Robert Pattinson steps into a complex role in "Cosmopolis"

US actor Paul Giamatti, Canadian actress Emily Hampshire, Canadian director David Cronenberg, British actor Robert Pattinson and Canadian actress Sarah Gadon pose during the photocall of 'Cosmopolis' presented in competition at the 65th Cannes film festival on May 25, 2012 in Cannes.
From left, Paul Giamatti, Emily Hampshire, director David Cronenberg, Robert Pattinson and Sarah Gadon pose during the photo call for "Cosmopolis," presented in competition at the 65th Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2012, in Cannes, France.

(CBS/AP) "Cosmopolis," a film that sees "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson step into a grittier role as a young multi-billionaire, premiered at Cannes Film Festival on Friday.

Director David Cronenberg takes a visceral day-trip inside the cushioned limousine of Pattinson's Eric Packer, who cares little for the bloody, populist riots that explode outside his car. Packer spends the entire film crossing town to get a haircut but is waylaid when the U.S. president's visit to the city, causes traffic chaos. Yet when he eventually makes it to the barber, his haircut is interrupted and he leaves in futility, half-shaven.

Pictures: Cannes Film Festival 2012
Pictures: Fashion at Cannes

For Cronenberg, a master of provocation, the significance of this probably goes beyond a debate on the quality of haircuts at barber shops - though judging by Pattinson's slick red-carpet hair, it is probable he opted for a stylist.

In the surreal "Cosmopolis," - full of long, introspective dialogue - the portrayal of cold, moneyed arrogance is a warning against the perceived greed of current times.

The oversexed, 28-year-old Packer has made his billions as an asset manager in a dystopian Manhattan and is so self-obsessed he barely registers the violent protests against capitalism around him. The only time Packer seems worried is after a doctor tells him, in one of the movie's many comic moments, that he has an "asymmetrical prostate" - with prostate-gazing an obvious synonym for navel-gazing.

Pattison said he was nervous about the complex role.

"I spent two weeks in my hotel room worrying," he said, joking that "actors aren't meant to be intelligent."

The film was based on a 2003 book by Don DeLillo, who was at the Cannes Film Festival alongside Cronenberg. DeLillo said he wrote "Cosmopolis" after being struck by the massive gap between rich and poor in Manhattan.