Robert Pat­tin­son keeps us guess­ing

In what might be the big­gest swerve so far, he’s play­ing Bat­man


When Robert Pat­tin­son signed on to play the an­tag­o­nis­tic Dauphin of France in Net­flix’s me­dieval epic “The King,” he knew it was a juicy role that would give him the plea­sure of taunt­ing Ti­mothée Cha­la­met. Still, Pat­tin­son hadn’t quite fig­ured out his char­ac­ter un­til he saw hair-and-makeup pho­tos of his co-star Lily-Rose Depp, who was cast as a royal in­génue.

“I was like, ‘I want to play a princess, too,’” Pat­tin­son said.

The hair­dresser ca­pit­u­lated by giv­ing him long, honeyed locks, but Pat­tin­son had one more sur­prise in store: On set, he un­furled a French ac­cent so de­li­ciously over the top that his scenes be­came charged with a camp jolt.

At first, “I couldn’t quite tell, is this ridicu­lous?” Pat­tin­son re­called. But af­ter the first take, he found an­other co-star, Joel Edger­ton, dou­bled over in laugh­ter. “And then I thought, ‘I love this! This is the best.’”

There is lit­tle that Pat­tin­son, 33, likes more than con­found­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, and plenty were placed on him af­ter the megahit “Twi­light” fran­chise ended in 2012. Since then, he has rein­vented him­self as an au­teur’s muse, ea­ger to add his mis­chievous spirit and pop cul­tural fris­son to art-house films by direc­tors like Claire De­nis, David Cro­nen­berg, and the Safdie broth­ers.

His ir­rev­er­ent in­stincts get their most sus­tained show­case yet in “The Light­house,” a wild, darkly funny new film from Robert Eg­gers (“The Witch”) that pits Pat­tin­son against Willem Dafoe as 19th-cen­tury light­house keep­ers who drink, spar, shout and even cuddle. The Nova Sco­tia shoot was ar­du­ous, and Pat­tin­son’s un­usual ap­proach — to psy­che him­self up be­fore takes, he would some­times gag and hit him­self in the face — of­ten sur­prised Eg­gers and Dafoe.

Still, Pat­tin­son found that ten­sion to be help­ful.

“Even if it’s rage you’re feel­ing, it’s more in­ter­est­ing than bore­dom, be­cause you can use rage,” Pat­tin­son told me re­cently in a West Hol­ly­wood ho­tel, where “The Light­house” had just screened for awards vot­ers.

Af­ter spend­ing the last few years in in­de­pen­dent films, Pat­tin­son is plan­ning an­other zig: He’s shoot­ing “Tenet,” a big­bud­get sum­mer movie for Christo­pher Nolan, and he was just cast as the lead in “The Bat­man,” a new take on the comic book char­ac­ter due in 2021. “It’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from the movies I’ve been do­ing,” the ac­tor said. “Nor­mally I shoot six weeks, and now it’s six months!”

Here are edited ex­cerpts from our con­ver­sa­tion.

Q: Is it fair to say you’re drawn to ec­cen­tric char­ac­ters?

A: I’ve al­ways thought that the only rea­son you’d want to play a good guy all the time is be­cause you’re des­per­ately ashamed of what you’re do­ing in real life, whereas if you’re a pretty nor­mal per­son, the most fun part of do­ing movies is that you can ex­plore the more grotesque or naughty sides of your psy­che in a some­what safe en­vi­ron­ment. And it’s al­ways more fun if you’re shock­ing the peo­ple in the room. If you end up be­ing bor­ing, that’s the low­est of the low.

Q: Do you think you’ve been bor­ing be­fore?

A: All the time. You can bore your­self! On “The Light­house,” I’d do two out of 17 takes that work, and on the other ones, I’d roll the dice in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion that leads me nowhere. But it’s more fun do­ing that than mak­ing a plan and stick­ing to it.

Q: What was the first day of shoot­ing “The Light­house” like?

A: Well, my first shot was this fe­ro­cious mas­tur­ba­tion scene. It’s al­ways nice to do some­thing mas­sive for your open­ing shot, and I went re­ally mas­sive on the first take. It was a 180 from ev­ery­thing we’d done in re­hearsal, and I could see Robert [Eg­gers] a lit­tle in shock af­ter­ward. But I was like, “OK, cool, I didn’t get told to stop, so I’ll keep go­ing in that di­rec­tion.” As soon as I’d done that, it was like the road started get­ting paved.

Q: Why did you feel like you couldn’t un­cork that char­ac­ter in re­hearsals?

A: I want to do it dif­fer­ent ev­ery time, and if you re­hearse it 30 times, you have to think of 30 dif­fer­ent ways to do it — even if the first way is prob­a­bly the best way. I just hate it when I do a sec­ond take ex­actly the same as the first take. They might as well fire me.

Q: Do­ing it the same feels false to you?

A: It’s just bor­ing! I mean, I’ve def­i­nitely seen ac­tors who love re­hears­ing and are very good, so there’s got to be some ben­e­fit to it. But there’s some­thing about that full com­mit­ment when you’re shoot­ing, when it’s do or die, that al­lows you to be more free. Or maybe I’m just lazy and I can’t be both­ered to do it un­til the day we shoot!

Q: Did “The Light­house” strike you as a com­edy at first?

A: I thought the script was hi­lar­i­ous when I read it, but I had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence on “High Life” [a space drama about con­victs sent to a black hole]. When Claire De­nis and I watched that by our­selves, we were piss­ing our pants laugh­ing — it’s in­sane, that movie. But at the pre­mière of “High Life,” there was this deadly si­lence as ev­ery­one watched it. I was like, “Oh God, no one’s see­ing the ab­sur­dity of this.”

Q: You were say­ing ear­lier that we should be skep­ti­cal of any ac­tor who wants to play the hero, and yet here you are play­ing Bat­man.

A: Bat­man’s not a hero, though. He’s a com­pli­cated char­ac­ter. I don’t think I could ever play a real hero — there’s al­ways got to be some­thing a lit­tle bit wrong. I think it’s be­cause one of my eyes is smaller than the other one.

Q: What is it about Bat­man that ex­cites you?

A: I love the direc­tor, Matt Reeves, and it’s a dope char­ac­ter. His moral­ity is a lit­tle bit off. He’s not the golden boy, un­like al­most ev­ery other comic book char­ac­ter. There is a sim­plic­ity to his world­view, but where it sits is strange, which al­lows you to have more scope with the char­ac­ter.

Q: You’ve said that af­ter you were cast as Bat­man, you an­tic­i­pated a vit­ri­olic re­ac­tion on­line.

A: Maybe I’m just used to abuse by now. At least I didn’t get death threats this time — that’s a plus! It’s funny that peo­ple are so very angry about “Twi­light.” I never par­tic­u­larly un­der­stood it.

Q: When an ac­tor stars in a fran­chise that’s made for women, there are men who re­sent that: “My girl­friend likes him, so I don’t.”

A: They need to think about why they feel that way. Maybe it’s time for a deep soul-search: “Why do you fear what you don’t un­der­stand?” But yeah, it’s very strange. All the stuff with “Twi­light” was strange. I used to walk down the street with no one rec­og­niz­ing me, and then that changed for four years.

Q: Are you wor­ried that by mak­ing big movies again, you may in­vite that scru­tiny back into your life?

A: Peo­ple don’t re­ally mess with me in the same way now that I’m older. When I was younger, the pa­parazzi would be crazy to me — I’d be leav­ing a place, and peo­ple would be scream­ing abuse — but I can’t imag­ine it go­ing back to that. Do peo­ple re­ally care any­more? The gos­sip magazines have all kind of gone away, and ev­ery­one just puts their stuff on In­sta­gram any­way.

Q: Ev­ery­one but you.

A: Well, I’m old and bor­ing. And I only have abs, like, two weeks a year.


Af­ter “Twi­light,” Robert Pat­tin­son rein­vented him­self in art-house films.


Robert Pat­tin­son, seated, in a scene from “The King.”


Willem Dafoe, left, and Robert Pat­tin­son star in “The Light­house.”

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