Though he’s best known for his role as the lovable character Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter film series, it took director David Yates a while to find the right actor for the part of Harry Potter’s best friend, Robert Pattinson.
The decision to cast the 27-year-old British actor in the part was met with some resistance from J.K. Rowling herself. It took four years and 20 drafts of the screenplay for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to finally get it right.
Rowling initially thought that she had found “the one,” but then saw a different side to Pattinson when they went on a double date with their mutual friends Kate and Laura Mulgrew. At the time, Mulgrew was starring as Mary Jane Watson in the TV show, Sherlock Holmes, and the couple agreed to participate in the 2007 premiere. (Mary Jane is Sherlock Holmes’ junior partner.)
Even after finding his fame mainly as a screenwriter for the Harry Potter films, Yates still had doubts about casting Robert Pattinson in the role of Diggory. When the Hollywood Reporter interviewed Yates about his relationship with Harry Potter, he revealed: “I never really felt fully confident that he was going to be right for the part. I kept thinking to myself, ‘This is a bit like putting Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon.’ But, you know, sometimes Mel Gibson is right for the part. I think that, for me, it was a bit of a gamble.”
The gamble paid off. Today, despite having never acted before, Robert Pattinson is widely considered to be one of the greatest leading men of this generation. The actor not only successfully portrayed one of the most complex characters in Harry Potter, but also won over audiences with his portrayal of a tortured artist in the Twilight films.
The Making of Harry Potter
Before we get into the juicy details, let’s take a look back at the history of Harry Potter. The British teen sensation was born into the spotlight when his mother, Vanessa, gave birth to him in November 1994. Within a few short months of his birth, he became an internet sensation thanks to his mother’s popular blog. (Yes, that’s right. The future star of Hollywood blockbuster films was once a digital pioneer.)
It was first announced in 2007 that Harry Potter would be played by Richard Griffiths, who at the time was best known for his role as the bumbling headmaster Mr. Featherstone in the film version of The Worst Witch. While filming began that year, it was not until August 2008 that he officially began playing the young wizard. (Griffiths died in March 2014 at the age of 86.)
In one of the most memorable scenes from the Harry Potter series, the now iconic duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort is recreated in meticulous detail in the wonderful special editions of the Deathly Hallows. Though the scene was first in the fourth movie and then refined as the series went on, it was not originally intended to be included in the film. According to the director, David Yates, “It was something that, as we were editing the last movie, it just kept creeping in. We kept putting it back out, and then it just stayed. It’s one of my favorite scenes because it’s such anachronism. We were very conscious of keeping to the ‘golden era’ of Harry Potter. And I think that this scene really encapsulates that because it’s got that ‘80s hair band feel and that ‘80s color pallette.”
The decision to include the duel in the film was not made lightly. Yates says that he, the producers, and the costume department spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to make it work. (The scene was later cut in some countries due to its controversial nature.) In the end, they hit on the idea of using Richard Griffiths’ stunt doubles as the “real” Harry Potter and Voldemort. (The stunt doubles are very good at mimicking Richard Griffiths’ unique ‘80s hair band style.)
Once the decision was made, the rest was simply a matter of putting it in the movie. One of the first scenes that director Yates worked on was the trial by fire scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (The scene was later released on video as part of the extended ‘behind the scenes’ clip, Volume Two.) The challenge for the director was to find a way to show the audience the trials that Harry faces without giving too much away. (You can find out more about the making of the Chamber of Secrets here.)
While preparing for the role of Harry Potter, Robert Pattinson had to go through an extensive process to become an authentic teen. For the part of Hermione Granger, he had to watch the majority of the Harry Potter films to get a sense of the way young women act and what they say, and he even had to get his hair trimmed in a ‘70s-style. (Pattinson had to get his hair trimmed in a similar fashion for the promotional images that he had to turn up for the part.)
The Twilight Saga
The Twilight saga is one of the most successful series of books and films of all time. The series follows the young vampire Lenny, played by the 21-year-old English actor, Robert Pattinson. The films, based on the books by Stephenie Meyer, were enormously popular around the world and are still talked about today. (The first film, Twilight, was originally released on November 20, 2010 and went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time, raking in over $400 million worldwide.)
In many ways, The Twilight Saga is similar to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the first feature film that Pattinson starred in as an actor. In that film, he played Max, a struggling young magician in 1950s London who befriends a young genius, played by Donald Sutherland, for whom he acts as a magical assistant. (Sutherland, who died in 2016, was best known for his role as the iconic Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films.)
Pattinson followed up The Twilight Saga with a turn as the tragic love story’s protagonist, Edward Cullen. In a cinematic adaptation of the beloved novel, Twilight, Edward is a young, gorgeous aristocrat who is totally unsuited for the mundane task of selling newspapers. Instead, he is drawn to the lonely demeanour of a young woman named Bella, played by Kristen Stewart. The two share an instant connection that deepens and transforms their relationship over the course of the film. (Twilight was released on June 30, 2012 and went on to become the tenth highest grossing 2012 film, earning over $380 million worldwide.)
Directors of the Twilight and the Harry Potter series, David Yates and J.K. Rowling, saw a lot of themselves in their characters. In an interview with ET in 2012, Yates said that “Robert and I are both very passionate about wildlife and conservation. We both really love the wilderness and feel very strongly about protecting nature.” The director continued, “The environment is such a big issue in both of our countries at the moment, and we’re both very passionate about it.”
During a Q&A session at the 2012 London Film Festival, J.K. Rowling was asked about David Yates’ comment about the environment and the British royal family’s obsession with conservation. The writer and actress had this to say: “It’s very sweet of him to say that about the environment. He didn’t have to say that, but it’s very sweet. As for the royal family, it’s so sad. But I think that’s a good thing. I think it’ll make us stronger. It’s interesting, when you say that about the environment, people assume that you’re talking about the Queen. But you’re actually talking about Prince Charles. That’s the one that cares about the environment. When he was younger, he was more of a hippie, you know. He was always camping, growing his own food, and, you know, living rough. So he really cares about the environment, just so long as no one steals his flat-bed truckloads of frozen henhouses.”
The Way He Moves
It’s safe to say that when it comes to acting, the English actor is a natural. Thanks to his late father, Stewart, who was an acclaimed stage performer, Robert Pattinson has inherited the acting gene. (His mother is Scottish singer, Rebecca Lowther.) At just 4′ 11″, the young man is undeniably charming, with a charisma that is both youthful and seductive.