Newsmaker: Robert Pattinson has been quietly remaking himself since Twilight
The future Batman was a reluctant star, then a recluse, then an arthouse wonder. A look at his unusual journey.Updated: Nov 01, 2019 15:46 IST
Robert Pattinson is a man longing to disappear. And it’s hard to do that when you look the way he does. But he tries. He travels occasionally in the trunks of cars; keeps rental vehicles in parking lots across the city; calls for multiple Ubers and then sends them in different directions.
“There are ways to disappear, like, fairly easily,” he said in a GQ profile two years ago. “But you have to be living a quite strange life. It just involves effort.”
He disappears even within a conversation. In his interviews, he talks and talks, without saying anything. He goes on talks shows, makes up outrageous stories (‘a clown car exploded and a clown died the first time I went to the circus’), then admits a day or two later that he made it all up, subverting the very purpose of the talk show format.
He’s wary in interviews, which makes sense because you never know what’s going to come at you years later. Like the Dior ad people won’t stop talking about — him and a woman kissing in an elevator. It’s five years old. It was re-released amid a compilation of Dior ads, but even that was last year. Now, it’s getting millions of views, sparking hilarious memes.
Comments have some saying they’ve always loved him; others saying they love him now. It’s started the argument all over again, over whether or not he should have been cast as the next Batman.
- Robert Pattinson, 33, was born in England. His mother worked at a modelling agency; his father as a vintage car dealer. They also have two daughters.
- He began modelling at 12, the same year he was expelled from school (for reasons unknown).
- His first major big-screen outing was, of course, as Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movies.
- The announcement that he would be the next Batman has been met with howls of protest, but there was a similar uproar when he was cast as Edward Cullen in Twilight. Fans of the books said he would never be a convincing vampire.
- His fallback plan, if acting fizzles out, he says, is music. Pattinson plays the guitar and piano and composes. He sang two of the songs on the Twilight soundtrack, one of which he also helped write.
The argument against him playing Batman is that he can’t act. It’s an argument that would seem to be based on the fact that he shot to fame in a series of films where he played a vampire with a pallid glare, weird eyes, and a tendency to twinkle in the sun.
It was absurd, young adult fantasy fiction. But he’s been trying to make up for that ever since. It wasn’t easy at first. How do you go about recasting your image, when women like Tyra Banks invite you on to their talk show and then insist that you bite them on the neck?
Nonetheless, he persevered, writing to niche, arthouse directors asking for their ‘strangest’ projects.
Since he was freed of the Twilight franchise in 2012, he’s picked characters with no charm, roles he can vanish into, parts where even his eyes are banned from twinkling.
Like Cosmopolis by David Cronenberg, a dark comedy set largely in the back of a limo; Good Time with the Safdie brothers, a film about a low-level conman desperate to save his little brother from similar trouble; High Life with Claire Denis, where he starred alongside Juleitte Binoche, in a sci-fi film about a bunch of people on a spaceship manned by criminals that’s been sent hurtling towards a black hole. And The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers, where he grew a funny moustache and played a man totally unrecognisable, running away from the world and into slowly unravelling madness.
He took to shoot movies in places with populations ranging from 0 (Cape Forchu for Lighthouse) to 90 (the Flinders Ranges in the Australian desert, for the dystopian drama, The Rover).
So why pick Batman? ‘I guess there was some fear,’ he said in an interview with Variety. He’s an actor who loves to act, and maybe this time he hopes that his success won’t unravel into a madness of its own. He insists the paparazzi are no longer interested in him; he’s older, and for years he’s made it almost impossible for them to get any saleable shots.
And so he’s returning to the mainstream, playing a hero with no superpowers. Maybe this is a do-over. Or maybe not. He’s already said the batsuit keeps him from moving freely.
Maybe it’s a sense of resignation. He can’t turn the clock back on his fame. In Fear & Shame, a short film that he wrote and then starred in for GQ as part of their profile in 2017, he’s in a New York hotel, desperately craving hot dogs.
‘I can leave. I can leave’, he says, hands on the windows’ glass panes. He heads to the subway, jacket zipped up to his nose; shrieks and runs as a young woman recognises him and goes, ‘Oh my God!’, her eyes lighting up.
‘Walk of shame. Walk of shame… Who are you trying to fool,’ he goes on. Then, ‘How did this happen to me?’