Twilight heart-throb Robert Pattinson stars as a 19th century Parisian social climber who sleeps his way to the top in Bel Ami, a role he told the Berlin film festival reminded him of today's reality TV stars.
Trading in his brooding vampire for the role of an ambitious bon vivant, Pattinson's character Georges Duroy seduces the most powerful women in the French capital, played by Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Pattinson, greeted by hundreds of screaming fans who waited for hours in the cold to catch a glimpse of him, said Georges was an upstart who knew how to use the media to his advantage.
"It's basically like being a reality TV star -- he found a loophole in life and is making money by basically doing nothing," he told reporters.
Ricci said the movie's copious love scenes were anything but erotic to make, with the directors Nick Ormerod and Declan Donnellan insisting on historical authenticity.
"It was so intimate and romantic with 100 crew members there and no ceiling," the 32-year-old quipped.
"And I was told, 'don't shave your armpits -- be accurate'. And then you see it on screen, with your arms raised, in this beautiful lighting -- and you're just like 'that was a bad move'. Some accuracy is just not called for."
Pattinson, who was sporting a buzzcut at the festival, said he was ordered not to have a chiselled upper body for the love scenes.
"Declan said 'everyone in the 19th century didn't have six packs so don't work out'," he said, referring to the ever-so-slight paunch he took on for the role.
Pattinson, 25, said romancing a string of beauties from teenagers to their mothers had its charms.
"Hmmm older women or younger women...I get my cake and eat it too basically. They both have their good sides."
Bel Ami is based on a Guy de Maupassant novel of the same name and sees Georges, a cavalry officer from poor origins living in a cockroach-infested hovel who trades on his good looks and charm to ingratiate himself with high society.
He meets a newspaper editor and his beautiful wife Madeleine (Thurman), who helps him take a job as a reporter by dictating stories to him about the political situation in Morocco, in which France is seeking to boost its interests.
Meanwhile Georges has taken the wife of a wealthy businessman as a lover (Ricci) but when the editor dies, he marries Madeleine. However he is soon put off by her dominance.
And when his job at the newspaper looks threatened, he beds the publisher's wife (Scott Thomas), winds up a gossip editor and ends up making a fortune with a subsequent marriage.
Donnellan said the themes of the 1885 novel continued to resonate.
"Well, it's about a corrupt government...that seeks to invade an Arab country pretending to be for good reasons and in fact because they want their fingers on the mineral wealth of that country so it's obviously got nothing to do with what's happening today," he joked.
Pattinson said he hoped he could lure many of his Twilight fans to new material like Bel Ami but admitted he was still bewildered by his global fame.
"It's been strange having a pretty much single-sex audience all the time but it's been great," he said.
"They've been incredibly loyal. I mean people come from Thailand to stand in the cold air. I can't relate on any level but it's definitely very nice."
Bel Ami is screening out of competition at the festival, which will present its Golden Bear top prize Saturday before wrapping up Sunday.