Pattinson says that signing on to Elephants, directed by I am Legend’s Francis Lawrence, was a no brainer, and that he’s considering his post-Twilight career very carefully – though ultimately he knows whatever will be, will be. “It’s impossible to predict anything,” he sighs before grinning. “When it all goes down the toilet, you can just weep.” After the labor intensive shoot for the final two Twilight films, Breaking Dawn parts 1 & 2 (in theatres Nov 2011 & Nov 2011), wraps in April, he’ll start shooting David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, with Juliette Binoche and Paul Giamatti. “He’s an incredibly hard working person with an incredible work ethic,” says Witherspoon. “He doesn’t ever complain. Not once. Which is sort of lower than the national average for actors. They’re always complaining. Especially the men!”
Twilight lovers will be happy to know that Pattinson is as good looking and thick-maned in person as he appears on-screen. But they shouldn’t confuse him with any of the broody characters he’s played. He’s talkative and laughs easily – about the intense fame that’s followed him since Twilight became a phenomenon (“How is this still a story? It’s boring.”), about the darkness of the Breaking Dawn movies (“It’s going to be sooo weird.”), and most of all, at himself. “I’d love to play a big fat person,” he says, contemplating a different look in a post-Edward Cullen era. No doubt it would just mean more of him to love.
EW: You and Tai, the elephants, have a special bond in Water for Elephants. Do you think she’ll remember you at our photo shoot tomorrow?
Robert Pattinson: I don’t know. I’m terrified that she won’t. I’ll be so so happy if she does.
EW: There were a lot of animals on the set. What was that like?
Pattinson: It could be really scary. The bars of the cages for the lions and tigers were too wide, and they could fit their arms out completely. There were tigers like, battling at the top of the Steadycam operator’s camera. But Christoph! I’ve never seen anything like it. Once he was in character, he somehow managed to take away every bit of fear and walk down this passageway that was only a foot wide, and there were all these tigers literally jumping out, and there wasn’t a single flinch! I was like, “That’s not acting, that’s actually schizophrenia.” [Laughs] It was crazy, because I’m genuinely terrified.
EW: And then there are your human co-stars. How was working with Reese?
Pattinson: There’s something about her. She’s just this genuinely nice person. I don’t know if she puts an effort into creating a nice aura, but her mood dissipates over the whole set. It was a completely different environment from when she wasn’t there. All the kids and the animals were just drawn to her. It made it incredibly easy to do my part – all my reaction shots are just watching her work brilliantly. She’s really cool and she’s just…never, ever annoying. God, that’s the worst description isn’t it?
EW: You played her son in 2004s Vanity Fair, but your character didn’t make the final cut.
Pattinson: Yes, my big break. [Laughs] Me and my best friend – it was both of our first jobs, and we had adjacent scenes. We went [to the premiere] and we saw his scenes but not mine. They forgot to tell me. I was jealous of him for about 5 years.
EW: Did you and Reese remember each other from that time period?
Pattinson: Yeah, completely. No, actually, I don’t know what I’m talking about, not really. I only worked with her for two days. But she was lovely to me, I remember that. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was freaking out. It’s pretty much the only time I’ve forgotten my lines, and it scarred me so much I’ve never let it happen again. We did a scene where she cries, and we started doing the scene and immediately there were tears…and I couldn’t remember a single thing in my head. And then they say, “Cut” and she wasn’t crying anymore. I was like, “How are you doing that? That isn’t fair. I want to be able to do that!”
EW: Do you feel like you’re getting better, or at least more confident, with each film?
Pattinson: I think so. The tiredness helps as well. I’m just so constantly clouded in self-consciousness all the time because I didn’t grow up as a very dramatic kid. I did this movie called Bel Ami at the beginning of the year, and we did a lot of rehearsals, and we were doing all this body language stuff, and I was so embarrassed doing it in front of other actors. And they were so comfortable with it! I felt like the biggest moron ever.
EW: Do you think they’re really comfortable or just that they’ve learned how to fake it better?
Pattinson: Genuinely comfortable, I think. I was watching the other actors – the director would be like, “Just run around screaming!” And I’d go, “Um, no!” [Laughs] People would take off screaming, and they were loving it! I was like, “But how can you love that?” I would love to love that. I would love to revel in my own physicality. I just feel like Id trip over my own feet.
EW: You’re almost finished with The Twilight Saga, with Breaking Dawn parts 1 & 2 wrapping soon. You’ve been filming for a long time.
Pattinson: I literally feel like we’ve been doing it my whole life. [Laughs]
EW: There are a lot of crazy things that happen in these last two movies – not the least of which involves a half-vampire baby’s horrific birth.
Pattinson: [Cracks up] There’s some interesting and weird stuff going on – very, very, very strange. It’s great. For a big mainstream movie, it’s the most obscure storyline and really outside the box. It’s a horror movie. I’ve seen a few bits, and I just can’t see how it’s going to be PG 13… unless they cut everything out. [Laughs]
EW: Harry Potter also gets pretty dark by the end.
Pattinson: But you can sort of gloss over all that stuff in Happy Potter. Here the key story points are the strangest and most disturbing parts. [Laughs] I’d love to know what they’re going to come up with as the [advertising] tagline for it.
EW: How are you and the cast and crew going to celebrate at the end of the series?
Pattinson: I have to go directly to a press tour [for Water for Elephants]
EW: It must be strange to go from filming such dark material into promotion for another film.
Pattinson: A few weeks ago, I did some interviews and was like, “Uh, yeah, so this guy gets an elephant pregnant and gives birth to a panda.” [Laughs] It’s about a vampire elephant baseball players! Water for Elephants was a relief because, for one thing, I didn’t have to wear all that make-up and those contacts… My God, I’ll be glad to see the last of those.
EW: Not so comfortable?
Pattinson: I actually want to get some kind of plastic explosive. I want to reanimate them into something so I can kill them. It’s embarrassing for me – after so many years, it’s still a process every single morning. Everybody else has figured out how to do it, and then there’s two people holding me down because I can’t do it myself.
EW: And after you do press for Elephants you’re going straight into David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis?
Pattinson: Yes, I’m so excited, and I’m freaking out. I have no prep time, and it’s a Don DeLillo book with semi-obscure dialogue, and I have to change my body shape quite a bit. I’m playing one of those masters-of-the-universe types, and I have to have about 6 percent body fat… which means I need to lose about 70 percent. [Laughs]
EW: So its gym time.
Pattinson: If I could just cut out beer, that’s my one thing. At the beginning of [Breaking Dawn] I had to be really buff because I had to have my shirt off. And when I start [getting fit], I just go crazy about it. It’s like the only thing I can talk about to anyone. So I was like, “I’m going to keep this up the whole time, so for whatever movie I do afterwards I’m going to be so buff.” And then literally one day after my last shirt off scene I started being all [mimics eating voraciously] nom, nom, nom. And I didn’t realise I had one more [shirt off] scene, and you can see it in one of them – I’m clearly [exaggeratedly sucks in his stomach and cheeks].
EW: Do people ever send you comedy scripts? Because you’re funny, and I don’t know if people know that.
Pattinson: It’s weird. Comedy is scary. There are so few comedy scripts, and most of the good ones are written for comedians. There are a few things… I read, like, three things that I really like as comedies, but my agents will never let me do them. [Laughs]
EW: Why not?
Pattinson: Because they’re soooo far out. [Laughs]
EW: Just a complete departure?
Pattinson: That’s why I kind of wanted to do it. I think that’s the only way to do it: You gotta be like, “Okay, I’m going to jump off the moon.”
EW: But once Twilight is finished, can’t you do whatever you want?
Pattinson: I mean, I can. But at the same time, I think people have an incredibly short shelf life, and you can never really predict what an audience wants or how to maintain a career, other than doing what you think is cool. Generally, what I think is cool is whatever everybody else hates.
EW: I’d think you have enough collateral built up so you could do a couple of out-there things.
Pattinson: I know, but then you suddenly start crawling back to the studios, like, “Please, please, please! I’ll do anything, I’ll do the most [idiotic] rom-com you can think of!” [Laughs]
EW: There’s been a lot of Twilight-like excitement about the casting of The Hunger Games. Do you find it amusing? Do you know the books?
Pattinson: I sort of came across it last year, and I didn’t realise it was the most enormous thing in the world. It’s good! It will be a good movie.
EW: Would you ever do a big franchise thing again knowing what you know now?
Pattinson: I would. But I’d want to have more input. The only horrible thing about being part of a franchise..well, not horrible..no, it is horrible…is that the bigger and bigger you get, it’s quite difficult to break out of stuff. When you’ve been playing the same part, you can’t suddenly start playing it differently. It takes away a little bit of the creative kind of..urge.
EW: Who do you turn to for advice when it comes to picking projects?
Pattinson: I really trust my agent and my managers opinion on things, and I also send them to my parents most of the time. My sisters, too. It’s all the same people.
EW: Where’s home? Does L.A feel like home at all?
Pattinson: Sometimes. I just started missing L.A. a bit when I leave it. But any City, I have a shelf life of about 2 months – then there’s the paranoia. When I had a house here, you just really are waiting for it to be discovered. I’d love to have a place, but I’d just be freaking out about it all the time. I’d be constantly thinking someone was going to come I and take stuff.
EW: Do you think after Twilight ends in 2012 you’ll be able to start living a more normal life?
Pattinson: It’s funny how it’s ending in 2012. This is how the world will end. But, um, I don’t know. I think most of people’s recognition is based on the magazines and stuff. All the gossip stories won’t work- they’re always combined with Twilight, so once that’s done and it can’t be combined with the promotion of the film, I think it will end. Because I have an obscenely boring life.”