Robert Pattinson is a somewhat reluctant star, and his new role is quite a leap from the vampire series that made his name, writes Georgia Humphreys.
Robert Pattinson might have a famous face, but he would rather you didn’t pay any attention to it.
He’s so fond of going incognito that he has changed his appearance as much as possible since he became a global superstar in the Twilight Saga — the series of fantasy films based on the books by American author Stephenie Meyer, in which he played vampire Edward Cullen — and often adopts something of a homeless-chic aesthetic.
Today his luscious locks, so lusted after when he played Edward, are shorn into a buzz-cut.
For his latest film role, in the frenetic New York crime drama Good Time, they are bleached within an inch of their life.
But even with such commitment to slipping into character as Constantine “Connie” Nikas, 31-year-old Pattinson still faced the challenge of being spotted by fans.
“I tried to disappear into Connie so I could be invisible on the street when we started filming,” he says, recalling improvising in public — with co-star Benny Safdie — before the cameras started rolling.
“I kept thinking everyone would see through me. A lot of my preparation on Good Time was trying not to think about being famous.
“I was constantly worried I would be recognised in the streets of New York City and the reality of the movie would fall apart.”
The fact that the teenagers’ heartthrob is so notoriously private is impressive when you consider how big a phenomenon the Twilight franchise was — earning at least £2.5 billion at the global box office and earning him the nickname “R-Patz” from his legions of adoring fans.
The London-born actor was thrust into the headlines further for his relationship with Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart (who played his on-screen love interest Bella Swan) — especially when photos of her cheating on him with Snow White And The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders emerged in 2012. She issued a public apology to Pattinson, but the couple later broke up, and he drifted back into being an elusive star.
He has since been romantically linked with another high-profile star, Mercury Prize-nominated singer FKA Twigs (real name Tahliah Debrett Barnett), but there were few red carpet snaps, and it was widely reported last month that the couple had broken off their engagement.
Work-wise, recent years have seen Pattinson, who also appeared on the big screen as Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter franchise, turn his focus to edgier projects, such as drama Remember Me, thrillerCosmopolis and epic adventure film The Lost City of Z.
Arguably, no career move has distanced himself further from his Edward Cullen days than Good Time, though.
The fast paced-tale, set over one night, follows Connie desperately trying to get his mentally-challenged brother Nick (played by co-director Benny Safdie) out of jail after their attempt to stage a bank robbery goes wrong.
Connie enlisted his brother’s help with the crime in the hope of thrusting him into “normal”
situations and his determination to not allow his sibling to be defined by his disability is a running theme throughout the film.
Pattinson is quick to agree that not wanting to be defined by one particular thing is something he has faced in the past as an actor.
“Most people find their identity to be quite important and essential to them,” he elaborates.
“And the idea of trying to reject any kind of identity or saying ‘Yes, my past means absolutely nothing to who I am right now’, it’s like every decision I’ve ever made you’d have to ignore that and you’d have to judge me on what I’m doing literally right now... I mean, it’s kind of crazy,” he says with a laugh.
“But I can, in a lot of ways, relate to that, and there’s a mania in that, which is kind of in Connie’s character as well. But, yeah, it’s an unusual thing to not want to be defined...” he adds, trailing off quietly.
For Pattinson, the desire to work with film directors Josh and Benny Safdie came after being transfixed by a “magical” promotional still from their previous feature Heaven Knows What, showing its star, Arielle Holmes, bathed in pink neon light.
After being approached by Pattinson about their unique style, the siblings decided to make the role of Connie specifically for him, and the result is an adrenaline-pumped watch — as Connie races to save his brother and himself, a series of mishaps sees his mission becoming increasingly dangerous.
The film received a six-minute standing ovation following its premiere at the Cannes Film
Festival, with some viewers calling Pattinson’s critically-acclaimed performance Oscar-worthy. So, did getting lost in this role come quite naturally to the actor?
“You always try to (lose yourself in the role),” he suggests. “I think just the way Josh and Ronnie (Bronstein, Good Time co-writer) write, and also the way they set up the set... the
entire environment when you’re shooting, it’s just a much wider scope than you normally find.”
He continues: “And also the energy that everyone has on the crew, it never really felt like the movie world ended.
“Normally you do a take and everyone’s on Instagram and ‘Blah blah blah’... Whereas with this, everyone in the crew felt like they were in it, so you didn’t really break character that much.”
Pattinson became prepared for anything when on set — often being handed dialogue which had been scripted just five minutes earlier.
The Safdie brothers’ filming approach is so hands-on they once blocked a four-lane street together in the middle of the day, to shoot a chase which they didn’t have permits for, the actor recalls.
“There were so many occasions when they were fearless like that,” he adds of the unique directors.
So, while Pattinson may often shy away from the excitement of showbiz life, it seems the freneticism of the Safdie brothers’ shooting style is something he admires.
“They are people who thrive on chaos, which is a special quality for directors to have,” he says.
“Sometimes I wonder if they’re inducing the chaos themselves because they seem to enjoy it so much.
“They have the magic combination of extreme confidence in themselves and the ability to back it up, which is rare.”
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