“Casting is a black art,” proclaims David Cronenberg. “You can kill your movie by making a mistake before you’ve even shot film.” When Robert Pattinson’s name was proposed for the lead role of Packer, Cronenberg watched much of his work—including the young actor’s role as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes—and he was sold: “Rob was the most interesting and exciting actor suggested for COSMOPOLIS, and I knew that he would bring something wonderful to the screen—maybe even something he didn’t know he had.” Under David’s direction, Robert delivers an edgy, understated performance. In fact, Robert notes that he has never felt “utilized to this degree as an actor,” and fellow cast member Paul Giamatti describes Robert’s casting as “genius.”
Ultimately, the choice rested on Pattinson’s talent and experience, with or without celebrity. Cronenberg found Robert mature and willing to challenge himself: “…Rob is not deluded about his fame; he understands that popularity is not the essence of being a good actor, and recognizes the danger of taking projects to please others rather than himself.” Bringing the egomaniacal Eric Packer to life required Pattinson to forget being a sympathetic character.
Cronenberg observes, “Some actors worry about not being appealing or sensitive, but that was never an issue for Rob; it was always about finding the often unlikeable truth of who Eric is and what it means to be a 25-year-old billionaire…. Rob is incredibly likeable, but he doesn’t need to be liked.” So Eric Packer, a financial god, perhaps soulless but with feet of clay, is realized by the charismatic, modest Robert Pattinson.
Robert was surprised and excited by the COSMOPOLIS offer. He recounts receiving the screenplay about a year earlier and thinking it was “one of the most original scripts” he’d read. However, he doubted he’d get the part: “Then the offer came out of the blue and I was amazed!” Praising David’s consistently “thought-provoking” and innovative work, Robert says he was certain about taking the part; however, he admits, “I had no idea how I was going to play it…. I was scared at first, mainly because I could interpret the script and play it so many different ways….” He didn’t have much time with David before shooting, but he knew he was in good hands. His trust in the director, as well as David’s in Robert, was wellfounded. “I could feel David moulding it as we shot, and that made me really comfortable because it meant there was no specific right or wrong way. Eventually, I was very relaxed, especially for it being such an intense piece.”