? Oh yeas: Talking of ambition, you’re rich now. How did you spend your first cheque?. “On a guitar. Then on my house in Los Angeles. Better here than in London, my hometown, where they cost too much. I’m not crazy about managing money: I’ve got a business manager who sees to everything, but I’m not a big spender”. Who knows who make his bed every morning in this new house? “Believe it or not, I don’t have a home help”. So he makes it himself? “No, I don’t make it. I just leave it as it is”, he grins.
I ask him what people overrate, and underrate in an actor. “They probably think it’s a game. But it’s really work – great but challenging. On the other hand, I can’t understand those stars who say ‘no way’ when they’re asked if their children will follow in their footsteps. They don’t realise they’ve got one of the best jobs in the world, spiritually liberating”. He says he still hangs out with his old friends, and I wonder how they cope with his success. “They’re great. We have no secret. When I’m with them I rarely have problems with fans, partly because if they see me with them they tend to let me be. But if it does happen, my group becomes protective”. I ask him what he considers betrayal by a friend, but he answers that a real friend doesn’t betray you, and if he does he isn’t. Yet finding new ones cannot be easy for a star. “No, not at all, I can easily see if someone isn’t in good faith”. I get the feeling he has managed not to disrupt his life – the life he had during that first interview five years ago. He is so calm that one immediately wonders what he was like at school, if anything suggested he might become what he is today. If he was a leader, for example. “I’ve never been a follower, that’s for sure, but not so enthusiastic as to take responsibility of command either. I used to keep to myself”. A rebel, like the kids who are rising up all over the world? “To tell the truth, when I was younger I used to think of rebellion as like being drunk all the time. No, that’s terrible – just joking!”, he quickly corrects himself, rocking with a laughter from head to toe. “But when I think of all the revolts everywhere, I realise how lucky I am. I was born in a country that has no need for revolutions, but not everyone’s that fortunate and they have the right to rebel when things aren’t going as they should”
He’s getting wiser, Rob – less teen, more committed. I’m also getting older. I admit I was a bit worried about what would happen after Twilight. Everything’s been going far too well for far too long, and I wonder if this isn’t the prelude to something terrible, I’ve turned 27 – everyone dies at 27″. No way! “Yes they do! Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin… And I’ll have to wait till May to be 28″. he laughs. In any case, they have his “successor”, Douglas Booth, in the wings. How does he see him: as an heir or a rival? “I don’t even know who I am yet – maybe he can tell me. No, really, this thing of sticking a duplicate onto you as soon as you start getting older is ridiculous”. Wasn’t he made out to be someone’s heir when he started out? “Sure, Jesus. The new messiah”. And he bursts out laughing.
I’m now on the set of Maps To The Stars“, he continues, “with David Cronenberg. It’s a new experience because I’ve got a smaller part than usual – so far I’ve always been the lead actor. But that’s fine, I still prefer independent productions, I’m not ready for the majors: they take away your freedom. Here, on the other hand, I’m working with Julianne Moore, who’s amazing, and the script is fantastic. I love Cronenberg. Videodrome and Scanners are some of my favorite films”. Now that he lives in Los Angeles, I ask him, does he think Hollywood manages to represent society? He bites his lip, with a serious look. “No, I don’t. The fact it that, in this moment in history, it’s hard to portray the contemporary world, even through music. We’re in a period of transition. I’m thinking of the 1970s and ’80s, which were clearly defined. Even the ’90s had grunge. What does 2000 boil down to? The Internet? Mobile phones? Will my generation be remembered with an iPhone in hand, intent on chatting and texting, communicating without saying anything? I’m not even on the social networks, not even under a false name. I tried once, but I deleted my account because it made no sense: my friends couldn’t even find me. I felt stupid”.
Talking of stupid, I ask him to tell me about one unforgiveacble moment, and one unforgettable one. “The unforgettable one was when my son was born”, and he bursts out laughing again. “I’m joking! I don’t have children. I think I’ll never forget when I was at the Olympic Stadium in Munich to promote The Twilight Saga: New Moon, with the cast. There were 30000 screaming fans and Taylor Lautner, astounded, said ‘What the hell’s going on?’. Does the unforgiveable one have to involve me?”, he grins. “Because, luckily, I don’t have one”, he says proudly.
Does he sees himself as romantic? I think so. A sort of romantic. Sometimes.”, he smiles, mischievously. Then comes a yawn and an “Oh, sorry, you’re making me relax”, he blushes. I’d like to say he can sit on my knees and I’ll sing him a lullaby, but that doesn’t seem quite appropriate. Instead, I ask him what he would like to do before he turns 30. “I’d like to come out with a record, I’m writing lots of tracks. And direct a film. I’ve got a sort of idea in mind, and I’m working on it. I should be able to do it.” It’s too early to ask what it will be about, but in the meanwhile, does he prefer “and they lived happily ever after” or an open ending? “The latter, without doubt!”. Time’s up. We get up from the sofa and I extend my hand. He takes it in both of his. “So, see you at the third interview”, he says. A kind wish. Outside the door, waiting, there is a lovely young colleague on the phone with her fiancé. No, she reassures him, the handsome vampire is not trying to seduce her. He wouldn’t be interested in just a normal girl. she says. Don’t you be so sure.