The teen-dream turned cineaste talks chaos, optimism and his blistering new thriller.
Overcoat HERON PRESTON, jacket TOPMAN DESIGN, top ECKHAUS LATTA, trousers worn underneath TOPMAN DESIGN, trousers worn over the top ECKHAUS LATTA, chain stylist’s own
In Good Time, Josh and Ben Safdie’s hellish odyssey through the underbelly of the American experiment, Robert Pattinson seems to find what he’s been looking for in his post-Twilight projects: genuine auteur brilliance.
It hardly bears mentioning now that as the last decade closed out, Pattinson had found himself at the centre of a genuine pop culture phenomena: one which people were truly, and scarily, obsessed with. In fact, it was probably amid the press carnival of those hysterical years that he phased out the incessant white noise of gossip and speculation. Does he read what the tabloids are saying about him, I ask. “Not really,” he replies, “because the narrative they set out for me is the most repetitive thing ever. It’s depressing.”
It’s certainly hard to deny that Pattinson tends to have been portrayed and defined in a certain way by the media. And that is probably why, when given the opportunity to curate his own section for Wonderland’s Autumn Issue and exercise total creative freedom over his cover shoot, the former teen-idol jumped at the chance to explore something surreal and unexpected. “I like doing things that I haven’t done before,” he muses. “I like how it makes me feel rather than consistently repeating myself. It’s such a great feeling when a magazine basically lets you do whatever you want. There’s only so many opportunities you have in life to do that.”
(LEFT) Overcoat HERON PRESTON, jacket TOPMAN DESIGN, top ECKHAUS LATTA, trousers worn underneath TOPMAN DESIGN, trousers worn over the top ECKHAUS LATTA, chain stylist’s own
(RIGHT) Vest DIOR HOMME, coat SANDY LIANG, hat stylist’s own
If the way he’s chosen to portray himself here wasn’t evidence enough of his inquisitive and unconventional bent, it’s clear from Pattinson’s post-Twilight oeuvre of work that he clearly values storytelling of a less commercial character. In recent years he’s taken roles in movies as challenging and varied as The Rover, Cosmopolis and Life; movies that Pattinson tells me he chose because they “are so unabashedly themselves. You can feel they are extremely personal to the directors. They’re not trying to please anyone.”
But Good Time, which has the flare and grit of 1970s New Hollywood masters like Martin Scorsese and William Friedkin, but a white knuckle dynamism that’s all its own, is pleasing more people than Pattinson expected. “I am a little surprised by the number of people talking about the movie,” he explains. “I always thought it was going to be pretty divisive and for people to be appreciating it like this is awesome.”
Rest assured, the hype and appreciation is well deserved: Good Time is indisputably Pattinson’s career highlight thus far. And if that’s partly courtesy of the Safdies’ excellent direction – the energy of which Pattinson describes as “pretty incomparable” – and a pulsating, braying throb of a synthscape score by electronic master Onehotrix Point Never, then it’s Pattinson in particular, as the damaged fulcrum of this grubby urban nightmare, who announces with this film the full extent of his talents.
(LEFT) Suit and chain LOUIS VUITTON
(CENTRE) Blazer, vest, top and trousers DIOR HOMME, harness ZANA BAYNE, safety pin chainmail GYPSY SPORT. Retouching HELEN CHR
(RIGHT) Cape DIOR HOMME
Chased through New York by the police following a botched bank robbery that leaves his mentally challenged brother in prison, Pattinson’s Connie Nikas is a man desperate. A bedraggled, rat-like thing with peroxide hair, he’s a frantic outcast pushed underground – one cramped into tight spaces and tighter shots, pursued closely by the Safdies’ camera down bleak, fluorescent corridors and claustrophobic neon rooms. His fate is inevitable; watching it an exercise in jangled nerves and shredded eardrums.
The movie is also one which seems authentically embedded in its own geography. It doesn’t simply use New York as a backdrop, but throws itself into the very heart of the urban sprawl. And, according to Pattinson, that’s something very intentional from the Queens-born directors: “It did feel particularly immersive,” he agrees. “I really loved that in their last movie, Heaven Knows, the line between the world of the movie and the world of NYC just existing around it was so faint. I think how they set up their sets, the actors they cast and also their style of writing dialogue really helps that.”
Of course, Pattinson himself is no NYC-native, let alone anything like the disturbed social outcast he portrays. But total immersion is something he feels passionate about: “I like entering worlds that feel foreign,” he tells me, “and when I got involved in Good Time I loved the idea of highlighting a subculture and magnifying it until it seems almost unrecognisable.”
Indeed, such was Pattinson’s immersion in this particular project that he played an instrumental role in conceiving the movie alongside the Safdie brothers. “There was no script originally,” he recalls, “and [we] would send character backgrounds and ideas for scenes periodically over about 10 months. I also met a lot of people as…character inspirations around New York for a few months beforehand – people who had pretty similar backgrounds to my character and who were in and out of jail or in halfway houses.”
At first glance, then, both this gritty movie and its incandescent star seem a world away from Yuval Noah Harari: the tenured professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow have provided unprecedented insights into where humanity’s been and where we might be heading.
But, as their conversation attests, Pattinson and Harari make for a surprisingly good match. Perhaps that shouldn’t be so unexpected, though. After all, in Good Time, Pattinson and the Safdie brothers interrogate today’s American reality in their own piercingly cinematic way. And in this specially curated portfolio, Pattinson has quizzed and featured those who are either warping or articulating those same realities. His dual interest, in those who destroy but, more importantly, those who build, is clear. While he believes that “chaos is in general pretty interesting,” he concludes on a resoundingly positive note. “I’m always optimistic about the world…it’s always incredibly important to celebrate people who can help others see logically and objectively.”
And that’s where Harari comes in. Because understanding reality from a position of astounding cross-disciplinary knowledge, and helping others to understand it too, is what he does better than almost anybody else. So, while reading their expansive and conceptually rich conversation, perhaps heed the advice of the movie’s well-meaning psychiatrist, who tells Connie’s brother with an unintentionally wicked irony, “This place where we are now, it can be a lot of fun if you let it. You’re gonna have a good time.” Trust us.
Read Robert Pattinson’s conversation with Yuval Noah Harari in full in the Autumn 17 Issue; out now and available to buy here.
Jacket and sweatshirt KENZO, top PALACE, vintage trousers stylist’s own, tights EMILIO CAVALLINI, shoes ADIDAS
Douglas Cornwall III
Mischa Golebiewski and Cheeky Maa
John Varvatos using Swarovski and OPI
Erin Lark Gray
Set Designer Assistant
Asher Torres at Pier59 Studios and Ryan Bevans
Lyndsea Lamarr, David Mendooza and Allyson Camitta
Producer and Entertainment Direction
Habib Guabintan at Dior Homme NYC, Pier59 Studios and Tip Top Props and The Refinery Hotel New York