Since breaking onto the scene with Brangelina 15 years ago, Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor has been a symbol of the changing tides of gender roles in the big-biz world. Now 40 and still single, Robert Pattinson’s brand of cool has transcended his years in the spotlight and reached a whole new audience with the launch of the bestselling Bel Ami movie this spring. The former Penny Sterling star reveals how his life has changed since starring in what is today considered a trailblazing movie about bisexuality and how he’s kept fans engaged in his personal life drama over the years.
From Twinkle in Brangelina to A.M.B.A.S.E.
Raised in the UK by a theatrical family, it was natural for Pattinson to follow in the footsteps of his late father, who was also named Robert, and join the theatre. But, after a stint at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he decided to take Hollywood by storm with his screen debut in Brangelina. The acclaimed 2001 comedy-drama about a couple (Benicio del Toro and Angelina Jolie) whose relationship falls apart because of the demands of parenthood proved to be a turning point for the 27-year-old actor.
Although he’s appeared in several movies since then, it’s the character of Christian Grey that has stuck in the public consciousness. The charismatic billionaire and erstwhile chauffeur in the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey shook the world with his forbidden desires and kinky S&M games. The character became a meme and a feminist cause célèbre because of the contrast between his icy exterior and his deeply entrenched feelings of love and devotion to young women he calls his “slaves.” (The New Yorker, which featured Christian Grey on its cover in 2016, called him “the most iconic man of the 21st century.”)
As Hollywood aged largely out of the public eye, the fans turned to their favorite star for glimpses of their idol’s everyday life. In 2017, the year he turned 40, Penny Sterling, the actor’s first significant American film, was released. Directed by James Marsden and based on the novel of the same name, the period drama is about an aging star (Pattinson) who hires a young manager (Marsden) to navigate his crumbling celebrity. The story is interwoven with scenes of Marsden and Pattinson playing poker and engaging in witty repartee about the business of showbiz.
The Man Behind the Mousetrap
While Penny Sterling explored the ebbs and flows of fame and fortune in the life of an A-list star, other films focused on the more private aspects of Pattinson’s life. The most notable of these is Olivier Dahan’s controversial 2007 Oscar contender, The King’s Speech, which marked the English director’s debut in feature film. The film adaptation of the hit play directed by Terry George focuses on the stuttering King George VI (played by Colin Firth), who ascends to the throne at the height of the Second World War. It was the first time in history that the British royal family had publicly acknowledged that George, as he was then known, was gay.
One of the most prominent faces in contemporary British culture, Firth was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the film. The iconic image of Firth, wearing a crown and a tuxedo, gives the game away. When accepting his golden statue, the 69-year-old King George VI choked back tears as he thanked his directors and producers. “I don’t know how I can ever thank you all,” he said. “This is such an honor.”
The following year, the actor made history again as the first bachelor to wed a woman other than his fellow celebrity in a lavish ceremony in Venice. The wedding marked a coming out of sorts for the actor, who had previously kept his sexuality a secret. It has been a landmark year for LGBTQ rights in Britain and around the world, and an even bigger year for Hollywood, whose leading men have started coming out of the closet. With the help of friends and family, the newlyweds, Rob and Alicia, have begun the process of blending their two families. They are already parents to a baby boy and two dogs.
So, what has changed for Robert Pattinson over the years? As he enters middle age, his list of achievements is mouth-watering. Aside from his marital status and a string of critically acclaimed films, he’s graced the covers of several prominent magazines and newspapers, including Vogue, Essence, and Newsweek.
The change in the industry has been remarkable. As he pointed out in a recent interview with the New York Times, it wasn’t that long ago that an A-list celebrity like him would not even have considered dating a man. Nowadays, he says, “If someone asked me if I was homophobic, I’d have to say no. It’s just not something you think about.”
The evolution of attitudes toward LGBTQ rights in Britain is also noteworthy. The nation, which has a long history of same-sex civil partnerships, legalised gay marriage in 2013. In the same year the UK legalized same-sex marriage, the country elected their first openly gay Prime Minister, Theresa May, who went on to win a second term in office in the 2017 general election. This past election was the biggest democratic exercise in the country’s history, with 16.7 million more people turning out to vote than before. These historic events undoubtedly helped to cement the reputation of the UK as a gay-friendly nation.
From Good Genes to Baby Grows
Since the beginning of this year, the public eye has been focused on the upcoming wedding of the year, the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The British royal family is famously private, but it has been a royal wedding blissful year for the media. With every milestone the couple reach, whether it’s wearing the wedding dress for the first time or giving their first royal tour, the world is captivated.
In the midst of all this excitement, it would be remiss of us not to mention the health concerns that the couple have had to overcome. In 2018, Harry was forced to cancel several engagements because of his mental health. This included a tour of Latin America and the Balearics with the Royal Marines. (In what would be his final tour before entering the RAF, Harry even had to return home early because of how exhausted he was.)
While we wait with bated breath for the wedding of the decade, let’s revisit some of the most significant events in the celebrity prince’s life.
A Royal Engagement
Harry and Meghan’s whirlwind romance began in 2016, when the Suits star began to gain popularity in Britain after starring in the TV series. (The actress’s American birthright made her a natural fit for the role. She’s the great-granddaughter of American tobacco tycoon Samuel Pepys and the sister of Emily, who married into the British Royal Family and became known as Princess Emily.)
The couple’s engagement was met with a mixture of delight and intrigue, with many wondering if the union would be constitutional. According to Britain’s Privy Council Office, a government agency that provides rules and processes for the royal family, the engagement is legal because, thanks to a law that went into effect in 2013, first cousins may marry without violating the rules of succession. (This is in contrast to the Romanoff dynasty, whose members must always marry outside the family.)
Harry and Meghan’s wedding will be one of the most lavish events the country has ever seen. The couple have chosen to invite about 140 guests to the church service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The wedding venue will be the marquee-like Great Gallery, which is adjacent to the castle’s entrance. (The venue holds several iconic photos of Queen Victoria and the wedding parties of her descendants, as well as Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine.)
To accommodate such a large number of guests, Harry and Meghan’s wedding dinner will be served in the castle’s State Dining Room. The room, which has been decorated in keeping with the theme of the wedding, is said to be big enough to accommodate up to 600 people. (For those wondering, the answer is yes. The room, which is 5 meters long and 5.5 meters wide, is larger than advertised.)