“The world’s favourite vampire is in Berlin for a whirlwind visit and, true to bloodsucking type, Robert Pattinson isn’t eating. Tonight, he will do the red-carpet thing for the world premiere of his new film, Bel Ami, but in the private hotel lounge allocated for this interview — “This is classy,” he comments as he strolls in — he barely makes a dent in the chicken salad he has ordered, despite his professed hunger.
Pattinson isn’t known for playing characters who do much smiling or laughing, either, so the first thing to notice is how readily he does both in person. Decked out in a black-grey ensemble and sporting a new cropped haircut under his black cap, he has barely sat down, with a pack of Camels by his side, before he’s folded up in mirth, talking about the KitKatClub, a notorious Berlin sex joint, and his desire to patronise it with his family. Is he joking? I hope not. “I was telling my dad about it last night, and he sounded really into it. ‘I’m coming over — let’s go to the orgy club.’ ”
The 25-year-old actor has been to Berlin many times. One of the best holidays he ever had was a stay in the east when he was 17, “before it was so gentrified”, frequenting bars that took up illegal residence in abandoned buildings. Such footloose times are seemingly in the past for the star of Twilight, although his desire to hit the KitKatClub may indicate otherwise. The other observation to make is that Pattinson is a very handsome man, but his face is less wide and flat than the camera makes it appear. And there are enough imperfections to separate him from the standard Hollywood pretty boy.
Nobody wants to see a dickhead succeed — that’s why I wanted to do it
It is easy to see why he is ideal casting as a heart-throb vampire, but equally why he got the role of Georges Duroy, the insatiable money-and-lust monster at the heart of Bel Ami. This adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s belle époque novel marks the directing debut of two of our most acclaimed theatre practitioners — Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, the founders of Cheek by Jowl. Of the projects Pattinson has chosen with the Twilight safety net in place, the first two, Remember Me (2010) and Water for Elephants (2011), were unadventurous romantic excursions, unlikely to perturb even the most rabid Twihard. Bel Ami is where it gets interesting.
Georges Duroy is essentially the anti-Edward Cullen, an opportunistic cad who deploys sex for ruthless gain, screwing people — literally, in the case of the rich society wives played by Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas — on his rise from impoverished soldier to powerful Parisian. Cullen is the charming, soulful vampire who gets the girl; Duroy is the charming, soulless parasite who gets everything but his own comeuppance. Pattinson nails his repellent, empty charm, sneering as he seduces.
Sticking closely to the Maupassant source is one of the many strengths of Donnellan and Ormerod’s gorgeously realised vision, and Pattinson admits that tweaking Twilight-fuelled preconceptions was an original lure. “But my ideas about it changed as I was doing it,” he says. “Georges keeps getting beaten down by the world, but he never learns. He succeeds because of the bad points of his personality. Nobody wants to see a dickhead succeed — that’s why I wanted to do it.”
For their part, Donnellan and Ormerod are predictably effusive about their star: the former praises his “passionate attachment to us” during the film’s difficult financing, and credits him with “edge and intelligence”. “There’s a huge difference between Georges and Rob,” Donnellan says. “Georges rises to the top with no talent. Rob has masses of it.” (Donnellan sees Bel Ami as a parable on modern celebrity culture.) They also attribute the idea for a five-week theatre-style rehearsal process to the actor, a savvy move that allowed him to soak up their reservoir of knowledge about performance and period. He showed up every day for 10 or 11 hours. “I ended up doing mime and crazy improvisations, because you run out of stuff to do,” he says. “One day, Holliday [Grainger, his co-star] and I ran around screaming at each other for four hours.” Pattinson can’t articulate how the process fed into his performance, although when he arrived on set in Budapest in February 2010, he was worried he had overcooked it.
Meanwhile, Ormerod and Donnellan were taking the baby steps that come with being debut film-makers. The former focused on the design tapestry, the latter on the actors. Pattinson recalls them putting a row of audience heads at the bottom of the monitor, but the graceful storytelling they bring to Bel Ami bodes well for their move from stage to cinema. “We’re now rather bitten, I’m afraid,” Donnellan says.
Published in 1885, Maupassant’s masterpiece was shocking in its day. The author knew he was on borrowed time while writing this, his second novel — he eventually succumbed to syphilis — and it is infected by a spirit of nihilistic hedonism, of indulging base instincts while you can because, as the antireligious Duroy puts it: “This is the only life; there’s nothing after.” Pattinson wishes they had kept a shot near the end where Georges turns to a crucifix and thanks God for his good fortune. “It was done in the most blasphemous way,” he says, “thinking of God as Father Christmas, which was funny. There’s a lot of misery in the movie. It’s not as funny as I thought it was going to be.””
“There is plenty of sex, though, with Pattinson indulging in numerous clinches, mostly with Ricci’s sweetly amorous Clotilde. What does he think die-hard Twilight fans will make of Georges? “I’m curious to find out,” he says. “He doesn’t come across as [being] as bad as I wanted him to, so I don’t think anyone will be offended.” Pattinson is right about that — Georges is worse in the novel. As for Twihards, he credits them with more complexity than most, explaining that they are a literary-minded bunch who mostly hadn’t seen a film in years before the Twilight series. They are always giving him books, apparently; today, one handed him the works of a 1950s Greek poet. Having witnessed a Twilight premiere in action, I profess amazement that people able to unleash such unearthly shrieks could be that bookish. “Maybe they read a book in the same way,” he grins, as he mimes holding an open paperback. “ ‘He takes his shirt off…’” He widens his mouth into a muffled scream, then creases up with laughter.
Pattinson once claimed he expected Twilight to be a “serious indie” film, rather than a blockbuster franchise with fast-food tie-ins. He has also expressed a sort of benevolent envy at the way his co-star, Kristen Stewart — widely assumed to be his girlfriend, although he won’t discuss it — rose up through the indie ranks before her casting in Stephenie Meyer’s angst-soaked saga, whereas he is having to fit in his indies while already famous. “Nobody ever believes me about it, but I just didn’t see it as being this huge thing,” he insists. It’s the sequels he has found most difficult. “The whole point of the character is that he doesn’t change, but, after a while, you’re, like, ‘I’m running out of ideas here.’ There was one bit in the last film where he and Bella had their first argument, and I almost didn’t know how to play it, because it’s not like they’re going to break up.”
Bizarrely, our conversation is interrupted when the hotel starts pumping a dreadful pop song into the room. “That’s from the Twilight soundtrack,” Pattinson smiles wanly, not that amused. Mercifully, the sulky track is terminated in time for Pattinson to reflect on where he wants his career to go after Breaking Dawn — Part 2 draws the curtains on the series. Last summer, he shot David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, playing an egocentric billionaire who seeks meaning in his wealth (“One of the weirdest scripts I’ve read”), and he is currently weighing up three projects, none of which he will talk about, although the cropped head is for a tryout.
He seems unsure where to go next, explaining that, without a definable screen persona, “Nobody’s going, ‘Get me Pattinson’. I always find the best scripts have been written with people in mind, but I don’t really know who I am yet in terms of cinema, and I haven’t done enough work to have an audience perceive something. “It’s still, ‘Oh, there’s the Twilight guy trying to do something else.’ I’m very conscious of what I think people would believe me as, which drives my management crazy”. Where does he draw the line? “I’ve turned down playing a marine, because I don’t want marines to go, ‘This is a disgrace.’ ” His laughter sounds hollow this time. “I want to do something where I have a gun, get to run around a little bit.”
For the past five months, he has been living in Los Angeles, his longest stretch in the industry town, splitting his time between three houses and the occasional hotel — a nomadic reality forced on him by the rarefied nature of his celebrity. Does one of those houses belong to Stewart? “Ummm…” he hesitates. “I just think it’s best never to talk about that stuff.” When I tell him that George Clooney said recently he longed for the days when he could walk into a park and read a book undisturbed, Pattinson reveals that he was driving through LA a few days ago when someone pointed out the house Clooney lived in “when he had his pet pig and stuff”. He was shocked to see it was right on the street, unshielded.
“It reminded me that, 10 years ago, even being the most famous person in the world, you could still have a house where people wouldn’t go and camp outside. I do everything to hide because, if someone finds out where I am, there are people outside 24 hours a day. And that’s what drives you crazy, because you can’t escape. It makes you not want to go out — then you don’t meet anyone and just get insanely bored.”
He hates complaining, though: “The pros outweigh the cons by a significant margin.” But it’s hard to think of another actor his age in a similar predicament — Zac Efron, maybe. To his credit, Pattinson doesn’t show his frustration in public, and is yet to succumb to Sean Penn-style meltdowns. When the pressure valve needs releasing, as surely it must, he rings up his parents, who still reside in Barnes, the riverside enclave of southwest London where he grew up. “They think I’m insane,” he says. “They are the only people I really let rip on — ‘I’m going to kill myself!’ My family all think I hate my job so much, but it’s just the boredom that gets to you.”
A couple of hours later, in a far smarter black-grey ensemble, Pattinson roams the Bel Ami red carpet. There is squealing, but it doesn’t reach violent levels — Germans are so restrained — although one teenage girl has to be lifted out of the autograph mosh pit to safety. Tears stream down her face, which might simply be anguish at being whisked out of her idol’s orbit. The film plays to a warm reception, but a German hostess abandons all decorum on stage afterwards, ignoring Donnellan, Ormerod and Ricci, and hauling Pattinson out of the line-up to coo: “Ladies, I’m touching him.”
The actor smiles patiently — he can’t escape, even if he’d like nothing more. He does better at the afterparty, hiding away from prying eyes with his parents and two sisters in an inner sanctum. If he didn’t, he’d be facing similar encounters all night. Pattinson was last spotted venturing into the Berlin night with his family, on their way, he said, to the KitKatClub.
* Scan Thanks to Larice via Robsessed
Robert Pattinson heads from Twilight to darkness in Bel Ami
Twilight made him a heartthrob … and Robert Pattison is ramping up his sexual adventures in his new film which is previewed at Glasgow Film Festival. He talks to Will Lawrence
‘There are lots of attractive women in the film,” says Robert Pattinson of his latest screen release, Bel Ami.
“Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Kristen Scott Thomas…” He pauses before flashing a smile. “And I sleep with all of them!”
After five years cocooned in a teenage Twilight world of angst, anger, vampires and werewolves (in which sleeping with people is a complicated process), the 25-year-old Englishman clearly enjoyed this romp through 19th-century Paris.
Perhaps the best known of the six novels by French short story writer Guy de Maupassant, Bel Ami is certainly his most subversive, savage and ironic piece, charting the tale of Georges Duroy, a young man who travels through 1890s’ Paris, from cockroach-plagued garrets to magnificent salons, employing his wits and beauty as he bids to rise from poverty to fame.
The story comes to the big screen in March — previewed by early screenings at the Glasgow Film Festival later this month — courtesy of theatre directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, who have put together a piece that resonates strongly today, regardless of its period setting.
“This character uses sex and women’s huge attraction for him to get to the top of the pile,” says Donnellan of Duroy. “It’s an unremitting world and, in the end, he gets the lot. There are no consequences for him. People think it’s very modern, somebody getting to the top with very little talent. Duroy has an enormous desire to get to the top, and that is his talent. It’s about incredibly modern themes. That’s one of the thrills of doing this story. It is set in 1890s’ Paris but it would almost be too near to the bone to do it now.”
To bring the laconic and lovely-looking Duroy to life, the directors turned to Twilight star Pattinson, one of the most desired men on the planet, whose real-life journey, while not quite mirroring the lothario lifestyle of his character, has certainly benefited from his exquisite good looks.
“My Bel Ami guy doesn’t have a conscience,” explains Pattinson. “Most fictional characters are driven by some target, but he is like a reverse character. He’s so content to do nothing and thinks everything should just be given to him. But if someone slights him, or directs any insult at him, the most overwhelming energy grabs him and he turns into this absolute devil who will do anything.”
An attack on the invidious French society of the time, the Maupassant story is dark and rather disturbing in places, but few could argue with its no-holds-barred candour.
“It’s like in Giant,” Pattinson continues, referring to the 1956 George Stevens picture starring James Dean, “when he builds the entire empire to say ‘f*** you’. Duroy is exactly like that but without any of the redeeming characteristics. The whole story is about these people trying to beat him down into remorse, and just as he’s about to touch it, something good happens to him again.
“And then he has another run of luck, right at the end, until eventually he stabs everyone in the back and then wins the lottery. It’s a happy ending for him and no-one else.”
Given the contrast between the caddish Duroy and Pattinson’s chivalrous Twilight character, Edward Cullen, it’s tempting to think that the actor has selected Bel Ami as a conscious bid to show his range, to prove that there’s more to his make-up than a fiendish pout and excellent hair.
“Doing something like Twilight opens doors and it closes others. You can say, ‘Oh if I was still unknown, then no-one would judge me,’ but at the same time, nobody would give a s*** either.” He laughs. “It’s a weird little balance. And, most of the time, you are just completely guessing what people do, so I suppose doing scripts that you think are good is the way to go. And that’s what I thought about Bel Ami.
‘With Bel Ami, though, I guess there is something quite fun about going from Edward Cullen to playing a guy who pretty much abuses women to get money out of them.
“Edward so wouldn’t approve! So, yes, I thought that was a funny irony. But the story, independently, is great, and I only thought about the irony afterwards. The thing that stands out in the story in Bel Ami is just his behaviour —the women that he manages to screw over are all attracted to him to begin with and so he starts having affairs with them and destroys their lives afterwards. That’s kind of nuts. But, to answer your question, I don’t think about doing things just because they are different from Twilight, no. Honestly, Bel Ami was just such an intriguing film.”
Eric Packer is about to embark on the worst car ride of his life. Thankfully, Robert Pattinson — the actor who plays Packer in “Cosmopolis” — doesn’t share his character’s fate.
Pattinson fans came out in full force to elect “Cosmopolis” the winner of the MTV Movie Brawl 2012, a weeks-long tournament that pitted several of 2012’s biggest releases against one another to determine which film is the must-see cinematic event of the year. After tense battles against titans like “Bel Ami,” “The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn: Part 2,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Hunger Games,” it’s Pattinson’s upcoming indie thriller that took home the grand prize.
It’s a surprising result for many onlookers, given that “Cosmopolis” has yet to release a trailer and only has a tentative release date of 2012. But Rob’s fans rallied behind their man, opting to support his future in “Cosmopolis” over his past in “Twilight” — a commanding decision from a massive fanbase that demands attention, to say the least. In fact, the movement was so strong that it even caught “Cosmopolis” director David Cronenberg’s eye even before the film won the brawl for it all. Shortly after the victory was announced, Cronenberg got on the phone with MTV News to talk about what “Cosmopolis” winning the MTV Movie Brawl means for the film, Pattinson’s performance, when fans can expect to see a trailer and much more.
MTV: David, thanks for talking with us! Have you been filled in on what’s happened with “Cosmopolis” over here?
David Cronenberg: You know, I’ve been following it! I’m shocked! I’m shocked and amazed and really tickled. It proves that movie fans are unpredictable and really interesting and really passionate. It’s fantastic. I would have never, ever imagined that this would happen.
MTV: How did the tournament first get on your radar?
Cronenberg: Somebody sent me something and said, “Hey, we seem to be doing OK in this Movie Brawl thing that MTV’s got going on.” I didn’t know about it. At that point, we were struggling with “The Dark Knight,” I think. I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty impressive!” Because “Cosmopolis,” while I think in terms of what it is as cinema is pretty hefty, but in terms of budget and promotion, it’s an underdog compared to something like the “Dark Knight” franchise. I really didn’t think we would have much of a chance. That really got my attention.
MTV: What’s kind of incredible, too, is that right before that battle with Batman, “Cosmopolis” was up against “Twilight.” It was Rob versus Rob! In what we saw, it seemed that fans were putting their votes towards Rob’s future instead of his past.
Cronenberg: Well, and I think that’s one of the things that I meant when I said it was interesting. Because that’s not the kind of thing you would predict. But it was really terrific, and in that sense, they’re right. As I’ve said many times, if you’re a “Twilight” fan, then you might not be interested in “Cosmopolis” because Rob is not Mr. Cullen. But if you’re a Rob fan, then you’ve got to be interested in “Cosmopolis,” because you will see him as you have not seen him before, for sure.
MTV: Clearly, there is a lot of interest in this movie, seeing that it came out ahead over movies like “Dark Knight,” “Twilight” and “Hunger Games.” There is a lot of attention on Rob, of course. Can you talk about your experience working with Rob, and the kind of actor you found him to be over the course of shooting “Cosmopolis”?
Cronenberg: He’s terrific. He deserves the affection that the fans have for him. He’s incredibly sweet, he’s very funny, he’s very bright and he’s also very knowledgeable about cinema. Not just movies but the history of cinema. He knows a lot about it. He’s just a sweetheart. And he’s totally professional. He’s always right there. We had a lot of fun shooting [the movie] because, as I say, he has a great sense of humor. We just played a lot. I think that’s a really great tone that’s set for everybody on the set. The lead actor has a really big influence on the tone of the shoot. If you’ve got a guy who’s very difficult and neurotic or whatever, they can’t help but affect everybody’s day. But Rob is not like that. He’s just a ray of sunshine. In fact, he’s in absolutely every scene of the movie, so obviously his temperament would have a huge influence on how the shoot went … and it was a dream. It was a beautiful shoot.
MTV: I think one of the reasons why some are surprised with how this tournament played out is that most of the films that were competing have trailers. This one doesn’t — at least not yet! When can fans expect to see a trailer?
Cronenberg: We feel probably that this won’t be released until next fall. It’s not exactly a summer movie and it won’t be ready for a while. The movie is finished, but something that fans maybe don’t know is how long it takes a movie to get released. You want to do a couple of film festivals, the studios in each country have to get their materials ready. The photographs, the trailers, everything … it takes a lot of time, you know? The other thing is, we kind of want to keep things a little bit of a secret until we unleash it on the world. We’re pretty excited about it and we don’t really want to let too much out about what it is and how it plays.
MTV: In terms of when this is coming out, you said perhaps fall of this year. So there’s no firm release date just yet?
Cronenberg: No, not at all. It’s been sold to a lot of countries and distributors around the world, but for example, it does not yet have U.S. distribution. That’s fine, because we didn’t want to look for it until we had the finished film. But frankly, the Movie Brawl results might well help us get some good U.S. distribution! [He laughs.] I just thought of that, but you know, it’s possible! It’s interesting to hear that indication of interest before you even release a trailer — that’s pretty darn good. But you can’t release a trailer until you have a distributor, and a distributor has to really have all the material, so it takes a while.
MTV: Well, something close to 6 million votes were cast in this tournament, and almost 4 million were cast in this final poll alone. The numbers do not lie.
Cronenberg: That’s fantastic. That’s just great. That’s just great.
MTV: In the spirit of this tournament, what’s the movie you’re most excited to see in 2012? What’s the film you can’t wait to get your eyes on?
Cronenberg: You know, I’m so focused on what I’ve been doing that I actually don’t know what’s around! It’s strange. I haven’t even caught up with last year’s films. I have a movie out now called “A Dangerous Method” with Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen. I’ve been touring the world promoting that, been to a ton of film festivals, but I haven’t had a chance to see any of the movies, because I’m constantly having to do interviews and stuff for that. Now, that’s calmed down now that the movie has finally been released in the U.S., but the result is that I’m way behind on everything.
MTV: So you’ve got to catch up on 2011 before moving onto 2012.
Cronenberg: That’s right! Let me catch up first, and then I’ll start thinking about 2012.
MTV: Finally, any last messages to the “Cosmopolis” fans who pushed this movie to the top?
Cronenberg: They won’t be disappointed in Rob. He is fantastic.
Last month, when MTV News asked David Cronenberg about working with Robert Pattinson on his upcoming film “Cosmopolis,” the director put his feelings about the “Twilight” heartthrob simply: “He’s sensational.”
Cronenberg said that “Twilight” fans would see Pattinson in a way they aren’t used to, since the role shares more in common with the actor’s lesser-known films like “Little Ashes” and “Remember Me.”
When the director walked the red carpet last week at the Gotham Independent Film Awards in support of his film “A Dangerous Method,” he stopped to speak again with MTV News’ Josh Horowitz.
Cronenberg said that one of the biggest testaments to Pattinson’s skill as an actor was the effect he had on his Academy Award-nominated co-star. “They were both brilliant, and Paul was really impressed,” he said. “If Paul’s impressed, he’s a good judge of other actors, and he said so publicly.”
Your casting of Robert Pattinson in ‘Cosmopolis,’ someone whose acting might not be as critically lauded as Mortensen’s, was obviously a well-thought-out decision, then.
Well, Keira’s acting doesn’t always get praise from high-brow critics, either. I would use that parallel. You have a young actor who’s found success with a franchise just like Keira did with ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ who’s underrated because of that. In each case, they’re too pretty and too successful so people are jealous. As a result, people assume that they can’t possibly be good actors.
So what was the exact motivation for casting Pattinson in ‘Cosmopolis’?
He’s the right age, he’s got the right screen presence, and when I looked at his other work I thought he’d be really interesting for the role. Casting is a black art – it’s a bit mysterious how you come to these things – and it’s subjective, too, of course. As a director, there are no rules to guide you. You have to go with your gut, ultimately.
Another young actor whose acting ability has polarized critics is Twilight star Robert Pattinson, who stars as a millionaire enduring a limo-driven odyssey across Manhattan in Cronenberg’s next film—an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel Cosmopolis.
“I think that [skeptics] are being critical of the Twilight series; they’re not being critical of him,” says Cronenberg. “He’s just a cog in that machine and they’re confusing the nature of that project with him. He’s a terrific actor, trust me. I’ve directed some of the best in the world, and he’s terrific.”
Great read, here’s some of the Q&A. You can read the rest at the source.