ROBERT PATTINSON cut his teeth, as it were, on the "Twilight" series of vampire films. These days he's deep into a very different sort of role, and trading questions-and-answers with Michelle Miller:
If you had to fall in love with a vampire, you could do worse than the one played by Robert Pattinson, as Edward Cullen in the mega-hit "Twilight" series.
Pattinson fought, kissed, and glowered his way to superstardom. And like so many teen idols before him, he's been trying to shake that image ever since.
"It's not like, 'Oh, I'll come down from an ivory tower to be …' I mean, these movies are hard for me to get. Literally, I'm just as much trying to convince people, like, every single time. And it's not like I'm, like, Leo [diCaprio] or something!"
"So it's tough for you?" Miller asked.
"The only thing that being famous really helps in is getting financing if your movies make a lot of money," he said. "And, like, the movies I do are weird, and they don't make a lot of money a lot of the time!"
Perhaps that's why on a Thursday afternoon in August, Miller met up with the now-31-year-actor at, of all places, a jail in Queens, New York, where he went to do research for his new film, "Good Time." "I tried to get permission to stay overnight for a few days. But yeah, the prison's commissioner was saying it's too dangerous, even if you're in protective custody." he said.
If he's all but unrecognizable in the role, that's by design.
"I think so much of life people are trying to put you in a box and define you all the time," he told Miller. "And it's just exciting to have a job where you're allowed to consistently break the walls of the box around you."
That desire to break free is one reason he reached out to brothers Josh and Benny Safdie (directors of "Heaven Knows What"), hoping to work with them. "My initial thought was, 'He's not right for this other project we're trying to do," Josh told Miller.
Despite their initial misgivings, they discovered -- as millions of fans have – there's just something about Pattinson. So they put their other projects on hold, and wrote this film especially for him.
"I was very aware of what Rob was doing with his career choices," said Josh Safdie. "I thought that his conviction, as an actor's purpose, wasn't a commercial one, in a weird way."
Benny Safdie said Pattinson was searching for something: "He was after a greater purpose."
When Miller sat down with Pattinson on the set of the film, he admitted he's still a little ambivalent about his success as an actor: "My main thing, which is what I've always had the fear of since I started acting, is that everyone's just going to see through it and just see, 'You're just some kid from London!'" he laughed. "So you always think, people are just going to see though whatever character you make."
Born in London, Robert Douglas Thomas Pattinson is the youngest of three children. His father, Richard, imported vintage cars. His mother, Clare, worked for a modeling agency.
He started acting by accident: "One of the plays one year, all the tall people left [the company], and I was the only one tall enough to, like, play this role! And then [I] ended up getting an agent from that. And it kind of spiraled."
"You were lucky," said Miller.
"Very, very, very lucky! And then you have to kind spend the rest of the your life sort of trying to come to terms with why you were lucky! But I still haven't really figured that out yet!"
"But you know what luck is -- when preparation meets opportunity."
"Yeah. I feel like I had it the other way 'round though! I had the opportunity and then kind of built up to, you know, just sort of worked for it after the opportunity."
Case in point: After his breakthrough role as the handsome yet doomed Cedric Diggory in 2005's "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Pattinson says he struggled to find work.
"I'd been living off Harry Potter money for ages," he said. "I'd blown all of that! And then I didn't realize you had to pay taxes at the time. So I was completely broke and then got a big tax bill. I loved my agent in America, and so I came over and tried to get a job."
The job he got in the "Twilight" series was the role of a lifetime. The result: fame, fortune, and the neverending glare of the spotlight.
His on-screen chemistry turned into an off-screen romance, and subsequent breakup, with co-star Kristen Stewart in 2013 -- every twist and turn played out in the tabloids. (Even the future president weighed in with, what else, a tweet.)
And that media attention hasn't let up on his latest relationship, with British pop star FKA Twigs (a.k.a. Tahliah Debrett Barnett) -- despite efforts to keep his personal life off-limits.
"I'm quite an open person," he said. "I don't want to be one of those people who's just like, 'Oh, no comment,' 'cause I just think you just look like an idiot if you're in it. But then the annoying thing happens as well, then you answer in these kind of vague ways which kind of create these weird conspiracy theorists."
"You think people put that much thought into it?" Miller asked.
"The average person would never be aware of it," Pattinson said. "But it's, like, literally, if you come into contact with me, you will touch this demon. I don't know how to deal with it. And so I thought in a way to kind of stop feeding it, you just try and say 'I don't wanna talk about it.' And also, it kind of makes you feel like that's the only way you can get some kind of strength."
It doesn't hurt that he took roles in a string of smaller independent films that offered a break from the blockbuster limelight. These days, Pattinson says he gets a kick out of just walking down the street without being mobbed by fans. "You realize what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable, and you just kind of stay out of the places that make you uncomfortable."
By all measures, Robert Pattinson -- a little older, a litter wiser -- is exactly where he wants to be:
"And if someone says, like, 'I like you 'cause you did this thing,' well, then it's like, 'Well, I wanna do the opposite thing.' I want to be able to have the freedom to do something else, mainly 'cause I feel like I don't fully know myself yet.
"And I so I don't want someone to say, 'Well, this is who you are. Well, if you don't know yourself, we'll tell you who you are.' Like, I want to kind of remain in that chaos a little bit."
To watch a trailer for "Good Time" click on the video player below.
For more info:
- "Good Time" (A24)