There are two things Robert Pattinson would like you to take away from his involvement in David Cronenberg’s latest film, Comopolis.
The first and most important is this: Cosmopolis is not Twilight.The second is that, despite what critics may surmise, he is nothing like Eric Packer – Cosmopolis‘ billionaire whiz-kid protagonist who spends nearly the entire film inside his limo as he and a security detail drive across Manhattan (played by a barely-disguised Toronto) in pursuit of a haircut.
“It’s a flawed question,” Pattinson responds when I ask about any similarities with his character.
Sitting in the cave-like confines of the screening room at Toronto’s Thompson Hotel and surrounded by the rest of the Cosmopolis cast and its director, the British actor considers his answer before carefully before fixing his signature gaze squarely on me.
“The relationship with Kevin (Durand, who plays Packer’s bodyguard and best contact with world outside his limo), it’s a very specific relationship,” he says, alluding to his own relationship with his bodyguard Dean. “Having relationship with security…that’s one thing which I kind of had an idea about.”
But Pattinson claims the key difference between his Wall Street shark alter-ego and his true self is that Packer made the decision to put himself into seclusion, whereas the Twilight star was forced into it by his immense fame.
“The isolation stuff is totally different because [Packer's] chosen his life,”he says. “It bears very little resembles to [my] reality.”
Sensing a moment of possible tension, Croneberg jumps in: “Eric is a non-celebrity, deliberately. He only has security to protect him or kidnap him, really. But not from fans. He has no fans.
Sarah Gadon – the Canadian actress who plays Pattinson’s wife in the film based on the Don DeLillo book of the same name — disagrees. She tells me that, despite his protests, there is a reason Pattinson got the part.
“When I first heard that Rob was going to be in the part I thought, ‘That was so brilliant because who else is going to be believable as a young billionaire these days?’” the 25-year-old Toronto native recalls. “I thought, ‘Rob is going to be able to pull this off in a brilliant way because people will be able to make the connection to how inaccessible he is and how inaccessible Eric Packer is and how much power is in both of their hands, even though they’re both young men.’”
In the moments leading up to the start of filming, Pattinson lacked Gadon’s confidence in both himself and his ability to master the role and its demanding whiplash dialogue, courtesy of DeLillo’s post-modern prose.
“I was [in the] very obvious throes of a panic attack [before production began in Toronto in May 2011],” the 26-year-old says.
“I guess that’s kind of my process. I have to go through the motions of feeling like I’m having a heart attack before playing a role,” Pattinson continues with a nervous laugh. “I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Can I come up with an interpretation of Eric that’s completely original in two weeks? That’s completely ridiculous.’ But there’s something about the construction of Don’s writing that made it so easy.”
Relaxing into his chair a bit, Pattinson explains that that, unlike his other films, Cosmopolis‘ script left no room for improvement.
“There’s something about the construction of Don’s writing that made it so easy. There were no rewrites. Normally that’s the first thing you’re thinking about as an actor, because the script is just shit with no foundation to stand on and you’re so used to just changing it all the time, every single movie, that with this, once you suddenly get to the idea [that] ‘We’re not changing any of the script, the script is fine,’ it’s you that’s the problem!”
The actor credits his director for putting his restless mind at ease.
“I think [Cronenberg] just said, when we started shooting, ‘What will be will be,’” which was encouraging since Pattinson readily admits, “I’m not a post-modernist, like, scholar or anything.”
Ultimately, whether he likes it or not, Cosmopolis‘ commercial appeal, and possibly Pattinson’s longevity as a leading man, will be based partly on whether his audience is willing to make the jump to a post-Twilight reality with him.
Asked about how his leading man’s fanbase are reacting to a difficult, art house film, the 69-year-old Cronenberg — who has said he hopes to work with Pattinson again in the future – says with a smile, “These were girls who had read Harry Potter and Twilight and now they’re reading DeLillo, and they still like it and they still want to see the movie. So I thought, ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with that.’”