It becomes clear after only a few minutes being in a room with them that the trio of Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce, and David Michôd have formed an easy camaraderie with one another. Their film, The Rover, had its premiere months ago at Cannes, and they’ve been on a busy press circuit promoting the movie through various festivals and release dates worldwide. They recently stopped in London for the UK premiere of the film and Filmoria was lucky enough to have a seat at the table to discuss this newest project.
The Rover, is set in the near future following a severe economic collapse of the western world. Law and order are pretty well in disarray and in the middle of the Australian Outback is Eric (Guy Pearce) who just wants to get his car back, stolen by a band of thieves. While tracking the criminals, he runs into Rey (Robert Pattinson), the younger brother of one of the men who stole his car, and the only person who knows where they may have gone. They strike up an unlikely partnership in order to get Eric’s most prized possession back.
However, The Rover is no road trip movie. It’s dark and relentless at times. Director David Michôd, who previously directed 2011′s Animal Kingdom, doesn’t seem to show any signs of stopping with the tense genres any time soon. Michôd says, “I like when I go to the movies to have powerful experiences and for some reason that sort of darkness and menace and sadness is for me a powerful experience. Those are the moments I get the most exhilarated in I’m in the editing room. The writing I’ve done and the stuff that we’ve shot and coming together with sound and music – when it’s dark and powerful that’s when I feel my spine tingling. Having said that I would love to have the experience of sitting with an audience watching a movie I’ve made that was making people laugh. I don’t know that I’m capable, but I’d love to give it a try.”
However, Michôd doesn’t just direct his films, he also writes them. Animal Kingdom took him almost a decade to complete, a process where he was teaching himself to write, right out of film school. “The first draft of [Animal Kingdom] bears absolutely no resemblance to the finished film at all,” explained the director. “There isn’t a single scene, a single line of dialogue that is still in the movie, and I started it from scratch about four or five times. I’m so glad that I wasn’t a film school ‘wunderkind’ because then maybe someone would have thrown money at me to make that first draft straight away and that would have been a disaster.” Michôd is now embracing the idea of collaborative efforts when it comes to writing, with Joel Edgerton helping out with the story of The Rover and the writer/director working with fellow Australian Luke Davies for his next project (who coincidentally penned one of Pattinson’s next films, Life).
When it comes to deciding what types of stories to tell Michôd admits that it doesn’t all come naturally to him. “I don’t have a big notebook that is full of stories that I must tell,” he says. “It feels like work to me to get into a thing. I start from a place of hating everything, and everything is a bad idea, and this movie should not be made and then i force my way into it, force myself to love it. And usually that comes from finding ways of connecting it to love or sadness or fear of death or whatever. The Rover is really about love. I wouldn’t have been interested in making the film if it had just been a ‘boysie’, shoot-em-up, guys in the desert movie. For me, the whole reason to make it was the relationship between these two characters and kind of reigniting the sparks of potential for love in Guy’s character and the lost kid who is just looking for someone to cling on to. That‘s the stuff. That stuff is the reason to make the movie.”
The Rover was shot over the course of seven weeks in a remote part of South Australia. That obviously had its challenges for the production, but it was also a bit of a welcome change for Pattinson, who is constantly plagued by paparazzi under usual circumstances. “There wasn’t really anyone out there,” the actor laughingly explained, “There was a pub with an English person working in it.” However the actor, who made a name for himself in the extremely successful Twilight franchise continued to say, “It was incredibly peaceful. You really realize the value of your anonymity again.”
Pattinson also notes that working on a smaller, independent film can also come with its advantages. “When you have a big budget it creates expectations of how you’re supposed to be treated. When there is literally no other option than staying in a shipping container it’s kind of nice. Everyone is totally equal.” Pearce, who also has experience working on blockbusters, most recently in Marvel’s Iron Man 3, discussed the differences adding, “Often really the differences are just the people you are working with. Obviously when it comes down to it and you’re standing in front of the camera and you’re acting and you’ve got a director who is wanting a particular thing and you’re just trying to successfully do what it is that you do there is sort of no difference really. But you stand back and there are lots of executives around being nervous about lots of money… In a way i prefer the more intimate situations.”
However, the situation was that they were shooting an intense film in the midst of an unforgiving climate, while still trying to keep the jovial atmosphere, when appropriate, on set. The Rover though, is about a man who will do anything, absolutely anything, to get back what was his. The audience, nor actors, really had a lot of background on who their characters were, though they did have some time in Adelaide before shooting started to go through the script together. Says Pearce, “David and I had some emails and chats beforehand because I was really struggling to get my head around who this guy was now and who he used to be, so it was a bit of a laboured process for me to put David through.” Michôd replied, “That’s what happens when you have, on the page, a very taciturn character who doesn’t reveal himself very much in the dialogue, it then just requires that we sit around a talk about it a lot.”
Pattinson and Pearce did a lot to get into their character’s minds, with Pearce even cutting his own hair with a pair of scissors for the part, mimicking what Eric, in a time of unrest, would have done. Pattinson took to annoying the man in charge of keeping the firearms organized on set to get into character. Whatever worked for the actors clearly translated to screen, with both of them managing to successfully portray the powerful emotions their very different characters had to struggle through. As would be expected, The Rover is full of unrelenting scenes of tension, violence and emotional grit. However there’s one scene in particular where Pattinson’s character really manages to cut through all that, adding some balance. “I wanted there to be, at that moment in the film, a particularly dark juncture for Rob’s character, for there to be a moment that reminded the audience that his character was just a kid who in different circumstances would be just listening to music and thinking about girls. It felt very important to me that you have that one moment of that,” Michôd stated,”The movie can be a little relentlessly grim without those moments of levity.”
The Rover is released in UK cinemas on August 15th.