Robert Pattinson: 50 Shades of ‘Nah’
A 2012 YouTube clip proves the star’s disdain for the YA juggernaut that put him on the map.
One of my favorite YouTube videos is also, next to his eye-opening starring role in Good Time, possibly my favorite Robert Pattinson performance. It, as they say, “has it all”—assuming that “it all” means 16 clips of a teen franchise’s lead actor absolutely tearing that teen franchise a new and unsparing asshole. In the the six years it has been online, Robert Pattinson Hates Twilight has clocked over a million views. Roughly one thousand of those views are mine. I could not guess how many came from angry Twihards, although comments like, “I used to dislike him. Now I want make love to him”; and “I was dead wrong for laughing at shovel face” do not exactly bespeak a familiarity with Meyers’s oeuvre.
“When I read [Twilight],” he says in one of the featured interviews, “I was convinced that Stephanie [Meyer] was convinced that she was Bella. It was like it was a book that wasn’t supposed to be published, like reading her sexual fantasy—especially when she says that it was based on a dream, and it’s like, ‘Oh, then I had a dream about this really sexy guy’! And she just writes this book about it! I was just convinced that this woman is mad.”
“If Edward was not a fictional character,” he says in another, his eyes as wide and as scared as hell, “he’s one of those kinds of guys who would be, like, an ax murderer.”
“It was so long,” he murmurs, promoting one of the two interminable parts of Breaking Dawn, and sounding less like a teen heartthrob than a veteran with PTSD. “So long. And we were shooting for- ev-er.” Asked whether his “Twilight experience” had been “what he expected,” he makes a face so spectacular that I am certain Robert Pattinson would have excelled in silent cinema. His eyebrows, probably best described in this context as “abundant,” jump like vampires.
A sex symbol but dead—white and for some reason sparkling, like the stripper at a bachelorette party for a necrophiliac, Pattinson’s stalker-cum-vampire-pin-up character in Twilight is supposedly appealing in a way I do not fully understand. (If I had a thing for men who were a hundred years old but still hung around at malls and high schools, I would probably just look up Roy Moore.) Pattinson himself, however, is a different beast. His smile, naturally wolfish, somehow simultaneously suits meanness and excuses it. He looks in his civilian attire less like a twee, tweeny little prince’s ghost, and more like a hot, sickly, very British stoner. Like his sometime paramour and former castmate, Kristen Stewart—a girl dirtbag whose stern jaw and steeliness recall a younger Jodie Foster, and whose laid-back studliness recalls James Dean—he is a brilliant actor, though it took me until David Cronenberg’s 2014 Maps to the Stars to notice.
By the time that Robert Pattinson Hates Twilight had begun its run on YouTube, Pattinson had already appeared in the Canadian auteur’s previous film, Cosmopolis (2012). By 2017’s Good Time, a neon-induced headache so traumatizing and emotionally wrenching it should probably have been illegal, he ensconced himself in my reluctant heart.
He is far from the only actor to badmouth his projects, and to sink his fangs into the hand that feeds him: Gwyneth Paltrow, in a rare moment of speaking for the general public, and not for the rarefied elite, called Shallow Hal “shit.” Alec Guinness, failing to make peace with his own role in a far-fetched franchise especially popular with nerds, said of his work in Star Wars that it barely counted as an acting job. “Apart from the money,” he harrumphed in his diary, “I regret having embarked on the film…The dialogue—which is lamentable—keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young." Most bafflingly of all, Mark Wahlberg—a man who has both punched an elderly Vietnamese man and thrown rocks at African American kids, hurling racial epithets each time—has claimed that Boogie Nights is [emphasis mine] “up there at the top” of his list of regrets. (“I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving,” he has said. He has not mentioned whether or not he is also hoping that God is a fan of racially aggravated assault; presumably he is not that dumb.)
He looks in his civilian attire less like a twee, tweeny little prince’s ghost, and more like a hot, sickly, very British stoner.
What makes Pattinson’s intense dislike of Twilight more anarchic, more unusual than a complaint after the fact, is the fact that all of these clips are cut from interview junkets designed to promote the movies. I have seen actors bitch about bad parts after films have flopped; never before have I seen anyone still under contract give less of a shit, appear so almost comatose with ennui.
This year, Pattinson appears alongside Juliette Binoche in the new Claire Denis, High Life, as a man being kept on a spaceship for the express purpose of harvesting his semen. Indiewire reports that Binoche, at one point in the proceedings, “straddles a giant dildo chair and violently masturbates, in a scene that’s endowed with the tortured energy of a Cirque du Soleil routine.” It’s a far cry from Googling “vampire baby.” I could not say which role was more disturbing; I could take an educated guess at which he might find more embarrassing. My one regret is that I’m certain there will be no Robert Pattinson Hates High Life super-cut.