"Among his many other talents, he had something otherworldly that he brought to the screen.
"Something special, and tortured, and interesting and strange…" says Twilight director, Catherine Hardwicke.
So how does a boy from Barnes become this autumn's hottest vampire and the talk of American fan sites?
Robert Pattinson first came to public attention playing Cedric Diggory in 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth film in the series.
In a noteworthy, if short-lived performance, Diggory lost his life and the girl to bespectacled love rival, Potter.
But Pattinson is having the last laugh - his new role as vampire Edward Cullen has seen him crowned Rolling Stone's hottest actor of the year.
The 22-year-old British star beat 3,000 hopefuls to land the role of the "vegetarian" vampire Cullen - the youngest of a surrogate family of vampires who have chosen to renounce human blood.
Twilight has been hugely successful in the US, where it set a new record for the biggest opening weekend for a movie directed by a woman - and toppled James Bond from the top spot.
"Seeing my face on buses - it's like being in 1984," says Pattinson, from under a mass of hair. "It's not good for someone who suffers from extreme paranoia.
"I can go on the tube and hardly anyone knows who I am, but then you go to these screenings where people scream at you. Sometimes I wonder if they have all been paid to be there!"
Based on the hit book series from author Stephenie Meyer, Twilight is being cited as the next Harry Potter, with sequels already in the pipeline.
Essentially a love story, it sees Edward fall in love with schoolgirl Bella and struggle to protect her from the sinister world of vampires.
"When I read the books and the fan sites, you could see there was so much passion for these books," says director Hardwicke.
"People got so involved, they were swept away in this romance… and I wanted to bring that crazy, giddy feeling to the screen."
Hardwicke found her Bella in 18-year-old Kristen Stewart, probably best known from her turn as Jodie Foster's screen daughter in The Panic Room.
"You have to find the chemistry or the whole movie wouldn't work," explains Hardwicke.
"I knew Kristen had to be Bella, and then the search was on for the perfect Edward.
"So many cute guys would walk in the room, but they just looked like the cute guy that could be at your high school."
"But from the moment they [Robert and Kristen] first met, you could really feel that there was something going on."
The film appears to embrace the idea of sexual abstinence, in line with the author's Mormon beliefs, but the stars play down the connection.
"It's about the anticipation - walking that knife edge. How close can Edward get without killing her. It's much more exciting than the actual act," says Hardwicke.
"Yeah, I mean, have you ever tried to watch a feature-length porno?" laughs Pattinson.
An upcoming star with the world seemingly at his feet, Pattinson has also contributed music to the film soundtrack.
"I grew up with a whole bunch of musicians, and I thought this would be good for them," he explains.
"I'd like to do an album, but there is such a stigma attached to actors who release music maybe I should do it anonymously, or just wait until I am unemployable."
But that may be sometime off. Both actors are set to return for the second and third movies, New Moon and Eclipse.
"I usually only get to follow a character for six weeks or so," explains the shy and earnest Stewart.
"I do little movies, and typically they never even see the light of day, and I have this huge grieving process afterwards. But in this case I get to follow her for an incredibly long time, hopefully - so I'm rather excited.
"It's terrifying as well, because you really have nothing to lose with the first one," says Pattinson. "But now it will be harder to build up the same kind of hype, especially in America."
Despite the comparisons to Harry Potter - Twilight was released in the week that would have seen the US debut of the sixth Harry Potter film - its stars insist it is not a teen film.
"We never thought of it as a teen movie - in the US, 45% of the audience is over-25. It's for all ages, even men like it!" says Hardwicke.
"It's funny, when you have a film that has children in it, it becomes a kid movie," says Stewart. "But we didn't have this frame that we had to fit into in."
"There is a large group of people that will always consider us as these characters," she continues "but the only thing that you can do is try to work on different things in between.
"In my next film, Welcome to the Rileys, I play a 16-year-old runaway street kid, and she could not be more different from Bella.
"If it was just Twilight for the rest of my life as an actor, I would be quite miserable."