It started with a small group of fans camping out in front of an apartment block. Their numbers swelled as the story of a heartbroken boy, pining for his lost love, filtered out through social media. Their vigil soon attracted a large audience, and for the next five years, the spot outside Pattinson’s apartment has become synonymous with an exuberant Japanese Christmas.
This year, the camp has changed. Fuelled by a string of romances, culminating with the Oscar-nominated actor’s wedding to his girlfriend, FKA Twigs in February, it has shifted from a heart-wrenching moment of reflection to a celebration of love. And while the exuberant atmosphere still predominates, this year’s camp has become an occasion for some lighthearted jousting.
The Making Of An Unlikely Alliance
Just as his career in Hollywood was taking off, Robert Pattinson, 46, was cast as the lover in the 2013 movie, Bel Ami. Set in Edwardian England, the historical drama follows the comical exploits of artist Guy Deville (Pattinson), who becomes entangled in a scandalous love triangle with Camille (Kristin Scott-Thomas) and her husband, the Marquis (Richard Madden). Amidst the aristocratic society, illicit affairs and artistic flourish, the movie also marked the actor’s cinematic debut in a leading role. It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and went on to win the Golden Lion award at the festival.
Directed by Francois Ozon, who previously helmed 2004’s Oscar-winning Irreversible, the film established Pattinson as a bonafide romantic leading man. In December 2013, Bel Ami became the highest grossing British film of all time in Japan, raking in over £27 million.
The following month, in the finale of season three of Netflix’s smash-hit series, The Crown, a teary-eyed Pattinson can be seen in the audience, watching Queen Victoria (Michelle Dockery) and Albert (Matthew Goode) exchange vows before an audience of family and close friends.
Romantic Entanglements And Rising Fame
While Bel Ami was being showered with praise, the actor had further cinematic milestones to achieve. Following a low-profile year in 2014, he returned in 2015 with a string of high profile releases. First up was The Jungle Book, a live action adaption of the beloved children’s book. Set in the jungle, it features a cast of famous faces (including Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Neel Sethi) and is packed with animals, heart-stopping action and a song by Coldplay.
The movie was panned by critics but was a box office success, earning over £22.8 million in Japan and becoming the country’s second highest-grossing foreign film of all time, behind only Spiderman 3.
A month later, he was back in Japan, this time for Twilight, the final film in the vampire saga. The highly anticipated finale to the saga that reignited the genre saw Pattinson star alongside Kristen Stewart, returning once again to the country he now calls home. Unfortunately, the result was a huge disappointment. Poorly reviewed and a financial flop, the movie earned just £13.6 million in Japan. Nevertheless, in just three years, the actor had gone from relative obscurity to international fame.
A Change Of Plans
But while Twilight marked a low point, it wasn’t long before Pattinson was on the rebound. At the start of 2016, he released Beautiful And The Dark, a thriller about a young man whose plans to propose to his girlfriend are derailed by a string of murders. Starring alongside a rising starlet, Ruby Rose, the movie scored poorly with critics but was a commercial success. Its premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival in September saw Pattinson receive a warm welcome from a packed house, and it went on to earn £14.9 million in Japan, becoming the country’s third highest-grossing film of all time.
The year’s final cinematic outing was the star-studded romance, Sleeping Beauty. Set in the fair isle, the movie sees an aging actor, Michael Caine play the role of a teetotaller king who falls for a free-spirited girl, played by Kelly MacDonald.
The country certainly seems to have taken a shine to its most famous export. In 2017 alone, there are 18 English speaking film festivals across Japan, including the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Nagoya International Film Festival.
And it’s not just film. In addition to acting, the country also offers a wealth of opportunities in the world of music, with renowned Japanese composers like Noburokazu Yamamoto and Toru Takemitsu creating some incredible soundtracks. The Japanese have even coined the phrase, ‘kawaii diplomacy’, to describe how they’ve used their cuteness as a way of strengthening ties between countries.
One Last Hurrah
It seems that the actor has one last hurrah to give. Wrapped in a bear hug by fans as he made his way to work, the star has seemed more relaxed and at ease than we’ve ever seen him. Weighing in at a svelte 209lbs, he also seems to have let his hair down and made some unforgettable fashion choices in the process.
The culmination of all this is 2020’s Fallen Angels. Directed by Joe Lawlor and starring an ensemble cast, the movie is the story of four young men who travel to Japan in search of adventure and employment. Their plans quickly turn to shambles when they learn that their beloved football team has been bought by a yakuza gang. It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy, and it seems that the actor has truly found his groove.
The movie will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, with a theatrical release in Tokyo following in December.
Whatever the future holds for the actor, it’s hard to deny that Japan has seen something special in him. From a career low point to unexpected heights, this year has been an incredible bounce back for the British actor and, at the very least, has seen him make a triumphant return to Japan.