Like his Twilight cohort Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson has made the trip to Cannes to try to bury the pale, yearning spectre of Twilight and its chaste teen vampirism. Where Stewart indulged in orgies and copious nudity in the sweaty freeloading odyssey On the Road, Pattinson has indulged in the ostentatious debauchery of a billionaire banker in David Cronenberg's adaptation of Don DeLillo's 2003 novel Cosmopolis.
As Cosmopolis's Eric Packer, Pattinson spends nearly an entire 24-hour period inside a custom-built limo, during which he has sex with two different women, is anally probed by his doctor, shoots a man dead, and muses endlessly on the state of 21st century America.
At a Cannes press conference following the first screening of the film to journalists, Cronenberg dismissed the "baggage" that the 26-year old Pattinson's massive celebrity brings with him. "We just didn't deal with it," says the Canadian film-maker, now 69. "An actor can't play an abstract concept. Packer is a real character, and does have a history – but it's not Twilight, it's Cosmopolis. To create something new you must ignore the baggage, because it gives us nothing."
Pattinson says he initially found the prospect of taking on the character to be extremely daunting. "In terms of preparation, I spent two weeks alone in a hotel room worrying and confusing myself. Then I called up David and went round to house, and he told me: don't worry, let's just start and see what happens."
"It's actually impossible to approach Packer like you would a normal character, with the lyricism and rhythms of the script. You normally try and blur the lines and appropriate the character, but I didn't want to change a word. David was very strict on that. Even the punctuation."
DeLillo himself was also present for the Cannes screening, and told the press conference afterwards that he thought the film "worked so well". He also explained the origins of the story. "At that time  New York city streets seemed to be suddenly filled with stretch limos, and Manhattan is the last place on earth where such vehicles could move comfortably. I got very interested in this spectacle of enormous cars trying to turn corners, and decided to place a character in one, and go from there. I thought of Packer as living his entire life in one day."
Though DeLillo's novel was written well before the financial crash, its unarguable premonitory power was borne out during filming.
Cronenberg says: "We would be out filming New York street riots during the day, then in the evening reading about the Occupy movement doing the same thing. It was completely bizarre: as if we were making a documentary rather than a fiction movie."
But Pattinson says he disagrees with those commentators who proclaim Cosmopolis – both novel and film – to be an apocalyptic statement about the collapse of modern society. "I don't see the nihilism," he says. "I think it's a very hopeful movie. Is it really about the end of the world? You present a world that doesn't make any sense to anyone outside of it, and which has an absurd disproportionate power – but when if it implodes the world doesn't end, it's a rebirth. Our world does need to be washed and cleansed from time to time."
Cronenberg's take is slightly different: "Packer's whole day is a quest for liberation. He's imprisoned by the limo, by his own life, and he's unconsciously looking to escape. He goes back into his past, and finds the innocence and purity in his childhood."
There is, however, a strange sort of parallel between Pattinson's own life in the celebrity bubble and Packer's limo-bound existence. The final section of the Twilight franchise – Breaking Dawn Part 2 – will be released in November 2012, and thereafter Pattinson will be attempting to forge his own identity as an actor. When asked if he detects any similarities between his own life and the twentysomething billionaire Packer's, Pattinson says: "I'm not the best self-analyst.
Packer is just trying to find something, I guess. The claustrophobia, the way your world gets quite small … and I do think people are trying to kill me all the time!"