Cannes 2012: A Giggly Robert Pattinson Touts Cronenberg Thriller ‘Cosmopolis’

"Cosmopolis" star Robert Pattinson struggles to explain the David Cronenberg movie set largely in a limousine cruising New York streets

The crush of media waiting for "Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson to talk about his new role as a steely billionaire financier in David Cronenberg's hotly anticipated apocalyptic new thriller, "Cosmopolis," got their knuckles rapped by the stern French moderator before Friday's press conference even began.

"Keep the vampires and bats out it," he warned, in case there were any rabid, so-called "Twihard" fans among reporters who might pepper Pattinson with questions about his phenomenally successful "Twilight" franchise, or anything about his "Twilight" co-star and real-life girlfriend Kristen Stewart, who is also at Cannes with her own film, "On the Road."

Added Cronenberg, who was seated between Pattinson and Don DeLillo, on whose 2003 novel "Cosmopolis is based: "It's very easy to say this movie is about a vampire or werewolf of Wall Street or blood sucking capitalism, but it's not."

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Nor, said Cronenberg, could Cosmopolis' Eric Packer, who practically lives in his stretch limo as if, as one critic said, "it was kind of a coffin," be compared to Pattinson's life in a fishbowl as a result of his teen idol status.

"The character of Eric Packer is a real person with a real past and it is 'Cosmopolis,' not 'Twilight,'" Cronenberg said forcefully.

"Cosmopolis" takes place — mostly in a limo — during the course of one long day in Manhattan during a visit from the U.S. president. A stylish, sometimes complicated thriller, it's an often gripping account of a young billionaire trying to get a haircut while his business empire collapses around him and a killer tries to find him.

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Cronenberg said it was an "astonishing accident" that when the cast and crew finished filming scenes of chaos and protests in the street, they would return to their hotels and watch TV news reports about the Occupy Wall Street protests.

A much-talked about 22-minute scene with co-star Paul Giammatti that ends the movie is almost like a separate, theatrical piece within the film. Cronenberg wrote the script in six days, a record for him, he said.

Pattinson has talked about his fears about tackling the role before, and Friday he admitted that his worst time came right before the shoot.

"I spent two weeks in a hotel room worrying and confusing myself," Pattinson said. "(Then Cronenberg) said, 'Let's just start and something will happen.'"

And the moderator and Cronenberg needn't have worried about "Twilight" doing any overshadowing.  

Because Pattinson in person, it turns out, is his own best advertisement for making people forget about the swoony ("Twilight") or steely and smooth ("Cosmopolis") characters that he plays. Pattinson, speaking to reporters at Cannes, seemed more like a goofy, silly 11-year-old than a world-famous leading man and sex symbol.  He giggled throughout the press conference, frequently whispering to Cronenberg and erupting into more self-conscious laughter.

At one point, he tried to explain why he thought "Cosmopolis" was "hopeful" and said he disagreed with one critic who said the film was about the end of the world.

"Maybe I'm just a depressive but I feel the world needs to be washed and cleaned every once in a while."

Then he laughed again and called himself out for "rambling."

"Actors aren't supposed to be intelligent," he said. "I feel like I'm making an idiot of myself. Why can't I just answer the question?"  Then he giggled again.         

Cronenberg said he used much of DeLillo's novel verbatim but also changed a lot of the structure, deciding to confine most of the action to the limo.  The interior of the limo was so quiet and insulated from the world, Cronenberg said, that "my sound guy was nervous  that is was too quiet."

"The movie is good — because I didn't write it," DeLillo told reporters dryly.  He said he got the idea for the novel by seeing white stretch limousines appearing in New York City around the turn of the century. He wondered who was in these vehicles that "were not made to navigate around Manhattan."