'The Batman': How Kurt Cobain inspired the 'rock-star edge' in Robert Pattinson's new Caped Crusader

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When Robert Pattinson was announced as the new Batman on May 31, 2019, reactions were decidedly mixed.

Some were surprised, given Pattinson was only 33 at the time, 14 years younger than sitting Caped Crusader Ben Affleck, and had seemingly ditched the world of studio franchise filmmaking after reaching heartthrob status in Twilight to instead focus on smaller, independent art-house films. Others were furious, coining the nickname “R.Batz” and launching a Change.org petition demanding the role be recast. But the overriding sentiment was favorable, that it was a bold choice by Warner Bros., DC and The Batman’s director and cowriter, Matt Reeves.

“People thought it was a bold choice, but I didn’t think that, I thought, ‘Well, he’s a bold actor,’” Reeves, who wrote of a young Bruce Wayne with Pattinson in mind, told us while discussing the latest Batman reboot (watch above). “He’s different in everything that he’s done. And after becoming this kind of pop sensation in Twilight, he went down this path where he became this incredible actor.” It was the Safdie brothers’ tense 2017 thriller Good Time, in particular, that wowed Reeves (Cloverfield, War for the Planet of the Apes).

THE BATMAN, from left: Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle / Catwoman, Robert Pattinson as Batman, 2022. ph: Jonathan Olley / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
Zoë Kravitz and Robert Pattinson in 'The Batman' (Photo: Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection

Pattinson, who for years was chased around by overzealous fans and photographers because of his Twilight stardom, says he didn’t have any reservations about joining another mega-franchise that could put him right back into their crosshairs.

“It seems like the paparazzi industry has just disintegrated over the past few years,” Pattinson laughed.

“Well, now it’s just people with their phones,” added Zoë Kravitz, who co-stars as the pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle.

“Up until today, nothing’s really changed that much,” Pattinson said, at which point Kravitz reminded him the film had not yet been released.

The Batman finds a younger Bruce Wayne than typically depicted onscreen, just two years into vigilantism. Framed like a dark, David Fincher-esque detective tale, the story picks up as Gotham’s mayor is savagely killed by the Riddler (Paul Dano), who leaves a series of notes for “The Batman” as the body count escalates.

While Pattinson spends most of the film in the Batsuit (which he found far more comfortable than the George Clooney Batman & Robin suit, which Pattinson screen-tested in), he reimagines Wayne as someone far different from the debonair, gala-attending playboy we’ve met before. Still reeling from the murders of his parents he witnessed as a child, this Wayne is a recluse with shaggy dark hair, black eye makeup and noticeably despondent vibe, leading early viewers to label him “Emo Batman.”

THE BATMAN, Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne / Batman, 2022. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
THE BATMAN, Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne / Batman, 2022. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

And that’s OK with Reeves.

“I write to music [and while I was writing] I was playing some Nirvana,” the filmmaker says. “And there was something in it that just clicked. The reason that we used “Something in the Way” in the first trailer is because it’s in the movie. There’s a vibe in there where I thought, ‘Oh, this is sort of the mood that I could imagine Bruce Wayne in.’

“It made me think of Kurt Cobain. There’s been a lot of people who [say], ‘Kurt Cobain. What are you talking about? Kurt Cobain, that’s not Batman. He’s this small guy. And it wasn’t that I thought Kurt Cobain was Batman, it was this idea that Kurt Cobain I think had a very uneasy relationship with fame. And I thought a rock-star edge for Bruce Wayne made a lot of sense to me. [It] was almost like being a member of the Kennedy family. Or the British royals, and having to deal with a tragedy and then live in the wake of what was a very public trauma in your life, and then have everyone constantly looking at you and [him] saying, ‘I don’t want to be in that light,’ and retreating and being a recluse.

“For some reason that really connected the idea of Rob as well for me. I could see him as having that rock star edge.”

Watch our full interviews with Reeves, Pattinson, Kravitz, Dano, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell and John Turturro above.

The Batman opens Friday.

Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo

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