“Escape from the Twilight Zone” with Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson doesn’t like to fly anymore, because flying means airports, and airports mean encountering people who might go bananas when they see him, screaming and crying and trying to touch him and asking him to bite their necks. Shy, for an actor, Pattinson, who turns 25 next month, says he finds the hysteria that has surrounded him ever since he first appeared as the gallant teenage vampire Edward Cullen in the first Twilight movie, in 2008, “quite strange.”

“This thing with everyone knowing you,” he says one day in Baton Rouge, where he’s filming the fourth and fifth installments in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn: Part I and Part II, “it’s weird, because people have this one-sided relationship where they look at your picture and feel they know you more than someone they actually know.” And, Pattinson adds, “I don’t really know myself that well.”

And so—given his aversion to air travel, and his feeling that he could use some time to get to know himself—Pattinson decided that, when he had to get from Los Angeles to New Orleans to join the Twilight cast in November, he would drive. “It was awesome,” he says of the trip, which he made with two friends from London. “I went on service roads the whole time. I navigated it on an iPhone.” This updated Kerouacian adventure took them through Arizona and New Mexico, where they came upon the tiny Native American town of Zuni. “It didn’t seem like America at all,” Pattinson says nostalgically. “Me and my friends were the only white people.”

They stopped in a bar in Lubbock, Texas, where, for the first time in as long as Pattinson can remember, he sat and had a beer, undisturbed by paparazzi or fans. “No one recognized me or anything,” he says. “And I was like, Ah, this is really cool, sitting there eating chicken wings and stuff.” He’d been searching for a place where he could feel what it’s like to just be himself, and thought he had finally found it.

But then something happened. Word got out. “They always find out somehow,” he says resignedly. Suddenly there were a thousand people in the street, and the police had to come and control the crowd. A bouncer asked him, “You want us to go and knock someone out?,” and Pattinson says, “I was like, ‘What are you talking about? You don’t need to hit anybody.’ ” Now he and his friends were trapped in the same bar that had been an oasis of anonymity. A police escort had to take them back to their hotel.

A few months later in Baton Rouge, Pattinson says he doesn’t feel like going out, as there’s no telling when a simple trip to a restaurant might ignite another riot. “And I’ll just be like this,” he says, putting his head down on the table, hiding in the crook of his arm. He picks his head up again and—oh, wow. He can’t escape his looks any more than he can escape the attention of his fans. His face has a kind of gorgeousness one sees in the faces of children, with its perfect pale skin, red lips, large eyes. It’s hard to say it any other way: he’s beautiful.

But such superlatives are probably just the kind of thing that would make him cringe and sweat even more profusely than he’s doing now, through his light-blue cotton button-down. He seems nervous; he says he’s nervous. This interview thing isn’t his thing. “I’m just so boring,” he says, running his hands repeatedly through his thick brown hair until it stands on end. “I’m just so dried up.” He’s chain-smoking American Spirits, drinking coffee and water and Snapple iced tea, nibbling at chocolate-covered pretzels left in a bowl for him by his assistant.

Outside, we can hear the growling of dogs. “I hope they’re not killing poor Martin,” says Pattinson, getting up from the kitchen table and peering out the window. Martin is a stray, the underdog of a pack of dogs belonging to the assistants for Pattinson and his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart. The assistants are sharing this cozy rental house in a quiet residential section of Baton Rouge. They’ve lit a crackling fire and scented candles to keep Pattinson comfortable while he does his interview.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Pattinson says, returning to the table. Ever since he came back to the Twilight set, he says, he doesn’t feel—well, quite himself. “My brain doesn’t work anymore. I haven’t any memory. I can’t write. All I can do is sign my name. I tried to write the other day—it looked like I was writing in Braille.” I ask him to write something on my notepad; he does, and it’s illegible. “See?” he says. “It looks like spiders have written it.”

There’s a joking element to his bleak description of his state of mind, but he’s being serious as well. It seems the restrictions of living in the bubble of his immense fame are starting to get to him. “I’ve just kind of stopped doing everything,” he says. “I never change the channel in my trailer. I just watch reruns of House of Payne and Two and a Half Men. I love Cops—I think it’s my favorite TV show.

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“It’s just very traumatic,” Robert Pattinson tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Nancy Jo Sales of his rumored romance with co-star Kristen Stewart. “When this is over,” Pattinson says of Twilight mania, “the media will lose interest [in the relationship]. There’ll be nothing to say. It won’t fit into a headline anymore. It won’t fit into a template.”

“Kristen is very focused on being an actress,” Pattinson says. “I mean, that’s what she is—she’s an actress. Whereas I—I just don’t really know.” Pattinson also admits to Sales that he has admired Stewart for a long time. “She’s cool. Even before I knew her I thought she was a really good actress. Like, I saw Into the Wild, and I thought she was really good in that. I still think there are very few girls in her class that are as good as she is.”

Stewart aside, Pattinson reveals his true favorite co-star: Tai, the Asian elephant he worked with on his upcoming film, Water for Elephants. “She was the best actor I ever worked with in my life,” he says. “I cried when the elephant was wrapped. I never cried when anyone else was wrapped.” The film’s director, Francis Lawrence, confirms the on-set romance, saying, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob says the reason he took the movie was because of the elephant. He really fell in love.”

On set for Water for Elephants, Lawrence recounts how “news got out, and riding down the road to the set it was like Woodstock. Cars for two miles. People camped in the grass.” Pattinson’s co-star in the film, Reese Witherspoon, tells a similar story: “I’d never seen anything like that, ever. They were waiting at five o’clock in the morning to see him. Young girls. Where are their mothers?” “Rob could get ripped to shreds. They will rip the clothes off his body and pull his hair out,” Lawrence adds.

Having developed a fear of crazed fans in airports, Pattinson tells Sales about his roadtrip from Los Angeles to the set of Breaking Dawn in New Orleans, using only service roads and an iPhone to navigate. After stopping at a bar in Lubbock, Texas, Pattinson recalls experiencing a rare moment of anonymity. “No one recognized me or anything,” he says. “And I was like, Ah, this is really cool, sitting there eating chicken wings and stuff.” Before long, however, Pattinson’s fans tracked him down. “They always find out somehow,” he says, recalling how the street outside soon filled with 1,000 people, all hoping to catch a glimpse. A bouncer asked him, “You want us to go and knock someone out?,” and Pattinson says, “I was like, ‘What are you talking about? You don’t need to hit anybody.’ ”

Pattinson, whose e-mail has been hacked into twice by teenagers, insists to Sales that, despite the hype his fans have created, he’s not all that exciting. “I’m, like, a compulsive eater. I’m going to be so fat when I’m older, it’s ridiculous,” he admits, revealing Pretzel M&M’s as one of his weaknesses. Pattinson also admits that while he doesn’t “do anything, ever” in terms of scandals—which Witherspoon attests to, saying, “I hear so many horror stories about young actors with attitude showing up late or hung over, and there wasn’t any of that. He worked so hard”—he admires Charlie Sheen and his “little escapades,” explaining, “I like crazy people who don’t give a fuck.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, Sheen is the star of one of Pattinson’s favorite shows. “I’ve just kind of stopped doing everything,” he says. “I never change the channel in my trailer. I just watch reruns of House of Payne and Two and a Half Men. I love Cops—I think it’s my favorite TV show… God,” he says, laughing, “I sound like such a loser.”

“There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s the way it is,” Pattinson tells Sales of the Twilight mega-fame that has changed his life. “But it is weird being part of that, kind of representing something you don’t particularly like … God. I just really headbutted it.” Though Sales conducted the interview while Pattinson was filming the fourth and fifth installments in the series, he admits that he still has trouble grappling with the implications of being so famous. “This thing with everyone knowing you … it’s weird, because people have this one-sided relationship where they look at your picture and feel they know you more than someone they actually know,” Pattinson says. “I don’t really know myself that well.”

“I can’t really understand it even now,” Pattinson says of Twilight’s appeal to legions of fans. “It does have an angle which is attached to something quite primal in girls. I guess people want it to define them, like ‘I’m a Twilight fan.’… I think people really just like being part of a crowd. There’s something just tremendously exciting about hyping yourself up to that level.”

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With assistance from a careful team of alligator handlers, Robert Pattinson’s April cover photo was taken by Annie Leibovitz at an alligator ranch and hatchery in Louisiana. One of about 40 such ranches in the state, it works to protect and propagate the once-endangered American alligator by harvesting, incubating, and hatching the eggs of wild alligators, and by promoting the preservation of the Louisiana wetlands.

Shortly after Pattinson’s shoot, he found himself in a potentially more frightening situation: cornered by a crowd of screaming girls. (The daughters of a ranch staffer had assembled an excited group of comrades to ask him for a photograph.) The heartthrob obliged his fans and left a warm impression on the folks at the farm as well. The ranch’s founder and owner, John Price, in a phone interview a week after the shoot, remembered Pattinson as “quite the gentleman.”

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All Sources are from Vanity Fair Magazine

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