A chalky complexion and a predilection for blood are no obstacles to movie idolhood. Proof came when Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira escorted Robert Pattinson onto Rockefeller Plaza Thursday morning, on the eve of the nationwide premiere of the second “Twilight” vampire romance saga, “New Moon.”
A collective screech rose from young female fans lined up a dozen deep as the 23-year-old British heartthrob flashed a megawatt smile and worked the crowd like a seasoned politician.
And the young actor handled some good-natured badgering about supermarket tabloid headlines with similar grace and more than a touch of self-mockery. Once they were safely ensconced in Studio 1A, Lauer played a game of true-or-false with the tabloid stories surrounding Pattinson in the past year.
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Are the rumors true?
“You’ve been dating nonstop,” Lauer started.
Pattinson put on a grave face. “Literally nonstop, yes.”
“You’re dating your co-star: Her name rhymes with ‘Tristan Blewart,’ ” Lauer posed, tongue-in-cheek.
Pattinson replied, “Umm ... there was a Liston Hewitt last year! That would be true, yes.”
Lauer continued down the list of rumors. Was it true Pattinson was engaged? Yes, the actor affirmed. That he’d been hit by a cab? Also true. That he’d had a drug overdose? Absolutely.
“And this talk about a butt accident, butt injury? What was that?” Lauer asked.
“That was my mother giving birth,” Pattinson said, no longer able to keep a straight face.
He added, “I actually come up with these rumors myself!”
He almost quit
Indeed, the affable actor seems to take the fan hysteria, and the probing of his personal life, with more than a grain of salt. But Pattinson admits idolhood can be a heady experience, especially since he was about to chuck his acting career at the time he was just one of 3,000 young men to audition for the part of Edward in the first “Twilight” movie two years ago.
“I was literally, the day before I did this audition, I was going to quit acting,” Pattinson recounted. “I was going to quit because I never got any jobs, so I guess it’s not really quitting when you’re not getting jobs — it’s just surrendering to fate.”
But fate had something different in mind for Pattinson. “Twilight” — the movie based on the first of four Stephanie Meyer novels that have sold 40 million copies — grossed $380 million, and the young actor’s popularity has eclipsed even that of his attractive co-stars Stewart, Ashley Greene and Taylor Lautner.
In Los Angeles, fans camped out for days just to get a glimpse of him at Tuesday’s premiere. And while merchandisers have sold some 40,000 life-size cardboard cutouts of the “Twilight” stars, 30,000 have been of Pattinson’s brooding hero.
Pattinson told Lauer that the hoopla seems nearly an out-of-body experience to him. “I wish I could give a more wide understanding of what it’s like, but I feel exactly the same,” he told Lauer. “I speak in an American accent when I’m talking to crowds, because it’s so separate to my actual life. I still feel like I’m kind of acting. I think that’s so I don’t go completely mad.”
While the jury is still out on whether Pattinson is the next Tom Cruise or just a flash in the pan (his non-“Twilight” movie “How to Be” was called an “aimless indie dud” by Entertainment Weekly), he’s clearly reveling in being the Hollywood heartthrob of the moment.
“New Moon” is only the second of four planned “Twilight” films: A third installment has already been completed and is set for release in June 2010. Pattinson said “New Moon” is actually his favorite among the four Meyer books, even though his character, Edward Cullen, is given showy scenes only at the beginning and the end. In fact, his reduced role is a bonus, he told Lauer.
“I’m glad it’s true to the book: I mean, [the fans] would go crazy otherwise,” he said. “I always liked this book; I always thought it was the most complete book, especially for Edward’s character. I like the idea of a guy who, the more in love with someone you fall, the more you lose control of the relationship and attack and destroy it. I always thought that was interesting.”
So even though he doesn’t get a ton of face time in “New Moon,” Pattinson still has plenty to smile about: According to reports, his and co-star Stewart’s paychecks rose from $2 million for the first “Twilight” film to $12 million for the second.
But the actor’s smile is also at the center of one of his few regrets about “Twilight,” Pattinson admitted to Lauer. It seems producers were unimpressed with the choppers God gave him and urged him to wear a brace to heighten his smile.
“I had to change my teeth a little bit for the first movie, and that’s the only regret I have,” Pattinson said ruefully. “I was supposed to do this brace thing, and I never wore the brace, and so now I’ve damaged my teeth permanently.”