Pattinson chain-smokes during the interview. About halfway through, he runs out of cigarettes. He decides to pop out into the hallway to see whether he can "bum" one from a passing hotel guest. When the French hotel staff, who are normally cool, calm and collected, lay eyes on him, they turn into an adoring mass of autograph-seeking fans. Pattinson has to make a quick dash back to the safety of the room. He's clearly unnerved by the run-in.
Interview with a vampire
Ask Robert Pattinson how he's handling the global hysteria that now surrounds him and he says: "All right, I hope." Then he runs his hand through that tousled mop of his (a sign that he's anxious) and adds: "It's still sort of new."
It's almost 12 months since the first Twilight film was unleashed on the world. Twelve months since we clapped eyes on the sensitive, tortured and fiercely handsome vampire named Edward Cullen from Stephenie Meyer's massively popular novels. Twelve months since Pattinson, the 23-year-old British actor who plays the red-blooded teenage vamp, became an international heart-throb.
One minute he has a bit part in two Harry Potter films (he played Cedric Diggory in The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix). The next he's the object of every teenage girl's affections. They're screaming right now outside his hotel room. He's in France to promote The Twilight Saga: New Moon , the follow-up to Twilight (there are four novels in all). Whenever he goes near the window to smoke, a crescendo of noise erupts from the street below.
"To be honest, I still don't really understand what's going on," he says. "Like yesterday, I was having lunch down the road. We were in this place for a couple of hours and suddenly there was like 400 people outside on the street. It was just so nuts and it's like that all the time now."
If Pattinson hasn't come to grips with the global hysteria by now, how will he cope when New Moon is released next month?
"When the second one comes out, then I'll see how I am. Mostly I can ignore things to quite a big extent and kind of pretend they're not really happening," he says, sounding eerily calm.
"I just don't take any of it seriously. It's just a job and while it's a job I love, girls scream out for Edward, not Robert. I still can't get a date."
Pattinson has been peddling this line for months. He won't fess up to dating Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella. Perhaps he's under studio instructions to appear single? It probably boosts ticket sales.
The real reason Pattinson is so calm is simple: "I'm not the lead in the second film. Taylor [Lautner] is." He grins idiotically. "I appear in Bella's dreams. So I'm in it but the focus is not on me. I just have significant moments at the beginning ... and the end. So I'm more of a supporting role in this one, which is why I felt so free. I didn't have to deal with any of the bullshit of the first one. I don't have to hold the movie or worry about the fans. I think I did it better without all those pressures."
Pattinson is extraordinarily beautiful. He's been called the Johnny Depp of his generation and been crowned Sexiest Man on the Planet by Glamour magazine, Top Hunk by Entertainment Tonight and Hottest Actor by Rolling Stone.
Like Depp, he has the same asymmetrical beauty, the same gorgeous man-boy face. He's 185 centimetres tall, lean and he, too, exudes a masculine femininity. Depp also started out as a teenage idol before he began furiously deconstructing that image. Ditto for Pattinson.
"After Harry Potter I could have done a lot more teen movies," he says.
Instead he starred as a young Salvador Dali who has a bromance with poet Federico Garcia Lorca in this year's Little Ashes.
"I had to do all these hardcore gay sex scenes, when I haven't even had a sex scene with a girl in a film yet," he laughs.
"I'm lining up so many different films so it'll be harder to just label me the vampire guy."
Those include Remember Me, with Aussie beauty Emilie de Ravin from Lost, and Unbound Captives, a western set in 1859, which stars Hugh Jackman – but more on that later.
Before Twilight, Pattinson was on the verge of quitting the acting game in favour of music. "With acting, a lot of the time you're doing scenes you don't really relate to and you don't really know why you're being cast half the time," he laughs. He "understood" music. He's been playing the piano since he was five. He composes and sings. It's second nature. Acting isn't. He still feels "awkward in front of a camera".
Pattinson has a lovely voice and performed two songs in Twilight – something he now regrets. "When the first film came out I felt like a complete tosser," he says. "It looked like I was trying to be cool or something, like Eminem. You know, be in a movie and then do a song for the soundtrack. But I didn't look cool, I just looked ridiculous."
Pattinson's lack of self-confidence is staggering yet endearing. Compliment his singing and he'll change the subject. Compliment his performance and he'll tell you you're bonkers. But he'll stick to acting for now only because he'd "starve to death" as a musician.
Pattinson has two older sisters – Lizzy, a musician, who's in the band Aurora; and Victoria, who's in advertising. His father imported classic cars and his mother worked for a modelling agency. It was his father who encouraged him to pursue acting (to meet girls). So he modelled, did some amateur theatre and British television.
But now he has to go. A plane is waiting. He yawns and looks tired. So how does he unwind?
"I don't really need to do stuff to relax or get away because all my interests are part of my job," he says. "Like I'll watch movies to be inspired to do other movies. I read books to be inspired. I listen to music to be inspired to write music. Everything I do is to create something."
Pattinson's next film is Unbound Captives. He met Jackman in Japan recently for a little bonding ahead of the film. "We went karaoke singing," he laughs. "We were singing Abba songs, it was pretty funny. It was sort of an Abba song sing-off, you know, last man standing."
Who won? "I think he did, only because he can drink more than me and still sing in tune. He's a cool guy and I'm really looking forward to that film."
So are we. The Sexiest Man Alive meets the Sexiest Man on the Planet – now that should be interesting.