Robert Pattinson has been waiting for his new movie The Lost City of Z to be revealed to moviegoers for nearly a decade. That’s about how long ago the 30-year-old Twilight alum was first approached by writer-director James Gray for his adaptation of David Grann’s popular nonfiction book about explorer Percy Fawcett’s lengthy, dangerous search in the early 20th century for a hidden indigenous civilization in the Amazon.
Pattinson hung with the project through multiple lead changes (from Brad Pitt to Benedict Cumberbatch to, finally, Charlie Hunnam, who plays Fawcett). He even outgrew the role he was initially in the running for: Percy’s son Jack, played by Spider-Man Homecoming star Tom Holland. Pattison now portrays Henry Costin, a minor character in the book expanded for the screen, Fawcett’s hard-drinking, thick-bearded aide-de-camp. (The movie opens in theaters on Friday.)
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Movies, Pattinson talked about the risks he’s attempted to take over the course of his career (even if no one noticed), if he’d ever consider returning to role of vampire Edward Cullen, and his embarrassing online habit that will pay dividends in one of his next films, Good Time.
How familiar were you with the source material for Lost City of Z? Had you read David Grann’s book?
Yeah, James gave me the book when it was a totally different script. Or I may have read it long before there was even a script at all. I think at the time he was thinking about me to play Percy’s son. Because I must’ve only been about 21. And then I just kind of stayed with it as time went on, and it went through all these different casts. [Laughs]
It sounds like the script changed a lot through the years. What were the biggest changes made over time? When I first read it, it was a straight action movie, like Indiana Jones. It was this rip-roaring adventure movie, and not this kind of epic, elegant saga that takes place over 30 years.
Costin is a much more minor character in the book. What did you build off of to shape him?
Well, I always thought with Percy’s character it would be a good idea to have a foil. I always interpreted Percy’s character as this man determined to fix the reputation that he thinks he’s deserved, and which his father has ruined for him. … He keeps going back to the jungle again and again and again, just to fix this insecurity. So I liked the idea of Costin being this character who basically had a total disregard for the English aristocracy or any kind of social climbing whatsoever. So he didn’t really want to bring anything back from the jungle, anyway. The entire point for him was just to go because he had nothing to live for in England.
How much information was out there about the real guy? Any sense of his military career?
Well, Costin in reality was a refrigerator salesman. There was an advert in the Times of London saying, “Adventurers Wanted.” That’s actually how he got the job. [Laughs] He was one of the only people who applied for it. But he was in the army — he was a physical fitness instructor. But really, I liked the craziness of just applying to be an adventurer.
You rock some pretty rad facial hair in this movie. Did that look grow on you — pun intended — or did you not care for it?
By the end, I was definitely over it. But at least when you’re shooting a movie with your face covered, there’s very little makeup to be done. It was definitely a “Get out of bed and that’s it” situation. That helped in the middle of the jungle.
You’ve played lead roles, you’ve taken supporting parts — this is more of a supporting role in an ensemble. Do you have a preference these days?
There are certain directors I just really want to work with, and you bring what you can to a part. But in some ways it’s kind of nice [to play a supporting role]. It is a little bit liberating because you don’t have to concentrate on the narrative thrust of the story. You’re just purely thinking about character and just embellishing it a little bit. But with this, I would’ve played any part in it, pretty much.
Costin has some great lines in this movie. I think one of my favorites is when you say to Hunnam, “We’re too British for this jungle.” Did you guys feel out of your element filming in the jungles of Colombia?
No, I really loved it. I guess in some ways, it was kind of hard. But it’s just incredible, going to work every day in a little boat, going up river in the middle of virgin jungle in Colombia. It was very, very close to being on vacation, to be honest. [Laughs]
Watch Pattinson and Hunnam in a scene from The Lost City of Z:
But the type of vacation where you couldn’t eat anything?
Well, yeah. There’s a certain degree of harshness, and we were trying to lose as much as weight as possible in a really short period of time. So I guess there’s that element to it. But there’s a reason those guys wanted to keep going back as well. It’s amazing.
Do you consider yourself pretty adventurous? Could your relate to that thirst for exploration?
Yeah, definitely. I do sometimes find myself gravitating toward a job just because it’s shooting out in the middle of nowhere. If I’m shooting in a city, generally it can become a repetitive scenario. If you have anyone taking pictures on their phones, it just constantly reminds you of the reality of your life. And I find it becomes a little more difficult. Whereas if you’re out in the jungle and everyone is on the same page as you, you just sort of believe in character a little bit more.
What is your own personal Amazonian adventure? What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career so far?
I don’t know: I’ve done things which I thought were going to be really risky, which ended up not being risky at all. I generally try to keep finding ways to push the envelope as much as I can, and whenever I get the opportunity to do it, I generally try to take it. But I don’t really worry about taking risks, to be honest.
What’s something you thought was risky that ended up not being so?
I did this movie years ago called Bel Ami, which was at the height of all the Twilight stuff. It was this Guy de Maupassant novel about a guy who seduces women specifically to screw them out of their money and ruin their lives. I thought that was a relatively subversive choice to make at the time. [Laughs] And no one really seemed to think the same thing.
What is your relationship with your Twilight fan base these days? Has the madness that surrounded your life calmed down at all?
It’s definitely calmed down in terms of my everyday life, but mainly because I spend more time in London, which is totally different. And I’m doing more parts that just sort of interest me, while in a lot of ways taking a little bit of a step back just to learn and get better. I guess I’ve never really acknowledged what the fan base is, or even if I have one. [Laughs]
Oh, you have one.
But, yeah, I’m always pretty curious about what people say afterward, and who turns up, who likes the movie. It’s always kind of random. But I love it when someone who you just really wouldn’t expect says, “Oh, I liked you in this.”
What films have been most unexpected?
It’s always just really strange. I’ve done a bunch of movies which I thought might’ve been impossible to be seen. There was this film Little Ashes, where I played Salvador Dalí, from years and years ago, and just the other day I was walking down the street and somebody came up and said, “Oh, that’s my favorite film!” You kind of forget that people even watch your films. [Laughs]
What do you think of all the universe building that is going on in Hollywood right now and the possibility that they could reboot Twilight and expand its world? Could you ever see yourself playing Edward Cullen again?
Really, they’re expanding it? So I’ll get my own spin-off? [Laughs]
Potentially! It could be called Edward: Homecoming.
But would you ever dip back in if the opportunity presented itself?
I mean, I’m always kind of curious. Anything where there’s a mass audience — or seemingly an audience for it — I always like the idea of subverting people’s expectations. So there could be some radical way of doing it, which could be quite fun. It’s always difficult when there’s no source material. But, yeah, I’m always curious.
What type of role haven’t you been offered yet that you’re eager for?
I sort of, to a fault, rely a little bit too much on being inspired by things that land on my doorstep. I literally just did this movie called Good Time, which I think is a really interesting role. But I would’ve never, ever predicted that I would’ve liked it. [Pattinson plays a New York bank robber running from the police.] I think that he’s basically the embodiment of an angry commenter on the Internet.
That sounds great.
Well, if you watch the movie you’ll probably be like, “Huh? What are you talking about?” But one of my favorite things to do — this is quite embarrassing — but you know how when you look on Amazon and you see a product that’s got a consumer review that is so scathing, on like an electric toothbrush or something? Like, literally buying this toothbrush has ruined this person’s life. I always click on that person’s buying history, or their other reviews, and I’ll just read them for days and days. And I’m really amused. These people just have to vent this kind of furious anger on product reviews. I’ve always found that sort of character really interesting. [Laughs]
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