Written-off Robert Pattinson as just another fleeting tween sensation? Then listen up. Because Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s smart adaptation of Don DeLillo’s futurist novel, is about to announce the 26-year-old Brit’s true arrival. LWLies met up with Pattinson recently to chat about the making of Cosmopolis and why he’ll always be up for a challenge.
LWLies: We were in Cannes when Cosmopolis first screened. How was that whole experience for you?
Pattinson: It was kind of terrifying, but mainly because I’ve never been to a premiere with potentially a hostile audience. It’s a film which could potentially be quite divisive because it’s quite wordy and in Cannes there’s the added complexity with the language barrier. I remember sitting there and looking around at all these blank faces. No one was laughing. I genuinely thought it was going to get booed. I was so grateful it wasn’t savaged.
The whole Cannes booing thing is kind of a carnival, you can’t take it too seriously.
I know, I know. But then David [Cronenberg] was telling me about when Crash screened and people were screaming in the audience. Like, actually going wild during the movie. And I was speaking to Gaspar Noé the other day and he was saying that with Irreversible everyone was yelling ‘How would you like it?!’ and all this nonsense. He was sitting next to the guy who plays the rapist [Jo Prestia] thinking, ‘Fuck, I’m going to get killed after this’.
Did it put you at ease being in David’s company?
Yeah, totally. He was really relaxed. The thing is, normally when you go to a premiere you don’t often stay for the whole movie, but in Cannes you sit through it wondering if you’re going to get clapped or booed afterwards. It’s a pretty terrifying experience and a strange environment to watch a film in. But I’d seen the film before Cannes and I knew I loved it, which is a pretty rare thing for me because I don’t normally like the stuff I’m in.
Was Cosmopolis something you chased or were you approached?
I read the script about a year before we made it. Someone sent it to me on the basis that it was just a really well-written script. I really liked it then but we didn’t act on it right away because initially Colin Farrell had been cast, but he dropped out and suddenly I was in a position to go for it.
What was it like working in an environment where you’re in a small closed set, in the back of a limo for most of the film, and you only share a few minutes of screentime with the other actors?
I worked with everyone for about two or three days, but actually the further we got into the shoot the less time the scenes took. So where the early scene with Jay Baruchel took, like, three or maybe four days, a the others were generally much shorter. After two weeks of shooting a movie you normally just relax into the routine of the work, but with Cosmopolis we had big names coming in every few days shooting their scenes and then going. It really keeps you on your toes and in many ways it’s like shooting loads of different, or smaller movies. But you get used to it and actually you get quite comfortable because you’re so familiar with the set.
Was it difficult having David direct you remotely from outside the limo?
It was a little odd a first. But you know I did this Harry Potter movie where we filmed a lot underwater, so I was kind of experienced in not having the director standing next to you. It was similar in some ways to that because you can’t see anything apart from what’s inside the limo and a camera that’s mounted on this remote-controlled crane. David always had the camera positioned incredibly close to your face as well, with a really wide lens on it. So you have a totally different relationship with the camera because normally you’re trying to communicate with the guy behind the camera, you ignore the camera. Here you’re doing everything for the camera, but it’s like no one’s watching, like no one’s ever going to see it. It’s like you’re close friends with this little machine.
Do you see this as a significant juncture in your career?
Not really because the film is so obscure. It’s not like everyone’s going to get it. But yeah, it’s definitely a good step in terms of my career and where I’d like to end up.
Having done a lot of mainstream films are smaller, more out-there films now more appealing to you?
Um, I mean… Sometimes. But it’s not like I went out looking for the highest risk project. To be honest what attracted me was working with David and the quality of the writing, which was just insane compared to some of the garbage I’d been reading around the time. I’d never read any Don DeLillo before, so it was a bit of an eye-opener. But I’m not looking for obscurities the whole time. The movies I’ve signed on to do after this aren’t quite as odd as this but they’re certainly artistically ambitious.
So few actors ever receive the level of exposure you have right now, do you feel a pressure to try to maintain that by taking on bigger roles?
I don’t really know. If I could stay at a level where I was consistently working then I’d be happy. But I can’t predict the way the industry is going to go. Things change so quickly, there are so many people who were huge a few years ago and now can’t even get a film made. Right now people seem to care about me, but I’m sure that won’t last. Frankly I find it all a bit absurd. I’m just trying to do as much interesting stuff as I can for as long as I can.
What do you love about movies?
I think it’s the easiest was to educate people about, like, a million things. I remember watching Godard movies when I was younger and being introduced to Henry Miller and from there discovering Tom Waits and suddenly you’ve learned so much. Cool movies taught me so much more than books in school ever did. I didn’t even realise I was interested in working in movies when I was watching them when I was younger. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.