There was a time when Robert Pattinson was in danger of being typecast as a pretty face with a mop of unruly hair. He had just finished the Twilight series, a franchise that transformed him into the forbidden fantasy of teenaged girls and bored housewives alike. His five-film run as Edward Cullen, a centuries-old vampire whose dedication to a human teenager was almost as swoon-worthy as his sparkly skin, forced to him to flirt with the kind of adulation and fawning that have doomed so many good-looking actors over the years pour one out for the Hayden Christensens and Chad Michael Murrays Hollywood filed as “too hot” to be taken seriously. Even Pattinson’s co-star in the Twilight series, Taylor Lautner, has fallen victim to that dreaded fate.
And for a while after the series ended, it looked like the actor might be immortalized as just another teen heartthrob. Most of the buzz around him when Twilight ended centered on debates over his actual attractiveness or his relationship with Kristen Stewart. He was given the nickname RPattz. Things were not looking good for longevity. But in hindsight, the success of the franchise, and the fame it brought to its male lead, gave Pattinson the freedom to chart his own path on screen and instead of cashing in on offers of more blockbusters, or roles where he’d play some rom-com hero, Pattinson chose the path less followed.
– He chose David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, in which he played a self-destructive billionaire with contained nervous energy and who spent most of the film in a downward spiral inside a moving limousine.
– He chose The Rover, a gritty, apocalyptic Western that saw him sporting a heavy garbled accent and rotting teeth as a dim-witted grifter in over his head.
– He chose to play a mostly-sane limo driver in Maps to the Stars, an insufferable womanizer in Bel Ami, and T.E. Lawrence in Warner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert. Some were hits, some were misses, but Pattinson has never been afraid of risk, and that fearlessness, that overt desire to break whatever mold audiences might have placed him in, is finally paying off. The actor’s resume over the past few years has steadily gotten better, and so much weirder.
In the 2017 crime dramaGood Time, Pattinson convinced the Safdie brothers to let him bleach his signature locks, grow patchy facial hair, and try on a street-specific Queen’s accent. Pattinson sent an email to the brothers, begging to be cast in whatever project they were working on next which is how he ended up disappearing in the role of Connie, a hustling bank robber trying to survive his rough neighborhood and take care of his developmentally disabled brother. The role, which is arguably Pattinson’s best work so far, transformed him into a character actor. Connie’s manic desperation to rescue his brother causes a downward spiral filled with drug deals and police standoffs and questions of morality and justice. He’s endearing and despicable all at once, bubbling with energy and a d*ck-swinging charisma that captivates not because he’s inhumanly attractive - he’s not – but because his nearly disappears in the role, convincingly bringing to life a street urchin we both root for and condemn in equal measure.
Pattinson followed up Good Time with Damsel, a western comedy with Mia Wasikowska in which he played a naïve, affluent pioneer with misguided notions of marriage. Humor isn’t a muscle the actor has flexed often but he did so here, playing a guy who fancied himself so in love with a Wasikowska’s Penelope that he traveled cross-country with a miniature pony named Butterscotch in tow just to propose to her. It would mark his first on-screen masturbation too, which seems like an odd detail to remember until you realize that Pattinson has continued to reenact that particular state of vulnerability in his past few films.
Like Claire Denis’ High Life, a mind-bending exercise in endurance that tests audiences’ capacity to sit through truly bizarre world-building. Pattinson plays Monte, a convict serving as an unwilling test subject for a deranged doctor’s sexual experiment aboard a spaceship searching the cosmos for ernative energy sources. He’s a stabling presence amid zero-gravity masturbation montages, hallucinatory rape scenes, and images of humans being splintered by the force of black holes. It’s the kind of surreal, repulsive material that could render a film unpleasant if not for Pattinson’s endearing earnestness and grounding humanity.
In Robert Eggers’ somber black-and-white drama The Lighthouse, Pattinson sheds that humanity rather quickly as Winslow, a wickie serving on a remote island with an elderly supervising officer played by Willem Dafoe. The entire film is a character study in the differences between these two loners with Pattinson beginning as a contained presence, a man harboring a dark secret before slowly unfurling his inhibitions thanks to Dafoe’s manipulations, heavy amounts of spirits, and dream-like visions. He masturbates again on screen, quite “ferociously” as he’s described in recent interviews, to horror-tinged images of mermaids and rolling seas before chugging copious amounts of liquor, dancing a jig, and speaking in tongues. It’s the kind of role a lesser actor might struggle to shoulder and one that demands all the camera’s attention and forces Pattinson to invent its climactic tone.
It’s also a wholly different character than the star’s most recent role in Netflix’s The King as a delightfully unhinged French monarch with an accent so over-pronounced, it’s nearly hypnotic. Pattinson, sporting a shoulder-length bob he routinely tucks behind his ears while threating Timothee Chalamet’s King Henry V, chews up the scenery in Joel Edgerton’s historical epic. He’s menacing, deranged, and bloodthirsty in a way that makes him both comical and unpredictably dangerous. He’s not meant to be the star of this film, but he pulls focus anyway, committing to all the eccentricities that he’s suplied his character with and then over-delivering on them.
And that is, perhaps, what Pattinson should be applauded for – more than his desire to chase after boundary-pushing material or work with cinematic auteurs. He’s constantly pushing himself, testing his own sense of comfort and demanding audiences do the same. If you cringe at his antics, if you can’t stomach his shameless characterizations, he’s doing something right. He’s reinventing himself with every scene, pressing us to look past his celebrity and find whatever strange, magnetic force he’s inhabiting at any given time. He’s seeking and redefining in a way that feels exciting to watch, forcing us to guess which bizarre role, which peculiar film he’ll pop up in next.
He’s, as they say, a character actor with a leading man’s face, but he hasn’t let that deter him from forging an unpredictable, almost chaotic filmography over the years, and we don’t blame you for itching to see what he does next. We certainly are.
Regardless of where your feelings lie on writer/director Robert Eggers’ disturbed buddy movie from hell “The Lighthouse,” one thing’s for certain: you won’t walk out unscathed by the powerful performances of the birds on display.
Throughout the film, which finds Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe stuck together as mad lighthouse keepers on a New England island in the late 19th century, seagulls peck and pry them, representing the maw of death always nibbling at the edges of sanity. Jezebel’s Rich Juzwiak recently spoke to Guillaume Grange, the French animal trainer who wrangled those seagulls, and Grange said these birds were particularly sensitive.
“Seagulls are not very brave, and they're very fragile. Their wings are very thin. They always worry about everything,” he told Jezebel, adding, “If something worries them even slightly, they regurgitate all the food out. You always have to be very careful with them.” The three birds used throughout the movie are called Johnny, Lady, and the Tramp, and according to Grange, “they will not come and cuddle.”
Grange said Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe never encountered the birds, which were shot in a London studio on a green screen.
“Like The Lighthouse, the whole setup was made to avoid stress on the animals. They had breaks. They filmed in a big area,” Grange said. “The crew was minimized. We restricted the movement of the people and the camera when the birds were out. All that is to make sure the animals were not stressed. If they're not stressed, they don't mind. You open the crate, they come out. They do everything they have to do, and they go back. They're happy to return to their crate because there are treats. I'm not going to say that they like it, but they don't mind it.”
Grange said in order to evoke the necessary performances from the birds, “We threw them some food from far away, and they tried to catch it. Then, we wait a bit. We had to reward behavior and bring them towards opening the beak. So we'd fake throwing something to catch, and when they start the beak movement, we'd reward that.”
In an IndieWire conversation earlier this season with the film’s production designer Craig Lathrop, he said, “We shot everything on Cape Forchu, and we used a puppet stand-in for the actors to interact with on location. Then, in post, we went to London and built some small sets and set pieces and redid the action with the trained seagulls, who were composited into the scenes.”
Telling the story of an iconic artist brings any number of challenges, but one of the biggest stems from the fact that the creative process rarely makes for a good visual. We’d like to think that the great works of fiction were brought about by grand, inspirational acts or life-altering circumstances. Often, though, it’s just a genius with a piece of paper and something to write with, sitting at a desk.
When crafting the foundation for “Dickinson,” the new Apple TV+ show imagining the young life of poet Emily Dickinson, series creator Alena Smith ran into that perpetual problem. Luckily, Dickinson’s enduring work made for a clear solution.
“I think that the external facts of Emily Dickinson’s life weren’t even necessarily that interesting. But what was going on inside her was just this whole universe. So we jump off of the images suggested by the poems and the words are always there to guide us,” Smith told IndieWire. “What’s so wonderful about Dickinson’s poems is they’re defined by their rhyme and meter. That’s one thing that we get to do in this show is hear her poems aloud.”
“Dickinson” follows Emily’s teenage life in Amherst, Massachusetts, as she navigates plenty of obstacles the show has given her: secret scholarly pursuits, secret relationships, secret house parties. And as Smith helped to bring Emily’s younger years to life, she sought to do the same with the poet’s words. More than just focusing on the origin stories of some of her best-known works, Smith wanted to make sure that the audience got to see those very words in a way Emily would have.
“One of the things that’s so interesting about Emily Dickinson is that since almost none of her poems were published while she lived, she never saw her poems in print. She only saw them in her own handwriting. A number of her poems, she’ll have two different words as options and not settle on one of them. So her poems are these living artifacts on the page,” Smith said.
In “Dickinson,” that handwriting appears on screen. As Emily played by Hailee Steinfeld recites her own words, they pop up near her head like they’re being traced by ephemeral sparklers. These linguistic fireworks become one of the windows into how Smith wanted to give Emily’s life an otherworldly feel.
“It was always in the script, was always the plan to have the text on the screen. What was fun was then really developing what that writing was going to look like,” Smith said. “We started with samples of Emily’s actual handwriting. I worked with my really brilliant VFX team at The Molecule and we landed in this place where the words kind of come and go like smoke. So there’s really this sense of the evanescence of thought and getting to be present for the spark of creation.”
That spontaneous sense of these poems flowing from Emily’s own imagination then becomes one of the best ways that “Dickinson” overcomes that “creative process” conundrum.
“One inspiration for me was the David Cronenberg movie ‘Naked Lunch,’ the idea of writing as a psychedelic experience,” Smith said. “The last thing I want to watch is somebody sitting at a desk writing a poem. So that’s why we use the internal life of Emily and bring it to life in a sort of psychedelic way.”
Taking liberties with those elements and the dialogue of Emily and her peers, “Dickinson” needed to make sure that every other element of the series provided the opportunity for that contrast to be meaningful.
“All of our production design and costume design is almost obsessively truthful to the period. It was about keeping to the truth of the characters’ lives even as their ways of expressing themselves sometimes go outside of the lines. We were always searching for what was the detail that was both true to the period, but uncannily resonant with the present,” Smith said. “So like Emily in a crazy, bright-colored paisley, standing against her insane, trompe-l’œil wallpaper, that’s kind of what the tone of the show is in a way. It’s like power clashing between the past and the present. There’s a lot going on visually, showing all the energy that was sort of trapped in the constraints of the time.”
As for Emily herself, a more faithful recreation of her life might have shown her to be less charismatic than Steinfeld’s performance in “Dickinson” makes her seem. Though the show is clearly told through the lens of Emily’s emerging worldview, the show isn’t always 100% on her side. When she spars with family members or expresses anxieties about her own life, there are times when the characters in her orbit offer some pretty convincing counterarguments.
“Emily Dickinson, in truth, I think was a pretty difficult person to be around. There’s a story about Thomas [Wentworth] Higginson, who was her correspondent for many years during the Civil War. They wrote to each other for years and then he finally came to Amherst to meet her and he spent an afternoon in the parlor with her. When he left, he said, ‘I’m glad I don’t live closer to her, because she was just a lot to take.’ Her energy was intense,” Smith said. “And you know, that’s part of what is so compelling to me about her story is that her life was fundamentally unrequited, in a certain way. She just was so desperate for someone to understand her. And really, I don’t know that she ever found someone who perfectly understood her. And maybe that’s the plight of the writer, you know?”
Balancing the dedication to historical accuracy with the artistic freedom to bend some of those elements to create a distinct storytelling atmosphere is something that Smith has experienced across different artistic pursuits. In addition to her work for the screen, Smith is a playwright, which she says gave some vital storytelling tools to not just her, but some of her TV compatriots.
“I went to Yale drama school where I spent three years learning how to work with actors, directors, costume designers, set designers. The playwright is the sort of prime mover of the world and has to know how to lead all of these disparate elements of a production towards a cohesive vision of something that no one’s ever seen before,” Smith said. “So many playwrights that I came up with in my theater days are TV showrunners now because it’s a weird skill set to be able to write a show.”
It’s not just the process that went into the production of “Dickinson” that’s a theatrical experience. The finished product certainly is, too. It begins in the show’s opening chapter, which features a guest appearance from Wiz Khalifa as the title character in Dickinson’s perhaps best-known poem “Because I could not stop for Death.”
“You have Death as a character showing up in a carriage pulled by ghost horses. Making Death into a character or taking a moment to explore the idea of Death in that unexpected way probably comes more from plays than anything else,” Smith said.
With so much to take in and the overall storytelling flow that comes from it, maybe that’s why it’s best that all 10 episodes of the first season of “Dickinson” will be available at launch, the only show of the major initial Apple TV+ pushes to use that release strategy.
“I really am so happy that was the decision that that ultimately got made. Even though each of the episodes are special in their own right, I want the sweep of the whole thing to be experienced as one,” Smith said. “Why not just put the whole thing out? Because that’s how people like to watch their stories now. My hope is that people will watch it and then go home for Thanksgiving and watch it again with their family.”
With the ubiquity of the platform and the instant availability of Emily’s entire season-long arc, Smith hopes that the show will eventually break some assumptions about who’ll enjoy it the most.
“My real hope is that this show can start to build a community. I think that the show is really for anyone who feels like they have a voice that’s not being listened to enough,” Smith said. “She’s so enigmatic and there’s such a scarcity of facts about her life as it was lived, so people get to come and bring their own interpretations to her work. That’s sort of the fun of Emily Dickinson is that we all get to invent our own Emily.”
“Dickinson” is now available to stream on Apple TV+.
Timothée Chalamet is Henry V in The King, a new, gritty Netflix take on a story that’s previously been told by both William Shakespeare and Orson Welles. In The King, Chalamet’s Prince Hal has spent his life ignoring his royal lineage, but that all changes when his father dies, forcing Hal to take the throne. Now he has to deal with his kingly duties, and also a bewigged Robert Pattinson using a French accent. Watch the final The King trailer below.
The King Trailer
If you’ve ever watched Chimes of Midnight and thought, “This movie could use more soft boys and grime,” you’re in luck. The King is a new, grimy-looking take on Henry V and also Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2 starring the internet’s favorite actor boy Timothée Chalamet. Chalamet sports a bowl haircut and straps some armor to his lithe frame, and he’s up against rivals like Robert Pattinson, who is clearly going for broke with a goofy accent as The Dauphin. Here’s the film’s synopsis:
Hal Timothée Chalamet, wayward prince and reluctant heir to the English throne, has turned his back on royal life and is living among the people. But when his tyrannical father dies, Hal is crowned King Henry V and is forced to embrace the life he had previously tried to escape. Now the young king must navigate the palace politics, chaos and war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life – including his relationship with his closest friend and mentor, the ageing alcoholic knight, John Falstaff Joel Edgerton.
David Michôd directs, with a script co-written by Michôd and Edgerton. The cast also features Sean Harris, Tom Glynn-Carney, Lily-Rose Depp, Thomasin McKenzie, and Ben Mendelsohn. That’s a strong cast, and all things considered, this looks like a watchable historical epic that might turn out to be quite enjoyable. Is it going to be a major awards season contender as Netflix once clearly hoped? I doubt it. But that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. At the very least, this will be worth watching to see whatever the hell it is Pattinson is doing.
The King is now playing in select theaters and arrives on Netflix November 1.
Anyone hoping to get a sense of what to expect in Matt Reeves’ 2021 comic book tentpole “The Batman” might want to buy a ticket to “The Lighthouse,” Robert Eggers’ new film that broke out at the specialty box office last weekend. In a video interview with “Access Hollywood” via EW, upcoming Batman actor Robert Pattinson says the voice of his co-star Willem Dafoe in “The Lighthouse” influenced his voice as the Caped Crusader. The Batman voice is a defining characteristic of the superhero see Christian Bale’s growly whisper in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, and Pattinson couldn’t pick a better source of inspiration than Dafoe’s growl.
“Willem's voice in [‘The Lighthouse’] was quite inspiring for it, to be honest,” Pattinson responded when asked about his Batman voice. “It is pretty similar, the voice I'm gonna do, to Willem's.”
Pattinson’s “The Batman” is not expected to be an origin story, so it made sense for the actor to adopt a weary and grizzled voice like Dafoe’s in order to show he’s already well into his life of super-heroism. Pattinson Batman will face off against Paul Dano’s The Riddler and Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman. Both actors were cast in “The Batman” this month, while Reeves recently confirmed that regular collaborator Michael Giacchino will be composing the original score.
Pattinson broke his silence about playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in an interview with Variety last month. “It's maybe the craziest thing I've ever done in terms of movie stuff,” the actor said about trying on the Batman suit. “I put it on. I remember saying to Matt, 'It does feel quite transformative!' He was like, 'I would hope it does! You're literally in the Batsuit.'”
Pattinson continued, “You do feel very powerful immediately. And it's pretty astonishing, something that is incredibly difficult to get into, so the ritual of getting into it is pretty humiliating. You've got five people trying to shove you into something. Once you've got it on, it's like, 'Yeah, I feel strong, I feel tough, even though I had to have someone squeezing my butt cheeks into the legs.'”
Warner Bros has set a June 25, 2021 release date for “The Batman.”
Before Todd Phillips’ Joker was released into theaters, which was only earlier this month even though it feels like it’s been out for years, a video of the Clown Prince of Crime’s laughs from over the years went viral. There’s Cesar Romero’s full-bodied howl in Batman and Heath Ledger’s creaky cackle in The Dark Knight and, if we must, whatever the heck Jared Leto was doing in Suicide Squad. An actor playing the Joker is only as good as his laugh Joaquin Phoenix wanted to get his just right, just as an actor playing Batman is only as good as his Batman voice. It’s a reflection of the project, where the voice must match the tone: Christian Bale, for instance, sounds like his vocal cords were pelleted with gravel to pair with the intense grittiness of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
Robert Pattinson, who was picked to play the Caped Crusader in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, was recently asked about his Batman voice. He sadly didn’t bust it out, like Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation, but the High Life star did reveal where he found his inspiration: Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse, the new A24 horror movie from director Robert Eggers where Pattinson and Dafoe play increasingly mad lighthouse keepers. “Willem’s voice in this is quite inspiring for it, to be honest,” he said. “It is pretty similar to the voice I’m gonna do… I think Batman has a sort of pirate-y kind of voice.”
Leaving the “pirate-y” thing aside, I’m tickled that Robert Pattinson, who turned into an international star for playing a sparkly vampire, discovered his Batman voice from Willem Dafoe in a movie where he, the ex-sparkly vampire, ferociously masturbates. Movies: they’re good!