With the release of “The Lost City of Z” and “Good Time,” 2017 may well be remembered as the year Robert Pattinson officially became a critics’ favorite.
Some might claim the shift began in 2012, when the British actor — still best known for setting hearts aflutter in the “Twilight” movies — drew raves for his change-of-pace performance in David Cronenberg’s art-house chiller “Cosmopolis.” Since then, Pattinson has reteamed with Cronenberg on “Maps to the Stars,” done more career-redefining work in David Michod’s dystopian thriller “The Rover,” and earned plaudits for his appearances in Werner Herzog’s “Queen of the Desert” and Anton Corbijn’s “Life.”
But his versatility has never been on such dazzling display as this year, first with his shrewdly underplayed supporting role as the real-life Amazon explorer Henry Costin in James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z.” He has followed that with his deglamorized star turn as an inept bank robber in Josh and Benny Safdie’s thriller “Good Time.”
The accumulation of prestigious world-cinema names in Pattinson’s credits represents the fulfillment of a dream that took root when the 31-year-old actor was a teenager. Well before his first “Twilight” film, Pattinson says he was an obsessive film buff with a passion for French art cinema.
This month, shooting will start in Poland on Pattinson next project, the sci-fi adventure film “High Life,” the first English-language project directed by Denis. Other Pattinson projects include “Damsel,” a period Western costarring Mia Wasikowska and directed by David and Nathan Zellner (“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”), and “The Souvenir,” a two-part romantic mystery from British director Joanna Hogg.
In an interview the actor talks about his career and favorite filmmakers:
Q: Have you always been an avid moviegoer?
A: I was into movies before I was even remotely into acting. I basically approached my career, at least for the first 10 years of it, trying to re-create my DVD shelf from when I was 17, (which included films by) James Gray, …Claire Denis, (Werner) Herzog. There was a lot of (Jean-Luc) Godard.
Q: Which titles particularly inspired you?
A: Godard’s “Prenom: Carmen” (First Name: Carmen) was a massive one for me in terms of tone and performance. I love genre shifts, and I just think for that to start off as a kind of farce and then to develop into one of the most moving relationship stories, unrequited love stories, that I’ve ever seen — that really stuck out. Denis’ “White Material” was one of the big ones. I love “No Fear, No Die” as well. I love a lot of Denis’ stuff. And Leos Carax as well, especially “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf” (The Lovers on the Bridge). There’s something about these filmmakers. I can’t think of a better word than “singular,” but they’re just so unique. I mean, I like a lot of English-language movies from the ’70s, which everybody likes, but among more recent films, for some reason, a lot of French movies — they’re more operatic. They’re not afraid to be emotionally operatic. I like that.
Q: You must be excited to work with Claire Denis on “High Life.”
A: For sure. I’m flying out there finally after three years. I’m very curious how it will turn out. The script is very ambitious, to say the least.
Q: Who are your favorite older filmmakers?
A: I’ve recently been watching a lot of Ken Russell. I love his movies. I was watching “The Devils” the other day. There’s some kind of through line connecting all these films, but I can never really figure out what it is. A lot of it is performance-based; all these directors get these incredible performances. Oliver Reed in “The Devils” is unreal. That could literally play now, and it would still be subversive.
Q: You’ve worked with some terrific filmmakers in recent years, including David Cronenberg, David Michod and now the Safdie brothers.
A: I got kind of lucky. I had worked with some great directors before that, but they tended to go back and forth between personal films and more commercial films. With a lot of the later directors, their films are sort of all personal. But after Cronenberg and “Cosmopolis” — which just kind of appeared out of nowhere — with David Michod. I remember seeing the teaser trailer for “Animal Kingdom” before it was out, and it was just a phenomenal teaser. I just went after him then and met him a long time, maybe a year and a half, before “The Rover” even came about.
I like the feeling of discovery and meeting someone who is really, really hungry and has a lot to prove. It’s exciting to see the Safdies’ progression. Scott Rudin and Martin Scorsese are producing their next film (the thriller “Uncut Gems”).
Q: You’ve attended the Cannes Film Festival often in recent years. Do you get a chance to see other films when you’re there?
A: This year I saw Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here.” It was great. She’s another person who’s been on my list forever. But in general, it’s always a little funny going to see other films when you’ve got a movie premiering there. I’d love at some point to be on a jury. Everyone is always like, “It’s such a hassle seeing three films a day,” but that’s kind of all I do anyway.
Q: Which films from the past year or so have you especially liked?
A: I loved “Embrace of the Serpent,” the Ciro Guerra film. And I loved “Mon Roi” (My King), the Maïwenn movie. I thought that was great.
Q: Is Maïwenn someone you’d want to work with in the future?
A: Yeah, for sure. That was one of the best movies of the year for me.
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