The Twilight movies were clearly a huge blessing for Robert Pattinson, but also somewhat of a curse: The 28-year-old Brit has been working overtime to break out of the pin-up mold, gravitating toward edgy indies like David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and this week’s The Rover, directed by Animal Kingdom filmmaker David Michôd. The sometimes brutally violent film features Pattinson as a left-for-dead “half-wit” who joins a vengeful Guy Pearce as they travel across a rural, post-apocalyptic Australia. The very candid Pattinson talked to us about getting down-and-dirty for the role, his strategy for keeping photographers away, and what artist has reignited his love for hip-hop.
Let’s talk about your look in this film. People have said you “uglified” yourself for the role.
The one weird thing [I had] was the teeth. I thought everyone was going to have s—ty teeth in it. Then I end up being the only person in it with s—ty teeth in it [laughs]. But I kind of liked the idea of it, because I went to school with people who didn’t brush their teeth when they were kids, and they always ended up being weirdos.
What did you do to get those nasty teeth?
It’s like paint, and whenever there was a long scene, it would wipe off my teeth. So I would end up with white teeth at the end of the scene, which eventually became a massive hassle. But it was still kind of cool. It was such an odd look when you turn around and see yourself [in the mirror] and there’s this weird thing coming out of your face.
Did you go out in public much to get reactions, or even just to get in character?
Yeah, [but] there was nowhere to go, really. It’s funny: Whenever you have your head shaved, less people come up to you and ask for pictures [laughs]. That’s why I always try to keep my hair really short.
They’re like, “No, no, I don’t want that Robert Pattinson.”
Exactly. “I want the sexy one!”
You very memorably sing along to the Keri Hilson song “Pretty Girls Rock” in this film. Did you have any hand in picking that track?
I do kind of really like that song. I didn’t realize how massive a song it was. I had never heard it before. David emailed it to me and I was like, “Wow, where did you find this?” I thought it was an original track, or a really small thing that he’d found somewhere. But I thought it was kind of perfect for it. As soon as he played it, I was like, “That’s hilarious.”
What’s your relationship with pop music? Are you a fan?
I guess I don’t listen to that much pop music. I listen to almost exclusively hip-hop, especially in L.A. I listen to Shade 45 on Sirius.
What are your jams?
I’m kind of obsessed with Tyga at the moment. I don’t know why, I’ve suddenly had this resurgence of hip-hop. I didn’t listen to it for years, and now I’m obsessed. When I was in school, from like 1997 to 2003, I was really, really into hip-hop. All of my favorite songs are from then. But there’s a couple of new people; I actually really like Chris Brown’s stuff [laughs].
Amy Nicholson, the critic from LA Weekly, wrote of The Rover, “Pattinson appears to have picked this role precisely because it will send his Twilight fans screaming out of the theater.” Any truth to that?
No, I don’t want anyone running out of the theater! I want everyone coming into the theater [laughs]. It’s kind of curious how people interpret it. There’s an element of wanting to see [my Rover character] in a sympathetic way, because of Twilight. But I wasn’t trying to play it sympathetically at all. [laughs] I mean, he kills people. And he’s not quite there.
So clearly critics as well as your fans are making this connection from “A” to “B” but that’s not something you ever think about?
Yeah. I mean a lot of people take away completely different things. I never really try to predict how people are going to react to something. Because I have no idea. I’ve approached every movie thinking like, “I’m going to do the best thing ever.” [laughs] And then regardless of what critics or an audience or anybody says afterwards, I either like it or I don’t —that’s the only thing I care about.
Is there any part of you that misses the sheer madness that accompanied the Twilight series?
Um… when you’re doing the movies, it’s the same thing. I’ve realized how much I loved shooting way outside of the city, because I just can’t stand people taking photos. Even when I was just doing this movie Life in Toronto, we were still out in the middle of nowhere, but it was only about an hour from Toronto. And just everyday, there’s [paparazzi] taking photos with long lenses. And then you can’t talk to anybody on the crew unless you want to have a million photographs. And I feel like I’m putting money into those guys’ pockets by just standing outside. So I’ll constantly hide to make their life as difficult as possible. But then it makes your life difficult as well.
Has it become kind of a game ducking them, or is it just pure annoyance?
It’s literally just [that] I don’t want them to have anything for free. And people who see the pictures, they just assume if you’re getting photographed a lot, it’s because you want to. So if you try to claim privacy afterwards, they’ll be like, “Well what you didn’t care that time.” So you have to be pretty consistent, and say like, “I never want to get photographed, ever.”
Do you ever have to go out in disguise?
It never really works. But I do have a lot of little tricks, like car switches and stuff. You end up being like a bit of a spy. [laughs] Very covert.
Photos: Gtres; Getty Images/Film Magic