For a casual movie fan, it seems like a shocking twist of events: That guy who played a sparkling vampire about a decade ago is now cast as Batman.
But Robert Pattinson’s path to the role of Batman, which was confirmed in a tweet by writer/director Matt Reeves, isn’t actually that sudden or surprising for those who watch the film industry. Since Pattinson’s stint in five franchise Twilight films ended seven years ago, the actor has been building a resumé and changing Hollywood’s perception by following a path that now looks pretty calculated.
Rumored for a few months now, the casting of Pattinson as Warner Bros.’ new Dark Knight is expected to be a three-film deal. Replacing Ben Affleck as Batman after Reeves took over the project, Pattinson will reportedly play a younger Bruce Wayne who is still creating his identity as Batman.
So what was Pattinson’s path to being considered for the cowl? Let’s take a look at a few of the moves (and movies) he made to land the role.
#1 Limelight Avoidance
After the unexpected success of the original, low-budget Twilight film, Pattinson’s stoic character Edward became the heartthrob of teenagers worldwide. Then, with four additional Twilight sequels, his face was all over merchandise - everything from Volvo car ads to throw blankets - as well as tabloids covering a much-hyped relationship with his co-star.
“When you see your face everywhere all the time, you start to get fears of oversaturation,” Pattinson told then-Daily Show host Jon Stewart in 2010. “If I decided not to be an actor and… do something else, everyone’s like, ‘No, you’re the guy from Twilight.'”
At the time, his sudden popularity was compared to the meteoric rise of Leonardo DiCaprio, whose Titanic character spawned a similar fervor after the 1997 film’s success. DiCaprio famously avoided big-budget films in the aftermath of Titanic to concentrate on “different kinds of movies,” allowing the screams to subside as he established himself as an actor.
After his final Twilight film, Pattinson seemed to mimic DiCaprio, choosing to work on a series of small, independent films with limited release. As Pattinson honed his craft, he did film festivals instead of award shows and managed to keep his face pretty much out of the public’s view for the last seven years.
#2 David Cronenberg Friendship
Just before the end of his Twilight stint, Pattinson caught the eye of famed director David Cronenberg, who cast him as the lead in his 2012 film Cosmopolis. It was an important role for Pattinson, who was in just about every scene of the movie and worked opposite respected actors like Paul Giamotti and Juliette Binoche. At the time of the film’s release, Cronenberg had to answer critical questioning about his choice of Pattinson for the lead, telling one interviewer, “Really, I’m telling you. He’s a great actor. It’s obvious in the movie.”
But Cronenberg’s belief in Pattinson went further than just one role, as the director cast him again in his 2014 film, Map to the Stars. Pattinson’s character this time wasn’t quite as central to the film, but it allowed the young actor to star opposite A-listers like Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, and John Cusack. Being part of Cronenberg’s films kept Pattinson’s name on film festival marquees as he negotiated work with other acclaimed directors.
#3 Chasing Directors
As Indiewire pointed out last week, over the last decade since Twilight, Pattinson has “amassed a laundry list of auteur collaborators ranging from David Cronenberg to Claire Denis.”
It sounds like some small-time directors chased after Pattinson so they could capitalize on his name recognition, but the opposite appears to be true. In several cases, it was actually Pattinson who pursued the up-and-coming directors.
“He approached me,” said Werner Herzog, the acclaimed German filmmaker who directed Pattinson in Queen of the Desert.
“He reached out to us,” the Sadfie brothers said of Pattinson’s casting in their critical hit Good Time.
“He was looking for interesting things to do and was looking to work hard to get them,” said David Michod, who directed Pattinson in another of his critical hits, The Rover.
#4 Weird and Challenging
The actor has also pursued roles that would stretch him as an actor.
Pattinson’s role in The Rover was one of the first to win him significant respect from reviewers, and according to director Michod, Pattinson was playing a role that was “about as far away from everything he’s done before as you can get.”
That seems by design, as Pattinson has played a wide variety of roles, but none of them similar to each other - and most of them light years away from the vampire in Twilight. As a result, it’s almost impossible to typecast Pattinson based on his list of films.
Robert Eggers, the director of Pattinson’s current Oscar-buzz-generating film, The Lighthouse, said to Deadline that when Pattinson was talking to him about working together, the actor said he was “only interested in doing weird things.”
“I’ll literally do a movie specifically because I think I can’t do it,” Pattinson said in a recent interview.
#5 Chris Nolan Factor
Remember that comparison to Leonardo DiCaprio? That comes into play again with Pattinson landing another high-profile role right before his casting in Batman.
Christopher Nolan, who gave Dicaprio the lead role in his post-Batman film project Inception, is bringing another potential blockbuster to Warner Bros. next year with his new film Tenet.
And who did Nolan cast as one of the lead actors in that film?
Little is known about the new project, but it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Pattinson won Warner’s Batman role right after winning the respect of Warner-darling Nolan. Recent reports from The Hollywood Reporter about the screen test process (in which Pattinson reportedly wore a Batman suit) confirm that “Reeves and Warner execs” were part of the decision. While Reeves most certainly has final say on his casting of Batman, it probably didn’t hurt his case for Pattinson that Nolan, who gave Warner their biggest Batman blockbusters, is also a Pattinson fan.
Of course, there are other elements in play here. Pattinson has significant name recognition, as well as a strong jawline and good looks that might entice female movie-goers. (Aquaman’s success probably wasn’t hurt by that last one.)
But if anyone’s wondering how “that kid from Twilight” just landed the role of Batman, look no further than his low-profile journey through director-led-indie-film-land to understand how the unexpected actually just happened