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The Batman: How Robert Pattinson turned fear into fuel

Despite the fact The Batman's filming has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews with lead talent from the film are still happening. GQ, for example, talked with our newest iteration of The Caped Crusader, Robert Pattinson, over video conference. The interview in its totality is quite a thing to behold (Pattinson may or may not have blown up an entire microwave, on video, by accident), but, in between discussions of existential anxiety about isolation and fast-food pasta pitches, they did manage to talk a little about his experience so far in crafting a new Bruce Wayne.

When asked the inevitable question about pressure to perform in a role only recently vacated by Ben Affleck, Pattinson was insightful, saying, "I think sometimes the downsides — which I've definitely thought about — the downsides kind of seem like upsides. I kind of like the fact that not only are there very, very, very well-done versions of the character which seem pretty definitive, but I was thinking that there are multiple definitive playings of the character." The best actors find opportunity in challenges, and it seems to be a part of at least some of their lives to thrive under pressure – a skill Pattinson has been living with for years. Where once he called his perpetual anxieties "a nightmare," he now describes himself as having more fun driving himself to overcome that natural paranoia. Here's how Pattinson has been transmuting his fear into creative energy.

Fear as creative motivation for Robert Pattinson

Pattinson explained that fear makes him creative, and leads him to ask questions about his own place within the pantheon of actors who have played Batman. "I was thinking, it's fun when more and more ground has been covered," he says. "Like, where is the gap? You've seen this sort of lighter version, you've seen a kind of jaded version, a kind of more animalistic version. And the puzzle of it becomes quite satisfying, to think: Where's my opening? And also, do I have anything inside me which would work if I could do it? And then also, it's a legacy part, right? I like that. There's so few things in life where people passionately care about it before it's even happened. You can almost feel that pushback of anticipation, and so it kind of energizes you a little bit. It's different from when you're doing a part and there's a possibility that no one will even see it."

Pattinson can definitely understand and anticipate pre-established passion from a fanbase. Certain corners of online fandom may balk at this statement, but being in the Twilight films makes him uniquely qualified to be Batman, and to deal with the expectations that come with the role. He's also the first Millenial playing the part, which sets him up with a generational break from those who donned the cape and cowl in the past.

Robert Pattinson's reemergence as a leading man

Fear fuels Pattinson's process, but it's a part of what's brought him back to blockbusters again, too. Ever since his Twilight days, he's largely stuck to indie film – the more arthouse and incomprehensible, the better. Roles like the one he took most recently in The Lighthouse seem almost like an attempt to escape typecasting. Edward Cullen embodies a kind of perfection at which even some romance authors might wince for its cartoonishness, but that doesn't seem to bother the actor – or, at least, not any more. All he has ever wanted to do was pick roles he was passionate about, and that happened to lead him to inscrutable art films.

Pattinson never necessarily swore off the whole A-list thing, however, and he's found in recent years that a career needs that kind of reliable cash and public relevance. "The problem which I was finding was, however much I loved the movies I was doing, no one sees them," he says. "And so it's kind of this frightening thing, 'cause I don't know how viable this is for a career ... I don't know how many people there actually are in the industry who are willing to back you without any commercial viability whatsoever." That's the trick of being a public figure, and especially an erstwhile teen heartthrob: The narrative may not be up to you. 

Still, while this role as Batman is part of that fear-based impulse to keep an elusive industry relevance, it's good to know that the challenge it presents makes it something in which Pattinson can still find passion.