Few stars are as in demand as Robert Pattinson. The 27-year-old English actor has appeared in blockbusters like the “Twilight Saga” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and he was even once described as “the most popular man on the planet.” But it’s not just Hollywood that’s enjoying Pattinson’s star power. He’s graced magazine covers and red carpets around the world, and his celebrity is such that he’s even spawned a line of bespoke perfumes.

Pattinson’s latest movie, “Bel Ami,” is now playing in theaters. Based on the French novel “Les Amours Secretes d’Émile Zola” by Émile Zola, the film is considered to be among the greatest adaptations of the 19th century. It’s the story of an ambitious writer (Pattinson) who crosses paths with a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) and their mutual affections threaten to un-tie them both. The film also stars Alfredo Peresolo, Eric Godon and Arielle Dombasle.

Below, you’ll find an exclusive excerpt from our interview with Pattinson. To read the entire interview, along with our take on “Bel Ami,” pick up the new issue of ELLE Canada, on sale October 17th, or visit the magazine’s website.

On Adoption:

“Bel Ami” is about growing up and learning to love yourself, for better or for worse. What drew you to this story in particular?

I think it’s funny how our minds work. When I read the book, all I could see were emblems of self-love: the rich, sensual mouth that is Thomas’ character, Gina, for example. When I was initially put in touch with Thomas, I didn’t even mention the book, and she didn’t either. But the more we talked about it, the more we realized how much our stories were interconnected, and that it was about time I told the world my side of the story.

I’ve admired Thomas’ work for a long time, ever since she appeared in “Mad Hatter,” and I’ve been a fan of the French author Émile Zola, too. When I was growing up, my mother would often take me to the library, where I used to lose myself in books for hours. My favorite series at the time were the “Thousand and One Nights” and “Don Quixote.” The idea of bringing these two worlds together, even if it’s just in fiction, was incredibly appealing to me. Plus, I love a good love story.

On Playing Adversary & Working With Kristin Scott Thomas:

How did you initially come to the decision to play Émile Zola’s adversary?

From the very beginning, I knew it was going to be a very physical role. Remembering my days as an exchange student in London, where I did a stage play with Benedict Cumberbatch, I knew that Zola was a man of many passions and that his writing was incredibly physical. He was a boxer, a polka band member, and an all-around man of the world. So, it was an honor to embody such a controversial figure.

Once I’d signed on to the movie, Kristin Scott Thomas, whom I hadn’t yet met in person, invited me to her home in London for a meeting. We chatted about the role and a couple of days later I had my first ever screen test with Alfredo Peresolo, who plays my adversary. It was quite surreal, as I’d never really acted in front of a camera before, but after my meeting with Kristin, it became clear that this was going to be fun. Once we started working together, it was also clear that we had a lot of the same sensibilities when it comes to our craft. I’d worked with her before, on “The Hours,” and we’d had some good laughs, so I knew that she’d be a pleasure to work with again. We have a similar sense of humor, and we’re both very passionate about our craft. It’s like working with an old friend, but even better.

What drew you to the part of Dorothée, the married woman who forms an intimate bond with your character Émile?

I went through some pretty dark periods in my early 20s, and “Bel Ami” is a story of self-discovery. Dorothée is a strong character and, although she’s married, she’s not a bumbling idiot. She’s intelligent and curious, and even when we meet her later in life, she’s already achieved a lot. It was important that I found a way to show a more adult side to young Émile, someone he could grow up with and learn from. She’s a positive influence on him and their bond is very powerful. Their love story is very traditional, but what makes it special is their journey together. They have to face their inner demons before they can embrace their love for each other.

On Finding His Rhythm:

You’ve played a wide variety of characters in Hollywood, from a dashing vampire to a dashing rock star. Which do you prefer: sticking to one genre or exploring a variety of genres?

I really like playing characters that defy easy categorization. In Hollywood, we’re used to seeing superheroes and monsters; we don’t usually get to see the “little people,” as actors, doing extraordinary things. So, when I get a chance to play someone other than my usual teen heroes or horror movie villains, it feels incredible. And I’m not the only one who feels this way: audiences tend to enjoy playing around with genres, too. In film, we’re used to seeing action heroes battling giant robots, and there’s been a decline in traditional stories, like “It” or “Shakespeare,” due to the success of low-budget, independent films.

In “Bel Ami,” you play a character who’s at once heroic and flawed, an accomplished but egotistical writer who, after being rejected by many women in his life, forms an intimate bond with a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas). How did you approach this character, and does he reflect a part of yourself?

I’d never really thought of Émile as heroic, per se, but he is, in a way. He believes in himself and his work, and he doesn’t back down from a fight. He’s also a man of action, always doing things, always helping others. Like Dorothée, he’s not the most gentle or kind person, but he’s also capable of great loyalty and love. So, it was important to me that Émile’s character arc be something I could relate to. He’s a writer like me, and we both come from a place of honesty and pride. What’s more, much of what happens in the story takes place in a period when writers, like Émile, were generally considered bad boys, due to the vast amounts of alcohol they’d drink while writing. There were also stories of them trying to seduce their female characters, which is something I definitely hadn’t done, though I’d behaved badly in the past. I decided to take the character as a sign that I should grow up, stop being so childish, and embrace my inner strength.

What was it like working with Alfredo Peresolo, who plays your adversary?

It was great working with such a talented actor, and it was also exciting to work with someone who’s relatively unknown in America yet adored in Europe. When I first arrived in Paris for the shoot, Alfredo had already been there for a while, working on the sets, so it was like meeting a friend you’d known for years but had somehow never gotten the chance to work with. With Alfredo, it was like finding a kindred spirit. We have a similar sense of humor, and it was so nice being able to bounce ideas off of each other, as well as share some romantic moments, which made it a lot easier to bond with the character. It’s important to note that our characters are not exactly mirror images of each other. Alfredo’s character is more like my younger self, and I see a little of myself in Dorotheé, as well.

Finally, what advice would you give to young actors who want to break into the industry?