Sporting a mullet, a goatee, and a tan, it’s fair to say that Robert Pattinson has been on a bit of a mini-tour since the release of his latest film, Good Time. After making headlines for the wrong reasons, the actor has mostly been keeping low-profile. This hasn’t stopped him from taking on some huge projects, though, including playing the Joker in the forthcoming Joker movie. With the film’s producer, Eric Esrailoglu, by his side, Pattinson discussed the challenges of bringing the iconic comic book villain to life, along with the inspirations behind his unique take on the character.

The Joker Inspiration

Pattinson is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. An internationally renowned Sexiest Man Alive nominee, he burst onto the scene in the 2010 coming-of-age comedy What Maester Don’t Teach You When You Join the Army. Since then, he’s appeared in big budget epics like The Dark Knight Rises and the upcoming Tomb Raider, and smaller, more personal films like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. With roles in several of this year’s highest-profile movies, it’s only a matter of time before he’s back on the big screen.

While working on the comic book adaptation The Legend of Neil Armstrong, Eric Esrailoglu, the film’s producer, stumbled upon a picture of a man dressed as the Joker. Inspired by the image, he decided to give the character a fresh face instead of rehoming him after his 1989 portrayal by Jack Nicholson in the Batman film. After a brief audition process, Pattinson was chosen to play the part. According to Esrailoglu, he was the only person who showed up to the auditions with a Joker costume, and his enthusiasm made the rest of the group believe he was the actual villain. “You look at him, and you know. It’s like a Picasso painting,” Esrailoglu said. “Robert is the best Joker we’ve ever seen. He brings a charm to it that is so endearing.”

Bringing The Joker To Life

Pattinson’s unique talent for embodying complex characters, as well as his perfect cheekbones and penetrating eyes, help him to bring the Joker to life. In a 2014 Vanity Fair op-ed, Pattinson discussed the specific techniques he uses to inhabit the role. “I usually start by researching the material, looking at old newspaper cuttings and magazine stories,” he said. “Then I start doing my homework by watching the original comics, reading and re-reading them, and spending time with my friends who are bigger fans than I am.”

After gaining a deeper understanding of what makes the character tick, Pattinson turned to the man himself for guidance. “I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes the character unique and interesting, and then I finally realized that he doesn’t really have any defining characteristics,” he said. “He’s just a very unique individual who happens to be very wicked. It’s very freeing as an actor because you don’t really have to think about defining characteristics…you just have to show up and be yourself.”

Despite his inimitable charm, the Joker is a complicated character who spares no one. In the comics, he’s killed off-screen as many as twelve characters (including the Penguin and Two-Face). When it comes to acting, the character is known to be a handful. “He’s definitely a lot more difficult to play than most people think he is,” Pattinson said. “It’s a lot more work than usual, but it’s also a lot more fun, too. You have to work hard to make sure that your choices are interesting and that you’re not doing the same thing over and over again, but it’s worth it.

The Difference In Quality

Pattinson is quick to recognize the special qualities that Tomb Raider and The Dark Knight Rises director, Christopher Nolan, brings to the table. “I’ve worked with Chris before, and I’ve learned a lot from him,” he said. “He brings a certain level of quality and professionalism to every project. As a director, he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he always has a clear vision. You can always tell that he’s invested in the project and that he’s taking his time with it. It’s very clear that he’s putting his heart and soul into it.”

Pattinson continued, “He also always does a lot of re-shooting and re-editing, so he’s very detail-oriented. He really studies the screenplay to see how he can improve and change things around. He’s usually up-ending and re-writing the scenes in ways that you wouldn’t expect. Every script that I’ve ever worked on with him has been completely different from what we started out with. He’s always coming up with new ideas and unique ways to approach the material. It’s fantastic.”

Whether he’s playing a terrifying monster or a cheeky prankster, Pattinson is never short of enthusiasm. “I love what I do, and I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he said. “I never get tired of studying or being challenged by a role. It’s always nice to find a part that demands a different set of skills from what you’ve trained for.”