"My favorite stories are the dark ones, where there's no hope"
He didn’t put the audience in his pocket. Neither did he understand it. But he did wake up a very feminine instinct: the maternal one. That was not Robert Pattinson’s night. The british 27 year old, got up on the stage of the Soho House, a private Los Angeles club, to talk about his first luxury firm: Dior. Around 30 international media, including this magazine, had attended the premiere of 1000 Lives, the commercial for Dior Homme that Pattinson stars in (online at dior.com on September 1). “I am incapable of seeing an audience as such. In my eyes they’re all individuals and in my head I try to have a conversation with each of them. That’s impossible.” He apologizes the next day sitting on a couch in the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The actor recovers his confidence. Goodbye to shyness. And out of place laughter. During face to face, Pattinson –with beard, a hat, jeans and tshirt – measures time and words. And he inspires instinct very different to the maternal ones.
He doesn’t like to talk about his private life, or his earlier years as a model. His purpose: to build a solid career, leaving behind the labels of it boy and mass phenomenon, “If I could go to Cannes every year, I’d be fine with lower income. I’d like all of my movies to go through that festival.” He assures us. And he’s serious. His first attempts after the Twilight Saga were: Water for Elephants (2011) and Bel Ami (2012), they didn’t rescue him from the mainstream circuit. However, Cosmopolis (2012), David Cronenberg’s film, did. “It was nothing like anything I’d done before, and I loved that.” He admits. What’s coming is even better. Mission: Blacklist (Jasper Granslandt), The Rover (David Michod), Queen of the Desert (W. Herzog) and Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg’s upcoming film. “It’s more accessible than Cosmopolis, although not as much as A History of Violence. The script is dark. I find it funny, but you have to have a very unique sense of humor to see it that way: it’s not a comedy.”
His ability to capture irony is probably, in part, because of his English roots. Pattinson grew up in Barnes, southwest of London. When he was a kid, his sisters dressed him up as a girl. His appearance – a bit feminine, then- didin’t distune. Little of that is left – blue eyes, framed by never-ending lashes and certain delicacy. But a lot of his modeling past. His mother, model agent, introduced him to it and Robert posed until he was 16 years old. Then he got a worm for acting and since his role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), he hasn’t stopped. Critics agree, he’s not just a pretty face.
One of your upcoming projects is ‘Queen of the Dessert’ by Werner Herzog. Are you only interested in auteur filmmaking? (Note: there is no proper translation for this question, by auteur filmmaking, it refers to films where the director plays a huge part in the writing process, normally his own scripts)
I want to work with geniuses. I’m trying to recreate my favorite film list from when I was seventeen. I met Werner, we talked, and two weeks later he offered me the role of Lawrence of Arabia. We start shooting at the end of this year.
You didn’t have many releases in 2013. But its raining roles for you. For The Rover, a modern western, you spent two months in an Australian town covered in dust, sweating and surrounded by flies. It’s not a very encouraging setting.
We shot in the dessert. My character breaks his teeth, bleeds, gets spread with mud. On set, nobody made an effort to look hot, just the opposite from Twilight. I’d never been in a film without my shirt on because I’m embarrassed, but in this one, I barely ever have it on.
That’s a step...
Yeah! From now on, I’m never wearing one!
Fans must be sad now that you cut your hair.
It was a distinctive symbol. But it was because of laziness. I didn’t go to the barber’s because I didn’t want to pay for a haircut. I just fixed it when I had to do a movie.
So, you don't take care of himself?
I need to do it more. Just yesterday I was thinking of wrinkles and grey hairs.
He doesn’t hide them, Pattinson makes an effort to look less handsome. He’s like Brad Pitt in that aspect. And for Nan Goldin, the photographer of the Dior Homme campaign, it’s perfect. The artist, famous for photographing the dark sides of life, stresses his asymmetrical features and makes him look older.
Yesterday, at the press conference, you admitted to feeling adult. In what way?
It’s a feeling that started eight months ago, when I turned 27. I’ve been taking adult decisions for years now. I would ask my parents for advice but they didn’t know what to tell me. Fortunately, I’m more comfortable now.
You played Edward Cullen in five films, enough to feel affection. Was it hard saying goodbye to the vampire and the saga’s stability?
I couldn’t have filmed another one. It got harder each time and I felt like I was repeating myself.
How do you deal with prejudice? Making films for teenagers gets you typecast, they think you’re less smart.
Actors that build a career after a franchise are usually smart. A project like Twilight indicates: it’s not only about keeping up work, it’s about not losing your head. Edward was young, he went to High School. People thought I was, too, but really I was 21.
You don’t like talking about your private life. But you’re a teen phenomenon, you represent a global brand. How do you deal with stardom?
Life is decisions. I chose this job, and at the same time, I set out not to mix personal and professional. That has allowed me not to obsess: I don’t pretend for media and the public to really know me. If I did, I’d go crazy.
You don’t use lotions. But you like to shop and create styles, you created Edward's in Twilight.
Filming was in Canada, and it was set behind two weeks, I had nothing to do so I went shopping. But I had no money. I sent pictures with the clothes that I wanted with texts like “I think Edward should wear these jeans”. Many made it and the studio bought my clothes!
In the Dior ad, your style reminds to those of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s and Steve McQueen’s. Do you like its aesthetics?
I’m very practical; I go for basic clothing, what you can wear for a straight week. Fragrance adverts tend to be perfect and we were looking for tough aesthetics. For the shooting, we had many options, but I was bent on wearing the same thing all the time. I ended up ruining a jacket. And I skipped codes: I was wearing a t-shirt beneath a shirt. I saw it as very 50’s, very masculine. Yet, in France that’s unsightly, the opposite of chic.
Surly it’ll become a trend. Are those your favorite decades, the 50’s and 60’s?
Yeah. I really like their practical spirit. A lot of suits looked like uniforms. I’m not an advocate of triviality.
Once you said you’d rather spend 10 years with a girl rather than 10 minutes.
I still think the same, but it depends on the person.
You’ve been very involved in the Dior ad. If you directed or produced a film, what genre would it be?
My perspective as a director is very different: I dream of shooting a big budget film. A science fiction one.
Your favorite movie of this kind?
Blade Runner and Star Wars. I love science fiction, I love how it creates universes. When you’re a kid and you watch The Empire Strikes Back, you identify with the characters, you believe you are one of them even when the movie is finished. It’s fascinating. I, for example, still want Star Wars toys. If somebody gave me a laser sword for my birthday, I’d flip.
Now that I see you in a hat. I think you had a rap group at school.
[Laughs] Yes. I went to private school and my friends and I played every day. I was obsessed; I wrote rap songs in class. From fifteen to seventeen, I took it very seriously. I still like it, I’d like to record an album.
A lot of your films are based on books, do you like literature?
I used to read a lot. But my focus has gotten worse. My favorites are Russian authors and dark stories where there’s no hope.
So, are you nostalgic or pessimistic?
No. I don’t know why I like those types of stories. But I do. I re-read Dublineses by James Joyce the other day. I gave A Painful Case, my favorite story, to a friend. He said it was the most depressing thing he’d read in his life. I love it. There’s something in those stories that allows me to connect with myself and that makes me happy.