FORGET Daniel Craig or David Beckham – the Brit who can’t move without being mobbed by female admirers is the public schoolboy pin-up who’s the star of the hugely successful lucrative vampire film series Twilight – the latest of which is about the open here.
FOR days they camped out on the street with blankets and chairs in downtown Los Angeles, awaiting his arrival for Thursday night’s red-carpet premiere of Eclipse, the third in the blockbuster Twilight saga.
They are the Twihards, the army of fans dedicated to 24-year-old British actor Robert Pattinson, who stars as “vegetarian” vampire Edward Cullen.
Deafening cheers greeted his arrival, looking a million dollars – a mere tenth of his salary – in a sleek Armani suit, skinny tie and a couple of days worth of stubble.
On his arm was co-star and girlfriend Kristen Stewart in thigh-high white sequined dress. It was a moment of triumph yet he felt nothing but guilt.
Slipping away from the TV cameras and reporters, Pattinson spent priceless minutes signing dozens of autographs for his palpitating fans. “Some of them have been camping out since Saturday, apparently,” he laments. “I spiral into this oblivion of guilt whenever they say that because I don’t know what to do. All I can do is sign.”
It is a persistent dilemma for the young actor who has become Britain’s biggest heart-throb in Hollywood, whose smouldering good looks and piercing blue-grey eyes evidently reduce all female fans in his vicinity to weak-kneed screaming banshees.
“Anywhere I go there’s immediate attention,” he says of the fanaticism that has been dubbed Beatlemania with fangs. He has been chased down streets by fans and crashed a car trying to elude paparazzi. Girls beg him to bite them. (He politely declines.)
Expect just as much Twidolatry and chaos when Eclipse opens in Britain on July 9. Not since Star Wars have moviegoers been so fanatical about a single movie and as undead hunk Edward, Pattinson is their cynosure. His every move is scrutinised, his lush dark hair the subject of endless speculation and his on-off romance with Kristen Stewart has filled the covers of dozens of celebrity magazines.
He has been named among the Sexiest Men Alive two years running by People magazine, the Best Dressed Man of 2009 by GQ, among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People In The World in 2010 and was a presenter at the Academy Awards earlier this year. He is known to millions simply as “R-Patz”.
It has been a whirlwind ride to the top for the Twilight dreamboat who first caught attention playing Hogwarts’ dashing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, later dying heroically in 2007’s Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.
But of all that series’ stars – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson – none has become as big a phenomenon as Robert Pattinson. When he was at private school in West London he showed little promise of one day becoming Hollywood’s hottest hunk.
Born in London in 1986 he was raised in a plush £1million Victorian semi in Barnes by his “artsy” parents, Clare, a model-agency booker, and vintage-car dealer dad Richard. He began taking piano lessons at three, classical guitar at five and attended Tower House school in East Sheen, earning pocket money delivering newspapers and walking dogs before moving to the £13,500-a-year Harrodian school as a teenager.
He was a pretty child with a mop of bright blond hair yet was hardly heart-throb material to his older sisters Victoria, now 29, and Lizzy, 26, who played with him like a life-size doll. “Until I was 12, my sisters used to dress me up as a girl and introduce me as Claudia,” he says. “Twelve was a real turning point as I moved to a mixed school, then became cool and discovered hair gel.”
It was also the age when he launched his career as a child model and stayed strongly in touch with his feminine side. “When I started I was quite tall and looked like a girl so I got lots of jobs because it was that period when the androgynous look was cool,” he recalls.
But with maturity came his chiselled looks and he admits: “I became too much of a guy so I never got any more jobs. I had a most unsuccessful modelling career.” He harboured early showbusiness ambitions, however, and recalls: “I wanted to be a rapper when I was 14.”
Yet Pattinson had shown a talent for acting from his first production at the age of six, playing the King of Hearts in a school play and at Tower House winning the role of Robert in Lord Of The Flies. “He wasn’t a particularly academic child but he loved drama,” says school secretary Caroline Booth. Encouraged by his parents, Pattinson worked backstage at the Barnes Theatre Club before playing in productions of Our Town, Tess Of The D’Urbervilles and Anything Goes.
He admits joining at 15 “to meet girls” but adds: “I owe everything to that club.” With money from acting and modelling, Pattinson paid for his own A-level studies at the Harrodian school, emerging with an A and two Bs. But becoming an egotistic teen actor won him few friends.
“I got beaten up by a lot of people when I was younger,” he says. “I was a bit of an idiot but I always thought the assaults were unprovoked. It was after I first started acting and I liked to behave like an actor, or how I thought an actor was supposed to be, and that apparently provoked a lot of people into hitting me.”
His big break came in $23million TV movie The Ring Of The Nibelungs – the myth that inspired Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings – but the day before he left for South Africa to film in 2003, he was introduced to Goblet Of Fire director Mike Newell. Months passed and Pattinson thought he had been passed over for Harry Potter but the day he returned to London he learned he had been cast as Diggory.
After Order Of The Phoenix, Pattinson beat 3,000 hopefuls to play Twilight’s lovelorn vampire destined to be 17 years old for eternity, only to meet outrage from fans of the books, who called him “disgusting” and even “repulsive” – until the film came out and Twihards swooned. Yet Pattinson was not so convinced.
Director Catherine Hardwicke recalls him walking out of the first screening of Twilight because he could not stand watching himself. Ironically, its success has made life difficult for Pattinson, who now inspires pandemonium whenever he ventures to the corner shops.
“I’ve been uncomfortable in crowds my whole life,” he admits. He now makes his home in Los Angeles in a mansion he reportedly shares with Kristen Stewart, 20, though the couple still deny they are even dating, keeping Twihard fans hooked.
Twilight’s success and its £10millionper- movie salary have given Pattinson freedom to pursue roles in independent movies such as 2008’s Little Ashes, in which he played Salvador Dali – though it earned less than $500,000 in the US – and this year’s romantic drama Remember Me.
As for the hair, he admits it’s his co-star. “In a lot of ways the hair is 75 per cent of my performance,” he says.
Pattinson may forever be associated with Twilight and he is not about to break loose from the saga based on books by Stephenie Meyer that have sold more than 100 million copies in 38 languages. He still has two films to make as the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn, is being divided into two movies.
He faces the coming end of the saga and the loss of his family of co-stars with mixed emotions. “It’s just weird,” he says. “They’ve become so much a part of my life, it’s like divorcing someone. I guess I’ll see. Maybe it will be great.”
And despite the Twihards’ tumult haunting his every moment, he concedes: “I’m going to miss all the crowds as well.”