Rob Pattinson on the Challenges of Cullen in ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’

After playing him for two movies already, one would think that Robert Pattinson would have Edward Cullen down cold, no pun intended, but according to him, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse brought him fresh challenges to bringing life to his undead character, and it also prompted a freak-out when filming a crucial scene with Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and Bella (Kristen Stewart).

He recently spoke about how he tackled those challenges, and it’s interesting to note that this time out, he had a nice haircut and was very articulate – a big change from several months ago during the press tour for New Moon, wherein he looked disheveled and disoriented and seemed to have difficulty completing thoughts or sentences. Whether that just means he’d been getting more sleep than he did back then or if he’s simply figured out how to handle these events is anyone’s guess. Perhaps he’s just proud that Eclipse is easily the best movie of the series so far.

“In the first two movies, he feels isolation from reality,” Pattinson explained about how he’s approaching the evolution of his sparkly vampire, “so when he finds one thing to hold onto, that’s where the possessiveness comes from. I think, as the series goes on, he accepts more of the contemporary world. All the things that were deemed to be flawed before start fading away, and that’s how I’m trying to play him. He’s coming out of his shell a little bit in Eclipse, so hopefully, by the end of Breaking Dawn, he’ll be a normal 17-year-old guy, who’s just a little bit pale.”

One thing he finally gets to do in Eclipse is square off with Lautner’s Jacob, which Pattinson enjoyed. “It was good because I never do anything with anyone but Kristen,” he said. “But it’s about letting Edward have petty emotions, like being jealous of Jacob and not being able to control himself around him because he gets under his skin so much. It became much easier to play much bigger scopes of emotion, once you let someone else get through your armor. So, doing that with Taylor was great. He’s really good, too.”

Of course, working with Taylor didn’t always make everything easy – especially for the absolutely crucial scene where the three corners of the love triangle are trapped in a tent together during a snow storm, and Bella has to cling to Jacob’s warm body to keep from freezing to death, while the ice-cold Edward has to keep his distance and glare at them – and hash things out with his werewolf competitor.

“The first time we did that tent scene, I was really freaking out. I don’t know why,” Pattinson revealed. “I think it had to do with claustrophobia because we were actually shooting in a tent. I just couldn’t get it together. I kept forgetting my lines, and I was so nervous. I just wanted to punch anyone who was near me. We did about three takes, and Kristen was supposed to be asleep on the floor, and she saw that I was freaking out. Halfway through the take, she suddenly opened her eyes and was just staring at me and kept trying to make me laugh, through the entire take. It’s the most serious scene in the whole movie. I just wanted to strangle her for the first two seconds, but then I could not stop laughing, the entire time. We got literally one take where it went right, and it was because of that. When I was trying to hold back, I guess it made me more alive or something.”

That’s not even the funniest obstacle he had to overcome, either. “I had to learn how to run properly,” he admitted sheepishly. “In the last two, I ran in a limp slash-skip, and I had to look like I could run more solidly this time. So, I spent a lot of time on a giant treadmill, like one of those wheels mice run around on, and got filmed doing it to improve my form.”

Working with Taylor wasn’t all freak-outs, though. “For some reason, I find it quite funny when I’m doing stuff with Taylor,” Pattinson noted. “There are a couple confrontational scenes, where I push him around a little bit, and I thought I’d really scare him and grab him, and it would freak him out and turn the whole scene upside down. Then, I grabbed his shoulder and it was too big to actually get a grip on, so I just dropped my hand. It was embarrassing. But he kept having to dress up in a little grey spandex wolf suit and try to be intimidating with Kristen patting him on the head. That was quite fun.”

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One of the more interesting things about the Twilight franchise is that each chapter has a different director. Catherine Hardwicke directed the first film, Chris Weitz helmed New Moon, David Slade handled Eclipse, and Oscar-winner Bill Condon is going to be taking on Breaking Dawn. That’s a lot of change to deal with when trying to play the same guy.

“It’s interesting,” Pattz said about the differing takes on the story. “With the first Twilight film, everyone had very specific ideas and everyone was butting heads the entire time. Then, when Chris Weitz came in for New Moon, he basically came in with the opinion that he liked the first one and he liked what the actors were doing, so he just followed along that road. Then, when David Slade came, he was like, ‘I want to do everything completely different and not like the first two.’ So, we talked about the character development and consistency from the two, and he was like, ‘It doesn’t matter, let’s just do something completely different,’ which is good because then it’s challenging. It’s easy to get stagnate, if you play the same character. In New Moon, I felt like I was going a little bit deeper. Then, with Eclipse, I felt like I was doing a completely different movie and a completely different character. He was really fighting to make it not so solemn. In my eyes, Edward has been so calculated and everything is not rash, and David wanted to speed up the whole thing and make him more vulnerable.”

What about the prospect of working with Condon? “I met him briefly, kind of by accident, just before the MTV Awards, in a bar. He seemed great. He seemed like a really, really nice guy. I haven’t talked to him, in detail, about anything. But Gods and Monsters is an amazing movie. I think it’s going to be good. I don’t even know where they’re going to shoot it yet, or anything.” He also made an admission that might shock Twi-hards – he hasn’t even read Breaking Dawn yet. “I haven’t read it yet. I’m starting it a month after the job I’m doing now, and I haven’t read it yet. I didn’t intend to not read it until now. It’s quite exciting. I have no idea. I just heard brief rumors about what happens in the story, but I don’t really know what happens at all.”

Another big change in Eclipse is Bryce Dallas Howard, who is stepping into the role of the villainess Victoria, and that presented its own unique challenge for Rob, especially since they have a very dynamic clash. “I did a bit of practice with Bryce. It’s really hard to do stuff with her because she’s the gentlest person and she’s always laughing when you do anything, and then, she’d be afraid of hurting me. Most of the vicious stuff I did was with a stunt double who was really, really tough. But, the bits with Bryce, we’re just rolling around and grabbing onto each other. It was fun.”

Even the comfortable sameness of having so many scenes with Stewart presents its own challenge. “Her mind works completely differently,” he admitted. “She can just feel things immediately, and I like to be more cerebral about things, in completely the opposite way of Kristen. I don’t feel confident unless I know more about the reasons why I’m doing things. I don’t really do that for other parts. That’s what I do for Edward. But, since the first one, I always like to go in-depth about things. For some reason, I can’t understand anything and I think I’m going really into the depth of the character, when it just seems so obvious to Kristen.”

Of course, the most important question put to Pattinson, after seeing his fresh new haircut, was how he was going to get his big moussed-up hairdo back in time for Breaking Dawn? “I’m thinking maybe Edward got a haircut,” he said with a laugh. “That might be easier. But, yeah, I didn’t even think about that, when I got it cut. That is a bit silly. Vampires can cut their hair. I like the idea of Edward having a shaved head in the last film. That’s pretty cool.”

Could you or any of the Twi-hards really be ready to handle a bald Edward Cullen?


Also, as a complete aside, how weird is it to watch the trailer for this film now that the sparkling vampires have become such a cultural touchstone? Would you prefer to watch Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman and James Garner while getting quite a surprising eyeful of Reese Witherspoon, or do you crave the supernatural angst-adventure phenomenon?

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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