The evolution of Robert Pattinson

James Luxford 6 March 2022

As he debuts as Batman, we take a deep dive into the rollercoaster career of the actor who has proved it is possible to remake yourself after a behemoth film franchise

March sees the debut of Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in The Batman, Matt Reeves’ new cerebral take on the DC superhero. It’s one of the most anticipated films of 2022, with notoriously scrupulous comic book fans excited to see his take on the character and in agreement that he is the right choice.

However, to someone living in 2008, the idea that Pattinson would be the ideal choice for The Dark Knight would be unthinkable.

The tabloid fodder that was “R-Patz” would seem like the antithesis of the edgy, brooding protector of Gotham City, but then a lot has changed in the last 14 years. So, how did a teen idol known for playing a romantic vampire turn his career in a completely different direction?

It would be easy, at this point, to mock his involvement in the Twilight Saga as some kind of youthful error, but a career is made of many parts.

While he had significant role in the Harry Potter franchise prior to the casting, it was the role of Edward Cullen that shot him into the stratosphere, prompting a period of hype and attention that would last until the concluding chapter of the franchise, Breaking Dawn Part 2, in 2012.

The six films would gross over $3billion combined, and put a spotlight on the starring actors who had been in a relationship during the films’ production.

The actor himself has made several carefully worded comments over the years that some believe betray his dislike for the franchise, but generally he has been open about the role that gave him international recognition.

“It’s lovely now that the mania is not so intense,” he told USA Today in 2019. “I think the only scary part was right in the thick of it all, when it was very, very intense. Now the intensity has died down and it’s just very warm memories.”

It's ten years since Edward’s story ended, and Robert’s began. For many actors associated with one particular role, it can be difficult to break out of being typecast. The fact that Batman is a very different part to his role in Twilight shows how much the actor has worked on the perception of him over the years, and that was down to a very specific formula. Even before the final Twilight film, we got a glimpse of what was to come with 2012’s Cosmopolis.

"For many actors associated with one particular role, it can be difficult to break out of being typecast"

Directed by David Cronenberg, the film saw Pattinson play a bullish, self-destructive billionaire slowly making his way across Manhattan in his limousine office. It represented the type of films Pattinson would favour over the next decade—a unique independent director, and a character that allowed him to show his dark side.

Those who had preconceived notions about the actor from media headlines found those expectations obliterated by characters like Monte, an imprisoned criminal in 2018’s High Life, or the shadowy Charles Marker in The Childhood Of A Leader (2016). This U-Turn seemed to be crowned in 2017 with Good Time, working with hot new American directors The Safdie Brothers.

The kinetic crime thriller saw Pattinson play petty criminal Connie, who manipulates all around him to get what he wants. It’s a staggering, fast-paced performance that showed the grittiness the actor was capable of. It was an arrival of sorts, that shifted Pattinson’s fanbase from lovelorn teens to the arthouse crowd.

For the last few years, top filmmakers have been queueing up to have the star, still only 35, in their project.

High Life was the work of French icon Claire Denis, while American horror director Robert Eggers chose Pattinson for his follow up to The Witch, 2019’s The Lighthouse. The latter film would also make headlines for Pattinson’s process for getting into character, which involved making himself vomit and licking mud.

While the work may seem extreme, it shows an actor who has found his passion, and the lengths he will go to realise a vision.

He would return to big budget filmmaking in 2020’s Tenet, although he wouldn’t compromise on artistic integrity.

While the effects are big and the hype tremendous, Tenet was a Christopher Nolan film, with all the labyrinthine plot twists that implies. For a director of Nolan’s stature to cast Pattinson in a key role, secret service handler Neil, shows the high regard in which the star has come to be held.

So, is this journey through the arthouse over? This month he comes back his first conventional blockbuster in a decade, a film with aspirations of big box office and multiple sequels.

Should it be successful, it’s likely Bruce Wayne will become a part of Pattinson’s life just as intensely as Edward Cullen was. Is this a happy ending, or a slide back into the world he avoided for so long?

Well, it depends on the movie. Reeves’ vision of Batman is by no means sparkly and commercial. His Dark Knight pursues deranged criminal The Riddler (Paul Dano) through a nightmarish vision of Gotham City, also encountering a more brutal take on The Penguin (Colin Farrell).

Even Pattinson’s look out of the Batsuit, is far from the playboy Billionaire identity that Bruce Wayne has assumed in the past.

"Is this a happy ending, or a slide back into the world he avoided for so long?"

The creatives describe him as a “recluse rockstar” who is still grappling with his dual identity through long hair and a haunted complexion.

Robert Pattinson may be taking his first tentative steps back into the world that changed his life over a decade ago, but this is not the same actor.

If he were to come back to big budget movies, it is appropriate that he embody a character with an edgier story that he can bring his independent film experience to. The star is back, but this time it is on his own terms.

The Batman is in cinemas from March 4

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons and Giorgios Bard 

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