ROBERT Pattinson quietly enters a plush hotel room, stifling a yawn and clutching a pair of expensive-looking shades. “I can’t wait to get to a level where I can wear sunglasses during press junkets,” he says, before breaking into a laugh.
The 28-year-old Twilight star has reached – and surpassed – the level of fame at which most Hollywood stars start wearing dark glasses indoors, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll be adopting a diva-like attitude any time soon.
Six years since the hugely successful vampire franchise first hit screens, the actor, known to millions of young fans as RPatz, still doesn’t seem entirely comfortable being the centre of attention.
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Heading to the remote Australian Outback to make his new film The Rover last year, was a welcome change of scene for the star, who had faced months of speculation over his relationship with Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart, after photos of the actress embracing a married director were splashed around the world in 2012.
“It was incredibly peaceful,” London-born Pattinson says of his stint Down Under, cracking his knuckles as he speaks. “You really realise the value of your anonymity again, and how priceless it is. But also, it was an unusual place as well. There was a mysticism to the area. It’s not like being out in nothingness; there’s an intensity to it.”
Since his eventual split from Stewart, Pattinson’s love life has still been generating headlines, with reports linking him to everyone from singer Katy Perry to Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough.
And while he proved his acting chops post-Twilight, in David Cronenberg’s 2012 drama Cosmopolis and the period romp Bel Ami, he looks set to shed his teen idol image for good with his role in The Rover.
Set in a dystopian world, a decade after global economic collapse, he plays Rey, a petty criminal who is wounded in a botched heist as his fellow gang members make off in a stolen car.
The car’s owner Eric (former Neighbours star Guy Pearce), is determined to get his only remaining possession back, and forces simple-minded Rey to join him and help hunt down the gang.
The ruffled hair and chiselled good looks which made Pattinson such a hit with Twilight fans are replaced with a deep Southern drawl, shaved head and brown teeth, modelled on “the kids at school who didn’t brush them”.
The actor – who landed his first big role playing Cedric Diggory in 2005’s Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire – laughs as he recalls how he initially wanted the physical transformation to go even further.
“I’d read this thing about how thieves in the Wild West had the tops of their ears snipped off as a punishment to show you were a thief. “I was like, ‘That would be so great!’. He’d be the type of person who’d get caught stealing something.”
As it happened, the director decided against it – which, in hindsight, Pattinson realises, was probably for the best. “Thank God I didn’t have to have a prosthetic ear thing on the entire time!”
He describes Rey as “a little slow, and very, very needy... he feels like he needs people to look after him all the time”.
So how did he get into character?
“I didn’t realise I was doing it, but all the guns were controlled by an armourer, who’s obviously very serious about guns,” he explains. “He got so p***ed off when I started playing with them. And I realised that was getting me into character, annoying the armourer, breaking the guns. That’s exactly what Rey would be doing; constantly being told off.”
Pearce’s character gets frustrated with Rey, and even physically attacks him. But as their journey continues, a subtle bond develops between the pair.
Pattinson, who jokingly refers to the rather bleak film as “a buddy road trip movie”, enjoyed working with the “amazing” Pearce. “Neither one of us knew exactly what the movie was about when we started, and so we were kind of figuring it out,” he adds.
“It’s not like one of us had a really set idea of how to do something and clashed with the other person. We were really trying to find it together, which doesn’t happen that often.”
Next up for the actor is the Werner Herzog film Queen Of The Desert, a biopic of the British explorer, archaeologist and writer Gertrude Bell, who was born in Washington, Tyne and Wear, and whose father was three times mayor of Middlesbrough.
Pattinson, who plays Lawrence of Arabia in the film, says landing the role was “just crazy”.
“I’ve been a fan of Herzog since I was 16. I met him for that job three years ago; I thought it was never going to happen and when it finally did, it was amazing. Riding around Morocco on a camel, it was pretty great.”
As for how indie films compare with blockbusters like Twilight, Pattinson admits The Rover was “an extreme one”, with the cast sleeping in makeshift accommodation on location.
“When you have a big budget, it creates expectations of how you’re supposed to be treated as an actor. And when you’re there [in the outback], there is literally no other option than staying in the shipping container.
“It’s kind of nice,” Pattinson adds. “Everyone’s on a totally equal footing, and it doesn’t give your vanity a chance to take hold.”
- The Rover is in cinemas now