“Surreal” is a word that perfectly suits Robert Pattinson’s life at the moment.
Not only is the up-and-comer adjusting to a new, hyper-famous life after Twilight’s rabid fan base sunk their teeth into his brooding portrayal of the undead romantic hero Edward Cullen (and became as addicted to the newly minted star as the saga’s vampire clan is to hemoglobin), he’s also playing the famed Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí in his latest film. Little Ashes chronicles Dalí’s formative years at university, where he became embroiled in a complex, obsessive and sexually charged relationship with future poet Federico García Lorca.
Pattinson paints Fandango a portrait of how he climbed into Dalí’s surreality, bares a bit of fang on fame, stays in the shadows during frenzied fan encounters and even offers a nibble of New Moon scoop.
Fandango: There was the showy, intentionally bizarre public Dalí and then there is his art, which should be taken very seriously. Have you thought about that as it applies to your own work?
Pattinson: Yeah. He had a fanatical control over how he was perceived. But now it’s really out of control – out of your control. Your public image just seems to be in the hands of faceless strangers. You see these stories come up all the time and you’re like, “Jesus. How do you know…?Fandango: Is it harder playing a real person, as opposed to playing the fictional Edward Cullen who had his story laid out in black and white?
Pattinson: I think in a lot of ways it’s kind of the same. You’re still playing fiction even though you’re playing a real character. It’s the same kind of approximation of somebody. The only thing that you can take from the book is the general outline, the mood changes, the emotional changes and development. I’m not playing it exactly as it is in the book.
Fandango: Dalí was a famed surrealist and no doubt you’ve had your share of surreal experiences in the last few months – like fans screaming over cardboard cutouts of you at the video store.
Pattinson: I know! I was in a Blockbuster on the day it was being released. I had forgotten it was being released that day. There were two families who had come with eight- or nine-year old-daughters to get their DVD. They were standing in the line crying and I stood watching what all this commotion was about. They didn’t know I was there or anything. I was just thinking “Wow, you’re crying about a DVD.” It’s fascinating.
Fandango: And you never revealed yourself to them?
Pattinson: No way! [laughs]
Fandango: Do you and your castmates try to top each other with the wild post-fame encounters you’ve had?
Pattinson: In a lot of ways they are all quite similar. The funny thing is that I’m always going around trying to look as inconspicuous as possible I find that people are always really disappointed when they actually recognize me. They are like ‘”Oh! At first I thought you were a bum but then I realized who you were.”
Fandango: You’re just getting started shooting New Moon. How are things going?
Pattinson: The interesting thing about this one is that so much of my character is in Bella’s head. It’s based on a mixture of memories and nightmares. Bella thinks she is going mad. I get to do some really creepy stuff. In other words, Bella is really frightened of [her hallucinations]. It’s really, really different than Twilight. I think that a lot of people will be kind of scared by this one. I wanted to try and put that into Twilight but I couldn’t really find a way to make Edward scary.
Fandango: How is working with the new director, Chris Weitz?
Pattinson: He’s a great guy. He’s very, very talented, and articulate. I guess it must be kind of stressful for him to take this on. It’s got so much expectation. He just seems very calm about everything.
Fandango: What was it like attending the Academy Awards for the first time?
Pattinson: I got there and then I’m sitting in the second row. It was unbelievable. I keep thinking that something terrible is going to happen. “Death” is the only thing I’m thinking the whole time. I just used up all my luck so I’m probably going to die at 23 or something.
Fandango: Did you discover that any of the hugely famous stars that were there were actually fans of Twilight, or their kids love the movie?
Pattinson: Robin Wright Penn came up to me. I thought that was kind of amazing after her husband had just won Best Actor. That was very, very surreal.
Fandango: You contributed a couple of songs to the Twilight soundtrack. Are you still pursuing music, and will you be doing more for New Moon?
Pattinson: I’m in talks to do a soundtrack for another movie, composing. I cannot say what it is yet, but I really, really, really want to do. I don’t think I’m going to have anything on New Moon, but never say never.
Fandango: And next you might be doing Memoirs, which has been described as a story of two star-crossed lovers trying to overcome family tragedies.
Pattinson: That will hopefully happen. It’s not finalized yet. It’s a great script and it’s something different from anything I’ve done before. I was in New York working on rewrites the other day with Jenny [Lumet, screenwriter of Rachel Getting Married]. It seemed like its going to be really, really, really good.
Fandango: Finally, for many people, Dalí became known as the artist with the crazy mustache and today you’re the actor with the wild hair. Did you recognize the parallel in the hirsute trademarks?
Pattinson: [laughs] I didn’t think about that, but it’s funny because people are still bringing up my hair, even though I cut it off to make it different. That is quite funny. God. I hope that I don’t get known for that for the rest of my life.