For awhile, it seemed as if the eerily handsome British actor would have an impossible time getting past the iconic Twilight role that first brought him global fame and fortune. The series was too popular. His looks were too vampiric. And no one who plays the same part more than, say, three times ever really shakes it. (See: Connery, Sean.)
But in the years since the final Twilight installment came and went from theaters, Pattinson has begun to accomplish the impossible. Again and again he has chosen to work with brilliant auteurs—Werner Herzog, David Cronenberg, James Gray, Olivier Assayas—and again and again he has stunned audiences with his smart, sensitive, and very un-Cullen-like performances.
Pattinson’s latest movie, a spare, dystopian Western called The Rover, is his finest work yet. Under the direction of David Michod (the excellent Animal Kingdom), Pattinson stars as Rey, a gut-shot simpleton from the American South who encounters Eric (Guy Pearce) in the sweltering, lawless Australian outback ten years after a global economic collapse. In the wake of a botched heist, Rey’s gang—which includes Rey’s brother—has left him behind to die. The gang has also stolen Eric’s car. And so Rey and Eric team up to track them down. Pattinson is absolutely magnetic in the role, transforming what could have a been an embarrassing caricature of a man-child into empathetic portrait of a wounded human being struggling to think for himself for the first time—and ultimately succeeding. Not many actors can make cogitation look so compelling. Pattinson, somehow, is one of them.
To discuss his work in The Rover—and his career more generally—Pattinson recently sat down with The Daily Beast in Los Angeles. He was as striking in person as he is on screen—thin, white v-neck t-shirt, two-day scruff, artful bedhead. His demeanor is more boyish, and less confident, than one might expect of a movie star; he rarely made eye contact as he spoke and he laughed, half-nervously, whenever he said something revealing.
“I forget how to act in between every single movie,” Pattinson confessed.
He went on to talk about why Twilight has become a burden; why he could never do what Jennifer Lawrence does; and why he loves to work with auteurs such as Harmony Korine, with whom he’s planning to collaborate next. Pattinson also shot down the rumors that he will be taking over for Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Han Solo in the near future—although he didn’t shut the door on all future franchises.
“You’re sort of floating. You don’t know how it happens, but it’s amazing. And it’s nothing to do with the audience or anyone else. You’re still probably shit. But it’s so addictive, and it’s so rare as well.”