Robert Pattinson: A Wanted Man

UPDATED 06/23/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/23/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE ROBERT Pattinson forgets the power he holds over Twilight fans. Just last fall, the British heartthrob was signing autographs when he decided to have a little harmless fun. "I got bored of saying, 'How are you doing?' " the 24-year-old star told Ellen DeGeneres last November. "So when a woman asked, 'What can I do to get your attention?' I said, 'Take your clothes off.' " Um, is anyone but Pattinson surprised by what happened next? "She frantically started taking her clothes off and got dragged off by security," he said. "I've never felt more terrible."

No worries, Rob. Plenty of women are more than willing to console you over that faux pas-or indulge you the next time you're feeling a bit playful. Because let's face it, bodice-ripping Robert Pattinson fervor isn't dying down anytime soon. His piercing eyes, tousled hair and poster-perfect looks have helped turn the Twilight films into a billion-dollar worldwide franchise (with more films yet to come). He has inspired countless adoring websites (robnation.org and robmyworld.com) and even a Pattinson-centric documentary (Robsessed). And lest anyone think the frenzy is all thanks to the mystique of Edward Cullen, the beguiling 109-year-old vampire Pattinson plays in the Twilight saga, please note the results of a recent iVillage survey of 130,000 women: 87 percent said they would eagerly trade their husbands in for RPattz.

But as his costars can testify, the real proof of Pattinson's superstar status can be found in the streets wherever he works. New Moon director Chris Weitz realized the phenomenon when the cast filmed on the cobblestone pathways of Montepulciano, Italy, last spring. "Every teenager who could get there from any part of Europe was there, and it was like The Birds. You turn the corner and there would be one, two, three, four hundred teenagers standing there," he told Vanity Fair. The hysteria continued when Pattinson shot Remember Me in Manhattan last summer. Costar Lena Olin says the actor spent all his downtime "trying to get away from all the girls!" And according to Gregory Jbara-who played Pattinson's stepfather in the film-"we weren't allowed to say where we were going, and by lunchtime there would be hundreds of people wherever we were-he's like the Beatles."

As an alum of the Harry Potter juggernaut, Pattinson is no stranger to ardent fan bases, but that big-break role (as an ill-fated wizard) didn't prepare him for Twilight-level devotion. Back in 2008-the beginning of Twilight mania-he told Access Hollywood, in his characteristically self-deprecating way, that the screams are "so bizarre. I don't class that as being part of my life. That's a side dish-which you don't necessarily have to eat." But less than a year later, he admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that it's become such a staple of his life that occasionally he gets in on the fun. "You eventually say, 'Want to go out for a little scream?' And go outside the hotel and start screaming with everyone else." Even the typically unflappable Jon Stewart commented on the palpable craziness surrounding Pattinson when the actor visited The Daily Show in March. "I've never seen this voraciousness," Stewart told the actor of the buzz in his studio audience. "If we were to let down our guard, you would be dragged from the podium and stripped."

Pattinson does his best to take his heartthrob status in stride, but it doesn't come naturally. Mostly, when the subject comes up, he's quick to blush and nervously play with his hair, and he visibly struggles to comprehend the phenomenon. Case in point: Last year, when a charity was auctioning off two kisses on the cheek from the star, Pattinson paced onstage, displayed an eyebrow-scratching tic, and doubled over with laughter. (The kisses ultimately went for $20,000 each.)

Although Pattinson is also proving that he'll be professionally desirable post--Twilight-he's currently starring as a social-climbing lothario in the 19th-century Paris-based drama Bel Ami opposite Uma Thurman, and is set to start filming the movie adaptation of the bestseller Water for Elephants opposite Reese Witherspoon-every so often the actor talks about completely switching careers (political speechwriting and playing music come up the most). His main concern? "When you see your face everywhere all the time, you get fears of oversaturation," he told Jon Stewart. "If I decide to do something else, everyone will say, 'I can't take you seriously. You can't be my dentist.' " Please, who's he kidding? A future Dr. Pattinson would have a waiting room full of fans.

In His Own Words: Rob on Women and Dating

"When it comes to the opposite sex, I'm not as fully confident as the guy I play. I don't even remember the last time I asked someone out on a date, like, just went up to them and that's the first thing I did. I'm much more self-conscious"

-Parade magazine, March 10, 2010

"I always get carried away when I'm kissing people-I just go nuts"

-People.com, Nov. 5, 2008

"[Kristen Stewart] is basically the reason I did the movie. When I read the book, and there are these moony descriptions of Edward as this godlike figure, I thought there was no way I could play him, really. But when I got into the room with Kristen, there was just a certain chemistry"

-Premiere.com, Nov. 14, 2008

"I wasn't exactly prepared. I had no idea what to say to these girls. Thank God I was hungover"

-On posing with a group of naked models for a photo shoot, Details, March 2010

"BY LUNCHTIME THERE WOULD BE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE WHEREVER WE WERE-HE'S LIKE THE BEATLES"

-Rob's Remember Me costar Gregory Jbara on the craziness surrounding a Pattinson movie set

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