Robert Pat­tin­son

Esquire (UK) - - Culture -

in Dog Day Af­ter­noon, or Robert De Niro’s Johnny Boy in Mean Streets, the very char­ac­ters who in­spire peo­ple like Pat­tin­son to be­come ac­tors in the first place. Like all mid­dle-class kids, he craved Con­nie’s au­then­tic­ity.

“Ev­ery­one wants to say, ‘I’ve gone through hard­ships’ or what­ever. And some kids at school got so ob­sessed with look­ing tough that even­tu­ally they just were. They were mug­ging peo­ple. It’s like, ‘Why are you mug­ging peo­ple? You live in Wim­ble­don!’ But you could see the pro­gres­sion,” he says. “It was born out of de­sire, not ne­ces­sity. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing.”

As for Pat­tin­son, he just lied.

“I de­cided the best way to be real is to fake it! I used to lie all the time when I was younger. Like even though I had a Lon­don ac­cent, I’d tell peo­ple I grew up on a farm in York­shire. That was about as gritty as I could pull off.”

His own life of crime was limited to steal­ing porn mags, aged 11, a story he told US shock jock Howard Stern. Even­tu­ally, he was caught, of course, the mo­ment of hu­mil­i­a­tion seared into his mem­ory as, in front of a line of old ladies col­lect­ing their pen­sions, the shop owner reached into his bag and pulled out one jazz mag af­ter an­other.

“I turned on the tears and ev­ery­thing. I was des­per­ate!” he says. “And when my mum heard, I to­tally threw one of my friends un­der the bus: ‘Dan did it!’ It’s pretty ter­ri­fy­ing when you’re backed against the wall. When peo­ple ask how would you be­have in an emer­gency, now I know. I’m a wimp! I guess that’s pretty ob­vi­ous!”

He says wimp, but there’s a quiet strength be­hind that self-ef­fac­ing, af­fa­ble front. Not ev­ery­one would con­fess to be­ing a cow­ardly kid, or ly­ing about their back­ground, as in­se­cure peo­ple don’t ad­mit their flaws so freely. One of the rea­sons he was so drawn to the role of Con­nie, for in­stance, was the char­ac­ter’s lack of fear or shame. “I’m the op­po­site. Shame is the most crip­pling thing. I don’t even know what it is, it’s not con­nected to any other emo­tion. So I choose work to di­rectly com­bat el­e­ments of my own per­son­al­ity.”

Josh Safdie spot­ted Pat­tin­son’s am­bi­tion early on. “There’s a ma­nia to him,” he says. “A manic de­sire to con­quer the world. I was very happy to see it.”

And for all his self-dep­re­ca­tion, there’s a pride there in what he’s achieved post-Twi­light. None of his sub­se­quent film choices are ob­vi­ously com­mer­cial, which suits him per­fectly: low-bud­get indies, he says, have a lower bar to break even and with his in­ter­na­tional star­dom, cour­tesy of Twi­light in no small part, he can usu­ally rest easy. Some­times, his in­volve­ment is what makes th­ese projects ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

But ar­tis­ti­cally — and this is where he’s def­i­nitely not a wimp — ev­ery project is a risk, a test, a leap, yet an­other op­por­tu­nity to fail and land very pub­licly on his arse. But that’s just how he likes it. The nerves, the threat of fail­ure keep him in­ter­ested.

“I like a big moun­tain to climb,” he says. “Some parts no one would think of me for, and I don’t blame them.”

Why go for those roles though, if they’re so against type? He shrugs.

“Prob­a­bly just to prove I can, re­ally.”

As the bill ar­rives for our meal, Pat­tin­son chomps mer­rily through an­other round of tooth­picks. It seems he’s been en­tirely sen­si­ble this time around. Not even one beer. “If I drink I’ll sound like a cock,” he says. “Ac­tu­ally, I prob­a­bly sound like a cock al­ready!” Any­way, he’s sav­ing room for a co­gnac tast­ing later tonight with the Good Time pro­duc­ers. Not the kind of thing he does that of­ten but th­ese are heady times, what with the ex­cite­ment around the movie, the crit­i­cal ac­claim. It’s such a buzz that even the press tour isn’t so painful. There’s room for some mis­chief at any rate.

On Jimmy Kim­mel Live!, he tried to make fun of Josh Safdie but it came out wrong. He told Kim­mel that Safdie had asked him to jerk off a dog. “It got [an­i­mal char­ity] Peta an­gry… ev­ery­one. It was like a whole Amer­i­can up­roar for a day-and-a-half,” Josh says. “He’s a lit­tle shit, I prom­ise you. But I love that about him.”

For the most part, though, Pat­tin­son leads a fairly quiet life. It’s just him, Twigs and Solo kick­ing around at home. When he’s not work­ing, he says, he’s look­ing for work.

“I’m ba­si­cally flick­ing through the pages of Loot ev­ery day. I live the life of an un­em­ployed per­son.” And for him that means watch­ing art house movies, trawl­ing film-geek web­sites and — so long as Game of Thrones isn’t on — cold-call­ing di­rec­tors.

In a couple of weeks, he’s off to Ger­many for cos­mo­naut train­ing for the movie he’s mak­ing with Claire De­nis. It’s about an­other ex-con, this time in space as part of a hu­man re­pro­duc­tion ex­per­i­ment. He men­tioned it in a Q&A ses­sion in LA af­ter a screen­ing of Good Time, and no one in the au­di­ence had heard of De­nis. Such is Pat­tin­son’s par­tic­u­lar taste.

“I don’t think Claire has made a bad movie in, like, 20, but I don’t know if any have been com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful!” he laughs. “That’s what it’s like in France. There’s a mar­ket there for less con­ven­tion­ally com­mer­cial movies, and that’s the world I want to be a part of. I just want to do stuff that peo­ple are only mak­ing for them­selves, be­cause it ends up be­ing, by def­i­ni­tion, more sin­gu­lar.”

The project that has him ex­cited comes at the end of the year: The Devil All the Time, by Antonio Cam­pos, who made Chris­tine last year, a bril­liant drama about a de­pres­sive Sev­en­ties news an­chor in Florida. (For the record, Pat­tin­son cold-called him too.) “There’s this line in it — and some­times that’s all you need. And it’s like, ‘Ooh... that’s scary to say’. Be­cause it’ll go down in pos­ter­ity and I’ll be the one say­ing it. You lit­er­ally can­not get darker. It’s fuck­ing dark. This char­ac­ter is an evan­gel­i­cal preacher in the South in the Fifties, but he’s glee­fully bad and kind of funny and charis­matic too. I know, it’s ir­re­sistible.” Like, sex­u­ally re­pul­sive, vi­o­lent?

“Mmm... yes, all that. But you know when ac­tors say, ‘I refuse to play some­one who does some­thing bad.’ I’m, like, why? That’s fuck­ing crazy. You can’t do any­thing bad in your real life. I think if some­one needs to play a hero all the time, it’s prob­a­bly be­cause they’re do­ing re­ally gross stuff in their real life.”

So you’re telling me, this is the only chance you get to be bad?

He laughs, and gets up to put on his La­coste jacket, his cam­ou­flage, and flips up the hoodie un­der­neath. Now he’s safe to leave our meet­ing with­out caus­ing an in­ci­dent. But it’s im­pos­si­ble now not to see shades of Con­nie, the so­ciopath bank rob­ber from Queens.

“Yeah,” he grins. “The rest of the time, I’m an an­gel!”

Good Time is out on 3 Novem­ber

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