From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Just in case four years of Twilight mania has clouded your memory, here's a quick recap of how the Twi-hard community felt about Robert Pattinson back in early 2008: They hated him! In fact, the online reaction to his landing the role of Edward Cullen was so vitriolic, the actor had to shield himself from the onslaught. "I stopped reading after I saw the signatures saying, 'Please, anyone else,'" Pattinson, then just 22 years old, told ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Boy, how times have changed. Even before the first movie officially debuted, Pattinson had won fans over via the movie trailers, thanks to his magnetic presence, piercing eyes and always-mesmerizing hair. And he's had them obsessed with his every move ever since. "I quit smoking the other day and I've been chewing these toothpicks all the time," Pattinson recently told British GQ. "Someone noticed in Cannes and literally the next day in Lisbon, then in Paris and in Berlin there were about 20 people on the red carpet giving me huge amounts of toothpicks. Thousands of them." That kind of nurturing attention became even more pronounced when a few weeks later fans heaped concern on the actor after it was revealed that his costar-turned-girlfriend Kristen Stewart had cheated on him. Pattinson, who's always been uncomfortable having his private life in such a glaring spotlight, was both touched and perplexed by the attention. "I guess if people think they're worried about you, it's sweet," he told TIME. "It's kind of odd. But at the same time, the world is a pretty cruel place, so whatever inspires people to suddenly feel this kindness, hopefully they'll look at themselves and they'll look at their own lives and realize, 'I have the ability to empathize with people!'"

One thing that hasn't changed for Pattinson since the early days of Twilight is his determination to carve out a diverse resume of acting roles. "I think Rob Pattinson is actually the strongest actor of the three," says Variety's film editor Josh Dickey, comparing the Twilight leads. "He's choosing stuff to do that's not typical career-building moves. He's doing darker, more adult material-he's just doing what he wants to do." Pattinson recently made the rounds promoting the psychological thriller Cosmopolis and coming up are a "futuristic Western" costarring Guy Pearce and a based-on-a-true-story film in which he plays the U.S. Army interrogator who helped topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "The story is crazy, absolutely bizarre," Pattinson has said. "We're going to shoot in Iraq next summer."

But no matter how far afield he goes professionally, Pattinson will always have a special fondness for the role that made him a phenomenon. At a recent press event, when a reporter asked him what he thought about the rumors that a new cast of actors would possibly remake the Twilight films, Pattinson didn't even pretend to be diplomatic. "I would rip them," he said. "I pity the person who takes over. I would make a campaign against them." And at MTV's VMA ceremony in September, the actor made his love for the epic even clearer, declaring onstage, "It's been an amazing journey, and we'd like to thank all the fans of the series for your incredible enthusiasm from the beginning until now."

ROBERT THROUGH THE YEARS

From tousled and scruffy to sleek and sophisticated, Pattinson has shown off many different looks since he first became a heartthrob in 2008.