Robert Pattinson Charting Familiar Path With Post-‘Twilight’ Roles

With two small films in the works, the heartthrob proves he's planning a future beyond the franchise that made him, experts tell MTV News.
By John Mitchell

Robert Pattinson and Tom Cruise
Photo: Getty Images

Robert Pattinson knows that the shelf life of a Hollywood heartthrob is short. Teen dreams have a tendency to come and go with shocking regularity, which is why the actor is intent to do everything he can to break out of the mold.

The success of the "The Twilight Saga" has alternately put Pattinson in the best and worst position an actor can have in the business. He's become a superstar on the back of a franchise, but since he was a relative unknown when cast, it also defines his career up to this point. We know him for that role — and not much else.

Of course, Pattinson is aiming to change that with a series of upcoming roles, including the just-announced "Mission: Blacklist," a "gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller" about a military interrogator that played a key role in the 2003 capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. On Thursday (May 3), Deadline also reported that Pattinson has been added to "The Rover." As Reynolds in the David Michod film, he'll pursue the men responsible for stealing his car all across "the rough Australian outback."

"What Robert Pattinson is doing isn't new in the slightest," Greg Ellwood of HitFix told MTV News. "Ever since the American indie scene exploded in the early '90s, actors such as John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christian Bale, Ewan McGregor and John Cusack, among others, have jumped between indie and studio-produced films."

Indeed, it's a well-tread path, and the actor is following it closely with several films in the can that he hopes will establish him as a leading man outside of the "Twilight" franchise.

In "Bel Ami," RPattz plays a young man navigating the tricky social hierarchy of late-19th-century Paris by manipulating the city's most influential and wealthy women. And as "ER" star Clooney did with Steven Soderbergh ("Out of Sight," "Ocean's 11"), when he was trying to break away from his TV persona, Pattinson has smartly aligned himself with an acclaimed filmmaker, David Cronenberg ("Eastern Promises," "A History of Violence"), for the futuristic indie thriller "Cosmopolis," which will make its world premiere in competition later this month at the Cannes Film Festival.

All of these roles are a major departure from Edward Cullen, and while that's a risk, the films have relatively low budgets, letting producers and financers gradually test whether Pattinson is a bankable movie star — and a strong leading actor — outside of the franchise that has defined his career to this point. Pattinson isn't, as they say, putting all his eggs in one basket.

"What makes Pattinson different is his huge core fanbase so early in his career," Ellwood continued. "Yet, he's still not a household name outside of the 'Twilight' fanbase or movie fans under the age of 30."

Contrast that with Jennifer Lawrence, who already had an Oscar nomination for "Winter's Bone" and a box-office hit in "X Men: First Class" under her belt before conquering screens as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games." The role has made Lawrence a household name, but unlike Pattinson, her abilities as an actress and future as a performer were not really in question before she entered the arena. Indeed, many critics noted the film was made all the better by having a proven actress in the lead role.

As Pattinson transitions from "Twilight," he has something to prove. So far, he has wisely steered clear of big-budget fare, a mistake his "Twilight" co-star Taylor Lautner made only to see his first star vehicle, "Abduction," misfire at the box office, calling into question whether the teen star can carry a movie.

Pattinson has so far headlined two non-"Twilight" features: "Remember Me" and "Water for Elephants." And while "Remember Me" grossed only $19 million domestically, it cost only $16 million to make, so once international grosses ($37 million) were accounted for, it was easily in the black (if not the hit he was likely hoping for). "Water for Elephants" fared better, but co-star Reese Witherspoon also gets credit for its $117 million combined worldwide gross.

"Starring in films like 'Water for Elephants' opposite Reese Witherspoon helps, but he's going to need to mix up another big hit or two outside of 'Twilight' to reach the [Leonardo] DiCaprio or [Brad] Pitt level," Ellwood says. "You could argue that Kristen Stewart is further down that road. Especially after the expected blockbuster 'Snow White and the Huntsman' opens in June."

Pattinson's post-"Twilight" choices show a performer who wants to be taken seriously as a versatile actor without risking a major financial failure. He seems keen to line up as much quality work as he can before the franchise ends and he jumps off the proverbial cliff and into the unknown. Whether he can pull it off remains to be seen, but his choices at least prove that he's interested in being more than a movie star. Like all those other stars who took the indie-film leap in the '90s, Pattinson wants you to think of him as an actor first and a global celebrity second.

How do you think RPattz will do in roles beyond Edward Cullen? Tell us in the comments!

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