Robert Pattinson: Working With ‘Cosmopolis’ Director Was ‘A Relief’

Actor reveals how he prepared for his role in the David Cronenberg film at a Cannes Film Festival press conference.
By Fallon Prinzivalli

Robert Pattinson at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival
Photo: AFP

Director David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" received mixed reviews after its debut at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival on Friday (May 25). Critics were split on whether they felt Robert Pattinson was right for the lead role. Some felt his performance was bland, but others thought he nailed the part, fitting well into the director's vision.

During a press conference for the film, Pattinson explained why he and Cronenberg work well together, chalking it up to Cronenberg's careful direction.

"If [a director's] sitting on the set, a bunch of people will ask you questions all the time," he said. "And then a lot of directors, I find, are kind of exhausted by the time they're actually supposed to do their job with the actors. They're not really listening anymore. I think David is listening so intently when you're doing a scene. ... When you feel something in a scene, you know that he's seen it, which is such a relief. And it makes you actually pay attention to what you're doing as well."

Cronenberg also made Pattinson aware of different camera angles and how the placement of cameras can greatly affect his performance.

"I think a lot of directors and actors refuse to accept anything about camera technique," Pattinson continued. "[Cronenberg was] completely frank about it and [said], 'Listen, if I put a camera here, it's going to totally affect the way you perform.' And it really did, the blocking was like direction, which I never really experienced before."

"Cosmopolis" follows Eric Packer (Pattinson) in a futuristic New York City. As he's chauffeured through Manhattan on his way to get a haircut, the world is falling apart around him — protestors are rioting, his marriage is failing, his vast financial status is declining and he soon discovers clues that reveal an attempt on his life.

When asked how he prepared for the taxing role, Pattinson told the audience he spent a lot of the time concerned over how his performance would come together. "I kind of spent two weeks in my hotel room worrying and confusing myself. And I remember the weekend before shooting, I called David — because we had no rehearsals — to talk to him about it. [I said,] 'I just wanted to sort of ask one question,' " he recalled, mimicking his timid tone. "He said, 'Do you want to talk about the movie for a second?' So I went to his house and I think he just said that it doesn't really matter: 'Let's just start and something will happen.' "

Worrying aside, Pattinson found a way to bring his character to life. He didn't improvise scenes and he didn't change any of the lines. He stuck to the script and followed Cronenberg's vision for his character as it was laid out in front of him.

"I think [Eric Packer's] impossible to approach like you would a normal character," he said. "What I liked about the script initially was its lyricism and just the rhythms of it. Normally when you do a movie, you can kind of blur the lines and make it your own. But with this, I didn't want to change a single word, even the punctuation. That made it easier, it's like you're doing a song instead of a movie. It freed you up. If you're trying to do something in a cerebral way, it becomes about ego and it's silly at that point."

Did Pattinson find similarities between himself and his character?

"I do think people are trying to kill me all the time," he joked.

Check out everything we've got on "Cosmopolis."

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