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Beyond The Twilight Zone
Forget vampire blockbusters, Hollywood's most brooding heartthrob Robert Pattinson is now seducing women for all new reasons.
A sudden change in plan a Bazaar HQ in Dubai and less than 24 hours later I find myself making my way down the infamous palm-leaf emblazoned corridor of LA's iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, just moments away from meeting teen icon and bona fide A-list Robert Pattinson.
Best known for his leading role in The Twilight Saga, a series of films based on Stephenie Meyer's vampire-romance novels, the British actor became a household name - and heartthrob - overnight as the films netted billions of Dirhams at the box offices.
Unfortunately for me, all five films have eluded my cinematic escapades of recent years, however the tabloid hysteria that surrounds the cast has not. Robert's on-screen/off-screen, on-again/off-again romance with his co-star Kristen Stewart has been played out in the media since Twilight first hit the big screen in 2008. And that doesn't exclude their very public break-up earlier his year. As I draw closer to the door of his hotel suite, I find my mind irrationally wondering whether I'll be 'Team Rob' or 'Team Taylor' (actor Taylor Lautner plays Robert's love rival in the films) - the big debate amongst Twilight fans the world over and a choice I cannot make with any sort of conviction. I take a deep breath and enter the room.
Fortunately, my vampire shortcomings don't matter all that much today for I am meeting Robert to talk about his new role as the face of Dior Homme. The advertising campaign, which launches this month, see sultry images of the actor shot by American artist Nan Goldin in New York. There's also a short film in which Robert assumes a rock'n'roll alpha male character in a raw and self-destructive relationship with free-spirited French model Camille Rowe.
"It's kind of, sort of, a like fantasy version I have of myself," Robert stated cautiously, when I ask about his latest character. "I mean, I'm not like that on an everyday basis, I think I am a little bit more boring," he laughs, his British accent glazed with just a hint of LA.
In spite of his massive fame, the 27-year-old is disarmingly unguarded and relaxed, puffing on an electric cigarette. He is wearing a charcoal grey jumper, loose jeans and a cap turned backwards - "it's he same outfit I wore yesterday," he volunteers. He is unshaven with a touch of stubble making his chiseled jawbone, and suddenly I understand what all the fuss is about. He is also, of course, doused in Dior's scent. "I think I have about three different Dior Homme fragrances on," he chuckles, warning me, in case I start down a scientific track, " I am not very food with the nasal questions." In fact, it seems Robert is just as much out of his comfort zone talking about fragrance as I am discussing vampires. Not surprising really as this is the actor's first endorsement since he first arrived on the scene playing Cedric Diggory in the fourth Harry Potter film in 2005 before being propelled into mega-stardom as Edward Cullen in Twilight.
"Dior is very independent, there's nothing tacky about it at all," he says of his decision to represent the French fashion house. "I actually felt like it was benefitting me to be associated with them rather than doing something just for the sake of it." For the campaign's commercial, Robert hand-picked French independent film director Romaine Gavras for the task. "I'd seen his movie Our Day Will Come and tried to meet him for like a year and he just did not return my phone calls...Ever!" he laughs. "So I thought if I did the Dior thing I bet I could get him on board." He was right. And when I spoke with the charismatic Romaine earlier in the day, he was equally complimentary about Robert. "You always have a fear with big stars like him that are crazy and uncontrollable, or collect swords," he jokes, "but from the start Robert was really down to earth."
In the film Robert looks every inch the leading man, embodying a nonchalant, caution-to-the-wind attitude as he runs around New York gate-crashing parties, joy-riding on the beach and getting steamy in the bedroom scenes with Camille. "He has such a strong image in his previous films, this commercial was about giving him a different kind of iconic look," explains Romaine. Robert agrees, "I kept saying from the beginning I wanted it to be really physical. I have done quite a few films in a row where it is all about stillness," he explains referring not only to the Twilight saga, but also to films as Water for Elephants in which he starred alongside Reese Witherspoon, and more recently his performance in David Cronenberg's sci-fi flick, Cosmopolis. "I was watching the Dior scenes back on the monitor and thinking I look older now. I have always been so self-conscious about looking like a little kid and people not really believing me, so I wanted to do a film about masculinity and this was kind of the perfect opportunity."
It's the transition from boy to man that Robert keeps referring back to as he talks, in between draws on his electric cigarette, and I wonder whether his feeling has anything to do with the ending of the Twilight series and his relationship with co-star Kristen Stewart. "Yeah, it's a whole bunch of stuff happening at the same time and I am just not worrying about things so much. I guess I jus happens," he muses, "I also bought a house and I was literally doing that up and fixing pipes," he quips, laughing at the absurdity of him doing handy-work.
I am surprised at how honest the star is (he answers every question I ask truthfully, as if it were a compulsion) given his personal life has been paparazzo fodder for the last five years. Today speculation centres round who he is dating. Most recently he has been linked to actress and granddaughter of Elvis Presley, Riley Keough, as well as songstress Katy Perry. "It's that thing... Someone knowing who they are, it's the best," he answers coyly when asked what attracts his interest in a woman. "I guess because it is like the opposite of what I am - I am so all over the place," he adds with his signature self-effacing humour.
The same goes for a woman's style, according to Robert. "If someone looks good in their clothes it's because they are comfortable in their own skin - it's literally just like owning it. Oh no! That is so lame, I feel like I am on Project Runway saying 'own that'," he jokes, complete with Tim Gunn accent.
Of course, the epitome of his carefree ideal is fellow Brit Kate Moss, Robert's pin-up of choice as a teenager. "I was obsessed with her, it was a bit ridiculous. The other poster I had up was Linda Blair in the Exorcist, so they were my two options - a little girl possessed and Kate Moss," he laughs.
But, as it turns out, Robert's knowledge and passion for fashion extends further than just posters of Kate Moss and Dior Homme fragances. "I kind of want to get more involved with the industry, I really like it," he says. "I like the speed of it, you can just move so much quicker. I also like designing clothes. It's weird, it's kind of a new thing that I have started doing," he reveals. As I probe him on his design ambitions, I expect the typical actor-turned-designer response of a T-shirt or baseball cap line and am, I admit, a little taken aback by his actual answer. "It's really embarrassing," he blushes taking a deep breath as I lean in closer, "I like drawing couture dresses." It's as if he is admitting this out loud for the first time. "It's bizarre! I started doing it and I was like 'what is happening?' Suddenly I had like a sketchbook full of dresses. I like the sort of artistry of it, it's kid of like costume design," Robert divulges. So can we expect to see him showcasing his designs at Paris fashion week in the future? "That would be the most random thing ever but I actually really want to do it. I don't know though, it could be incredibly embarrassing."
Clealy Robert is someone who excels at the arts, whether it's acting, music (he plays the piano and a guitar, as well as writing and singing his own music) or indeed designing. Far less exciting for the actor, however, is exercise. "I think I don't get some jobs because I don't go to the gym. I am literally the only actor in LA who doesn't have a six pack," he laughs. "Although I am going to have to change that. In my next film I have like three intimate scenes so I am literally thinking of those to get in shape." I ask him whether he has hit LA's Runyon Canyon, the place where half of Hollywood goes hiking every weekend. "No, I don't ever want anyone to see me doing exercise," he says aghast. "Even though I am doing it, I still think it's so lame and embarrassing - I am doing it out of necessity, that's all,"
What I find most charming about Robert is that he seems unaware of just how 'big' he is in Hollywood. In fact, he has a rare ability to make you feel as if you are kicking back and shooting the breeze with one of your friends rather than one of Hollywood's most watched and wanted actors. While he slowly makes his peace with his star stays, there's one part of the A-list territory that he still can't quite get to grips with. "I am very anti-paparazzi, but I guess you kind of get used to thing. In fact I just started getting better at hiding," he laughs. "As soon as you figure out a way to live where people don't follow you around, stress levels go down."
That Robert is not into the fame aspect of Hollywood - "it's not really me so I have never really felt attached to it" - allows him to be more creative in his film choices. It's a very interesting career move that he is making," Romain says of Robert. "At some point, you either have to stay in your comfort zone and keep doing movies, or you get the courage and to go out and do more interesting things like the Cronenberg film." And the actor seems equally happy about the direction his career is headed. "It's an amazing job, especially if you don't let yourself go crazy, but there are loads of jobs that make you go crazy," he says candidly.
It is this endearing modesty and off-the-cuff sense of humour peppered with British charm, as well as his driven acting aspirations, that make Robert so much more than just as teen star. As of now, he's clocking up actor, perfume model, musician ad you read it here first, couture designer. With or without the six pack, I can now safely say, I am very much "Team Rob".