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Pattinson's cross to bear: Heartthrob vampire

Robert Pattinson was not particularly eager to chat for the quadrillionth time about Edward Cullen, the tenderhearted vampire he plays in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."

When he was finally able to break away from the circus (the setting of "Water for Elephants," not the throng of paparazzi and hyperventilating girls who trail him around), Pattinson seemed to have a bit of "Twilight" burnout.

"It can get a little boring," he said softly over coffee at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles, referring both to playing an unchanging vampire and to chewing over the Cultural Importance of It All. "The good news is that the whole thing is done in seven months."

Not that he's counting the days or anything.

Fortunately for fans and unfortunately, it seems, for Pattinson, that tally is short by about a year. Filming will wrap up on the "Twilight" series in seven months. But Summit Entertainment has decided to split the fourth (and final) "Twilight" novel by Stephenie Meyer, "Breaking Dawn," into two parts. So Pattinson will probably be hawking the final installment in summer 2012.

Please don't misunderstand him. Pattinson, 24, is aware that he probably would not have much of a career without the "Twi-hards," as the mostly female following of the movies are known. His only role of note before Edward Cullen was a bit part in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," as Cedric Diggory, the doomed love interest of Hermione.

The searing, worldwide fame that has come with the franchise has left him emotionally raw.

Hunted by the tabloid media ("R-Patz Cuts His Hair!"), Pattinson changed hotels six times in the six weeks he has spent in Los Angeles filming "Water for Elephants." He arrived for coffee wearing a ball cap and sunglasses to cover his haunting good looks, and he immediately vetoed a booth picked by a publicist for its privacy as too public.

"I've learned to let it go a bit, but I'm still really bothered by it," he said. "The more you are exposed, the more people irrationally hate you. I think we reached a point, a peak, with 'New Moon' where the stories became so saturated into the culture that it started to feel normal. It's like the tabloids don't know what to write anymore because they've used up all their scandals."

He worries about getting pigeonholed as nothing more than a teen idol. Sure, he excels as a pale brooder in the "Twilight" movies, as evidenced by how fully Meyer's legions - the books have sold about 100 million copies worldwide - have embraced him.

But Pattinson talks about a desire to play "characters that are not parodies," and he would love to do a comedy with Todd Solondz ("Welcome to the Dollhouse").

To this end the London-born Pattinson has been busy accepting roles that seem linked only by a quirky diversity. In "Water for Elephants," an adaptation of Sara Gruen's novel, he plays a veterinarian who joins a Depression-era circus. The indie "Bel Ami," from the Maupassant novel, co-starring Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci, has him playing an unscrupulous social climber who rises to power in Paris by manipulating wealthy women.

"Water for Elephants," which also stars Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, is awaiting a release date from 20th Century Fox. It's the kind of serious literary role that could bring critical attention and stretch minds about Pattinson's range.

"There is a profound vulnerability about Rob and his mannerisms, and that makes him supremely accessible," said Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000. "He also has an innate kindness about him that is wonderful in this role."

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