Like everyone else around the world, Robert Pattinson is just trying to survive life in quarantine, but he might be learning something new about Batman in the process.
In a lengthy profile interview, Pattinson reveals how he's maintaining a diet (or at least trying) for his 2021 DC superhero film The Batman, currently on pause from shooting due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He also revealed a very worthy lesson in studying the making of what fans and critics consider the worst Batman movie of all time: 1997's Batman & Robin.
What happened? — On Tuesday, GQ published a lengthy profile of Robert Pattinson with interviews conducted via FaceTime. As the magazine and Pattinson struggled with dropped calls and attempted a Top Chef-style cook-off, Pattinson talked at length about The Batman.
While the actor has been avoiding his workouts — “I think if you’re working out all the time, you’re part of the problem,” a seemingly exhausted Pattinson says in the interview — Pattinson discussed conducting some further study into taking on his Batman.
When GQ asked why he accepted The Batman, Pattinson said he found a compelling challenge in finding something new in familiar territory.
"The downsides kind of seem like upsides," Pattinson says, "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."
On George Clooney's Batman — In the interview, Pattinson brings up watching a making-of documentary of the 1997 movie Batman & Robin, directed by Joel Schumacher. He says he observed actor George Clooney, who starred in the movie as Batman in what ultimately became a one-time thing.
"I was watching the making of Batman & Robin the other day," Pattinson says. "And even then, George Clooney was saying that he was worried about the fact that it's sort of been done, that a lot of the ground you should cover with the character has been already covered. And that's in, '96? '97?"
Clooney played Batman before Christian Bale's stint in a trilogy of genre-defining movies, and before Ben Affleck portrayed a darker, wearier, cynical Bruce Wayne in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017's Justice League. In other words, there was still a whole swath of the Batman spectrum totally untapped. Pattinson's challenge will be finding a new approach to the role, over 20 years and many Batmen later.
While details surrounding 2021's The Batman are scarce, it's all-but Pattinson's role will be a younger version of Ben Affleck's Batman, though it apparently won't be another origin story. The Batman is also rumored to take place in the interconnected "DC Extended Universe."
"I was thinking, it's fun when more and more ground has been covered," Pattinson told GQ. He added:
"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. Right? In some ways it's, I don't know. It makes you a little kind of spicy."
That's a lot of insight from watching an actor talk about their own concerns playing your role, over 20 years before you.
"All right everyone. Chill." — Batman & Robin, released in 1997, was the fourth and final movie in the '80s/'90s Batman movie series. Alongside Clooney (at the time best known for ER), the movie starred Chris O'Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, and Alicia Silverstone, who debuted as Barbara Wilson (not Gordon), aka, Batgirl.
Despite some positive retrospectives in recent years, Batman & Robin is widely regarded as one of the worst Batman movies of all time with an 11% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It was largely responsible for putting the Batman franchise on ice at Warner until director Christopher Nolan rebooted it with 2005's Batman Begins.
In his 2016 book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, author Glen Weldon chronicled the failure of Batman & Robin as "the first Batman film not to break box-office records, coming in with the seventh-highest three-day opening take of $44 million," which Weldon notes was $10 million less than the 1995 predecessor Batman Forever.
"Florid, scenery-chewing villainy and overripe puns no longer landed on audiences the way they had in 1966," Weldon further wrote on the missteps of Batman & Robin. "By doubling down on Batman Forever and infusing the film with the swing-for-the-fences broadness, exaggeration, and Kabuki-like emotionalism that were the hallmarks of camp, Schumacher hadn't updated the effortlessly hip '66 series. Instead, he'd produced a film that seemed bloated and sweaty, frantic yet inert, dated and stultifyingly square."
The Inverse Analysis — While Pattinson is clearly just trying to make the best out of being cooped up in a London apartment, it's fascinating that the Twilight and The Lighthouse star is diving deep into research for The Batman. An undetermined amount of the movie has already been shot, but quarantine has afforded its cast the opportunity to keep exploring and studying their craft and thinking about their roles they probably haven't worked on in two months.
Without quarantine, Pattinson probably wouldn't have stumbled upon an old George Clooney interview where he talked about "ground" that has or hasn't been covered. Though Pattinson is a capable actor who would have done just fine without knowing what previous Batmen said about the role, it will be fascinating to see just how much one of the worst Batmen inspired Pattinson to do his best.
The Batman will be released in theaters on October 5, 2021.