New icon of Dior Homme cologne, the Twilight star refuse to let fame suck the lifeblood out of him. At 27, the idol who's so british demands his artistic ambition and his fierce hunger for freedom. Meeting with a new wave gentleman.
He's the star of the Twilight saga and only swears by Jean-Luc Godard. He's an hunted idol. He loves nothing more than parties among friends. He's cheerful, pessimistic, daring and anxious.
When you have to do a portrait of Robert Pattinson, you have to point out inconsistencies and try to understand why this 27 years old man, who might not have been armed to face this cannibal fame - gives a particular sense to the word 'freedom'. Some are more free than others, but not him, fighting against a seclusion he's trying to get out of.
One year after the Twilight saga ended - which propelled him amongst the tight group of overpayed actors in Hollywood. The impatient British guy wants to live differently than in the translucent skin of a romantic vampire who electrifies young girls.
At the Beverly Hills Hotel - legendary building in LA, where Marilyn Monroe loved Yves Montand - we got to meet him in a overprotected suite, far from the fans hysteria and inquisitive telescopes. There's an intense feeling in the air. The actor is in a stronghold. Robert Pattinson isn't here to defend a movie this time but a brand new role: ambassador of Dior Homme cologne, after Jude Law. A big surprise for the French house seeing as Pattinson is the young man of the hour, with a pure image and an international aura. He personifies a more boyish and rock'n'roll figure: it's the artist Nan Goldin who shot for the campaign.
First assessment: Robert Pattinson possesses the charm of the more reserved. His outfit? A see-through walls look (jeans and a navy blue shirt). His expression? Askew, observing you like you wouldn't think. He stammers his words, doubts and beliefs collide. Robert Pattinson display a nervousness common to vexed smokers - NO SMOKING can be read in his luxurious suite.
In his low voice, weighting every word, the actor express his need to make an about-turn: "When you're hit by a phenomenon like Twilight, it's difficult to imagine living differently afterwards in the mind of the audience. I thought I woudln't make it out... Such a success can become a golden prison. I'm aware to be at a crucial stage in my life. All the choices I make today will define my future forever. The pressure is huge, I'm constantly wondering: 'did I make the right choice?' But at the same time, I can let fear control me.""
His transformation started last year in Cosmopolis, by David Cronenberg. With the role of a powerful trader who observes the end of the capitalism inside his limousine, he got to read a new category. Somthing more serious, at the risk of perturbing his 12 years old fans. "Cosmopolis is the movie of my life. I didn't consider myself an actor before, even if I had 10 years of acting behind me. I always felt like a fraud, and inappropriate. I doubt a lot. David Cronenberg gave me confidence in myself. He changed my way of acting and thinking in this industry."
The movie shown at the Cannes Film Festival is praised by the critics and awarded him a sure credibility. Until now, his dramatic efforts went unnoticed. Was it the curse of the beautiful? "Americans don't really know about Cannes or they don't care but for a English guy like me, it's a essential. As a kid, I would daydream in front of the pictures of the event and I collected the DVDs of the movies awarded. At Cannes, everything felt right because I was recognized by my peers."
Since then, Rob is trying to free himself of the ties that shackle him to the free of risks paths.
From now on, he reveals his artistic nature with more daring choices. This experienced movie buff, who counts Jacques Audiard amongst his favorite directors, just finished filming five movies all different from each other, from cinema d'auteur to smart blockbuster. It's The Rover, a futuristic western by the young Australian director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom). Then a biopic about the explorer, Gertrude Bell, Queen of The Desert, in which he plays Lawrence of Arabia. He'll see him too in Hold on to Me, a drama with Carey Mulligan and then a psychological thriller: Mission Blacklist, by Eric Maddox.
But the project that pleases him the most is the one that reunites him with his mentor, David Cronenberg. Indeed, he finished shooting Maps to the Stars with Viggo Mortensen and Julianne Moore. "I've worked with directors that forgot along the way the very idea of their own project. With David, we can be sure that in the end there will be a movie with all its contents, which is rare. After 40 years in this profession, he still cares about what he does with the same level of requirement he had at the beginning of his career. I'd like to be like him one day."
Presented as 'satirical and extreme" by the Canadian director, the movie offers a cynical view on the faults of Hollywood. "It's a cutting comedy, dark and seriously funny, pleads Robert Pattinson. The subject alludes to how easy it is for actors to become crazy in this industry. It's rude but true." Laughing, he adds: "Of course, we're talking about stars that aren't here anymore. Don't think this still happens!"
Starting with the dangers of the star system, Robert Pattinson doesn't ignore a thing. Indeed, for him who became overnight the object of a crazy cult, when he couldn't get out of his house without getting mobbed by dangerous groupies. He whose comings and goings are shot by an army of paparazzis who track him non-stop. He whose break-up with Kristen Stewart made the headlines of all the tabloids.
In an era where visibility and exhibitionist tweets are glorified, Robert Pattinson is trying to lock down methodically everything surrounding his private life.
A course of action... more like a matter of survival. "It's violent, it's bizarre... I've wanted for a long time to keep a normal life, the one before Twilight. I finally understood that it was no use to fight. It's not possible, that's it. I think I would have loved living the fame when the internet and twitter didn't exist. Today, everyone can take your picture, wherever, and whenever. Everyone can make you say everything and its opposite while hiding behind a computer screen."
Born in London with a well off family, Pattinson isn't from the inner circle. His mother works in a model agency and his dad imports collector's cars. He has two older sisters. "My family and my close ones are my pivotal point, with them no pretense is possible."
Musicien, he joins a theater class almost by accident. He isn't trying to construct his legend after the facts, but tells his initiative with honesty: "I was ridden by shyness. One day, in a restaurant, my dad overheard a group of pretty girls talking about theater classes. He told me: 'Go sign yourself up! You could meet someone!' I did it... and it didn't end badly!" Four years later, he becomes Harry Potter - Daniel Radcliffe's friend in the fourth part of the wizards saga. Then... nothing. Three years of unsuccessful auditions.
When Robert Pattinson finally lends the role in Twilight, he was about to give up on acting. More than anyone, he knows that success is fragile. It might be why he waves away every outside sign of stardom.
Now he's at the head of the A-list of actors who matter in Hollywood. He's said to be bankable to the point where a movie can be built on his name alone. It amuses him. "You know, I still have auditions to go to, to convince directors that I'm the man for the job. Not even six months ago, I was told no. For The Rover, I had to fight to get the role. I was hired and I really hope it'll be a big movie because I loved shooting it." He adds: "I owe a lot to luck. I never thought any of this would happen but I never doubted either that nice thing were waiting for me."
His biggest fear? Dishonourable behaviour. "I admire actors like Joaquin Phoenix or Daniel Day-Lewis because they only do their job and very well too. Their actors as a whole, with insane precision. That's all I wanna be: an actor." Robert Pattinson frees himself, even of his own reluctance. Until now, he refused fiercly every proposition for a commercial campaign. He accepted to become the new face of Dior Homme after Jude Law.
When it comes to explain this paradox, the star doesn't shy away: "I always found it dangerous for an actor to be associated with a commerical product because it sucks the life out of your image. But I matured, I evolved and the fact that Dior gave me free reign to carry out an artistic project, well I was convinced. I loved their boldness and their creativity. I wanted to treat this publicity like a short film. En I discovered the first images of the campaign, when I saw myself, I thought that maybe I was starting a new chapter in my life..."
Pattinson chose to work with the French producer Romain Gavras. The short film in black and white is elegant, heady with energy, its contemporary aesthetics - very Nouvelle Vague - seduces. All of it balanced by the blaring sound of Whole Lotta Love by Led Zepplin. Sexy, Robert Pattinson personifies a man who wants to live thousands of lives; intensely, and wants to love completely, even if he knows he only gets to have one. Not to forbid himself anything, to explore his emotions, to ignore the norms... such are the goals of Robert Pattinson, free and in a hurry to write his own story.
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