Most actors wouldn’t even consider playing in a romantic comedy, but when Robert Pattinson read the script for the upcoming romantic comedy Never Been Kissed, he knew it was the role of a lifetime. The 24-year-old British actor has built an impressive acting resume in the past few years, playing iconic characters in both popular and award-winning films (he was even nominated for a BAFTA). But it was his performance as Marlon Brando’s son in The Brandolinis that really started his career in Hollywood.
Now Pattinson is teaming up with Anna Wintour and company to bring his unique brand of humor and charisma to the big screen in Never Been Kissed, a romantic comedy that follows a group of ex-lovers who get together for a sexy reunion.
We talked to Pattinson about how he prepared for the role, his thoughts on women in comedy, and what it was like to work with Anna Wintour.
How He Prepared For The Role
While most actors would dread the thought of performing in a romantic comedy, Pattinson embraced it. In fact, he was so sure that the sexy comedy would be a hit that he decided to take a year off from filming The Tourist, which he had just finished, to prepare for the role.
“I loved that [romantic comedy] script. But I wasn’t sure if I was right for it,” Pattinson said. “Then when I was reading it, the more I read it, the more I wanted to be a part of it. At the same time, I thought it was an incredible opportunity to make the transition from a leading man to a character actor. I thought it would be a great way to learn more about acting rather than just playing someone’s son or best friend.”
So Pattinson took a year off from his busy schedule to study acting at London’s Central School of Ballet and to work on his comedy chops. As he put it, “I needed a break from doing action films and trying to be too perfect.”
Pattinson also credited his time off as contributing to his exceptional performance in Never Been Kissed. “I had a nervous breakdown at some point last year. It was a pretty awful time, mentally and physically. I think the year off really did help,” he said.
Why Comedy Is A Great Choice For An Actor
Comedy is a great choice for an actor because it’s rarely credited for being a pure form of art. More often than not, it’s seen as being a combination of improvisation and scriptwriting. This makes it a great vehicle for learning to improvise and to write jokes and stories.
“I like that it’s such a mix,” Pattinson said. “It has all these different elements, and you never know which one is going to come up.”
Pattinson also appreciates that comedy gives him the opportunity to display a wider range of emotions. He pointed to his turn as a sad clown in the movie The Descendants, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, as an example.
“I like that the range of emotions that you can portray in a comedy are far more diverse than any other genre,” he said. “I think it’s the greatest opportunity for an actor.”
Working With Anna Wintour
It’s no secret that Anna Wintour, the famed editor-in-chief of Vogue, is a comedy snob. The longtime fashion arbiter has a vivid memory of a particularly funny joke and frequently speaks about how much she enjoys humorous anecdotes and jokes.
In 2011, Wintour was named one of the 50 most powerful people in media, earning her the title of “Queen of Fashion Journalism.” She is credited with transforming Vogue into a global style phenomenon and breaking gender barriers in the fashion industry. In recent years, she has also expanded her role as an arbiter of style into politics and spearheaded the #Metoo movement, which encourages women to speak out about sexual misconduct in the workplace. Through it all, Wintour has maintained a staunch interest in comedy. She has a special place in her heart for British humor, stating in a 2006 interview with the Guardian that “when I think of Britain, I think of the black sheep of the family. They’re usually the ones that are the best at comedy.”
Because of this affection for humor, Wintour was a natural choice to work with the director of Never Been Kissed, David Dobkin. The two worked together on the Emmy-nominated special Extra! Extra! in 2011. And when Wintour read the script for Never Been Kissed, she knew it was the role of a lifetime. It’s safe to say that she’s not only a comedy fan, but also a proud amateur magician. She revealed that she holds a special place in her heart for magic (just watch the Extra! Extra! film to see her perform a few tricks).
“I got to work with the funniest woman in the world,” Pattinson said. “She’s just so funny. And to see her work is just so inspiring. We would always laugh, and it was a real joy to be around her. She’s such a talent.”
Working with Wintour was certainly a thrill for Pattinson, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The two had a few battles regarding the script. As Wintour recounted, “I would always suggest that we should try and write something darker, and he would always say, ‘No, we need to make it funny.’” Eventually, she won out, and what was once a dark comedy turned into a romantic comedy.
What Is A Romantic Comedy?
While most people think of romance when they hear the term “comedy,” it’s actually only one part of a larger genre that includes stories about friends (and sometimes even family) going on dates and hooking up. So although there may be comedy in Never Been Kissed, the film is ultimately a romantic comedy.
It’s not that the genre isn’t popular; the 2011 box office indicated that romantic comedies are some of the most successful films of all time, with a total box office collection of over $11 billion. But it’s an indication of just how popular the subgenre has become that Wedding Crashers, the film that started it all, is now considered something of a classic. And it’s not just because the film is filled with romantic comedy staples—grooms smashing guestbooks, bachelors dancing with bridesmaids, and so on—but also because of the way the stories are told. Indeed, the format—following two friends around as they navigate the ups and downs of dating—is something that has defined the subgenre for years.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that Never Been Kissed follows a fairly traditional path: there’s a setup, there’s some (slow) courtship, and then there’s a (mostly) happy ending. But because of the way the stories are told in this film (using satire, exaggeration, and a whole lot of humor), it falls into a different category than most traditional romcoms. Indeed, it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, where it also won the Special Jury Prize for Comedy.
There are shades of grey in all relationships, including the one between friends. But it’s still often viewed as a fairly clean slate—the friends we are supposed to identify with and root for—competing for the same girl. That is, until things take a turn for the worse and the romantic comedy takes a darker turn.