With the role that made him super-famous five years in the rearview mirror, Robert Pattinson is returning to theaters in his first leading role since the end of the Twilight franchise. The 31-year-old British actor stars as a low-life New York criminal named Connie Nikas in the critically acclaimed Good Time.
In the exclusive clip above, which is a snippet from the movie’s opening scene, we first meet Connie’s brother Nick (played by co-director Benny Safdie), who has developmental disabilities, as he’s speaking to a psychiatrist (Peter Verby). Pattinson’s character barges into the office to drag his brother out, triggering a very twisty plot that before long will lead to the two brothers on the run from the police after a sloppy bank robbery.
Pattison spoke to EW about finding the look, sound, and essence of his character. His performance has been generating awards buzz since the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Good Time is in limited release now and expanding to more cinemas in coming weeks.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tommy Lee Jones has an interesting connection to this character that you play in Good Time, isn’t that right?
ROBERT PATTINSON: Yeah, absolutely.
[Co-director] Josh Safdie had sent me Norman Mailer’s book The Executioner’s Song and then I watched the movie [made for TV in 1982] with Tommy Lee Jones as murderer Gary Gilmore. It’s just such a fascinating character. There’s something about his nihilism and the way he processes things. There’s not a conventional sense of guilt within him. After he’s committed a crime, he still thinks it’s someone else’s fault. Never self-reflective at all — that gave me a lot of energy as the character I was playing.
Because Connie in Good Time lacks a certain self-awareness?
Yes. It’s so interesting playing someone who makes everything pragmatic for himself. Connie thinks that everything is excusable because it’s in the service of what he wants. But that’s not how morality works. He needs that explained to him. And I found that fascinating.
And how did Tommy Lee Jones’ appearance affect how you look in this movie?
That was a kind of later thing. In preparation for the role, we were trying all these different things with my face. We were trying to get me to look more like Benny [Safdie], who plays my brother. So I put on a fake nose, tried some other prosthetics. But I looked crazy.
Crazy in the wrong way?
Yeah, crazy but not subtle. So what we did, and it was very simple, was just put a little bit of scarring and pock marks on my skin.
Is there something irresistible for you, given how recognizable you are, about being in a film where audiences might not know it’s you at first?
I kind of love it. I keep wanting to disable audience preconceptions. I’m trying to find a world that’s also so different to a large part of the audience. And then you have them trapped. Whereas if the world is something that all the audience understands, then they are more likely to say, “OK, I recognize him and now I’m going to judge how his performance compares to other people.” I’d love for people to watch Good Time and think I’m a first-time actor who they’ve never seen before.
How did you come up with the character’s voice?
I had the luxury of being isolated while working on this. I was living in a basement apartment in Queens. And I was just repeating and repeating stuff until it vaguely felt right. I’ve worked with dialect coached before but for this role it was just repetition. And I stayed in the accent while we weren’t filming. It’s a fun accent, I must say. I missed it when it was gone.