The actor who plays the titular character in 2019’s The New York Times best-selling novel The Knack is known for his eccentric and daring lifestyle. But before becoming famous as a literary character, he rose to fame playing the charismatic and rebellious Prince Rafael in the Holland Taylor directed Lawrence of Arabia. While the movie was a major box office success, it wasn’t just the story of the Bedouin rebels that made headlines—it was Pattinson’s performance as Rafael that drew audiences worldwide.

A Literary Character

The character of Rafael in The Knack was based on the life of Lawrence of Arabia (1898–1935), a British engineer who became the definitive tamer of the Arabian desert. In a 2017 interview, author Stephen Moffat revealed that he based the story on Lawrence’s own experiences, saying, “I read Lawrence’s diaries and also used his voice, which was interesting. I think he would have loved the book. He would have been amused by the Edward Elton character.”

Lawrence was adventurous and unconventional – he went by Dodo and Dodo Roberts in his day-to-day life – and he didn’t suffer fools gladly. The literary critic E. M. Forster said of him, “No one is more contemptuous of book-learning than Lawrence. For him, knowing about Arabian sheiks, Bedouin freedom fighters and other scamps is just as valuable as knowing how to handle a sword or a camera.”

Pattinson’s Rebellious Roots

Born Robert Pattinson on March 17, 1987, in London to Australian actress Debra Mantey and English writer Stephen Pattinson, he rose to fame in 2011 after playing the rebellious and lovable Rafael in The Knack. He had previously appeared in small roles in film and television, but had really burst onto the international scene with his performance as Rafael. In 2015, at the advanced age of 28, he became the second-most recognizable face in the world, just behind Mark Wahlberg and ahead of Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

Pattinson was raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and began acting at the age of four. For a long time, he considered farming to be his ideal career. He didn’t always see eye-to-eye with his famous father, however, who described his approach to acting as “a kind of missionary work,” and told The New York Times in 2017 that his son would rather spend his time “chilling with his friends than going to school.”

Raising Rabbits For Meat

Raising rabbits for meat is a vegan alternative that’s gaining in popularity as more people become aware of how cruel traditional animals are treated for meat consumption. Now that he’s a father himself, Pattinson is considering switching to a vegan diet because he doesn’t want to contribute to the suffering of animals. While filming the historical drama The Duellists in 2011, he was given a task which required him to pull teeth from dead animals – a skill he learned – and, as a result, decided to become a full-time vegan.

The teeth pulling roles were a stepping stone to fame for Pattinson, who said in an interview, “I don’t really enjoy doing teeth, but it’s always nice to have good reviews.” He continued, “It’s not really something that I would want to do for a living. It’s more of a passion, really. I’ve always liked animals and been really interested in conservation.”

Since then, he’s continued to make strides in promoting veganism and cruelty-free living. In 2019, he narrated the Netflix documentary The Game Changers, which revealed the truth about traditional sport and the toll it takes on animals. He’s also joined the Vegan Sports Revolution, which uses sport to encourage people to go vegan, and in April, he was a guest on an episode of The Joe Rogan podcast, where he shared his love for animals and veganism.

Pattinson’s Rebel Spirit

While most people only know him as Rafael from The Knack, Pattinson’s life and career have been full of adventure and excitement. He frequently travels the world – alone or with a small group of friends – and has been open about his desire to explore new territories. In fact, he told The New York Times in 2017 that the only thing he’s not looking for is a regular roommate. He added, “I don’t really like staying in hotels. I always feel like I’m in a restaurant, and someone is going to come in and say, ‘Hi, how are you? Can I get you some coffee?'”

Pattinson’s first major role after The Knack was the title role in the 2014 The Bowler, an Australian comedy about bowling greens and the struggles of single blokes. For his performance in The Knack, Pattinson won Best Supporting Actor at the 2014 Australian Film Industry Awards and was subsequently nominated for Best Acting at the 2015 Saturn Awards.

Pattinson plays Arthur Hendon, a genuine bloke who doesn’t let society’s preconceived notions of what a man should be hold him back – a character he described as a “bastard child of Bill And Melinda Harris.” Arthur is the sort of man who doesn’t walk and talk like a lady – a character trait his father, Stephen Pattinson, refers to as “picking up the bonus territory that society has left for girls.”

The Prince Who Wasn’t

While Rafael was a figment of Lawrence’s imagination, Pattinson’s character in The Knack was based on a real person. In fact, Lawrence was a bit of a prince himself, describing his early years as a “petty aristocracy,” and spending most of his time between London and Arabia in a bit of a princely daze.

Throughout The Knack, we’re introduced to a Richemont golden arrow watch, which Pattinson began wearing after the book’s end. For real, though, Lawrence never did own a Richemont watch – the genuine article is now valued at over $30,000 USD – and he never wore a golden arrow on his own wrist. The design was inspired by a Greek coin, the mythical Arrow of Zeus, and carried as a symbol of the “noblest traits of man: self-reliance, independence and strength.”