During the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), I had the distinct honour of being one of the select few journalists to interview Robert Pattinson, the actor who portrays the legendary rogue guardian in the upcoming Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. (I should add that The Huffington Post’s Matt Walsh and The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Schneider were also present at the TIFF press conference to elaborate on the unprecedented media coverage that the Man of Steel and The Batman have enjoyed since the start of the year.)
The handsome English actor, accompanied by representatives from the studios Warner Bros. and DC Comics, fielded a series of questions about the film adaptation of one of the most popular comic book franchises of all time.
Here are some of the best (and most revealing) Q&As from that enlightening chat.
Q: So, finally, we get to meet the new Batman. Is he a complete departure from the Batman we already know?
A: The new Batman is the complete opposite of the Batman we know. He is a traditionalist, a loner and a man of few words. Even in his spare time, he prefers to read comics rather than spend time with society. Most of all, he values order and discipline. He doesn’t like to take risks and isn’t driven by greed. (As a matter of fact, one of the very first scenes in the movie shows Batman refusing a business proposal.)
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about him? Where does he come from?
A: The new Batman comes from a place you wouldn’t expect. It starts with a terrible tragedy that completely restructures his life. While in Milan for the premiere of Twilight, he witnesses a tragic accident that leaves him with amnesia. The Joker (Cillian Murphy) takes advantage of this and starts blackmailing Batman. If he doesn’t do as he is told, he will expose Batman’s identity to the world. (I think it’s fair to say that Murphy’s portrayal of the Joker over the years has certainly contributed to this being one of Batman’s most vile adversaries.)
Q: So, with no memory of who he is or where he came from, Batman is forced to live an uncertain life. What does he do?
A: After surviving the Joker’s assault, Batman takes it upon himself to investigate the accident that has turned his life upside down. With the help of his detective friend, Harvey Dent (James Bond’s Daniel Craig), he starts to remember who he is and what happened to him that night in Milan. This leads him to a group of dangerous and elusive villains called the Lexioci (played by Harry Potter’s Ron Weasley and Yvette Fielding from Peaky Blinders), who are responsible for the accident that turned his life into a living hell.
Q: How did you prepare for this part?
A: I read the script and was immediately struck by its beauty. It’s a masterpiece in its entirety. The writers managed to encapsulate the essence of what it means to be Batman and put it into a screenplay. It’s rich in character and dialogue and is filled with intricate plot twists. (Most notably, if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you’ll know that Batman’s eventual fate is completely overturned.)
Q: What do you think are the major differences between the two Batmen?
A: The biggest difference is in Bruce Wayne’s (aka Batman’s) personality. In Batman vs Superman, Batman is very much a man of honour, who believes that the good of the city is more important than the good of a single individual. Unfortunately, this makes him the villainous opposite of Superman, who in the movie wants to protect humanity, as he believes that there is still good in everyone.
Q: What is your take on the role of Batman?
A: It is one of the most prestigious parts in Hollywood. The fact that I get to play such a complex and fascinating character is something I’ve always wanted to do. As an actor, you sign up for these big parts and you just have to deliver. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.
Q: So, what is Batman’s place in the current Hollywood landscape?
A: The release of Batman vs Superman marks an important landmark for the character. Ever since the character was first introduced, he has been one of the most interesting and iconic images in popular culture. The fact that he now appears in three different films – at least – is definitely interesting. (The release of Ben-Hur just days later will only add to the hype surrounding these two films.)
On the one hand, people will always love the Dark Knight. But at the same time, I believe that the character’s cinematic relevance has diminished, at least in the eyes of the general public. The most interesting thing about Batman at this point isn’t the character himself, but the fact that he is an enigma, a blank slate. (If anything, this will make him more interesting to play.)
What this means for the future of the Batman character is anyone’s guess. But, considering that this is one of the most iconic and fascinating characters in cinematic history, I’m sure someone will continue to explore his world, and the world of the characters who populate it, for years to come.
Q: When you signed on to play Batman, did you have any idea about the wealth of information you would have available about the character?
A: When I first heard about the script, I was immediately intrigued. I can’t remember the last time I read a script, let alone one that was this well written and detailed. (In some of the movie reviews I’ve read so far, it’s hailed as one of the greatest Batman scripts ever written. So, clearly, you won’t be bored.) As an actor, you generally have all the information you need about a role in advance, but in this particular case, I didn’t know what to expect. (Thankfully, the internet never stops providing and I was able to quickly find out the truth about Batman’s character, even if it wasn’t what I was originally told!)
In the early stages of my research, I read several different takes on Batman. This was a conscious move on my part, as it allowed me to get a sense of what other people thought about the character. (In the end, this provided me with a clearer picture of who he was and why he was the way he was.)
I found that many people, myself included, saw a resemblance between Batman and Robert Pattinson. (In fact, I’ll be honest and say that I never really got on the Batman bandwagon. It wasn’t until I researched the character and found out more about his personal life that I began to see the appeal of the Dark Knight.)
Q: Have you adjusted your acting style to fit the character?
A: It’s funny you should ask. One of the first things that struck me when I read the script was how this was a completely different take on the character, compared to the countless cartoons, films and TV shows that have come before it. The creators haven’t done anything like this before, which I think is why it’s been so appealing to audiences. Even the performances of the actors, especially Michael Caine, who plays Alfred, are on a whole other level. (Plus, I think it’s fair to say that Caine and Pattinson have a very cool father-son dynamic. It’s easy for me to see why Michael Caine would want to play dad to this very independent young man.)
In terms of my performance, I didn’t change much at all. I think that’s mainly because I didn’t want to. (And, for the most part, I didn’t need to. Batman is not something you can easily play around with. It isn’t a role that you can make small talk with. It’s a living monument, a work of art, whose creator, with the exception of a few rare occasions, refuses to talk about. So, while there are obvious parallels between myself and the character, I feel that this will always be a distinctively different role. (As much as I would like to deny it, I think a big part of me still wants to play James Bond.)
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about playing Batman?
A: This is a very difficult role to play. So much so that, on occasion, the creators of the Batman mythos have contemplated replacing the character with someone else. Even the great Stan Lee, who co-created the character alongside artist Bob Kane, said he believed that another actor could play Batman, better than William Hart, who played the role in the 1940s.