The beauty of the beast
Robert Pattinson on swapping his vampire fangs for the dark arts of a serial seducer in his new film, Bel Ami.
“The world’s favourite vampire is in Berlin for a whirlwind visit and, true to bloodsucking type, Robert Pattinson isn’t eating. Tonight, he will do the red-carpet thing for the world premiere of his new film, Bel Ami, but in the private hotel lounge allocated for this interview — “This is classy,” he comments as he strolls in — he barely makes a dent in the chicken salad he has ordered, despite his professed hunger.
Pattinson isn’t known for playing characters who do much smiling or laughing, either, so the first thing to notice is how readily he does both in person. Decked out in a black-grey ensemble and sporting a new cropped haircut under his black cap, he has barely sat down, with a pack of Camels by his side, before he’s folded up in mirth, talking about the KitKatClub, a notorious Berlin sex joint, and his desire to patronise it with his family. Is he joking? I hope not. “I was telling my dad about it last night, and he sounded really into it. ‘I’m coming over — let’s go to the orgy club.’ ”
The 25-year-old actor has been to Berlin many times. One of the best holidays he ever had was a stay in the east when he was 17, “before it was so gentrified”, frequenting bars that took up illegal residence in abandoned buildings. Such footloose times are seemingly in the past for the star of Twilight, although his desire to hit the KitKatClub may indicate otherwise. The other observation to make is that Pattinson is a very handsome man, but his face is less wide and flat than the camera makes it appear. And there are enough imperfections to separate him from the standard Hollywood pretty boy.
Nobody wants to see a dickhead succeed — that’s why I wanted to do it.
It is easy to see why he is ideal casting as a heart-throb vampire, but equally why he got the role of Georges Duroy, the insatiable money-and-lust monster at the heart of Bel Ami. This adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s belle époque novel marks the directing debut of two of our most acclaimed theatre practitioners — Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, the founders of Cheek by Jowl. Of the projects Pattinson has chosen with the Twilight safety net in place, the first two, Remember Me (2010) and Water for Elephants (2011), were unadventurous romantic excursions, unlikely to perturb even the most rabid Twihard. Bel Ami is where it gets interesting.