Filming The Rover in a remote part of south Australia with cast and crew all staying in a local pub was just about perfect, says Robert Pattinson. The filmmakers all mucked in together, braved filming in soaring temperatures, and at night bonded over a drink or two. Pattinson wouldn’t have had it any other way and says that it helped director David Michôd and his cast and crew build an unbreakable bond.
“It was amazing,” he says. “Because the whole crew was staying in the same place and there was nothing else to do, we were living in a pub. It’s annoying if you’re in an unfamiliar city and all the people you work with are from that city, they all go home, so you’re just stuck in your hotel.
“When you can hang out with a bunch of new people, you get close to them really quickly, especially when there’s literally nothing else to do. It’s really fun. I hadn’t done that for a long time. I had a fantastic experience making this film.”
Pattinson was born and raised in London and started his professional career as a 16 year old in the TV film Ring of the Nibelungs. A year later, he played Cedric DIggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He starred in five, hugely successful Twilight films and his other film credits include Bel Ami and Cosmopolis.
Q: How’s it going?
“I always forget in the evening that I’ve got to do a bunch of interviews in the morning, so I stay out all night (laughs). It’s horrible!”
Q: How was shooting in rural Australia?
“For me it was really fun. It was kind of relaxing. I loved shooting out there. There was no pressure, and no one around.”
Q: Was it a relief getting away from people?
“Yeah, just in terms of performance. I like doing little things before a take, sort of staying in character a little bit, and if you’ve got a bunch of people trying to take pictures of you doing a stupid face or something, then you’ve just constantly got it in your head, and you’re never really quite in what you want to do. Out there you can kind of do anything you want. They might think you’re a weirdo, this guy doing all this weird stuff (laughs), but it was quite freeing.”
Q: Did you enjoy playing a less beautiful character?
“Yeah, I mean it takes away constraints. If someone’s saying, ‘You’ve got to look pretty!’ for one thing you feel like a bit of an idiot, because you’re a guy, and then you’re kind of thinking about stuff that really doesn’t mean anything – you’re just posing. As soon as you take away the allowance for your own vanity, then it’s kind of a relief.”
Q: How would you describe the themes of The Rover?
“I think it’s just a story about survivors. I think they’re quite simple people in extraordinary circumstances. They’re trying to figure out how to live when it seems like there’s not a lot of hope. It seems like there’s nothing to do tomorrow, so what are you supposed to do at any point during your day? Even the gang I’m in, they’re stealing money and there’s nothing to use the money for at all (laughs). Eric [Guy Pearce] says, ‘It’s worthless, it’s just paper.’ It’s very difficult to know why to keep living if everything seems totally worthless, and yet people do.”
Q: Are you happy at the place you’re at in your career?
“Definitely. I’m really happy these two films got into Cannes, it’s kind of exactly what I wanted. I am really happy with both the films as well. But it’s nice – I just get to work with people I’ve wanted to work with for years and years, and just been really lucky in the last year, with this really cool stuff”
Q: What’s happening with Life?
”I don’t know when it’s going to be finished. I just saw a trailer, which they’re playing here. Other than that, I haven’t seen anything from it. It was fun to do, though, and Anton [Corbijn]’s really cool. It’s about the famous photographs of James Dean in Times Square; it’s about James Dean and the photographer’s relationship. Joel Edgerton’s in it, weirdly because he’s a co-writer on The Rover, and Ben Kingsley. It’s cool. It’s interesting doing a movie about photography with Anton Corbijn, a master photographer. He taught me how to take photos a little bit, with an old Leica. They’re not very good. I thought they were all going to be absolutely amazing. I developed them all at the end of the movie and I did like 25 rolls of film, and on about four I hadn’t even realised that you need to pull the lens out (laughs) – so they’re all blank. Four films. It was a fun movie to do.”
Q: People called you the new James Dean. Now you’re doing a movie about James Dean, but not playing him. Weren’t you interested in that role?
“No, not really. Dane [DeHaan] is so brave doing it. It’s one of the hardest parts ever. Try and play any iconic person. Dane’s got a wig, fake earlobes, and contact lenses – the whole deal. And James Dean’s mannerisms are so recognisable, so you’ve got to play the part and all this other stuff. It’s like playing Harry Potter – everyone’s got expectations – whereas I’m just the observer”
Q: Are you enjoying the travelling?
“I’ve always kind of liked it: three months and then you can just move on, you don’t have any responsibility. I had a house for a bit, and then I literally just sold it recently. You’re never there, and it’s just a bit of a hassle. Unless you’ve got kids or something, it’s nice to be able to experience this stuff. I realised that I haven’t been anywhere, other than for work, in about ten years – no vacation or anything. You don’t really need to. By the end of the job I’m just constantly looking for the next one, but also I live in LA so it’s kind of just like you’re on holiday all the time (laughs).”
Q: When you have time for yourself, what do you do?
“When I’m not working I try to get another job (laughs), constantly. You start to realise there’s a finite amount of time to get stuff done, and there’s a lot of different things that I want to achieve, also I like working pretty much more than anything else in my life. My job is my hobby.”
Q: Do you still write songs? What’s your process?
“Yeah. I just started again recently. I generally just do stuff that sounds nice. I don’t really write songs in a conventional way. I don’t write lyrics separately, it’s quite instinctive.”
Q: Do you intend to release any music to the public?
“I wouldn’t mind doing scores, or something, but I’m quite sensitive to criticism, and I’ve got a lot of criticism coming from one aspect of my life (laughs) so I don’t really want anyone’s opinion on it.”
Q: Did you enjoy working with Guy on this?
“Yeah it was amazing. Because the whole crew was staying in the same place and there was nothing else to do, we were living in a pub (laughs). It’s annoying – If you’re in an unfamiliar city and all the people you work with are from that city, they all go home, so you’re just stuck in your hotel. When you can hang out with a bunch of new people, you get close to them really quickly, especially when there’s literally nothing else to do. It’s really fun. I hadn’t done that for a long time. I had a fantastic experience making this film.”
Q: Some actors who start very young stray from the path in various ways. Is that something you understand?
“I was never young young. I got my first role when I was 16. A lot of people are three, or something. I also didn’t really realise I wanted to do it for another five years after that, or four years, and I never took it that seriously. When I got jobs, I guess I did, but I thought I was going to go to university and do something else. It was kind of a gradual process.”
Q: When did you start wanting it?
“Probably after Harry Potter, because that was right around the same period where I could have gone to university or I could have done that, and I really made a decision to do it then, and then didn’t get a job for a year afterwards (laughs).”
Q: What would you have studied?
“I think I wanted to do Politics, or something. I still kind of want to, as do all actors. But American politics, I’m not really interested in English politics (laughs).”
Q: Is that something you would still consider pursuing?
“Probably not now. I didn’t want to be a politician. I wanted to work in the mechanics of it. I like speech writing. I’m quite apolitical, weirdly. I like the game.”
Q: Would you say that the film has a political subtext? It’s set after an economic collapse…
“Yeah, I mean there’s definitely a message shooting out of the film. There were weird physical manifestations of it when we were shooting it. If you look at some of the shots, there were these weird massive mines, which they’re still digging, but they’ve basically just devastated the landscape. You stand there and look at it and there’s absolutely no wildlife anymore – nothing’s going to be able to grow in these places for hundreds of years. And it’s not just that bit of land: it’s wrecked absolutely everything around it, even if it doesn’t look like it has. You kind of think, ‘For what? – so we can sit around and play video games?”
Q: How do you deal with appearing so frequently in the tabloids?
“I don’t read them. I think I’m slowly trying my best to get out of all that kind of media, just being in gossip magazines and stuff. I don’t quite know how to do it, but I’m trying my best.”
Q: Maps to the Stars is going well at Cannes. Is that a relief after Cosmopolis?
“I think Cosmopolis is really underrated; I think that’s a great movie (laughs). I loved it. I’d do anything with [David Cronenberg]. I remember with Cosmopolis, when it came out, it’s the first time I’d really been in a movie where if someone said they didn’t like it, it was because they’re an idiot (laughs). I felt very strongly about it.”
Q: You have a tattoo. Was that for the film?
“It’s of a sculpture by an artist called Julien Dillens. I just thought it would look like it would really suit the character.”