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Interview with the vampire

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FANGS FOR EVERYTHING: Robert Pattinson plays a sexy high-school vampire in the film Twilight based on the bestselling book by Stephenie Meyer

FANGS FOR EVERYTHING: Robert Pattinson plays a sexy high-school vampire in the film Twilight based on the bestselling book by Stephenie Meyer

FANGS FOR EVERYTHING: Robert Pattinson plays a sexy high-school vampire in the film Twilight based on the bestselling book by Stephenie Meyer

Robert Pattinson is in a very precarious place at the moment. And I don't mean his hotel room. I mean in his career.

Playing the sultry, sexy, supercharged high school vampire Edward Cullen in the bloodsucker blockbuster, Twilight, has seen the young London lad go from Harry Potter supporting player to international heart-throb overnight.

Play his cards right, and he's the new Leonardo DiCaprio. Or, if he's really lucky, the new Johnny Depp. Get it all wrong, and he's the new Orlando Bloom.

When I put all this to Pattinson, he lets out a hearty laugh.

"And don't I just know it," he smiles. "The way the industry has changed, you can't wait five years for your next job. You literally have the heat to get a film financed for about a week now. It's ridiculously fast. So, if you don't find the right job. . ."

Having first come to notice back in 2005 as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Pattinson seems to have made nothing but smart choices. As well as the record-breaking Twilight, both Little Ashes and How To Be are due our way within the coming months. And come January, Pattinson hopes to start shooting Parts Per Billion, a film which boasts, he chimes, "one of the most lyrical scripts that I have ever read in my life".

For now though, the somewhat dazed actor is trying to get his head around the success of Twilight. Based on Stephenie Meyer's best-selling teen vampire saga, Twilight was shot for a relatively measly $37m (€26.2m) in the wet and wild Pacific Northwest (home of Twin Peaks, an obvious reference point here), but managed to take in $35.7m (€25.3m) on its opening day in the US last month. And $69.6m (€49.3m) over its opening weekend. Yowsa.

Pattinson just about saw it coming. When he attended a ComicCon convention a few months before the film opened, he was greeted by 7,000 screaming girls. And to think that, when he first read the script, the boy turned Twilight down, being unable to see, he says, how he could possibly live up to the role of this perfectly chiselled vampire. That was before he did an audition with Kristen Stewart though, the acclaimed 19-year-old actress playing the new kid in town, who falls head over heels in love with the hunky high-school weirdo.

"After that audition with Kristen, I went back and looked at the material, and I saw a lot more in it. Mainly, I had turned it down because I was just scared about the physical aspect of it. Because he had a six-pack and I didn't."

Pattinson lets out a laugh.

Which may explain why Robert hit the gym for eight hours a day once he got the part, director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) having to intervene as Pattinson's weight continued to drop. Such dedication to the role suggests an inkling, perhaps, that this could be the phenomenon it went on to become. . .

"I didn't realise that it was going to be this big," says Pattinson, "but what I was thinking was, I guess from a point of view of my own pride, I didn't want to be involved in a teen thing, so, then I guess the only way of dealing with that is really commit to whatever your idea is. How do I not look like an idiot? And so, I tried to do everything that I could."

And what of those screaming girls?

"It's been beyond surreal," he muses. "I don't go out of my house much, so I don't notice too much of the screaming. The paparazzi stuff is weird. It's so new still, I can't feel that jaded by it yet, but I'm so prone to paranoia anyway, when it's actually real, it kinda drives you nuts.

"You've got motorbikes following you, and it's a case of, okay, don't get out and kill someone."

There goes that laugh again. With creator Stephenie Meyer being a good Mormon housewife and mother, the idea that her young lovers can't consummate their love for one another lest jumping on Bella's (Kristen Stewart) bones leads to Edward ripping her to shreds, fits in neatly with her religion's abstinence stance. I'm guessing Pattinson, being the dedicated method actor that he is, is saving himself for the right woman too. Right?

"Oh, absolutely. And I'm a Catholic as well, so I have to believe in all that."

Cue laugh. The idea of a long and fruitful career is still on Pattinson's mind though.

"You really have to think quick about your next job if you want to capitalise on this kind of success. It's weird, because it feels as though it should open up options, but really, it kinda narrows them down, because you have way more to lose. It's stressful trying to find the right thing to do, if you want to have a long career."

Finally, given that Pattinson has now broken on through to the other side, is he actually happy?

"Yeah, I'm happy that the movie's done so well," he replies, after a moment's thought.

"In regard to work, it's nice to be on a relatively even-playing field now with other people, because, a lot of the time, you can do a good audition only to be told that you're not famous enough, or commercially viable enough, to get the part.

"When you have a movie that's made a $130m, or whatever, it's a case of, you know, 'Kiss my ass!'."

He's still laughing as I head out the door.

Twilight hits Irish cinemas today