There are about 15 paparazzi photographers outside the New York City hotel where — strategically positioned behind a wall in the lobby, dressed in a brown hoodie that’s two sizes too large — sits Robert Pattinson.
This has been the 31-year-old British actor’s life in the nearly 10 years since he was cast as the immortal vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight. Yet since that franchise ended in five years ago, Pattinson’s career has veered towards the unpredictable, even if his fame has kept on course. After eclectic supporting roles in films like David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, Pattinson is back now onscreen in his first leading role since 2012’s Cosmopolis.
In Good Time, directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, Pattinson stars as a derelict low-life criminal named Connie Nikas, who as the film opens is planning a bank robbery that triggers the plot in motion. (Watch an exclusive clip of Pattinson’s first scene in the film here.)
The critically acclaimed movie (in select theaters now) takes place over the course of 24 hours, in which Pattinson’s character barely sleeps. It’s a feeling that the actor can somewhat relate to on Thursday morning when we meet for a chat about his career, the new film, and the mischievous urges within him to say the wrong thing.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling this morning?
ROBERT PATTINSON: Sorry, I’m just about totally brain dead. I’ve crapped out today. This is going to be interesting.
Would you like some coffee?
I’ve already tried that [laughing]. It’s not working.
Where were you this morning? On one of the talk shows?
Good Morning America, yeah. I’m tired but not at all tired of doing press. I’ve basically done no press for about three years and I genuinely want to talk a lot about this film. But it’s been interesting promoting a movie like this, depending on the venue.
Do you feel like when you go on those shows that your reputation precedes you a bit?
There’s an expectation for a certain energy. It’s difficult because I feel like I’m wearing a lot of different hats at the same time. I’m editing a lot in my head as the interviews go on. I think that’s why I get so anxious. And then I end up saying some dumb stuff. It’s always dangerous if I’m trying to make a group of people laugh. That’s when I say the dumbest stuff.
It was almost 10 years ago, July of 2008, when you attended your first Comic-Con for Twilight. You said then that the scream from the crowd was like “the sound you hear at the gates of hell.”
[Laughing] I do remember that actually.
What do you think when you think of yourself back then?
And it’s quite weird because I remember saying that and it was literally the exact wrong thing to say. It’s crazy. But it’s funny that even as I’m promoting stuff now, I’m gripped by this perverse urge to say the opposite of what I’m supposed to say. It’s like a goblin dancing in my head and it keeps happening to me in interview after interview after interview. I’ve just had a week of giving bad, wacky answers about things. And I just keep thinking, “Play it cool, don’t say anything crazy.”
Even after all these years of giving so many interviews?
Yeah. I think I just keep wanting to pierce this fantasy bubble. I was on Stephen Colbert’s show yesterday and I could really feel by the end of the interview that there was this little demon, telling me, “You’re boring, boring, boring! Say something crazy, say something crazy!”
Does it seem somewhat surreal that the current president of the United States once wrote a bunch of tweets about you?
[Laughs] I think there’s so many different levels of it. Your identity exists on many different planes at the same time and they all can be quite different from each other. When he said that, it didn’t really mean anything. But I guess now I’m sort of thinking, like, “Well, I guess that is related to me.” But how does that fit in with all the other things going on in my life? And sometimes you think, “Can I use this in my acting? Or should I be putting it away.” It’s kind of interesting, I guess. I don’t know — this could be why people get annoyed with me.
Do you feel that at a certain point you’ll need to re-enter the franchise fray? People talk about the “one for me, one for them” philosophy of acting.
I’m hoping that if I create the content that I want to see and think of myself as an audience member, then it will all work out. Because then someone like me will go to the cinema. There are plenty of other huge movies, everybody is trying to do that. And I think there is a minor renaissance of what used to be a mid-budget movie, which would now be considered a micro budget I guess. I love going to the cinema to see interesting, crazy things. I don’t just want to watch that on TV.
And there is financial profit in those projects, right?
Of course, because people are going to see them. And if that is encouraged and fostered, then that’s amazing. You can literally see it coming alive again, which is so wonderful. It’ll only die if we let it die. We were at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn last night, doing a Q&A. I’m really loving what’s going on with a bunch of different theaters. I think actors should get together and do a United Artists kind of thing and just have their own movie theaters. Just decide. I think there’s such a wider spectrum of what people will go to if something was promoted right and made available. It’s like if you went to a theater where you didn’t know what was playing. You just knew that the quality control was fine. I would love to be involved in that kind of thing.
Do you see yourself producing or directing movies in the future?
Hmm, people don’t realize how specific a skill set directing is. Everyone thinks, “I like movies, I could direct them.” But you need to be expert time manager and an expert manager overall. Producing is a bit more interesting because you just pick all the right people and hope that it comes together. I would love to figure out how to help with the distribution of films. That’s the one part that’s almost completely taken out of the hands of the people who made the movie. And the control is just so important.
Do you feel you have control over your career?
Well, I feel like I’ve had three moments of reinvention already. From Harry Potter to Twilight and then this current phase I’m in now. Control, yeah. But what I really hope is that I have the same enthusiasm today for wanting to surprise myself and surprise others as I did back during my first day on my first job.