Robert Pattinson perches on the edge of a yellow sofa and fiddles
with a bottle opener. The soft drink in front of him has been open for a
while, but he doesn’t put it down. The British actor is nervous; his
fingers continually stroke the wavy steel object as if it were a worry
stone. He doesn’t like the media circus and rarely gives interviews like
this one at Berlin’s Hotel de Rome.
Since the boy from Barnes in South West London was thrust into the
limelight – where he has remained for the past ten years – he has feared
talking nonsense or divulging details about his personal life, both, to
him, are equally horrifying. His weapon: a self-deprecating sense of
humour. Time and again he lets out a loud peel of resounding laughter,
to make it clear just how laid-back he wants to be.
Rob’s weird world
Robert Pattinson had to wrestle maggots and snakes in The Lost City Of Z. He loves it when things get strange.
ALOOF, cool, brooding — that’s what I expect from R-Patz. The reluctant star, who broke through in Twilight, has only agreed to do one print interview (ie, us!) and I’m braced for something akin to teeth-pulling. Instead… ‘Hello, hello!’ Pattinson bounds towards me like a gangly, 6ft Labrador. ‘Where would you prefer to sit? Water?’ He wrestles with the bottle cap while we do a ‘no, you’, ‘no, you’ politeness dance over who gets the comfy sofa. ‘I feel this kind of ignition happens in press scenarios,’ he says. ‘I become suddenly a bit excited and want to please everybody and act like a bit of a moron.’
Aside from those extraordinary, almost reptilian, hooded eyes, which lend an otherworldly handsomeness, in person there’s nothing of Edward Cullen, Twilight’s chilly vampire heartthrob, about the 30-year-old actor and model.
Dior Homme’s latest ambassador is even less recognisable in The Lost City Of Z, in which he wore a ginormous bushy beard and specs to play Henry Costin, one of the first Brit explorers of the Amazon. ‘The real Henry Costin had a very dramatic Victorian moustache,’ he says. ‘I thought, with my face that might look too Noël Coward, so I had to do a full-on beard for eight months. It was pretty awful — I ended up getting these disgusting ingrown hairs xall over my face. Gah! I shouldn’t get into that!’ Even worse, a jungle infection required Costin’s beard to crawl with maggots. Real ones. ‘It was so gross — I was eating them and stuff,’ he says. ‘I think they had to cut that scene to get the rating down.’
A good sport, who attended the same London prep school as Jack Whitehall, Tom Hardy and Louis Theroux, Pattinson says he wasn’t squeamish at shooting in the jungle despite being ‘covered’ in sand fleas and pouring with sweat thanks to the authentic woollen suits.
‘There were caimans [like crocodiles] in the river and me and Charlie [Hunnam, his co-star] were swimming around them,’ he says. ‘One of the crew got bitten in the face by an arbor viper. The props master went straight in, sucked the venom and spat it out — he had no idea what he was doing, he’d just finished on EastEnders, but the guy was fine. There were so many dangerous creatures everywhere in the jungle, you don’t worry. But when I’d come back to my hotel, I’d see one ant in my room and I’d freak out!’
Hunnam takes the lead in Lost City Of Z, with Pattinson his loyal aide-de-camp. Pattinson was also wingman in Life, with Dane DeHaan taking the limelight as James Dean. ‘You can play things more eccentrically if you are on the sideline,’ he explains. ‘You don’t have the responsibility to drive the central story forward, so you can do more flourishes and experiment.’
As all is going swimmingly, I edge nearer the personal. Pattinson was never a gusher about his private life, even before his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart cheated on him, sparking global headlines. He’s dated singer FKA Twigs since 2014 and they are engaged. So is he more romantic than cynic? ‘Um, kind of… I like the idea that there are special things in the world. So I guess I am romantic in that way,’ he offers.
Are his unusual fashion choices (a ‘gorilla’ overcoat and reverse-zipped crop top) a diversionary tactic to distract press from his private life? ‘That would be a cunning parlay!’ he boggles, as I absorb his use of the word ‘parlay’. ‘That red carpet in Berlin [where he rocked the overcoat] was one of the more terrifying experiences I have had recently, just because I wanted to wear something different. When you live any sort of public life, it is impossible to know which way is right to do anything. The only thing I want to do is get the jobs I really want. And not to go crazy.’
The Lost City Of Z is out March 24
Rob on… …starving himself for The Lost City Of Z ‘Charlie [Hunnam] was extremely militant so I couldn’t slip off my starvation diet – we were in the same hotel and he stayed in character all the time. There was this chocolate brownie on the menu and I kept thinking: “When I finish I will eat that and it will be amazing.” I did, and it was one of the most horrible experiences because my body rejected it.’
...his loyal Twihard following
‘It is nice knowing there are people who are watching my progression and that they found you in one thing and stay with you. It’s sweet because my jobs are going to get weirder. This year I have tried to accelerate that road to weirdness.’
…his music ‘I don’t play that much any more, though I am doing music for a movie I’m in with the Zellner brothers called Damsel. I used to differentiate between music and acting but the more I don’t play music, the more I push that area of my brain into acting.I improvise like I would when I play music.’