Robert Pattinson is interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on "Good… (Fred Lee / ABC )
NEW YORK — Jon Stewart tried to bait him with Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra. "Good Morning America" host George Stephanopoulos offered him Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But maybe French fries would have been a better ploy to get Robert Pattinson to spill some juicy personal details about his breakup with costar Kristen Stewart.
"Media culture is a monstrous thing," Pattinson lamented Wednesday afternoon, jamming fries into his mouth between puffs on his electronic cigarette. "You can't win. The annoying thing is that you can't attack them, but you can't defend yourself. The best thing you could possibly do is punch a paparazzi and give them their big payday."
FOR THE RECORD Pattinson box office:
An article in the Aug. 17 Calendar section reported that actor Robert Pattinson's film "Remember Me" collected $8 million domestically in 2010. The movie took in $8 million in its opening weekend and ultimately grossed $19 million domestically.
The 26-year-old actor has run a gantlet of publicity this week that was nominally about promoting his new film, "Cosmopolis,"which opens Friday. But the promotional blitz, which also included a New York premiere and other stops, seemed to be as much about proving his emotional resilience in the wake of the tabloid bonanza that exploded after photos surfaced of Stewart in compromising positions with 41-year-old Rupert Sanders, who directed her in"Snow White and the Huntsman."
PHOTOS: Robert Pattinson's career in pictures
Sitting alongside Pattinson for moral support at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Columbus Circle was "Cosmopolis" director David Cronenberg. The Canadian filmmaker, whose challenging art house films almost never garner such wide attention, was there as a sort of buffer but also appeared to be quietly amused by the media circus. The actor's manager would not allow Pattinson to sit alone for an interview with The Times, and even suggested that reporters not ask him about his personal life, or "Twilight."
But "Twilight,"of course, is how Pattinson has become perhaps the most widely recognized young actor of his generation. In the movie franchise, based on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling young adult novels, he plays a brooding vampire who falls in love with a human girl (Stewart). The film series has grossed over $2.5 billion worldwide since launching in 2008 and will conclude in November with a fifth installment, "Breaking Dawn — Part 2." Pattinson's off-screen romance with Stewart only stoked the popularity of the vampire movies.
When the Stewart-Sanders affair burst onto the cover of Us Weekly in July, it initially seemed like there was little upside for Pattinson. But Stewart's public apology generated not only sympathy for the man wronged but also a fresh wave of interest for "Cosmopolis," which had premiered to mixed response at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
PHOTOS: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart through the years
That could help Pattinson as he strives to craft a post-"Twilight" career. While both of his "Twilight" costars, Stewart and Taylor Lautner, have each taken center stage in studio pictures, Pattinson has mostly stayed in the indie world. His biggest non-"Twilight" film to date was last year's "Water for Elephants," a modestly budgeted period romance with Reese Witherspoon that took in a respectable $117 million worldwide. Pattinson's less-commercial projects, however, have tanked at the box office — the Sept. 11 drama"Remember Me" only collected $8 million domestically in 2010, and the 19th century-set drama"Bel Ami" flopped in June, never expanding beyond 15 theaters.
In "Cosmopolis," Pattinson plays a young billionaire on the verge of financial ruin who self-destructs over the course of one day, and he has earned some of the best reviews of his career for his performance as the detached whiz-kid.
Cronenberg, who adapted "Cosmopolis" from Don DeLillo's book of the same name, said he felt Pattinson was right for the part largely because of his good-looking face, which appears in nearly every frame of the movie. Before casting him, the director watched all of the films the London native has appeared in, and viewed a number of interviews with Pattinson on YouTube to get a better sense of his personality.
REVIEW: 'Cosmopolis' money and mind games spin their wheels
"The strength of the 'Twilight' movies is not the acting," acknowledged Cronenberg. "But it's not understood that doing 'Twilight' requires presence and professionalism. Are you saying this is an Academy Award performance, or Alec Guinness? That's a whole other discussion. But you throw somebody on a grueling set like that — a normal person would be dead in an hour."
Warming to his own defense, Pattinson interjected: "With this movie people keep saying, 'Is this gonna be the movie where he can prove he can act?' It's like, 'What do you think I have been doing?'"