It's the unseasonably cold November of 2008 when I go to New York's Bowery Hotel. There's a young man sitting in the garden, wrapped in about nine black sweaters and wearing a wool hat, smoking cigarettes, sipping a latte the size of his head, and furiously making notes on a script in the bitter cold. I have read about teenage girls lighting themselves on fire in front of his hotel, but at the moment Robert Pattinson is warming his hands on a coffee cup.
Hello, I'm Jenny. I think I'm here so you can check me out.
"Okay. I'm Rob. Um . . . would you like some fries? With gravy?"
Allen Coulter, the director of Hollywoodland and a creative force behind The Sopranos, has sent me. He was thinking about doing this movie—it wasn't quite there yet, but I should "come meet Rob."
Rob. When he came to the United States, he slept on his agent's sofa and then got a small part in a movie called Harry Potter and the Something of Something, which grossed nearly $900 million worldwide. And then he made another one, called Twilight, which grossed $385 million in theaters and almost another $200 million in U.S. DVD sales. Box-office riches, like so much of the female population of this planet, follow him from continent to continent, nursing a raging crush.
Coulter suggested I do some rewrite work on Remember Me (for the record, there is only one credited writer, Will Fetters), the first American release in which Rob will portray a mortal, nonmagical, carbon-based life form of the earthly realm—Salvador Dalí, whom he played in Little Ashes, surely doesn't qualify. As Rob scribbles away on the script's pages, it's clear he is starting his own revision process.
Rob's face is constantly busy—especially his kaleidoscopic eyes, which are continually rolling and dilating, because he is always thinking. Over the course of that latte, he contemplates Jimi Hendrix, French fries, girls, art, beer, his cousin the philosopher, girls, truth, God, his dog, girls, and whether this week's stalker has followed him from L.A. I don't think he could turn his brain off if he wanted to.
Despite the legion of fans trailing him from hotel to hotel, laying siege to each like the Roman army, he is neither fearful nor cocky—he's hungry, curious, forever reaching intellectually. That may not sound like a big deal, but think of the context: Complete strangers want to fuck you, shoot you, be you, buy you, sell you, run their fingers through your hair, watch you have sex, hear you pee, eat chips with you, and kidnap you and stuff you in the trunk of their car. And you? You must know more, more, more about exotic tropical diseases.
Rob and I discover we share a mutual fascination with afflictions that maim and disfigure and disgust: He brings up cancrum oris, in which bacteria eat away at your face until you get kind of a window in the side of your head and the entire world sees your teeth; I mention cyclic vomiting syndrome, a condition in which you puke literally all the goddamn time; he delights in lymphatic filariasis, where parasitic worms burrow into your lymph nodes and can make your balls swell to the size of watermelons, forcing you to tote them around in a wheelbarrow.
We come up with a blockbuster hit movie, entitled Candiru Infestation, about a tiny fish that swims up your urethra and into your urinary tract and lodges in your cock with backward-facing umbrella spikes it shoots from its spine.