Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were the biggest off-screen Hollywood love story of their generation. Except it was all a myth.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were the biggest off-screen Hollywood love story of their generation. Except it was all a myth.

Robert Pattinson finally opened up about his relationship with “Twilight” co-star Kristen Stewart and his answer was nothing short of astonishing. “Shit happens, you know?” he said, reportedly with a laugh, in a new interview with the UK edition of Esquire magazine.

That’s it? Shit happens?

Pattinson and Stewart were one of the most publicized Hollywood romances since the Golden Era when stars like Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn burned up the tabloids. Except, with one big difference.

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Tracy and Hepburn were real; Pattinson and Stwart weren’t. At least not in the way Summit Entertainment’s publicity machine led on “Twilight” fans.

“Twilight” was about eternal love between outcast vampire Edward Cullen and everyday school girl Bella Swan.

But what made this love story different was the way Summit manipulated fans to believe that Pattinson and Stewart shared the same kind of off-screen love.

The manipulation enhanced the credibility of a totally unrealistic script by suggesting that Rob and Kristen were the real life embodiment of eternal love portrayed in the movies.

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The off-screen romance made real believers out of fans, especially tween girls and their moms. They wholeheartedly embraced the “Twilight” saga’s premise, and it had the intended effect.

It made them into diehard fans who turned five mediocre, widely panned films, into a multi-billion dollar franchise.

In the beginning, no one–not the producers, Summit Entertainment, author Stephenie Meyer or Pattinson and Stewart themselves– probably realized just what they were unleashing.

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The “Twilight” phenomenon grew into an international movement made up of millions of “Twihards.” They deeply believed in the movies and its two featured stars.

Death threats over social media awaited anyone who said anything negative about them, or the movies. For a time, Summit continued to fan the flames. They created TeamEdward and TeamJacob. Stewart had her own die-hard following.

After a while, the rivalries became so vehement, Summit tried to step in and discourage fans from taking sides.

But nothing was more powerful than the faith fans had in Pattinson and Stewart. And it sold millions and millions of tickets.

Sure, early on skeptics, naysayers, cynics and doubters raised questions about them. But they were drowned out by the publicity machine, which kept the myth alive through a steady drumbeat of tabloid headlines.

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The trashy tabloid Web sites, you know who they are, still continue the crass manipulation of fans with tantalizing, but ultimately baseless stories about them, crafted out of whole-cloth solely to draw in viewers.

The myth of Rob and Kristen grew so strong, there must have come a time when Summit and the actors themselves realized things were in danger of getting seriously out of control.

Pattinson and Stewart were hounded relentlessly by an army of paparazzi. Their private lives were burned away by the kleig lights. There was nowhere in the world they could go where they wouldn’t be recognized… and hounded.

Were Rob and Kristen part of one of the greatest frauds of the 21st Century? Well, yes and no.

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They were undoubtedly friends, colleagues and maybe even soul-mates because of their shared experience during the “Twilight” frenzy. For a time, they may have even been casual lovers.

But did they share a love that embodied the “Twilight” myth. The answer we now know is … no.

Or as Rob said about their relationship: “It’s just young people… it’s normal! And honestly, who gives a shit?”

Would you believe millions of fans?

Of course, that’s easy for him to say now. The movies have come and gone. They actors have moved on, and the fans have grown up… hopefully.

But imagine if Rob had said that after “Twilight: New Moon,” or “Eclipse?” The myth would have been shattered; the disillusionment so strong the movie franchise would have gone up in smoke.

So they bought into the fraud by keeping their mouths shut. Never once during the saga’s five-year run did they comment on their relationship. They let the tabloids fill in the blanks and never even bothered reading, or commenting, on them.

As it turned out, the mystery only fueled the flames of their mystique and the movie’s hold on “Twilight” fans.

Rob and Kristen probably did what they were told, or contracted to do. They let it play out through at least four of the five films. Afterward, it seemed Stewart could hardly wait to break script.

Once the movies ended, she probably rightly assumed her obligations to Summit, “Twilight” fans and Rob were over.

She started filming “Snow White and the Huntsman,” in England in Sept. 2011, two months before “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” hit theaters and a few months after “Twilight” production on “Part 2” had ended in April 2011.

But she was clearly chomping at the bit to move on.

She began an affair with “Snow White” Director Rupert Sanders, a married man with two children nearly twice her age, while shooting scenes in Britain, before the final film even hit theaters.

They continued the affair after they returned to Los Angeles, until they were exposed by a paparazzo in July 2012. It wasn’t supposed to end that way. Rob and Kristen were just supposed to fade away after the “Twilight” furor died down.

She was probably obligated to keep up appearances through “Part 2’s” run in theaters, starting in Nov. 2012. Her humbling public apology may have been an effort to save the myth.

But the affair, as scandalous as it was, served a purpose that apparently both Rob and Kristen could live with. It put an end to their storybook love affair.

If Rob were truly in love with Kristen and sticking to the tabloid storyline, don’t you think he would have had something more to say?

Perhaps some remorse, a wistful remark, or some soulful reminiscence of the love he had… and lost.

Instead, Pattinson likens the experience to a Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie, “Doubt.”

“[Philip Seymour Hoffman is] talking about how to take back gossip,” he explains. “They throw all those feathers from a pillow into the sky and you’ve got to go and collect all the feathers.”

He’s got that right. Once the feathers about his supposed eternal love for Kristen were released, there was no getting them back.

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