Robert Pattinson Heads Down Under for ‘The Rover’
(l-r) Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson in THE ROVER. ©A24Films.

(l-r) Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson in THE ROVER. ©A24Films.

Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—It’s opening day for the newest film starring international heartthrob Robert Pattinson. Only, there’s been no big Hollywood red carpet premiere and “The Rover,” a small, indie road movie set in the Australian outback is only showing on a handful of screens, for now.

The star of the “Twilight” juggernaut is spending this June afternoon talking to press about his role as a half-wit coal miner searching for his older brother who has left him behind after a robbery-gone-wrong. With a buzz cut and wearing brown gunk on his teeth, Pattinson’s Rey is a pathetic-looking character. He limps around throughout the film because he’s been shot and left for dead, only to be rescued by an angry bloke (“Memento’s” Guy Pearce) whose car was stolen during the deadly roadhouse heist. The unlikely pair set off on a road trip to find the thief/older brother and reclaim the car. The drama, set during an unspecified collapse in the future, is the latest work by “Animal Kingdom” helmer David Michod. The Australian filmmaker says he never saw any of the “Twilight” films, but was impressed with Pattinson’s screen test.

As Rey, Pattinson plays a character unlike any he has played before. It certainly is a far cry from the sparkly romantic vampire Edward Cullen that projected him into superstardom alongside former real-life girlfriend Kristen Stewart.

With mussed hair and wearing a camel-color jean jacket over a black shirt and jeans, Pattinson, 28, appears to be a little tired or shy at first when asked about his new film. Perhaps he is a little anxious that more than 95 percent of the press corps assembled at a press conference is female. He holds his head in his hand with his elbow resting on the dais, and responds to questions through a hand close to his mouth before eventually warming up to the crowd.

Q: How do you see this relationship you have with Guy’s character in the movie? How does it relate to your own life experience?

Pattinson: Loyalty is probably the most important trait in a friendship. I was really lucky to have pretty great friends growing up. I’ve had all my friends for at least 10 years. It’s definitely very important. Rey’s loyalty is so easily swayed. By the time he gets back to his real brother at the end of the movie, I kept thinking how to play it when he first sees him again. It’s almost like he’s forgotten who he is, what that relationship was. That’s why he’s so conflicted at the end.

Q: How did you prepare for your role? Your character seems pretty self-sufficient?

Pattinson: I’m not entirely sure he canreally get around by himself particularly well. (He laughs.) As soon as he’s on his own for one second —that one moment he’s sitting under that tree—he has absolutely no idea what to do. It’s just a fluke that he sees the car there. I think if his brother’s car didn’t end up being there, he’d just sit under that tree and die. (He laughs.)

Q: How do you see Rey’s relationship with Eric?

Pattinson: In a lot of ways, he’s basically been kidnapped by this guy. It’s not like he’s done anything for him. He could easily get another car. How did I prepare for it? I don’t know. I just kind of—the script. When I first read the script, it was quite instinctive.

Q: How familiar were you with firearms, and did you have to learn it? Was it awkward for you?

Pattinson: I’ve done a couple of gun things. I’m quite anti-gun, especially to idiots like me. I was actually supposed to do another film, playing a soldier where I did some stuff with guns. But I’m not particularly familiar (with handling them). I don’t think I did any particular training either. Rey’s supposed to be pretty rubbish, but he ends up being incredibly accurate the one time he uses it. (He laughs.)

Q: Did you get used to handling it?

Pattinson: I didn’t like it at all. I don’t like the feeling of it. Obviously, you get a little thrill, a little power trip. I especially felt silly holding a gun, though. Especially while shooting targets. You just have this bang-making machine. (He laughs.) After a while, it just looses its luster.

Q: At one point, you’re character is singing to a Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock,” which is playing on the radio? Where did that moment come from? Are you a fan?

Pattinson: David (Michon, the director) is. (He laughs.) I didn’t realize how massive a song it was. I though David just found it. Yeah, I kind of like that song.

Q: This film certainly fits within the group of artistically adventurous films you’ve made outside of the “Twilight” franchise. Is this realm that you hope to work in going forward? Do you want to keep switching it up? What do you hope the fans that follow you from “Twilight” into films like this are getting out of this?

Pattinson: I don’t really have any particular preconceived plan. Even each of the “Twilight” movies, I kind of approached them all as individual movies. I never really saw it as “Oh, going back to work on…” You can’t really predict what an audience is going to like, or want, or even if they’re going to follow you to anything. If you try to make challenging stuff, and you put your heart into it, hopefully at least one other person is going to like it.

Q: This is the second world dystopian movie you’ve made along with “Cosmopolis.” Why are you drawn to such projects? What is your view of the future—are you a pessimist or an optimist?

Pattinson: I don’t really see either of these films as post-apocalyptic. I see both of them as quite hopeful. I think “Cosmopolis” was about a guy who didn’t know how to live and has one second of feeling what it’s like to be alive, which is kind of a good thing. It’s more than most people have, I think. “The Rover” was always really hopeful. I think it’s really funny (but) I think the end is sad. I always just talk about it in terms of my character’s story. I’ve made an impact on Eric. (He laughs.) I have a very optimistic view of the world, mainly because I like my life.