He is exceptionally handsome. Wide, wild eyes. Large facial features arranged where a sculptor might have put them in 16th-century Italy. He is, unlike some actors, taller than people suppose. (“A lot of Batman fans are like, He’s tiny, he’s tiny! I’m not fucking tiny!” he says. “I’m, like, a large person. About half the time, I’m trying to get skinnier.”) He has that ability to look convincingly different, by meaningful degrees, in many different things. It’s not just hair and weight. It’s the way he can lower or raise an internal dimmer switch to dial the eyes and mouth along a spectrum from, like, American scuzzbucket to French aristocrat. It permits him to work effectively as both a leading bat and a 12-minute scene-stealer. “He’s a chameleon,” Matt Reeves, director of The Batman, says. “Recently, Rob was telling me that he never plays a character with exactly his voice. The voice is one of his ways in.”
In London today, his natural accent is crisp and his words are prudent. But his laughter is freewheeling and he can’t help but start things off by saying precisely what he feels: “I’m so fucking jet-lagged!” He is underdressed: “It’s cold! Fuck!” And he is feeling his age (35): “I can’t do anything anymore!” The effect is something like: English art dealer after a weeklong fair in Hong Kong. He looks like he was maybe at his shiniest six days ago.
We’re walking through Holland Park, at the base of Notting Hill. Not 18 hours earlier, the plan had been for us to visit the London Zoo, but he’d suddenly thought better of it. “I was talking to my girlfriend”—the model and actress Suki Waterhouse—“last night and she was, like, ‘You know, people don’t really like zoos.…’ I’d been thinking about a metaphorical thing. But then I was thinking that’s very wrong, a sad bear walking in circles.” He’d talked himself out of it.
“I just can’t help it,” he says. “I’ll do it for every single element, every decision, in my life. What is the worst-case scenario for this decision?”
His career to this point has been shaped by a combination of talent, desire, luck, attendant fame, and bold choices. The fame came quickly, with Twilight, the teen-vampire saga that grossed billions of dollars and set Pattinson up for a particular kind of path. The choices—smaller movies with singular filmmakers—came as part of his masterfully planned, decade-long prison break out of that one particular career. “I’m constantly doing risk assessments, which drives everybody crazy, trying to predict every single element that could possibly happen. And then, at the end of it, just being like: Ah, fuck it! I’ll just play a lighthouse keeper who fucks a mermaid! I think this is the right move!”
His reputational swerve away from blockbuster moviemaking had taken such a firm hold in recent years that Reeves, who had been thinking of Pattinson while writing The Batman, wasn’t sure Pattinson would be interested in ever returning from his art-house walkabout. But a little mainstream exposure, by way of The Batman, was just as deliberate a choice as turning away in the first place. Get into the bat cave, bank some gains, then charter a new voyage out into riskier film waters again. It was a plan.
Things got off to an auspicious enough start when shooting began at the end of 2019. “Then I broke my wrist at the beginning of it all, doing a stunt, even before COVID. So the whole first section was trying to keep working out—looking like a penguin. I remember when that seemed like the worst thing that could go wrong.” Soon, of course, there were far greater obstacles brought on by the unprecedented global pandemic, which triggered production shutdowns, including the one precipitated by his own “very embarrassing” positive in September 2020, right as everyone was due back from the first interminable break. The delays ultimately stretched the shoot to 18 months—approximately the total time on set of every other Robert Pattinson movie of late combined.
And yet, when the enormous production was full steam amid the raging pandemic, he felt grateful—and even guilty at times—for having a distraction that demanded every bit of his attention. “I just always had this anchor of Batman. Rather than thinking you’re flotsam to the news, you could feel engaged without being paralyzed by it. Everyone I know, if you had a little momentum going in your career or your life, then stopping, you had to have a reckoning with yourself. Whereas I was so incredibly busy the whole time, doing something that was also super high pressure, by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done…. I was still playing Batman at the end of the day, even though the world might end. But just on the off chance that it doesn’t end…” He puts it another way later: “Even if the world burns down, I’ve just got to get this fucking thing out!”
You can read the full interview on GQ’s website!