That machine has its benefits though. Few would deny – and certainly not Pattinson – that the Twilight Saga put him on Hollywood’s map, and in so doing brought him to the attention of a legendary auteur like David Cronenberg. While Pattinson’s admiration for the veteran director’s body of work is obvious, it also sounds like as if it was life-changing for the actor to be ‘believed in’ by someone of Cronenberg’s stature.
“Shooting Cosmopolis with Cronenberg changed something in me. It gave me balls,” Pattinson says. Adding, “Before, I used to doubt [myself] all the time. When I was reading a script, I would annoy myself, wondering if I was worth the role or if I could do it. Now, I tell myself: “F*** it! If they’re ready to hire me, go for it.”
An indication of how deeply grooved Pattinson’s insecurities were, comes when Premiere reveal that in their interview with Cronenberg the director said Pattinson had been scared he would “ruin” Cosmopolis. It’s probably a tad much to totally assign the blame for that to four years of critics (and one theater director in particular) proclaiming Pattinson a bad actor, but clearly it had an effect.
For his part, when asked about the seismic change in industry attitudes that followed the debut of the first Cosmopolis teaser, Pattinson is somewhat bemused when Premiere likened it to a “bomb on the internet”.
“I’ve been doing movies for 8 years and I’ve been criticized [a lot], and all of a sudden this teaser is released and everyone’s excited,” Pattinson says, adding, ” It’s ridiculous! It makes you understand how the minds of some critics work.”
Recalling an exchange with co-star Sarah Gadon (who plays Packer’s wife Elise Shifrin), Pattinson’s reaction perhaps reveals some of the anxiety he felt about others’ expectations.
“On the first day of shooting,”Pattinson told Premiere, “I wasn’t showing off. While we were getting ready for the first shot, Sarah Gadon asked me: ‘So, how did you prepare for your role?’ I broke down and left the limo really pissed off and yelled: ‘How dare you judge me like that? Are you trying to test me or something?’ ” [*laughs*]
Asked what it was like being directed by Cronenberg, a man known for his hands-off-yet-attentive style of working with actors, Pattinson says, “Most directors hold your hand … David shoots a scene and he’s like. ‘Okay, it’s done. Next!’” then adds, “He won’t give you a lot of directions but … he doesn’t miss a thing. If you lose your concentration for [just] a second, he notices it instantly. It’s almost destabilizing to work with someone like that.”
But it’s also clear that Cronenberg’s own self-confidence and – more importantly – his confidence in Pattinson has brought about a personal transformation in the actor. The modesty is still there – evident when he says, “I’m in a phase where I’m trying to determine what I can do as an actor… but people like David don’t care about that stuff” – but so too, is a new buoyancy.
The change in Pattinson’s sense of self is perhaps most apparent when he says,”I can’t wait to see how [audiences] react to it. It’s the first time I can watch something I made as ‘a movie’ maybe because Cosmopolis belongs entirely to David Cronenberg. It’s really his movie.”
For an actor who famously had a panic attack when he watched himself in the first Twilight film, Pattinson’s enjoyment of, and eagerness to share his own art, is a significant new quality.
Referring to the journey from commercial to credible – itself a perceptual stereotype typically foisted on any successful actor who doesn’t look like a box of spanners – Pattinson’s response to Premiere’s comparison to the pre-Tim Burton/ David Fincher careers of Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt, was this:
“The good news is [the] way the industry perceives actors is changing, even if Brad Pitt is to me, one of the most unfairly underestimated actors in the world. It’s not said enough but he [has] never delivered a bad performance.”
Reading the interview, when Pattinson talks about his “Hollywood adventure” as he calls it, what comes across besides an actor committed to his own artistic growth, is a man determined to view others’ judgements about who he is, what he does, who he’s with, and what he’s capable of – with a large dose of scepticism and – above all – humor.
When Premiere reminded Pattinson of the near riot that ensued when he went to Cannes in 2009, the actor joked that this year no-one will care because,”he’s not in The Hunger Games!”
Quips aside though, there is one thing that clearly is important to Pattinson. “I’ve always wanted to make good movies,” he says. “But before, I was more the type to get drunk and say: If people don’t like me, they can go f*** themselves! It’s different [now] I want the people that I respect to respect me as well.”
Starring in one of the most anticipated films at Cannes this year, it will be a very different young man stepping out on the Croisette this time. One more sure of who is, and who he isn’t. “I’m really different from who I was at the beginning of the Saga. I got older,” says the actor. And it seems, wiser. Robert Pattinson, version 2.012, has arrived.
Cosmopolis stars Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Juliet Binoche, Samantha Morton, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand, and Mathieu Amalric. Cosmopolis premieres at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25 before general release.