If Robert Pattinson ever had any doubt about his popularity in Japan, his two trips this year would have dispelled it. The 23-year-old British star of the "Twilight" vampire romance films seemed bemused by the reception he got during his three-day visit to Japan last week. In the U.S., he is usually asked about his romance with "Twilight" co-star Kristen Stewart (which he routinely denies). In Japan, an army of pubescent fans waited for six hours to attend a fan meeting with Pattinson with some girls wanting to know if they could date him when they get older.
“Japan’s been pretty good to me and very supportive of 'Twilight,'” said Pattinson who first shot to fame in the 2005 film "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." “Unfortunately, I never get to see anything when I come here, except my hotel room. I’d like to wander around Tokyo and feel the vibes.”
"Twilight," made last year, was the first of author Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novels about teenage vampires to be filmed. The second is "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," directed by Chris Weitz. In the series, Stewart plays Bella, who moves from Phoenix to the small Washington town of Forks, where she falls in love with Edward (Pattinson), a 109-year-old vampire (whose family masquerades as Goths). Bella soon falls for one of them, Edward. These aren’t the usual vampires -- they are “vegetarian” (they drink animal blood) and they sparkle in the sunlight, rather than melting away.
"New Moon" starts off with Bella recovering from a vampire attack. Edward's family decides to throw a birthday party for her. However, when she cuts her finger at a birthday party, things get out of control. Edward dumps Bella, realizing the danger he represents to her. Bella turns to school chum Jacob (Taylor Lautner) for comfort, but Jacob has a secret, too.
For Weitz ("The Golden Compass"), the biggest challenge was dodging the legions of fans. “We had to film one extended sequence in a small Italian mountain town with 1,000 extras. But somehow, 'Twilight' fans from all around the world had found out we were filming there and every hotel was booked out. Everywhere we turned, they were in the background. It even got hard to go to the bathroom.”
Vampires have been a staple of literature and movies for ages. Why the renewed popularity? “I think people have connected to the books,” suggested Pattinson. “The characters are very realized and you can feel that the writer is on intimate terms with the characters, which in turn makes for good melodrama.”
Weitz thinks the stories succeed because they are concerned with emotions. “A lot of movie franchises these days just rely on explosions and fights, but if you don’t believe in the characters, it won’t work. Another reason for the success is the cast. They are thoughtful and intellectual. When you are playing a 109-year-old vampire, it would be very easy not to take it seriously. But Robert and Kristen were a pleasure to work with and the reason I wanted to do this movie is because I liked their performance in the first film.“
Pattinson and his co-stars have just finished the third film in the series, "Eclipse," which he said will look incredibly different and be more action-oriented. The fourth book -- "Breaking Dawn" -- came out in the summer of 2008, but no plans for a movie have been announced yet.
It won’t matter to Pattinson’s fans in Japan. “I do get quite a lot of fan mail from Japan,” he said. “Ever since I did Harry Potter, it’s been consistent, even when some of my movies don’t get distributed in Japan. For some reason, Japanese fans send me a lot of music CDs. I have an enormous collection of Japanese pop music."
"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" opens in Japan on Nov 28.© Japan Today