Digital scans thanks to @sallyvg – translation by Laura, please credit if used.
From 4th page
How do we go from a worldwide vampires romance (‘Twilight’) to a sensorial trip in space with Juliette Binoche? As ‘High Life’ by Claire Denis is released this month in France, Robert Pattinson offers her a burger for lunch in a chic restaurant in London, to tell us about his career without any down time, which has seen the handsome man, teens’ idol muting into an icone on edge from indie movies as chic as deranged: Cronenberg, the Safdie brothers, Herzog, James Gray… The little Robert, who roamed the open mics nights, imitating Belmondo, is now a grown-up.
SO FILM: The first ‘High Life’ screening took place in Toronto a few months ago. In the theatre people were nauseated, some went out furious… What happened?
Robert Pattinson: I did not expect it but this first screening was really terrifying. Were were in this gigantesque theatre, a gala like room, capacity of 1500 people. I don’t know what the audience expected but I saw in one glance that they were all sitting there, eating pop corn and they looked like waiting for something else. Thirty minutes into it, someone stood up and left, disgusted. And then, there was the exodus! (laughs) It was completely mad. With Claire, we were looking at one another like ‘well that’s how it is going to be’. When critics were out though, it was not that bad, far from it actually. It made me crazy to see what disgusted the audience. A whole group of people stood up when we see Mia Goth is lactating. About ten of them went at that moment ‘Oh that’s gross’. How is that disgusting?
SO FILM: At first you were almost not a part of this film, but you convinced Claire Denis to hire you. How did you do?
Robert Pattinson: I was so anxious to go to this meeting with Claire Denis in Los Angeles, I thought she would make it fast like shaking hands then two minutes talk only. To impress her I started talking about my slim astrophysical knowledge and applied this to the way the character grows old in the movie. It is kind of a bullshit answer supposedly explaining why I don’t grow old like my daughter does days after days in the movie but it was my last card to play. And you know the funniest thing ever? She looked like she believed that beginning of an explanation. I saw her face change when I started talking about that. There was like a ‘oh, oh’ on her face, as if she was validating my scientific expertise. After that, we talk for three hours.
SO FILM: You talk a lot about ‘White Material’in your movie references. When did you see this kind of movie?
Robert Pattinson: For ‘White Material’ in particular, I was filming in Louisiana, and it was in the middle of the night, I was channel flicking and I saw it. I was 24 and I did not know about Claire Denis and so I took a look. I remember it well, I was sitted on the couch, my dog was sleeping next to me and I was supposed to be working for the next day. Except I was just hypnotized by that movie. Isabelle Huppert is the best. There is something in that movie, like I was not watching one but like I was diving into a kind of strange dream. A lot like her other movies, I see a manipulated reality. At the time I already knew ‘The lovers on the bridge’ by Leos Carax which makes me feel similar things. It is one other movie which I was completely obesessed with when I was younger. I adored Juliette Binoche so bad… Later on, I crossed path with Carax on set, in Los Angeles. My first reflex was to tell myself to invite him to a party. It was in Los Angeles and I did everything to convince him it was worth it and I arrived there a little early. Obviously it was the worst party I had ever set foot in. So I called him straight away ‘Do not come please, do no come!’.
SO FILM: How did you do to discover all these movies?
Robert Pattinson: With my best friend from London, every year, we spent three months in Los Angeles to do ‘the piolots season’. We would always stay at the same place, we went to the same castings for the same TV series, with the same schedule. At that time we did not even have enough money to pay ourselves a cab, or anything else for that matter. We would walk everywhere, I went through the whole city on foot. I would spend hours in those DVD stores which does not even exist anymore. We would go with friends, we would search everywhere and we would choose movies because of their cover. So we could say I became a cinephile by pure hasard. I would go to Amoeba all the time. Really, when you are too young to go to bars, and that you have not been chosen during a casting, it is the only thing left to spend your day. I had 20 dollars tops in my pockets, could buy 3 DVDs with it, would watch them one after the other. Some weeks, I would do that every day. About Amoeba, it is there that I discovered ‘Eyes without a face’ by Georges Franju. And it was thanks to this movie that I had my first agent. My family is not much into cinema. I think the first DVD I bought was ‘Congo’ by Frank Marshall. But obviously I prefered talking about ‘Eyes without a face’ to charm my agent: ‘Yeah, as you see I know a lot about cinema’.
SO FILM: But the real turn in you becoming a cinephile was when you discovered Belmondo in Godard’s movies.
Robert Pattinson: Belmondo was kind of a love at first sight thing as soon as I saw ‘Breathless’. I loved ‘First name: Carmen’ too. I remember those two films well because at that time I was not working in the industry nor even had taken theatre lessons. My big inspiration before Belmondo was another French man: Eric Cantona. I always admired his panache. In reality, I loved when he said something like: ‘I’ll retire at 30’. When I was a child he was the first person to really impress me. I was there thinking ‘What does he mean? Will he really stop?’ He did not care about what the people would think, he had his own particular frame on mind, and he hit a Crystal Palace supporter once! Well, I was supporting Arsenal but I loved Cantona. But back at ‘Breatless’ it was the first time I wanted to dress up as a movie character, and to act like someone else. This movie was like a ‘ah ah’ moment, Godard, he was the first director who made me want to dig deeper, to do research, to buy movies. I started imitating Belmondo and no one around me would really notice. As I was quite shy when I was younger, I think it is when I started imitating someone else in real life that I felt more comfortable.
SO FILM: Do you remember of one of those imitations you did which kinda saved you from a bad moment?
Robert Pattinson: Clearly, when I started dressing like Jack Nicholson in ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’. At that time I was a young actor. I was filming my very first movie and was so scared. I really did not know what I was doing. You’re 16 and around adults who did that every day since a long time ago, professionnals, and the only thing I did back then was a play in high school, and even then I did not know how to be an actor. But, well, I had seen ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ and I decided to cut a part of my brow so it would look like Jack Nicholson’s, so that I could get the same look/glance. I was walking around and I would tell myself ‘Yeah, that’s it, now I feel different! I became convincing’. I would talk with the costume designer after and I would tell her rubbish ‘I don’t understand, my brow is strange, it’s fallaing off a bit, that’s surprising’. And she just answered ‘If you would stop cutting it’. What? No, why would I cut my brow? Who does that? I look like Nicholson right?
SO FILM: You loved music too. You often went to open mics nights…
Robert Pattinson: Actually, for years, I would go every monday to these open mics nights. We were three friends going, we would register, all three of us, and each group could be able to only sing two songs. We were known to extend our two songs for very very long. 15 minutes each, and that was a minimum. We would feel like Jeff Buckley, we would try to reach the highest octave and make it last like at the end of his ‘Hallelujah’ song. We would make a two to three minutes intro and we would continue every time. Anyway, it was our own show! I really miss those nights, even when I started making movies I still went, before ‘Twilight’. Even while filming the first opus I always had my open mics night every week wherever I was in the world. I love this culture where you are making a show but your only audience is other musicianswho want to play too. The ambiance is between hate and respect. And I remember rather, how who I call them, astonishing people I guess. For example, in London there was this guy who always wrote songs about dragons. Every week he was there, with a new song, about dragons. Sometimes he would sing in Chinese, and he would describe his song first, telling us about dragons. In Los Angeles, it was heavy too, there was the other guy putting music on a computer, and he had this capacity of talking for a very long time without stopping, he was using this stream of conciousness technique (described by James Joyce) and he would talk for 10 minutes, non stop, it was like he was not breathing. One day, it was his birthday and we were like 3 people in the room, and he did the same thing but undressing himself as he went and then ended up naked in front of us.
SO FILM: You talk a lot about being a cinephile while younger, but you still became a star because of the ‘Twilight’ blockbuster. Was it a beginner’s mistake?
Robert Pattinson: To be honest, I wuld cast for everything at that time. I did not really have a choice. I would go to all castings without even imagining what would really result or strategy in it. Even during ‘Twilight’, I was not really aware of what I was doing, or what was happening around me… I was having fun and when everything exploded, all my friends were with me in LA, it was like a joke to us. Everything went so fast and I would not even get ahead of myself and would be very careful because I was sure everything would stop at any moment.
SO FILM: And how did you live the scene of the franchise in Montepulciano with thousands of people on set?
Robert Pattinson: Impressive, truly! It was a very important moment in the books. The audience would clap ryhtmically, there were about 3000 people there and they all wanted me to go talk to this lady in a wheelchair, which I did. This day was also the most embarrassing day in my career. Since the start of the saga, I was supposed to be shirtless ina lot of scenes but I always succeeded in getting out of it, having the scenes deleted from the script. Except this time, I had to lose the shirt, no choice. I panicked. Everyone was watching me when I had to be shirtlessin front of the camera, the sun shining one me. I said to the make-up crew: ‘I’ll do it if you put the make-up on my abs’. She did it and then when I was watching the rush, I was like ‘Dear lord, I have a six pack!’ though I forgot there were paps everywhere and as soon as I saw the shoots from te side you could see the paint which made those abs. The next day I had to face all the articles saying ‘look at those fake abs, make-up made, terrible!’
SO FILM: It was also a time when everything was so intense, when you has to, for example, travel in car trunks.
Robert Pattinson: I have hang-ups, I always think of how people see me. At that time I wanted no pictures to filter out there. Like, never. But of course, this is impossible. Honestly, I do my best to avoid paps or every single person wanting a picture… I had the habit of having several rental cars at home and I always took narrowed streets whil driving… A cra was parked over there, and there was only one car that could go through this street. I would ask my assistant to park another car just in the other direction. There always were people waiting in front of my place, and of course as soon as I was going out people would follow me and went straight into this narrow street! I would put on the brakes quite suddenly when they were all stuck and then I would leave the car there and jump I to the rental one parked in front of it. No one could go on or go back. I did that everyday and I became almost addicted to trick the people wanting to follow me. My favorite technique was to ask friends or my assistant to dress up with my clothes. My assistant would go change in the restaurant’s toilets and when he got out we always tried to get a girl being with him which is always the thing making the paps go crazy! I would also ask him to drive very far away with no reason, no goal and then to just jump out of the car in front of them ‘who the heck is that?’ At that time it was easier to disappear! Maybe 2008 represents the ear before the thousands of pictures of me posted everywhere. There was twitter already but people did not take pictures constantly. Now, wherever you are, whatever you do, everyone takes a picture, every moment of the day. Result being: you cannot run away anymore.
SO FILM: You also has to manage the pressure coming from the studios which invested millions in these kind of movies?
Robert Pattinson: the real problem, for me at least, was that I could not joke anymore. I had to do interviews after interviews answering the same questions over and over again. For example, they would all ask questions about my hair and seriously… They would ask ‘how do you do to have this hair?’ And at some point you are so tired that you just answer ‘the secret to my hair? Easy, I don’t wash them’. Literally every single article, for 7 years, talked about ‘my problem with hygiene’. It was really getting on my nerves. What did you want me to say? ‘Well I use this shampoo and then this after care…’ It’s ridiculous. Lucky for me, when I started ‘Twiligh’ it was a new studio. For the studio people is was kinda new: promo, and everything going around. So they would tolerate my sh**. I remember being invited to an event about the movie and they asked again about my hair. And then I had to say: ‘my hairstyle? Ah, it comes from my hair being licked by 12 years old virgins’. If I would come up with things like that now I would be fired on the spot. At that time they would not really punish me but they would send me to these ‘media training’ lessons so I could answer correctly during interviews but then again I said ‘media training? F*** you!’
SO FILM: This industry has also an important impact on those who work in it, morphing them completely. Did you witness that kind of stupid Hollywoodian behavior?
Robert Pattinson: All industries with a hierarchy work that way, but the cinema industry is peculiar because you can go through steps rather quickly. You are able to jump steps, to not start at the entry level, and that’s more accurate when you are a director. It’s the only industry in the world where you can start being the boss on your first day. And sometimes this quick progression creates tensions. There’s this jacuzzi story about a well know actress. I cannot even say her name because she does not even know about her own story, I think. On set, there was this scene with this actress in a jacuzzi, and she was known to always complain about anything and everything and once in the water, she was like ‘why is this not at the right temperature?’ Once gone the whole crew was so exasperated they decided to all take a piss in said jacuzzi and they added soap and bubbles to cover the sent… She came back in the water, did not say anything and as of today I think she still does not know about it. So now I never complain about anything served at a restaurant, whatever it is… (laughs)
SO FILM: The distance you keep with blockbusters and franchises to be able to work in indie movies, was that difficult to negotiate?
Robert Pattinson: I was lucky because Cronenberg decided to have me in two of his movies, it was like an ‘approval label’, and it opened doors for me. When I was in Rome, he called David Michôd and told him ‘everything is okay! Robert, he sure is something!’ It really helped me afterwards. After that, when I worked on ‘The childhood of a leader’ or ‘High Life’ it satisfies this part of me who wanted this adrenaline shot. I love listening to this tiny voice telling me: ‘oh dear, this movie could sign the end of my career! It could break it all!’
SO FILM: Even on projects like ‘Good Time’ by the Safdie Brothers?
Robert Pattinson: I don’t even know why they thought I would be great to be Connie, guy from Queens. When I met former convict Buddy Durress – one of the Safdies’ friend – for the first time, I was trying to be into character but it was terrifying because he knew all about this world which was completely foreign to me. I felt like an imposter on set, all that playing a real one at that.
SO FILM: And was it? The Queens?
Robert Pattinson: At the Safdie’s, there is the same kind of atmosphere than in their movie. There was this scene at the bail bond office that we would film at unlikely hours. It sure was something else! This night’s shooting was the moment when they were counting the money in the room. The guy put the money which counted it, it was 12000 fake dollars and the Safdie’s filmed that during 30 minutes! We were all there, watching the money being counted and one of the producer started saying ‘wait a sec, what are you doing watching the money like that? Why are we doing this since 30 minutes prior?’ The bailer would put back the money in the machine, saying nothing, the Safdie’s filmed, and so on and they would improvise. That was the kind of thing they wanted. There were also real bills in there, and the guy would count the fake ones, then the real ones. We looked like zombies, staying there, watching… I find it great that people start noticing the Safdie’s. They will be able to start bigger budget projects and what’s perfect is that it is almost impossible to influence them. They made so many projects in New York with some difficulties, with strings, they filmed with nothing sometimes. Around them they have an important crew. They’re not just two guys making movies in their corner. If they do a big budget movie with a big studio they already have a company with them, which knows how they work. Like right now as they are making a big budget movie, they can keep their independence. All thanks to their Queens crew.
SO FILM: So, it’s possible to make a career out of indie movies?
Robert Pattinson: I think it depends the opportunity. When you work on big movies, you cannot take a risk because there is a lot of money in the equation! So it is more fun to do smaller things because you don’t feel lost in an enormous machine. For example, I read the new project by ‘The Witch’ director Robert Eggers that I worked on with Willem Dafoe (‘The lighthouse’ 2019 release) and it is one of the most bizarre screenplay I’ve ever read in years. It talks about a lighthouse guardian in the 1890s, in Maine. Before, no one would have asked me to work on that kind of project but thanks to Cronenberg, thanks to ‘Good Time’ I can get into things like that. And then if you can find bigger movies you can find money easily…
SO FILM: Is the whole Hollywood changing? There are debates on the Me Too movement, diversity in cinema, and a lot of essential debates at the moment.
Robert Pattinson: It is constantly evolving, step by step. First, the Me Too movement is something people around me talk a lot about. In cinema, everyone tries touching another audience, and now that there are more canals to diffuse what we create, it expand the spectrum of what kind of project we can work on. Nevertheless it makes me sad that fewer people go to the theatres and it becomes difficult to make them go see a movie on the big screen. But at the same time indie movie take a bigger place nowadays with these new platforms. Last year, lots of movies and scripts were game changers. Before, the superheroes were all white, and it is starting to change. There is a change coming and the bigger stars this year are new faces like Michael B Jordan for example.
SO FILM: But what could definitely change Hollywood?
Robert Pattinson: money! If a project bring lots of money, it is a done deal. Now that ‘Black Panther’ was a huge success you can be sure that hundred of people are saying ‘how to make the same as ‘Black Panther’. But it has always been like this, for a long time now. When it was ‘Twilight’, it was exactly the same, there were no vampire movies since ten years prior and then everyone wanted to work on one. Last night o was talking with people about the fact that poetry is becoming a big thing in London! I was thinking ‘Really?’. In reality no one has money in this city so people don’t buy music instruments anymore. Lots of artists just started writing and tell their poetry. Nowadays you have slam and poetry nights everywhere and it is now cool to be a poet. And out of nowhere that is something the publishing houses want to show the world once again! I don’t remember the last time someone told me he/she wanted to be a poet. It did not happen anymore, but now it does! So I am going to go to open mics poetry nights now. Before you had only Kate Tempest, who is incredible, but now there are others! Huge wave of poetry on London.