Oct 28, 2010

INTERVIEW: Robert Pattinson

"Oh the pressures of your first film premiere at the tender age of 18! The rigours of shooting the new Harry Potter movie — battles with rampaging trees, chases through mazes, underwater duels — were as nothing for Robert Pattinson compared to the age-old conundrum of what to wear on opening night. “I was actually having nightmares about it for months in advance,” says the young actor, who went down to Jasper Conran’s and picked out “the most ridiculous extravagant clothes - they looked really good in the shop. And then I put them on and I thought: you look like such an idiot.” On the night, he stepped from his limo to face a sea of 12,0000 people and a barrage of flashbulbs. “I was in a trance the whole way through it,” he remembers. “The day before I was just sitting in Leicester square, happily being ignored by everyone. Then suddenly strangers are screaming your name. Amazing.”

Pattinson’s role as Cedric Diggory, the hunk of Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, has been garnering standout notices from the critics, although he bridles, with endearingly teenage embarrassment, at the label ‘heartthrob’. “I read the Variety and their only comment was ‘ rangy’. I thought it meant from the range like a cowboy. Just means tall and lanky.” He is tall and lanky, as well as pretty enough to be Mick Jagger’s sister; sitting down for coffee in a Tribeca diner, he displays that mixture of bashfulness and boldness that is prerogative of 18-year-old movie-star foundlings. When he first met with director Mike Newell, during casting sessions for Harry Potter, he “hadn’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies,” he proclaims, but he was in “a really good mood” having just landed a part in a TV version of the Ring of the Nibelungs, which was shooting in South Africa. “I went in with this complete confidence,” he says, “ I was convinced I had it.” Returning from the Nibelungs shoot, four months later, with the offer of Harry Potter in the bag, he sat down to take his A-levels with just two weeks to spare, and landed himself an A and 2 Bs. “I don't know how that happened. I didn’t even know half the syllabus. I lost faith in the examining system after that point.”

This is recounted with all the breezy insouciance of a youth, with just a touch of nervousness as to whether the cockiness is going to get a laugh or not. He had a certain amount of the edges knocked off of him by the Harry Potter shoot. “I’ve changed so much. I’m not nearly as cocky as I was,” he says. “I was a real pratt for the first month. I didn’t talk to anyone. I just drank coffee and told everyone I was 24 and this famous theatre actor just back from South Africa.” The 24-year-old thespian from South Africa was, in fact, an 18-year-old from South London who only got into acting after he was out with his father one evening, at the Tootsie’s in Barnes, and fell into conversation with a bunch of pretty girls at the adjoining table. He asked them what they did, they told him the local acting school, and, with some paternal prompting, he signed up. “It was a social thing. I literally went there 100% to meet these girls that were sitting at the table next to us.”

A job a stage manager led to a string of theatrical roles, and finally a break into movies with a small part in Vanity Fair, most of which hit the cutting room floor. It was nothing compared to the arduous physical labour of the Harry Potter shoot: a year of flying around massive sets, including a 60ft-deep pool and a massive maze with hydraulically operated hedges. “My instinct at the end was just to sort of collapse. What I to do next is a really short shoot. A six week thing where I can get my brain around the whole thing. A play or something.” He admires the films of Jim Jarmusch, and the renegade auteurs of the seventies “when you could just make a film for nothing. There’s no reason why a film should cost 100 million. It’s crazy. People will say ‘we’ll fly you out there to some country, pay for all your living expense, and then we’ll pay you.’ You;re just like: why? I’m not really sure what my point is.... I don't want to be paid ever again! I hate money! I want to do anything for free!”

“Now he doesn’t,” pipes in his publicist, silent up to this point, at the next table.

Next up is the New York premiere of Harry Potter, then Tokyo, and then back to LA for.... for what exactly?

“What am I doing in LA?” he asks.

“Meetings,” comes the gnomic reply.

“That’s it. Meetings. I like meetings there a lot. You go in, no-one cares if you’re a nice person or not. You just do it, and if you can do it, you do it, and if you cant you can’t.” Although he will have to curb a few of his errant English ways. “In England if you want to look rough, you go out and get really drunk and come in looking really hungover and if you do that in America, its like ‘have you got a drinking problem?”

His publicist nods. The boy is learning fast."

— my interview with Robert Pattinson for the Daily Telegraph (2005)

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