Translation by Laura
ROBERT PATTINSON: ‘When you’re British, people expect you to just be happy playing Prince Charming’
Passing by the Deauville Film Festival to present ‘Good Time’, the British man tells us how making a movie with the Safdie brothers made his act grow-up.
Only 31, the British actor Robert Pattinson stands out as a fearless and cinephile superstar. Glowing ex-vampire in ‘Twilight’, he builds a more than admirable path with audacious collaborations and performances more and more peculiar. Curious as we meet him while promoting for a few hours his movie in Deauville, he takes notes of our feverish advice, like yes he should watch the third season of ‘Twin Peaks’ (even if he is ‘frustrated to not have been called to audition this crazy casting’), and put the name of Steve De Jarnatt’s movie name ‘Miracle Mile’ (1989) in his phone when we mention the apocalypse. Coming to France, between two days on a German set with claire Denis to talk about his work with the Safdies, his hair kept a patch of blond with dark roots, what is left of Connie from ‘Good Time’.
The ’Good Time’ universe sweats the Hollywoodian golden age from the past. Have you been inspired by big actors from the past to play that role?
Despite the nostalgia, this project seemed unprecedented to me. Some aspects can make you think of classics, like ‘Straight Time’ by Dustin Hoffman [and Ulu Grosbard, 1978]. We can see a bank robbery scene where the robber [Hoffman] Max Dembo hesitates a few seconds. Connie is like that, he could turn back and everything would be different. He is his own worst enemy. I took a long time to soak up what happens in the streets, and to talk to people who went to prison or are on probation, people living in the streets. When you ask someone to tell you their story for a movie, they are extremely open and you learn so many incredible things. You cannot ask that if you go out of the cinema context. Say like ‘What are your secrets? It’s for a movie’, it just works! (laughs)
It can also make us think of ‘Dog Day afternoon’ by Sidney Lumet…
I have seen this movie so many times. It’s inked in me, in the background. Al Pacino’s performances are the first who made an impact on me. When you start in the cinema industry and you’re British, people expect you to just be happy playing Prince Charming. Not me though, I wanted to play a fucking Pacino (laughs).
A the New Hollywood time, these stars-actors acted in famous directors’ movies for their first role ever. The big names today take less risks, of course some are exceptions but…
I think a huge part of taking a challenge nowadays lies in actors’ decisions to take on something new. We, the actors, have to make do so the alchemy with talented and unexpected directors takes place. As soon as you have evn a bit of influence as an actor, you have to use it to face new challenges instead of stalking blockbusters, you have to try attracting a different audience, more general, to lead them towards authors who mean something. When you think about it, actors and actresses look for more peculiar projects, most of them don’t care, they just want to work…
While ‘Twilight’ made you a star, did you tell yourself at some point, ‘I am going to be able to chase riskier and surprising projects’ ?
Everything had changed since ‘Twilight’, yes. But with each new project, I acquired new competences, new shades to my acting, with James Gray, the Safdies and no Claire Denis [‘High Life’ filming in progress as of now]. As time went, my tastes changed. ‘Cosmopolis’ was a turning point. Cronenberg is one of my heroes. It was crucial, I gained a new confidence, and so I started looking at myself differently.
Did you want, from the start, to create such a composite and sharp filmography ?
I have targets for sure. But it takes forever. With James, for example, I was supposed to be in other movies. But it was like… seven or eight years ago. ‘Lost City of Z’ took five years to see the light. With Claire, we took five years to work together. If I love a project, I persist, until it takes form. Nevertheless, I don’t really have a strategy, I don’t tell myself ‘Hum well, Claire Denis’ (laughs). But I have huge desirs growing in me.
Do you think of someone in particular right now ?
I want to make a movie with Ciro Guerra and if everything goes to plan it will happen next year. And I would love working with Maïwenn. I really loved her last movie ‘My King.
You say of yourself that yuu’re a tradionnal actor who just works his lines. In a previous interview, you talked about the improvisation with the Safdies and their actors. Was it difficult?
Yeah but I ended the movie feeling more grown-up. Few actors on set read the script. Sometimes, during a scene, I was face to face with someone improvising out of nowhere, and it seemed so difficult to me to lead the scene where it should go. I found it so stressful. You can feel it in the movie. That’s good. The higher the pressure goes, the more you don’t have a conscience about yourself. It is a relief. You act as if you don’t have time to commiserate.
You adopt different states in the movie, like a chameleon. Pigmented faces, dyed hair, clothes changes. How did you experience this constant change?
When you act differently and start changing appearances you’re welcomed very differently than before. I had time to experiment all that for two months in New York City where I tried different accents and costumes. I talked to people in the streets to check if they would recognize me. Sometimes we are too aware of what we are. We just want for some time to get rid of this judgement we have of ourself. Playing the shapeshifter let’s you do that, fooling ourself and finding a way to fool people, it’s addictive. But I am not sure it’s really healthy (laughs)…
How is the filming with Claire Denis going, in Cologne’s studio ?
It’s truly incredible to work with her. She has her own world, really intimate. And, she has this kind of same thing going on about her (laughs)… a creative chaos. I’ve never trusted someone like this. But in the end of the day, it’s in Claire Denis’ movie I had dreamed to be a part of, not mine.