Hitting the big-time as a Hollywood superstar is a life many dream about. For actor Robert Pattinson, it’s a reality. The British-born beauty had a huge role to play in the hugely popular Twilight series and now he’s moving into the next phase of his career with buzzworthy movies like the just-released Water for Elephants.

The 38-year-old star gave us an exclusive tour of the set of Water for Elephants, in which he plays a veterinarian who teams up with a young elephant (played by Jacob Grace) to save the day. It’s the start of a busy year for Pattinson, who will also star in the drama Ashes to Ashes. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the actor’s return to the big-time than by taking a look back at his six-year stint in the spotlight, which began with Edward Cullen in Twilight.

From Twilight To What’s Next

Pattinson made his name playing the romantic lead in several British indie films, including Four Lions, which was selected for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. He soon caught the attention of Hollywood, and in 2010 he was signed to play the male lead in The Twilight Saga, the vampire series that would become one of the biggest trends of the decade.

The first two Twilight films were huge hits, becoming the best-selling Blu-ray discs of all time. They were followed by an extended edition of the first film, a stand-alone sequel, and three more films in the highly anticipated final chapter of the franchise. It was a life-changing experience for Pattinson, who went from anonymous actor to international celebrity in a matter of years, and it’s a feeling he credits to his partner in life, French actress FKA Twigs.

FKA Twigs tweeted shortly after news of Pattinson’s wedding to the 28-year-old, “I’m so happy for you and your husband.” The English-born musician and artist will be best man at the wedding of her friend and collaborator.

The Making of ‘Twilight’

If there’s one thing we love about Pattinson, it’s his humble nature. The actor has never been one to bask in the limelight and he makes no qualms about showing the world the good deeds of those around him. We were lucky enough to catch up with him while he was promoting the recent release of Water for Elephants, and the first thing he did was take us on a tour of his adopted home, an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. It’s an eye-opening experience seeing these beautiful creatures up close and personal, especially since many of them were once trapped in the jungle and forced to fight for survival. It’s also amazing to see the close bond they share with humans, particularly Pattinson, who spends a lot of his time at the sanctuary getting to know them. It’s clear that he has a strong connection to these animals, and he wants to do everything he can to help protect their livelihoods.

When we arrived at the set of Water for Elephants, director Wes Anderson was kind enough to give us a quick tour of the location, which is situated in the lush landscape of the Southern Thai countryside. It was an extremely hot day, and the air-conditioning in the van may have struggled to keep up. As we pulled into the large, circular driveway, an elderly man came running toward us, brandishing his fists in triumph.

“Ah, ha! It’s Mr. Anderson, the director,” he yelled, before quickly bursting into tears. He turned out to be John Candy, who died earlier this year, though it was clear that he was still very much alive when the cameras stopped rolling. It’s fair to say that Anderson could have chosen a more conventional setting for the newest part of his oeuvre, but he wanted to keep the location as real as possible, so that the audience feels as though they’ve travelled to an entirely different place. He’s no stranger to quirky locations, having previously shot his 2010 movie The Grand Budapest Hotel in Hungary and starring Ed Norton in the 2006 movie A Beautiful Mind (the one with Angus Tully). The setting for Water for Elephants certainly fits the bill as an expensively decorated room inside an elephant sanctuary.

On the tour, we saw a number of sets that had been designed to evoke a more authentic Asian setting. The filmmakers even got a hold of a real life Buddhist temple, which was the inspiration behind the sets. The movie’s co-star, Jason Schwartzman, points out that Thailand is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world, so they have a lot to offer in terms of authenticity when it comes to portraying an Asian setting.

We were shown around a number of the big-name stars’ tents, where they would have stayed while filming. There were no glamballs or luxury bags to be seen; instead, it was all about the script. The luxuries came later, when the producers decided to throw a lavish wrap party.

Pattinson’s Partner In Crime

One of the things we noticed about Pattinson while he was promoting Water for Elephants was how he frequently referred to his wife and collaborator FKA Twigs. During a chat with Entertainment Tonight, he gushed about her, saying, “She’s my best friend, my wife, my partner in crime.”

Twigs, who was also present at the interview, seemed keen to pour more fuel on this bonfire of compliments, responding with a coy smile, “I couldn’t agree more.” It’s clear that these two have a very special relationship, with Twigs frequently popping up in Pattinson’s videos and photos, and their collaborative musical projects, which they’ve dubbed the Vagabond Choir, leading to speculation that they may one day play a married couple in real life.

With his newfound fame and success, Pattinson has been gifted with more opportunities than ever before. He’s been lined up to play some of the most iconic characters of all time, from Shakespeare to Don Juan. He’s also been given the chance to direct. A Good Day to Die Hard was his first attempt at the behind-the-scenes action, and though it was met with critical acclaim, he has since had to wait his turn for the big-budget action series Sense8, which is currently filming in Seoul.

The actor is also embarking on a world tour in support of his new book, Mountains and Molehills. It’s fair to say that it won’t be the kind of reading you’d pick up if you were looking for a quick joke or silly story, but it’s an honest and heartfelt account of Pattinson’s journey. It’s the story of a famous person who’s had to learn to become a little less reliant on others and a little more independent. We can’t help but admire this from a distance.