He has millions of female fans, he lives in Los Angeles and paparazzi dog his footsteps wherever he goes; yet it would be difficult to find a young man less interested in embracing his stardom than Robert Pattinson. The 28-year-old actor refuses to go the Hollywood route of big houses, wardrobes full of designer clothes and roles that utilise his boyish good looks.
He has even rejected the idea of taking the near-obligatory therapy route followed by nearly every self-absorbed star in Hollywood, although he jokes: “I would love to go into therapy but it makes me too anxious.”
Then, more seriously, he adds: “I’ve been talking to a lot of people about it and I don’t know. I kind of like my anxiety in a funny sort of way and I like my peaks and troughs. Luckily depression never lasts long with me.”
We are talking in a Beverly Hills hotel suite about his new film The Rover, set in a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, in which he is totally unrecognisable as Rey, a twitchy, dirt-caked, slow-witted lost soul with rotting teeth. He joins forces with Eric (Guy Pearce), a man of few words who is on the trail of a gang of thieves who stole his only possession, his car. Rey is a role as far removed from the handsome Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies as Pattinson could get – which suits him fine.
For three years, Pattinson lived virtually non-stop with the adventures of the brooding vampire and his romance with the mortal schoolgirl Bella, played by Kristen Stewart. It was the role that, whether he likes it or not, made him one of the hottest and most in-demand young actors in the world. He caused an army of female fans to leave their families and homes to follow him to wherever he was filming.
“I had a bit of a struggle at first because my life really contracted and I couldn’t do a lot of the stuff I used to be able to do,” he admits. “But once I got through that a year or two ago I just accepted my life is something else and now I can’t really remember what it was like before, So it’s much easier to deal with.
“It seems much longer ago than two years since the last Twilight came out and I think as you get older you get a bit more confident with every movie you do, so it’s been a gradual graduation to this.”
Pattinson’s “graduation” has included a romantic melodrama (Remember Me), a period circus piece (Water for Elephants), a tale of the French nobility (Bel Ami) and playing an introspective Wall Street tycoon (Cosmopolis). He will soon be seen as T.E. Lawrence in the yet-to-be-released Nicole Kidman film Queen of the Desert and he is a wannabe actor and writer in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars which, like The Rover, was well-received at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“I’m curious to know whether people who liked the Twilight movies will come and see things like The Rover,”he says. “Hopefully they’ll enjoy it. I try to do ambitious projects but I don’t know if people are going to like them. You just try and do things which are challenging and hopefully people will appreciate that.”
Although his name is regularly linked with big studio projects such as Star Wars and superhero movies (recent rumours had him cast as a young Han Solo in a Star Wars spin-off), he denies he has ever been offered them and is wary about becoming involved in another franchise. “They don’t come into my orbit and I don’t really see myself in a lot of mainstream parts,” he says. “I’ve never been part of the group that gets these roles.”
He particularly enjoyed working on the low-budget apocalyptic thriller The Rover because it was filmed entirely on location in the scorching heat of the Australian outback, where he existed on a diet of “white bread and barbecue sauce”, and where there were no fans or photographers to pester him. “I just loved it because not only was there no one trying to find you, there’s no one there at all. I wasn’t worrying about anyone trying to sneak up on me or anything so I found it incredibly peaceful and relaxing.”
To land the role he had to go through an arduous four-hour audition for writer-director David Michod, whose previous film was the well-reviewed Animal Kingdom. “For the first 45 minutes I had to deal with my own neuroses before I’d do any kind of acting and I think David recognised this and when I let myself calm down I was fine.”
Michod recalls: “We would do a take and Robert would go, ‘Oh I was so terrible.’ But he wasn’t terrible, he’s just very English and very self-deprecating. I knew within five minutes of our four hour audition I’d found the actor to play Rey.”
Pattinson’s global travels keep him away from his home in London, which he isn’t too sorry about. “I spent two months in England last year which is the longest I’ve spent there in six years, which was nice, but I always go back to England at Christmas time and get so depressed that I’m glad to get back to Los Angeles,” he says. “I’ve really grown to like L.A and I guess it’s my home at the moment.”
His current home is other people’s houses. “I had this great house which I bought four or five years ago,” he says. “It was incredible, absolutely completely crazy. It was like Versailles, with an incredible garden, but I just stayed in one room. I sold it because I suddenly realised I’m not quite old enough to be dealing with plumbing and stuff. So I spent about six months borrowing peoples’ houses, which was nice. Now I’m renting a place which is much smaller.”
Pattinson laughs easily and often and is much more relaxed and at ease than in the early days when he resembled a startled deer caught in the headlights. Despite the massive changes in his life in a relatively short time, he has kept his feet firmly on the ground. Although he appears in advertisements for Christian Dior, he is certainly no fashion plate; he lost nearly all his clothes following a recent house move and hasn’t bothered to replace them. “I’ve started wearing the same thing pretty much every day like a uniform,” he says. “I haven’t taken this jacket off for weeks,” indicating the black, slightly moth-eaten jacket he is wearing that nevertheless looks good on him.
“It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand how I don’t have any clothes. I’ve basically stolen every item of clothing that anyone’s ever given me for a premiere but in my closet there are literally about three things. I’m sure there’s some kind of random storage box full of them somewhere.”
Working for Dior, he says with a chuckle, is “the most ridiculous job in the world. I have to do barely anything and I just occasionally have to go to some Dior parties, which is great.”
Pattinson was born in Barnes, West London, and joined the local theatre club as a teenager. He was spotted by a casting agent and made his screen debut in 2004 in a German television production; he was then bizarrely cast as Reese Witherspoon’s son in Vanity Fair, although his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.
He achieved some recognition for his role as the brave but doomed Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and he had a brief flashback cameo in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He had been torn between an acting career and going to university but the Harry Potter roles convinced him to stick with acting. He played a shell-shocked Second World War airman in a BBC Four production, The Haunted Airman, but then spent the best part of the next two years unemployed. His agent persuaded him to try his luck in Los Angeles so, armed with little but an English accent and a sense of humour, he did.
He was not sure whether he wanted the Twilight role when he was first offered it after auditioning by performing a love scene with the already-cast Kristen Stewart; she persuaded the director, Catherine Hardwicke, that he was the actor to play the troubled vampire Edward Cullen. “I’d read the book and couldn’t really picture myself in the role of this handsome, perfect guy,” he says. “I didn’t know how big it was going to be.”
He was romantically involved with his co-star Stewart for three years but the romance ended when she reportedly had an affair with her Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. He is currently dating model Imogen Kerr although he politely declines to talk about his romantic life.
Reviewing how he arrived at where he is in life he uses a word which features frequently in his vocabulary –“ridiculous”.
“I’m extremely lucky which always makes me a little nervous,” he says. “I don’t quite know why I got so lucky but yeah, it’s just ridiculous and I’m pretty happy. Yeah, definitely pretty happy.”
The Rover is released on August 15 (UK)