Is your mom going to have something to say about it?
"Oh, God." He puts his head in his hands, shrugs. "Well, she quite enjoyed when I got her cable." It's not that Rob's mother now spends all night watching Skinemax in her London home. "No, no! God, no! It's just that there's nakedness all over the place now. But this shoot, it's kind of eighties nakedness, you know? If you look at porn in, like, the eighties, there was something kind of quaint about it, quite sweet—like this little naked community. The people who made it liked it, they had respect for it. Not remotely like the porn that's available now. No community in it at all. It's just everything, everywhere."
In the U.K., Smarties are made of chocolate and are kind of like M&M's in weird colors like mauve and teal but somehow more delicious. Rob's not really a dessert guy, yet he's rapidly hoovering my last packet of Smarties. "Amazing. I've eaten like 5,000 of these already. See what you have to deal with?"
In Remember Me he plays a guy whose issues are eerily like his own. Tyler is a young man who has retreated into himself, but then he meets a woman, becomes conflicted, and has to choose whether to remain in lockdown or step into life and the world.
"Tyler is so aware of his actions. But he has no idea whether they're of any value at all. Can you be a person if you live in the bubble? He's stuck in the middle. At the same time, he's lucky to have the choice. Conflict is innate in a lucky person."
What attracted you to the role?
"I'm a lucky person. Thank God. And I'm conflicted. Thank God."
He tells me about a book he read called Eat the Rich, by P.J. O'Rourke (full disclosure: P.J. was married briefly to my sister, though Rob had no idea). He was drawn to a part that says something like: One man's wealth does not mean another man's poverty—and vice versa. Rob's slightly embarrassed to voice this idea.
He is unsure whether to feel guilty, to bask in it all, or both. Thing is, there aren't any rules for a life as extraordinary as his is right now. He tells me an elephant story. Not the one about Barcelona elephants—one about some he'd met recently in California.
"Did you know elephants purr? It's completely scary if you don't know what it is. They purr like cats, but their heads are so deep they sound like velociraptors. You feel it in the ground under your feet. So this big female started sniffing my foot—big female elephant, that is. She sniffed it so hard it came up off the pavement like her trunk was a vacuum cleaner. Then she took my entire body in her mouth. I was holding on to her head, and as I slowly let go she tightened her grip really carefully until I'm just upside down in her mouth and she's going through my pockets with her trunk, looking for peppermints. It was the best day of my life."
So you gave up control to an elephant, got groped, mugged, had your candy tugged at—and it was glorious?
"Yeah. So beautiful you can't imagine. And the baby elephant was so excited that it sprinted out and did its routine in five seconds and then curtsied to everybody. It was actually laughing. Brilliant. Did you know they can also do imitations of other animals? A horse, a chicken, a monkey—these elephants could, anyway. They were movie elephants. One had written a screenplay, and one really wants to direct."