It’s been a long time now since Robert Pattinson was able to enjoy complete anonymity. From the moment Pattinson landed the much-coveted role of Edward Cullen in the Twilight series, he has been unable to escape the small army of star-struck preteen girls that follow him around relentlessly. But as soon as Pattinson entered the Brave New World that awaited him outside of the global phenomenon that was Twilight, audiences everywhere discovered that there was more to this actor than just good looks and sparkles.
Let’s face it, if you’ve glanced at a newspaper or magazine since the year 2008, then you’ve probably heard of Robert Pattinson. Despite a small awareness of who he was following his first major role as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Pattinson’s career only exploded after he ‘graced’ our screens as Edward Cullen – the brooding, lovelorn vampire star of Suzanne Nichol’s Twilight novels.
Adapted into a film series between 2008 and 2014, no one could have guessed quite how much impact Twilight would have on the lives of teenage girls everywhere who wanted a sparkly vampire boyfriend all of their very own. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why Pattinson frequently states that “Twilight’s the hardest part I’ve done.”
Not only has he had a lot of grief to put up with from the paparazzi and the public alike, but there’s no denying the dull and limiting nature of the character itself. Throw Kristen Stewart into the mix, and it’s no surprise that Pattinson was looking for an escape from the limelight.
And this escape was found in the low budget indie dramas that Pattinson has preoccupied himself with over the past seven years. Ever since he first dipped his toe into the indie pool with 2010’s Remember Me, starring Emilie Ravin, it’s been clear that this is where Pattinson is most comfortable.
Although Remember Me had a mixed critical reception due to the ambulance-chasing nature of its final plot twist, it was certainly a step in the right direction. Stand outs since have been The Rover (2014), a gritty and violent post-apocalyptic drama starring Guy Pearce, as well as 2015’s Life, a biography that documents the friendship between photographer Dennis Stock (Pattinson) and actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan) during the 1950s.
Although these projects sound completely different, one being a stressful endeavour, whilst the other is a slow and steady biopic, the characters that Pattinson selects all share something in common. Philosophically lost, downtrodden, and generally harbouring innate anxieties, they all present qualities that tend to make for an interesting character study. You could even argue that these characters share qualities with Pattinson himself, anxiety drawn from years in the hostile limelight, making his transition from big to small screen ever more poignant.
Sadly, not all of Pattinson’s films have gained a lot of traction over the past few years, which means that, despite strong performances all round, Pattinson will probably never again reach the lofty heights of fame afforded him by Twilight. In this respect, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with another English actor who has had to fight the same battle. Daniel Radcliffe, star of the Harry Potter franchise from the age of eleven, has similarly battled to escape the fame and Hollywood grind.
From dark horror thrillers such as Horns (2014) to the more muted and unpredictable Swiss Army Man (2016) Radcliffe has certainly been testing and learning since Harry Potter was laid to rest. That’s not to say they’ve all been successful experiments – due to the very niche nature of a lot of his projects, many of them fail to gain the commercial success that they deserve.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not films worth seeing, or that Radcliffe doesn’t impress in every single one of them. And it’s much the same with Pattinson. Despite a few missteps, he seems a lot more comfortable in his current roles, and therefore his audience is more comfortable as well. There can even be parallels drawn between Radcliffe and Pattinson’s initial roles.
Take Harry Potter and Edward Cullen themselves. So yes, one happens to be an immortal vampire and the other a wizard, but the basic character traits are the same – wooden, romantically challenged, and lacking any emotional depth whatsoever. It’s not hard to see why both actors might have wanted to extend themselves to slightly more challenging and charismatic roles.
And it seems that Pattinson might finally be hitting his stride in recent years. We saw Pattinson move back to more mainstream offerings with Lost City of Z (2016) alongside Charlie Hunnam and Tom Holland. Although once again this didn’t quite reach what could be called an entirely positive reception, this is the first star-studded ensemble cast we’ve seen Pattinson be a part of in a few years. Perhaps a ploy to keep himself relevant in Hollywood after a few box office blunders, needless to say it’s certainly done the trick.
And let’s not forget Good Time as something to get excited about. Keen to throw out any memory we have of his breakout role, Good Time is the perfect opportunity for Pattinson to show the world how far he’s come from his glittery vampire days. Whatever the reason might be for his career shift, it’s hard not to be glad that Pattinson has shied away from the large franchise limelight towards slightly more side-show affairs. And if the initial positive response seen from critics upon first previews of the film at Cannes this year are anything to go by, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more of the same from Pattinson. And that can only be a good thing.