November 16, 2011 12:00 PM

IF YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW EVERYTHING THERE was to know about Robert Pattinson, this year was filled with lots of pleasant surprises. The usually tight-lipped actor started to let his guard down. He revealed that he cries easily (he teared up when he had to say goodbye to his pachyderm costar Tai at the end of filming Water for Elephants). He disclosed that he prefers shooting love scenes with short actresses. “Screen kisses are quite difficult when you’re the same height,” he told an Australian journalist. “You’re just ramming your faces against each other: head butting.” Plus, the actor-who’s also a guitar-playing singer-songwriter-divulged that he’s not afraid to belt out a schmaltzy R&B number. During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, he said that “one of the best days” of his life was singing karaoke at Cricket’s Grill & Draft House in Lubbock, Texas, during a cross-country road trip with pals last September. One of the tunes he belted out? R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Professionally, Pattinson, 25, who used to make quirky indie films (like the Salvador Dali bio Little Ashes) during his Twilight breaks, has become surprisingly earnest in picking his projects. “Becoming in demand quickly,” he told The New Zealand Herald, “affords you the opportunities to work with people who are far more experienced than you,” like Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, his Oscar-winning costars in Water for Elephants. “We had a great time,” Witherspoon said of working with RPattz. “Not only is he supersexy and obviously incredibly handsome, but he’s really a lovely, nice person.” For his next role, the actor-who made Forbes‘s and Vanity Fair‘s most recent lists of top power players in Hollywood (the latter reporting that he made about $27.5 million last year)-did something really shocking: He chopped off his hallowed hair to play a bedeviled billionaire in the futuristic drama Cosmopolis.

Still, Pattinson is feeling emotional about saying goodbye to his Twilight days. “I’ll be very glad not to put those contacts in anymore or have to put on that sparkling makeup,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I do love the guy and I’m going to miss him.” Not that he’ll miss taking off his shirt, which made him “nervous” when he finally stripped down in Breaking Dawn, he admitted at Comic-Con this year. “I managed to have my shirt on the whole series…. I look like an inflatable frankfurter.” And he still isn’t comfortable with the frenzy he incites whenever he steps out in public. “His fame is so great and the reaction he inspires so violent-[crowds] will literally tear the clothes off his back-that he hasn’t really been able to make peace with it,” Elephants director Francis Lawrence told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. But the actor has managed to find far more humor in getting caught up in the Edward Cullen phenomenon. He joked to the Canadian media about checking online fan sites “just to see what my schedule is.” And on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Pattinson gently mocked an audience member who cried out when the late night TV host called Rob “a homeless hoarder” for basically living out of three suitcases since the first Twilight film shoot in 2008. “How is a scream warranted for that?” he said with a laugh.

Even if the hoopla still perplexes him, Pattinson appreciates everything the franchise has done for him. “Twilight has really changed my life,” he said at Comic-Con. And you can sense his melancholy when he describes filming the series’ final scenes. “It was just Kristen and I,” he told France’s Premiere magazine of the saga-ending shoot in the Caribbean. “We were shooting in the sea so I didn’t have to have makeup on or wear my contacts…. At the end of the day we all went out for cocktails on the beach, watching the sun rise…. Every difficult moment just vanished.”

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