claire pattinson

The Idol and the Eye

By Didier Peron

Claire Denis, the melancholic director of films d’auteur, teams up with teenage idol, Robert Pattinson, in one of the most exciting partnerships of the moment. Here, she talks about High Life, a meditative sci-fi film, before shooting begins in May.

Robert Pattinson had been cast to star in Oliver Assayas’s crime thriller Idol’s Eye, but the backers pulled out and the project was shelved. The young British star, who first came into the public eye as a vampire Edward Cullen in the gothic series, Twilight, is always on the lookout for adventurous projects, that are radically different from the films an actor who has achieved such success and fired such levels of fan hysteria is expected to make. He is now due to head the cast of French writer-director Claire Denis’s sci-fi feature, High Life, co-written by British film director and novelist Zadie Smith, Patricia Arquette and Mia Goth have already been announced as Pattinson’s co-stars. Completely taken up with preparations for the project, Claire Denis nonetheless took time out between appointments in Paris, London and Cologne, where the film studios are located, to tell us just how she came to meet Robert Pattinson- a long and winding road.

“I had a screenplay which was naturally In English, because the story takes place in space and, I didn’t know why, but for me, people speak English- or Russian or Chinese- but definitely not French in space. While I was writing the script, I had a face in mind: actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. No one has ever made me feel such a sense of humanity in them. It was something tangible. I felt I could almost touch it. And then he died, of a massive overdose of various drugs. He was found at home alone with a syringe in his arm. At the time I thought I’d never make this film…In my mind’s eye, I had seen his face, his body, his voice and his enigmatic being. Hoffman was a very broken person whose sudden, and untimely death was so terribly painful for me, as I thought that what I’d liked so much in him was an emotional, spiritual reality that verged on the unbearable. While I was feeling completely downcast, I learnt that Robert Pattinson had heard about the project and wanted to meet me. I was afraid he’d be disappointed…I thought that perhaps he wouldn’t be interested in working on the sort of films I make! He read the script and told me that he wanted to do it. Something else impressed itself on me, a sense of freedom, an element of surprise. His confidence in me renewed my confidence In the project.

“Robert has the main role: a man a long way from earth. One by one, his companions die, and he survives, perhaps because he has a taciturn, monastic side to him that protects him. He will have to make decisions that affect others, not just himself. He’s rather like a knight of the Round Table projects into a world of science fiction. I imagine him to be secretly hemmed in, so that even when he’s in a group, he appears to be alone, and this reserve or diffidence gives him an ability, which others don’t have, to withstand fear and pain. The first time I met Robert was in Los Angeles. He was on his own territory, and so at east with the project that I ended up forgetting that he was so famous. When I saw Twilight, I liked it immediately because he has heartrending charisma.

It’s strange, thought, because it would be difficult to imagine anyone more unlike Philip Seymour Hoffman physically, but Robert is very enigmatic, with a powerful presence. He gives off an aura that immediately makes you want to film him. I remember Beatrice Dalle ringing me when she found out that that the actress cast to do I Can’t Sleep had decided to quit, eight days before filming was due to start. Beatrice wasn’t the “If you want, I’ll come.” She instantly became the ideal person for the film and captured my imagination. It was so strong that on the first night of the shoot, I felt faint, like being in shock, because I was so moved at seeing her. I hope I can keep a cool head on the first day with Robert Pattinson.”

From scanned Vogue Hommes April 2016 issue p.142

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High Life has gone from “In development” to “Pre-production” on Robert Pattinson’s IMDB filmography page. The most recent news we got from director Claire Denis was that she was putting the finishing touches on the script, and the film, which is fully funded, is set to begin filming in 2017. Oscar winner Patricia Arquette and Mia Goth will join Rob in Berlin and Prague when cameras roll.