It was Valentine’s Day in 2012 when Robert Pattinson gave a very special performance. For one night only, the hunky British actor (born on March 24th, 1986 in London, England) showed the world how truly passionate he can be about his craft. Decked in a plush velour gown and accompanied by his beloved basset hound, Cosmo, he showed up to the London Palladium to sing and dance his way through a live duet with the legendary Dusty Springfield.
Pattinson, wearing a mask fashioned after the iconic Fred Perry polka dots, sang and danced to four tracks off of ‘The Great American Songbook’ with Springfield. The performance was a sold-out success, with 400,000 fans lining the streets outside the Palladium in pursuit of a glimpse of the English rose. (They did get a few glimpses, as there were no open doors or no-stops signs on the red carpet.)
The following year, Sony Pictures Classics bought the US distribution rights to Pattinson’s directorial debut, ‘Remember Me’. The film, based on Michel Faber’s 2009 novel of the same name, charts the rise of Hermann, a charming yet ruthless German businessman played by Pattinson. When his friend, George (James McAvoy), betrays him, Hermann has no choice but to play things smart to survive. But when an enemy arrives out of the blue, George’s cunning and ruthlessness are no match for the savvy businessman. The result: a face-off that will leave one question mark more behind: Will George be able to put paid to his friend’s seemingly untimely demise?
The early buzz surrounding Pattinson’s directorial debut was overwhelmingly positive, with critics hailing him as a promising talent who delivered an enthralling performance. The movie itself is an unapologetic celebration of masculinity, and the trailer is already legendary for its steamy scenes between McAvoy and Pattinson. In celebration of Pattinson’s latest cinematic triumph, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revisit some of the finest moments from the English actor’s filmography. (Special thanks to Tiffany Chon for her research and proofreading on this piece.)
The Making Of ‘Remember Me’
The making of ‘Remember Me’ is as fascinating as the story itself. Over the past year, we’ve watched in awe as the British actor has shown tremendous improvement both as a director and as a producer. (He even made his own music video!) On the surface, it appears as if his first time behind the camera wasn’t all that bad. Pattinson gave an interview to The Guardian in which he credited his directing stint with giving him the confidence to be a bit more ‘hands-on’ as an actor. (Quote: “It’s all about putting yourself in the right place at the right time, and being ready to react to what’s needed. You can’t force confidence; you just have to let it happen.”)
But it’s been a long time since the last episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, and the world is a very different place now. It’s much more complex than just being confident or not confident enough as an actor – it’s about being savvy, prepared, and knowing what is needed in order to land the right role at the right time. For example, when he was first offered the role of George, he was initially hesitant because he felt the script didn’t have enough ‘action’ in it. But after meeting with the writer, he realized that his previous experience as a stuntman would come in handy. (Quote: “It’s all about having the right mindset – being open to new things. You have to be practical too, but you also have to remain artistic.”)
The Music Video
Even before the release of the movie, fans began to speculate about the inspiration behind Pattinson’s mask. Several different candidates crossed their minds: Fred Perry, the creator of the iconic polka dots; the late Jimi Hendrix; and even Michael Jackson were some of the more prominent faces that popped up in people’s heads. (Quote: “I wanted to create a design that was simultaneously classic and contemporary – something that would speak to people of all ages and genders.”)
Pattinson went on to discuss the video in greater detail:
“I was really lucky to be able to work with the wonderful Lisa Lynch on the video for the song ‘Let Me In’. It was a real privilege.” Lynch (one of the most prominent music video directors of all time) directed the four-minute clip, which features Pattinson in full-blown, unbridled passion, seemingly inhabiting every inch of the frame. The English actor’s sheer presence is more than enough to make the song – and its accompanying video – memorable, but Lynch’s vision is unparalleled. (Quote: “The whole thing is very daring – it’s such an artistic statement. In terms of acting, I think he captured something very real and compelling. He plays the song with such feeling and intensity that the mask serves almost as a perfect foil.”)
The video for Pattinson’s ‘Let Me In’ is among the most iconic and memorable videos in the history of music videos. It still remains one of the brightest spots in the British actor’s filmography, even though it’s been several years since its release. His work with Lynch on the video for his 2006 single, ‘Kissing You’, was equally as impressive; the two went on to collaborate on several projects, always proving themselves to be a masterful team.
The Humble Beginnings
‘Remember Me’ marks Pattinson’s second collaboration with James McAvoy after the two acted together in ‘The Last King Of Scotland’ in 2006. While McAvoy’s character, George, is a fairly stereotypical James Bond-like bad boy, Pattinson’s Hermann is portrayed as a more humble, likable individual. At the time of their first meeting, McAvoy jokingly referred to Pattinson as his ‘James Bond brother’, and it’s clear that the two genuinely enjoy each other’s company. However, when push comes to shove and it’s time to act, the Englishman proves to be no pushover. (Quote: “We were both very aware of the fact that this was not something we had done before, and that there were potentially serious consequences to taking on such a role. It was a real test of our abilities as actors, which I believe we passed with flying colors.”)
‘Remember Me’ is based on the autobiographical novel, ‘The Golden Notebook’ by Doris Lessing. (The movie itself is largely inspired by her earlier novel, ‘The Merchant of Venice’.) The story centers on the eponymous heroine, Anna, who is in the process of writing a book about her life. Anna meets Hermann at a party and is immediately smitten. (Quote: “He had an easy manner, which I found very attractive. He seemed open and kind. And he was the complete opposite of George, my husband – something different, which is appealing in a man.”)
Hermann asks Anna to audition for his company’s boardroom, and she subsequently lands a part in a major corporate takeover of a Dutch company. (Quote: “The Dutchman felt that I was the right person for the role. He said that my portrayal of a powerful woman would prove to be the best advertisement for their products I could possibly give them.”)
The Dutchman’s company is purchased by a Japanese conglomerate, and Anna’s contract is subsequently terminated. But before she can start making noise about her firing, she learns that she’s actually pregnant. To add another (unwanted) twist to the story, Anna discovers that her husband, George, is actually Donald Trump, the future 45th U.S. President. (Quote: “I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that George would be the first to know. He is very controlling. He would never allow me to do anything that would upset the apple cart.”)
The bizarre, convoluted tale that is ‘The Golden Notebook’ is a sprawling, multi-generational saga that spans several decades. In a 2012 interview with The Observer, author LESSING discussed the unique challenges of adapting her work for the big screen:
“I find it very hard to adapt my work for the screen because I don’t think I’ve ever really written a movie script. What I do is I write a novel and then I try to find a way to make it work as a movie. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But I love the freedom of being able to write whatever I want.”