Life has suddenly become a little bemusing for 22-year-old Robert Pattinson.
A year ago, few people knew his name. Now he’s appearing on lists of the world’s sexiest men and has bodyguards to protect him from thousands of screaming, lingerie-throwing girls.
Robert is the British star of Twilight, a romantic vampire adventure which has taken America by storm and looks set to do the same here.
At the film’s London premiere in Leicester Square, 3,000 fans queued in freezing conditions to get a glimpse of their pin-up, some even camping overnight.
Twilight is the next phenomenon in the Harry Potter mould, something Robert knows a little about. He played doomed Cedric Diggory in The Goblet Of Fire, but that relatively small part did not prepare him for becoming the object of so much adulation.
Robert, with the hair that’s so big in the film now cut and hidden under a woolly hat, says: “The premieres have been mad. It’s happening everywhere now but I’m still not getting used to all the screaming.
“I’m completely overwhelmed by it every single time. The screaming feels so separate. I can still go on the Tube and hardly anyone knows who I am, but I go to certain places and everyone screams. It feels like they’re been paid to be there and scream!
“Has my life changed much? I don’t know. Little things, like people following me home – I guess that’s a bit strange.
“It’s scary to walk around London and see posters with my face on everywhere.”
Twilight recouped its $35 million budget on its opening night in America, before taking more than $100 million during its first week on release, beating High School Musical 3 and Quantum Of Solace.
The film is based on the bestselling novels by Stephenie Meyer, who’s been hailed as the new JK Rowling and has sold 25 million books worldwide. They follow the love affair between Robert’s character, vampire Edward Cullen, and high school pupil Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart).
Ardent fans have been discussing the film adaptation for months on more than 350 websites, so no wonder director Catherine Hardwicke felt the pressure to deliver – and to find the right cast. It is reported 5,000 young actors were rejected before she chose Robert.
She says: “I read the stuff that they wrote on the internet and could see the passion they had. I wanted to bring that to the screen.
“I cast Kristen early on as the perfect Bella, but we were getting desperate finding Edward. We couldn’t find anyone.
“So many cute guys walked into the room, but they all looked like the kind of guy who could be at your high school.
“Rob had something otherworldly, interesting and strange about him.
“When we announced Robert’s name, the fans weren’t too thrilled at first, but they love him now. The chemistry between him and Kristen is amazing.”
Catherine is also responsible for showcasing Robert’s musical talent. Discovering his songwriting ability, she pestered him into recording six tracks at a friend’s house and now his songs are used in two scenes in Twilight.
Robert says: “You hear me singing in one important scene near the end.
“I grew up with musicians but I didn’t have any intention of making my music public.
“There’s such a stigma attached to actors who release music. Maybe I’ll do it anonymously, or when I’m unemployable!”
Robert grew up in the affluent London suburb of Barnes, the son of a vintage car dealer. He started acting as a teenager with the amateur Barnes Theatre Club, but he had no desire to be famous.
He remembers: “The only reason I went to the theatre company was because a lot of pretty girls went there. I worked backstage. I only started acting when all the good people left and I was the only one tall enough to play the leads.
“In a weird way I’m more proud of things I did then, I think that’s the best stuff I’ve done.”
Fans will be delighted to know that work begins on the next vampire film, New Moon, next year, though Robert has mixed feelings about reprising his role.
“The idea of a sequel is terrifying,” he says. “We had nothing to lose with Twilight, it was so fresh and new, but it will be tough to build up the hype again. Everyone will be judging us.”