Robert Pattinson opens up about his insecurities and his career-defining new movie
Robert Pattinson may be known best for the role that made him into a global superstar and tabloid obsession, playing Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” franchise, but he’s making it very hard for everyone to keep him in that box.
In his latest movie, “Good Time” (in select theaters Friday, nationwide August 25), Pattinson gives the best performance of his career so far playing Connie, a petty criminal who sets out on a mission to bail his mentally challenged brother out of prison. After the two botch a bank robbery, we follow Connie in a bizarre journey through New York, in which everything he does completely goes wrong. To morph into a greasy Queens hood, the 31-year-old actor spent months working with directors Josh and Benny Safdie (Benny plays Connie’s brother in the movie) before shooting began, which included dressing in character and doing improvised performances with Benny in public.
With a cluster of eager paparazzi waiting outside, Business Insider chatter with Pattinson at the Bowery Hotel in New York City to discuss his new role, why he spends so much time on movie websites, and with more “Twilight” movies to come, if he’d ever consider playing Edward Cullen again.
Jason Guerrasio: You’ve said in interviews that it’s seeing a picture of the Safdie’s last movie, “Heaven Knows What,” that sparked the interest to work with them. What were you searching for creatively back at that time?
Robert Pattinson: That. I mean, I don’t do anything else. I literally f—ing look at film websites all day long. [Laughs]
Pattinson: Also book review websites, anything where there could be something. I guess I’m trying to figure out what could potentially be a zeitgeist-type thing. Something that will connect. And it’s very, very difficult to find anything that’s in the zeitgeist.
Guerrasio: So your process in choosing roles is different from the traditional method in Hollywood of an agent sending you material. You’re searching for the material.
Pattinson: I think it’s so much more than the script. I did a movie after “Good Time” [titled “Damsel”] which was from a script and it’s funny. But originally I read it and I didn’t get it. And then I saw this movie, “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter,” which the directors, the Zellner brothers, had done previously, and I called my agent and said, “Who are these guys?” And he was like, “You just got offered their movie and you said ‘no,'” and I was like, “Oh, s—! Wait!” [Laughs] I think you just need so many elements. And I’m just one of those people who thinks if you’ve made something good once, even if it was a long time ago, I think —
Guerrasio: They’ve still got a good one in them.
Pattinson: Yeah. Because hardly anybody has made anything good.
Guerrasio: But with the Safdies you see this image, you’re intrigued, but what happens if you go to meet them and they could be awful people. Did you vet them a little first?
Pattinson: No. I had seen the trailer for “Heaven Knows What,” and I had such a strong impression of them I knew I was right. The editing, use of music, it’s just bold. I remember seeing “Heaven Knows What” for the first time and just the volume of the music I was like, “Jesus, it’s deafening.”
Guerrasio: So in your eyes, even if these guys were complete pricks, you could deal with it because you dig what they do?
Pattinson: Yeah. 100 percent. It worked out, because I really like them. But at the end of the day you’re doing it to make something.
Guerrasio: Not make best friends with them.
Pattinson: And sometimes it’s kind of good if you hate the person. [Laughs] The film production was only three months, I think you can basically do anything in three months.
Guerrasio: There was so much prep to this movie. Was it fun to get made up and walk around New York City and not be recognized? As opposed to right now, we’re in a lobby of a hotel and paparazzi are right at the front door waiting for you.
Pattinson: It’s a satisfying experience to do that. I’m trying to make something every time that feels new and surprises people. Hopefully at least one person. But it’s not like I turn it off. I don’t make a movie and then go back to my normal life. When I’m finishing one movie the next day I’m thinking about the next one.
Guerrasio: Is that because you want that? You want to be busy?
Pattinson: Yeah. But also, most of the time I’m by myself finding the next thing. Being an A&R guy, basically. I don’t know how long I can do this for. I’m constantly fascinated by actors who are so confident with their career that they do a project and then go on vacation.
Guerrasio: And then there are the actors that say “no” to everything.
Pattinson: Oh, I say “no” to everything, too. But because I like such few things, when I take a role I just go into prep and that takes time, even for small roles I do that.
Guerrasio: You did months of prep for “Good Time,” at one point you and Benny worked at a car wash?
Pattinson: It was actually for a camera test, but the camera was far away. It was in the middle of the night we did it. We had permission from the manager, but everyone who worked there didn’t have any idea what we were doing. They just thought we were new to the job. And it wasn’t like we did it for the experience of washing cars, we did a bit. Benny is in character freaking out and I’m in character too and I slapped him. Benny punched me in the face. [Laughs] People tried to break it up but I loved that element where something is out of control. It’s why I wanted to be in this movie. It’s the real world and people react to it. It was interesting to see how real people would react to a crazy situation happening in front of them.
Guerrasio: Did it ever get to a point where there was too much prep work? That your head was overloaded and you just needed to go and shoot the movie.
Pattinson: If someone is enthusiastic, no. There were so many times I would send emails to Josh about the character. Something like, “I just realized who the guy is,” and it would be this long explanation. And then Josh would send one back that was ten times longer. So they were enthusiastic which made me that way, too. I think so much of a director’s job is just to convince you that what you’re doing is worthwhile. “Yes, this does mean something, we’re not just messing around.” Even though at the end of the day it’s a film. But at the time it’s something else. I don’t feel like I’m making a film, I’m confronting things in myself. I don’t know what it is. So if someone is enthusiastic enough to convince you that it’s important it’s kind of magical.
Guerrasio: Did it take a while to shake Connie once filming was complete?
Pattinson: Actually, I was watching the movie the other day and I was like, “I wouldn’t mind doing that again.” I just love the certain figures of speech he uses, it’s an edgy character and a lot of different angles to him. It’s fun.
Guerrasio: So when you see him on screen you don’t feel burnt out from playing him, you could see yourself playing him again?
Pattinson: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I found there is so much detail to him as a character. I don’t even see him as a criminal. I mean, he robbed a bank, but this isn’t a story where the major focus of his life is being a criminal. It’s in the back of his mind. I talked to this guy who was a bank robber and just got out of prison from serving eight years when we started shooting. I was trying to figure out what his reason was to do what he did and he said, “I just wanted money.” And I was like, ok, that’s cool. He disguised himself to rob the banks, he’s a smart guy, but it’s so interesting that he just eliminated the idea of consequence. You do it because you wanted money and you either get caught or you don’t. That’s it. I found that profound. The fear of getting caught is eliminated.
Guerrasio: Does the idea of being the lead in a franchise movie interest you at all going forward. I mean, doing “Twilight” was like ten years of your life. Can you go through that again?
Pattinson: Um, yeah. If you get something that you fall in love with. I always think everything is going to be my last job so every single day is a gift. [Laughs] This whole life is an accident for me. It would be nice. But if I did something else like that again I think the more established you are going into it the easier it will be for you. I still think I’m a little too young, but for some [established actors], you go into the project it’s yours, they trust you. While if you’re just a kid you have to follow what they say. Because everyone is scared, there’s just too much money at stake. But with a movie like “Good Time,” I’m cheap, [Laughs] I can guarantee a certain amount of box office, I just want to get another chance after this.
Guerrasio: Lionsgate said recently they are interested in doing more “Twilight” movies down the road. Does that interest you at all, if they come calling could you ever go back and play Edward?
Pattinson: I mean, I would be very fascinated to see how they explain that not only are you a vampire that can go out in the sunlight, but you can also age a little bit. [Laughs]
Guerrasio: Well, that’s what CGI is for, right?
Guerrasio: How about if they would allow Edward to be killed off?
Pattinson: I don’t know. When the source material is not there it’s tricky. Also, the entire series is based over a year, so yeah, I would feel it would potentially be redundant. Because so much of the movie was about sexual tension, so once it’s consummated, that’s it. [Laughs]