Robert Pattinson on Picking Under-the-Radar Directors and Why Claire Denis is the Most ‘Authentic Punk’ He’s Ever Met

It’s not unusual for actors after they’ve become movie stars to use their clout to make their passion projects or work with directors they admire. What makes Robert Pattinson’s post-“Twilight” career choices so fascinating is he hasn’t reached for A-List directors, studio projects with an awards pedigree, or personal pet projects he’s determined to shepherd. Instead, he’s sought out celebrated directors whose work is slightly below-the-radar and outside the mainstream of American cinema.

“I really like the hunt,” said Pattinson in an interview with IndieWire when he was at the Savannah Film Festival receiving a Maverick Award. “I like finding directors who haven’t been fully realized by the wider world yet.”

In the case of the Josh and Benny Safdie, who directed Pattinson in “Good Time,” Pattinson saw an image from their previous film on IndieWire that caught his attention. “As soon as I saw the trailer for ‘Heaven Knows What,’ I knew what they were like,” said Pattinson. “I was actively looking for directors who just had a very wild, out-of-control feeling. I realize quite quickly the type of [directors] I want to work with.”

Robert Pattinson in “Good Time”

A24

Pattinson said he puts a great deal of time into tracking smaller and international films—mainly by reading reviews coming out of festivals.

“It’s so difficult to keep up with everything that is coming out – half the movies I like aren’t even released in this country,” said Pattinson. “That’s the one good thing about being with a big agency [WME], you’re constantly asking them to somehow track down a streaming link. The annoying thing is a majority of films I end up watching on my phone.”

Pattinson said there is no “wish list” of directors, but he reaches out to the ones that interest him when he comes across their work. In the case of the Safdies, there wasn’t a natural role for Pattinson in their upcoming “Uncut Gems,” so the brothers wrote “Good Time” for the actor based on aspects of the actor’s personality that they saw while spending time with him in private, mainly characteristics that they hadn’t been seen from him in public or on the big screen.

“I definitely have a kind of mania sometimes, that not a lot of people see,” said Pattinson. “It happens when I get inspired by something that I think that [the Safdies] wanted to use as part of the character. That’s why I wanted to work with them as well. I’d done a lot of movies where they’re quite reactive parts and mainly quite still. There was a comfort there for me and I really wanted to break out of that pattern.”

Robert Pattinson and Charlie Hunnam in “The Lost City of Z

In the case of “Lost City of Z,” Pattinson said he had been desperate to work with director James Gray – inspired by the filmmaker’s early collaborations with Joaquin Phoenix (“The Yards,” “We Own the Night,” “Two Lovers”) – on a number of different projects. After seven years of possible collaborations, he was willing to do any role Gray had for him. In the case of “Lost City of Z,” it meant shooting in 100-degree jungle heat in a quiet, supporting role in which Pattinson disappears behind a beard and into the story’s backdrop as the film progresses. That idea of hiding or escaping into an unrecognizable role, as he did more prominentaly in “Good Time,” appeals to Pattinson above all else.

“I don’t like bombastic performances,” he said, then laughed. “I just sort of like convincing people that I’m not what people thought I was initially…It’s psychologically healthy for me as well. Otherwise, if I’m too trapped in myself, then I get really depressed.”

The actor has a number of projects in various stages of development and post-production. Check them out on the next page.

Clair Denis

Clair Denis’ Sci-Fi Project “High Life”: “It’s definitely nuts,” said Pattinson. “I just finished it last week. [Denis] is incredible. I’m not just saying that, she’s like one of the most fascinating people to work for. I was saying to her at the end of the shoot, she’s the most authentic punk that I’ve even met in my life. Just someone who can control a set. She’s so tiny, and to me she’s the most definitive auteur I’ve ever worked with as well. There’s disparate elements of the [‘High Life’] story. It’s just all over the place and I can’t waiting to see how she finds the throughline of everything, because it’s insane.”

The Zellner Brothers’ “Damsel”: “It’s got that same kind of ‘Kumiko [the Treasure Hunter]’ tone. It’s a funny movie I think, well I hope, I haven’t seen the final movie. I thought the script was very funny. It’s a very, very odd – ostensibly a western, but it’s like a feminist western comedy.”

Antonio Campos’ “The Devil All the Time”: “It’s got a really fun part in it. I hope it’s going to happen, I think it will. I love Antonio, I’m sort of friends with him as well and I think Mia Goth [“Cure for Wellness,” “Nymphomaniac”] will be in it, and she’s excited about it as well.”

Olivier Assayas’ heist film “Idol’s Eye”: “Every few months it kind of reappears again, but I think it’s happening with [Sylvester] Stallone, which is cool. I’m still always talking to them and seeing what’s going to happen, but I love Olivier.”

“Embrace of the Serpent”

Ciro Guerra’s “Waiting For the Barbarians”: “I saw ‘Embrace the Serpent’ that last day it played at the Sunshine in New York and the matinee was packed. I just knew Ciro Guerra’s next film was going to be amazing. I’m going to do ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ with Mark Rylance.”