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Should I ever earn the privilege of interviewing the Prime Minister (and I've got some choice questions for him), I doubt he will be as difficult to access as the young British actor Robert Pattinson.

In exchange for eight precious minutes with Pattinson, the former Harry Potter regular and current star of the tween vampire movie Twilight (which opens today), I not only faced the usual flotilla of handlers, but also several layers of boutique hotel security, followed by a Get Smart-like series of locked double doors leading to a secret penthouse loft. Once inside, I was stared down by two burly, very still men I assume were bodyguards. I wonder where the panic room was located?

In fairness, the Prime Minister is only a leader of the country. He's never been swarmed by thousands of insane, screaming tweenage girls, as Pattinson was a mere hour before we met. And tweenage girls, not boring old prime ministers, are running the cultural show today - because they're the only people with any money. Maybe our auto plants should start making Hannah Montana and High School Musical gimcracks.

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Despite all the hysteria, the baby-faced Pattinson turned out to be a likeable, slightly goofy sort of kid; one who openly admits he's bewildered by all the seething estrogen his appearances inspire. Playing Edward Cullen, Twilight's bloodsucker with a pensive, emo-boy heart, Pattinson comes across as both beautiful and sullen, romantic yet chaste (at least when it comes to neck biting). His flannel-clad, awe-shucks Edward is more underachiever than undead, more Morrissey than Ozzy - a refreshing change from the overly arch, Euro-trash art-fop vampires seen in the Blade and Underworld franchises.

Now that Leonardo DiCaprio has completely transformed into Mickey Rooney, it's time to crown a new tousled teen wonder.

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight novel, and its sequels, have sold millions of copies and have a huge cult following - inevitably, some people will think you do not match their idea of Edward. The author has even labelled this reaction the "Rob effect," after you.

Is the Rob effect the universal effect of people disagreeing with the casting? Ha!

I think she meant just you.

Yeah, I had masses ... there was a huge, universal backlash about my casting, I think. I mean, there was a petition. Seventy-five-thousand people signed it, they sent it around. But, I mean, I expected it.

Did it bother you?

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No, I mean, the casting breakdown for the audition was, "Edward is the ideal man, he's the perfect man," so I just thought anyone who has the gall to even go into the audition is, like, really asking for it! Ha! I would have done the same thing if I was a little girl.

That's telling, because the novel's critics argue that the characters in Twilight are overly obsessed with beauty and have no emotional depth.

I did read the books, and I thought, mainly because I was trying to find something in there that was playable, that you have to realize that the whole story is told from Bella's [the teen heroine]perspective, and she is completely infatuated with Edward's world. She's completely lost in the vampire world, she wants to be part of their world so badly. So the talk of beauty and everything, you can be objective about it, because it's from Bella's perspective. I don't know if that's how Stephenie Meyer [intended]t, if they genuinely were the most beautiful creatures ever, but it is from Bella's perspective, so I really thought they could kind of be anything.

Have you been told how much you resemble Prince William in the film?

Oh, Jesus! I used to get that from Harry Potter! Ah, it's terrible! Ha!

Why? He's beloved. He'll rule the Commonwealth one day.

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No, it's terrible! Ha! It's the worst thing you could possibly have said. This interview is over! Ha! I mean, I don't have anything against him, but, oh God, it's so typically English. I'm trying to get away from that whole stigma of the floppy English posh person.

This is the first vampire film I've seen that is about the problem of immortality, not blood drinking.

The vampire aspect is very much secondary. They aren't vampires in any other way than name. Umm, it is, it is kind of ... they don't have any immediate desires. It's more about responding to your base instincts. If you're going to live forever, should you do whatever you want, have no constraints, or should you pretend to live within the confines that death gives you as a human. Edward especially has a problem with this, until he meets Bella. What's your security plan, now that hordes of young girls want chunks of your hair?

I don't know ... I might start lashing out at them! Ha! It might make me genuinely terrifying. I was noticing this - nobody really goes up to hard-core rappers, they don't get too many problems with little girls! I'm hoping I can just go to London and it will be like a switch, I can just turn everything off.

I doubt that.

More and more people are noticing me, but if you go to really crappy places, people don't expect you to be there. And I have a tendency to only be in really crappy places.

But ... God, I'm still reeling from the Prince William thing!

Oh, stop it. I could have said Camilla Parker Bowles.

Oh, God. Oh, God, no. Prince William. Jesus!



May 13, 1986, London

Who's laughing now?

Pattinson suffered a few setbacks early in his still-nascent

career: His scenes in director

Mira Nair's 2004 film Vanity Fair were cut from the theatrical release; and the following year, he was set to star in The Woman Before at London's Royal Court Theatre, only to be fired at the last minute.

What's next

The dreamy hunk's screaming female fans are sure to be crushed by the news that his next film, the soon-to-be-released Little Ashes, has him playing surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Oh, not the bug-eyed, religious-icon-hoarding Dali of middle age,

but the young, curious artist who has an affair with Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, who is eventually killed by


Massimo Commanducci

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