INTERVIEW: Robert Pattinson goes beneath the mask

(Courtesy Warner Bros)

Today, The Batman (now certified fresh at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes) opens across the United States. When the film opens, it’s Halloween night and everyone is in costume.

Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is patrolling the streets not as himself, not in the Batsuit, but as someone in between Bruce and the Bat—a shadowy persona that Reeves dubbed the Drifter. Clad in nondescript, dark clothing with, kohl-rimmed eyes, the Drifter’s brooding, nihilistic bearing hangs heavy on his frame…and his soul.

This is where Bruce often chooses to dwell, deep in the shell of a man at the edge of despair, who sees no hope for the city and its residents, looking for a reason to attack.

If the Drifter looks for trouble, it is as The Batman that he takes action once he finds it. Bruce is in year two of his self-appointed role as Gotham’s embodiment of vengeance—the nocturnal vigilante who strikes fear in the hearts of criminals.

A reclusive scion of Gotham’s richest family questioning his family’s legacy, The World’s Greatest Detective employs a lethal combination of mental mastery, physical strength and expert technology. Yet it’s emotion that drives him.

“There’s a level of rage in him, which makes him difficult to beat,”

Robert Pattinson

Director Matt Reeves cast Pattinson in the role because, he said, “I was keen to show a different side to the character; I wanted him to have almost a recluse rock-and-roll vibe, a cross between Kurt Cobain and Howard Hughes. Bruce has retreated from being a Wayne and if you see him, it’s like seeing a rock star, but instead of going out and playing gigs at night, his gig is to be Batman. He’s an obsessive guy, and that was one of the things that was exciting to me about Robert Pattinson: he has the intensity to bring that to life.”

REELated: Interview: Matt Reeves catches The Batman in freefall

Reeves began considering Pattinson for the role while he and co-writer Peter Craig were developing the screenplay. This vision of taking Batman back to the early years to bring about a shift in the character’s emotional and psychological make-up disoriented the actor upon his initial read of the script.

“I couldn’t quite tell why Bruce Wayne felt so radically different,” Pattinson notes. “And then I realized it’s because he’s not a playboy in this story. That is such a key element of previous Batman films, so it does feel really strange. Bruce is so alone and isolated and that is fascinating. I knew Matt saw him as a slightly nihilistic character, but there’s something more emotional there, too. Bruce doesn’t know he’s going to save the day, he doesn’t know if being Batman is going to work, but he’s compelled to do it and he knows that there is no other option. There’s a kind of desperation to it, which is a little bit different.”

When delving into the core of the character, Pattinson was spurred by the question of “Who is Bruce Wayne?” as opposed to “Who is The Batman?” “Bruce is quite an obsessive character and I think the concept of Batman has been fermenting for years,” he posits. “But at this stage, he doesn’t have that much in the way of technology to give him an advantage, just a few layers of bulletproof armor and, as the story goes on, the Batmobile and a few gadgets, but it’s pretty rudimentary. So, he’s very fallible, but he keeps at it; I think he’s really working out this rage. I get the impression that he just wants to keep recreating the night where his parents die.”

The very definition of insanity, perhaps, for a man on the edge trying to save a city on the brink.

“I think it’s about alter ego and identity,” adds the actor. “If he puts on the suit, and he believes in it so much, it elevates him as a creature; he isn’t Bruce, he is The Batman. I wanted him to be less human when he has the suit on; I wanted to get that into his movements. Bruce is still trying to figure out who exactly Batman is, and that makes for a very reactive version of Batman, and that’s new.

“That is why the fights he has seem very personal, too,” he continues. “The reason why he outmatches these people is that every time he’s fighting a stranger it’s as if they have personally harmed him. In a way, he’s imagining that his adversary is the person who killed his parents. Ultimately, that’s not a winning strategy, because if you are fighting too emotionally, you will make mistakes and you’ll lose. But, I don’t think he cares about surviving at all, he just wants to inflict pain, inflict his form of questionable justice.”

Pattinson appreciated Reeves’ deliberate work, not only on the page, but on set, too. Of the director’s measured approach, he relates, “Matt is incredibly patient. He’s like a conductor of an orchestra, able to keep the entire story in a macro view in his mind the entire time. He’s never rushed, he will only move on when he feels like he’s got what he needs. He isn’t afraid to stray a little from the Batman canon and he definitely made some pretty bold stylistic choices, and that’s exciting.”

The Batman opens today, Friday, March 4, exclusively in theaters.

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