He has become one of the most bankable actor of his generation by winning the heart of millions of fans mad about the vampires saga ‘Twilight.’ Far away from Hollywood blockbusters, Robert Pattinson is now inventing a destiny for himself that no one could have predicted: Dior Homme Perfume and Dior Homme apparel, and blossoming in demanding, sometimes radical acting performances. Exclusive interview.
When Robert Pattinson appeared to the world’s eyes, ten years ago, it was as an agitated Hogwarts student in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.’ The ‘Twilight’ saga then enshrined him, in only five movies, as a star with a stupefying success. With a pale face, he played a vampire, effortlessly the charming bad boy, turning teenage girls’ heads around.
Behind the fiction for emotionally involved fangirls, a kind of elegance already was in evidence. The one we find back in the boy who will celebrate his thirtieth birthday in Spring, asking himself thousands of questions. How to find yourself credible? What to do when everything happened so soon?
He could have capitalised on the money he earned from Twilight and he could have accepted more of the same kinds of roles – which were offered to him again and again – or else, in a familiar pattern we’ve seen before, he could have become a trainwreck in the world of fame and drown in it, offering to the gossip fans one more sad Hollywood story based on drugs and despair.
Nevertheless, Pattinson stayed focused on what no one, except himself, could have seen coming: the blossoming of an artist. Even behind these formula blockbusters, a real heart can beat.
The turning point began in 2012. The last ‘Twilight’ franchise year, Robert Pattinson stepped onto the Cannes red carpet, next to the most respected filmmaker of the last thirty years, David Cronenberg. Shooting down the ultra-liberal billionnaires’ customs, ‘Cosmopolis’ (from a novel by Don DeLillo) opened the eyes of some people in the audience and revealed the actor’s explorations. Pattinson recalls his teenage movies’ loves when he rented Godard and Bunuel’s DVDs from his local video club in London’s suburbs. The indie movie came back as a boomerang in Robert Pattinson’s life and it is anything but by chance. Even if he, more than anyone, can take big risks (thanks to his name, the projects create themselves financially), this kind of attitude makes him most intriguing.
Contrary to chasing Oscar roles in the most traditional way and falling victim to vanity in the prestigeous cinema world, Pattinson looks for alternative experiences. He once again filmed with David Cronenberg, in a ferocious game of massacre directed at the movie industry in Los Angeles (‘Maps To The Stars’), and got on with mad German master Werner Herzog, (‘Queen of the Desert’).
During the six first months of 2016, he will realize a completely unexpected double blow. After filming with the Safdie brothers, New York icons in daring indie movies, the British guy is getting ready to hold the lead role in Claire Denis’ new movie – the Frenchy’s first try at science fiction. The era has the symbols it deserves, and the model of freedom Robert Pattinson represents brings it higher.
Numéro Homme: Three years ago, after the ‘Twilight’ saga, you changed paths, filming with David Cronenberg. You balanced between ecstasy and angst about your future career. Where are you at nowadays?
Robert Pattinson: I learned it takes time for the most unbelievable projects to simply exist. The craziest things are the most fragile. Sometimes they scrumble. I’m looking for movie makers who I deeply want to work with. I have wanted to work with the French Claire Denis for years, and now it’s coming true. We will film a sci-fi movie together beginning in May. The Danish technician Olafur Eliasson is going to create spacial vessels and black holes. It will probably be crazy!
I don’t know if my being a part of it helped financially but, nevertheless, in the movie I’m going to film in the next few days (this interview dates back from January 19th), there might be a slight possibility I influenced that a bit. The project is written by Josh and Benny Safdie, New Yorkers, indie movie makers totally underground, in the best sense of the word. Josh told me about making his first movie, ‘The Pleasure of Being Robbed’, with the money of a handbag ad. Thanks to a simple ad he made an entire movie!
Numéro Homme: The Safdie brothers said in an interview you were untamable. A really nice compliment from them…
Robert Pattinson: I adore them. I found a photograph of their movie ‘Heaven Knows What’ even before the trailer came out. Stupefied by the strength of this image, I instantly sent an email to Brady Corbet, with whom I was going to film, because he became a director. I knew he had lots of connections in New York City. Evidently he knew the Safdies. I met them, and two months later, they sent me one of the best scripts I ever read. With them, I’m going to discover another kind of cinema. The actors I’m going to act with are not all professionals, because Josh and Benny do wild casting. I won’t be looked at as a classical actor there.
Numéro Homme: By going toward a demanding cinema, do you feel like you found your path/way? The ‘Twilight’ era seems to be completely done…
Robert Pattinson: I imagine the audience kept a certain image of me. I always feel like I have to prove myself. I have not had enough lead roles to make the people forget about it or to see me any differently.
Waiting for that to happen, I follow my path, with the constant reminder to diversify myself.
I just came back from filming with James Gray in Colombia (‘The Lost City of Z’): a costume adventure movie where the characters are subjected to hunger. They stray in the jungle and find ancient ruins. James Gray is admired here in France, right? He is a perfect guy. I have never met someone as New York as he is. He truly is the best companion to be in the jungle with (laughs). When he went into a river, he wore scrubs like a lab technician to avoid contamination!
Robert Pattinson: A lot. I love uncomfortable, surprising atmosphères which make you enter a new dimension. It is more simple than what I am used to, but at the same time more difficult. I had a chaotic progression, with moments of combustion. It took years to digest what happened to me, the movies’ success, the celebrity… When I was younger, I didn’t have a career plan, no particular ambition. I had to create them from time to time.
Numéro Homme: Was your family, from afar or not, a part of the cinema industry?
Robert Pattinson: Not at all. My family did not really go to cinema or to see plays in theaters. My dad sold cars, my mum worked in a model agency. But the idea of acting interested me. I attended a drama school, and it had a weird effect on me: the other students were so sure of themselves becoming actors that I just shut down on myself. I came from a very strict establishment school where I got expelled, and that’s when everything changed because my new school was more liberal, I guess. It really was later on that I could invest myself in a theater company in my district where I was more comfortable.
Numéro Homme: As a teenager, did you watch a lot of movies?
Robert Pattinson: A lot. But what I saw on screen was foreign to my own life. Every day I would watch movies, without even thinking about making that into my job. For me, cinema represented a kind of forbidden way of living. I wanted to see what I was not supposed to see at my age. And for that, I had an ideal accomplice: the video club salesman. As he had a crush on my sister, he let me rent the most audacious movies, often rated R so for 18 and more – I was 12 – at the condition he was the one selecting them. That is how I discovered indie movies like ‘The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’ by John Cassavetes. He actually hoped my sister would see it and be impressed by his choice. That never happened (laughs).
Numéro Homme: And now you are the one in indie movies. The circle is completed…
Robert Pattinson: These movies represent my tastes, that’s for sure. When I look at my DVD collection from my seventeens and the movie makers I film with nowadays, some are a part of it: Werner Herzog, David Cronenberg, for example… I still have difficulties to believe it… I still see Werner Herzog more as a name on a DVD cover than a real person!
Numéro Homme: Do the directors from your generation interest you?
Robert Pattinson: Yeah, more and more. Before ‘The Childhood of a Leader’, by Brady Corbet, who is 27, I never filmed with someone that young. It was a completely different experience than filming with a master. Another vision of cinema. I see it clearly with the Safdie brothers. They are used to everyone saying ‘no’ to them. They live in a world they don’t control, so they just go with strength right into it. A few weeks ago we made tests for the movie in a car wash place in New York City. We just came in and filmed something. Employees and clients looked at us like we were mad: “Just leave guys, what the hell are you doing, go, jeez!” But before they got to call the cops we finished filming the scene.
Numéro Homme: You’ve collaborated with Dior since 2012. You first filmed the Dior Homme perfume campaign, directed by Romain Gavras. The most recent was directed by Peter Lindbergh. How do you see this collaboration?
Robert Pattinson: Since the beginning they have all been adorable with me. At the first appointment, they told me “you do whatever you want.” The decision was easy to make because Dior never forced me to do anything. I think there are some clauses in my contract they never told me to respect (laughs)! Publicity appearances for example… It is quite cool. Our collaboration just extended to the clothing campaign this year, which will premiere in April. I feel really at ease in this non-corporate atmosphere.
Numéro Homme: Your success cannot be denied, nevertheless you often talk about your doubts, which is a driving element…
Robert Pattinson: I still have lots of doubts about myself. The people I work with know this. Three weeks before filming, I just panic and call my family or friends telling them I will never be able to do it… At that moment I really think it is the truth, my confidence leaves me, reduced in tatters. And then it comes back when I get to the set. Even knowing this, the next time, it happens again. The people around me don’t even listen to me anymore…
Numéro Homme: What do you do of your time when you are not filming? You also play music since you are young without having worked on an album…
Robert Pattinson: I just let myself breathe. It’s like in love relationships, if we go into it giving it all without any perspective, things are condemned from the start. Polluted. I love letting other dimensions into my life, in the creative area. Leaving Los Angeles contributed to my well being, too. When we are there, the brain works weirdly, we imagine that leaving the city for a week will make us disappear from the radar. In England, where I went back to, all the people I meet don’t work in the cinema industry.
Numéro Homme: Don’t you think about writing or directing?
Robert Pattinson: I’ve begun creating clothes. In the past two years I’ve visited with manufacturers and craftsmen. There are a lot of pieces already. My style is influenced by the cities I’ve been to, the origin of the materials as well as the local ambiance. In Los Angeles it’s really easy to work on denim and clothes inspired by street style. In England I mostly go with wool and pullovers. What I do is multi-form, clothes for men and women, things I create with friends… But I don’t want to go into details, I don’t want to jinx myself…
Numéro Homme: Will it be possible to hear more from it in a bit?
Robert Pattinson: Yeah, maybe…(laughs)
Numéro Homme: When we type ‘Robert Pattinson’ on Google, the first occurrences always happen to be about your love life. Do you hope it will change at one point?
Robert Pattinson: Sometimes I go through times when it makes me completely crazy. I wonder what people are looking for when they type my name. Certainly gossip. Are they alone at home? That said, my career has not suffered from it, I am not blacklisted from anywhere yet. I’m working with whoever I want in universes interesting to me. So, I don’t have the intention to force the audience to change their point of view. I need things to go in an organic way. Maybe one day I’ll be seen differently. Well, I must admit I still fall into the trap, falling into Internet limbo by looking at what is said about me. At least I never felt the need to leave comments!
Numéro Homme: The celebrity golden rule is to not answer these trolls…
Robert Pattinson: Sometimes, I would like to and I would like to have a twitter account to do so. But I know I would spend to much time on it. I would lose myself into it all night long. Nevertheless, I hope to avoid this kind of life. It is the reason why I don’t sign up! (laughs)
Numéro Homme: What you cannot avoid though is the time passing. You will turn 30 in May. How do you see this passage?
Robert Pattinson: Honestly, it is terrifying! It has only been a week since I thought this interview is going to happen, and the result is that today, for the first time in weeks, I shaved with precision before the photoshoot. I tried some clothes yesterday, the model in the presentation image must have been 14. And looking at myself in the mirror, I wondered “But why does my arse look like this?!” (laughs)
Numéro Homme: Do you have a focus for this following ten years? Do you have a goal?
Robert Pattinson: All the works I accept open new doors for me and bring an unexpected perspective. Every time I am surprised by it, and I want it to be more and more. It’s why I don’t focus on one particular goal. I’m just being open minded to everything that could come to me.
Numéro Homme: When the first ‘Twilight’ episode was released, some people in Hollywood, seeing you arrive with your British ‘lad’ attitude, tried to temper your behavior. They asked you not to drink alcohol during premieres, for example. You rebelled against it. Do you still feel like in rebellion?
Robert Pattinson: Nope, I fell asleep, I have been broken by the system. (laughs) To be honest I don’t put myself in a situation where people order me around or try to change the way I am. The freedom I have to choose the people I work with produces something really interesting: those who take me to be a part of their movie don’t have a false idea of me. So, they don’t try to bend me or to change me. I don’t regret rebelling in the past when it was time to do so. If we try to conform, to be a part of a mold when we are young, it will surely lead to disaster. We just end up not knowing who we are and we just begin destroying hotel rooms! (laughs) I know who I am. At least, almost. Everything resides in the “almost”…