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How The Devil All the Time's Robert Pattinson killed the ghost of Edward Cullen



By Paul Bradshaw

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Did you know that Robert Pattison used to be in the Twilight movies?

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Even if you were living under a rock during the late u201900s, youu2019ll still know that Pattinson used to be a teenaged vampire because every review of his films since feels the need to point it out. Just like Daniel u201cHarry Potteru201d Radcliffe, Mark u201cLuke Skywalkeru201d Hamill, Elijah u201cFrodo Bagginsu201d Wood, he carries the weight of his most famous role everywhere he goes u2013 at least until he plays Batman next yearu2026

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His latest, The Devil All The Time, is about as far from Twilight as possible, which must have been part of the appeal. A rural Pulp Fiction set across three decades of hate and misery in the Ohio backwoods town of Knockemstiff, The Devil All The Time is a pretty apt title u2013 with God-fearing Old Testament horror hanging heavily over a plot filled with murder, sacrifice and crucified pets. Unpleasant but compelling, itu2019s a sprawling thriller crowded with great performances from the likes of Tom Holland (Marvelu2019s Spider-Man), Sebastian Stan (Marvelu2019s Bucky Barnes), Jason Clarke (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) and Eliza Scanlen (Little Women).

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Pattinson, in fact, only has a small role in the film, but he still feels like the lead thanks to a swaggering performance that out-weirds and out-creeps everyone else around him. A sex-pest southern preacher who wrings everything he can out of his small-town influence, he makes his entrance in a frilly pirate shirt, slickly dipping two fingers into a gravy pot as he smooth talks the church widows with one eye on their granddaughters. Affecting a high-pitched voice and a spidery walk, he seems marginally larger than life u2013 overplaying his part just enough to feel odd without tipping over into parody. In a long film crowded with famous faces and big events, Pattinson is the one thing that stands out.

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Itu2019s not the first time heu2019s done it this year either. Christopher Nolanu2019s Tenet is about as strait-laced as blockbusters get u2013 a coolly grown-up sci-fi with no room for grandstanding u2013 but Pattinson still managed to play the filmu2019s background time-cop as a raffish gentleman sidekick that he modelled on English intellectual Christopher Hitchens. John David Washington might get the filmu2019s Bond role, but itu2019s Pattinson who gets most of the wit and charm, pushing his affectations to the limit again in another performance that seems to be deliberately different from everything else heu2019s ever done.

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Most importantly, itu2019s different from Edward Cullen. Appearing in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire before Twilight (and in every teen magazine as a model before that), Pattinson was already a rising star when he played Cullen for the first time in 2008. After four sequels and one highly publicised relationship with his co-star, Kristen Stewart, he appeared to have found himself stuck in a role that he didnu2019t particularly like u2013 when a reporter asked him in 2012 whether heu2019d ever taken anything from the set to remind him of his experience he replied, u201cmy dignityu201d.

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Speaking to Vanity Fair around the same time, just as the first part of the split finale, Breaking Dawn, was hitting cinemas, Pattinson already sounded worried about the future. u201cThereu2019s a massive reward,u201d he said, u201cBut being in such a specific pigeonhole is very strange. Having a persona people recognise, itu2019s the thing that probably gets you paid the most u2013 but itu2019s also the thing that virtually every actor in the world doesnu2019t want. u2018Cause, like, no one would believe me if I wanted to play something ultra-realistic, like, a gangster or something.u201d

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The answer, then, was not to go for realism but for abstraction u2013 characters that seemed bigger than Twilight even if the films they were in were much smaller. Spending the last decade choosing interesting, challenging, unusual roles in films with something to say, Pattinson carved out his own niche as an indie actor.

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The same year he finished Breaking Dawn: Part 2 he was at Cannes with David Cronenberg for Cosmopolis u2013 an adaptation of Don DeLillou2019s subversive novel about a billionaire drifting through Manhattan in the back of a limo. Next came a bleak Australian western (The Rover), stylish Denis Stock biopic (Life), an unrecognisable turn behind a beard in The Lost City Of Z, and work with Werner Herzog (Queen Of The Desert), The Safdie Brothers (Good Time) and Claire Denis (High Life).

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n Robert Pattinson in The Devil All The Timen

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Last year saw him overplay The Duke Of Guyenne (complete with panto pantaloons and a thick French accent) in The King, and underplay Ephraim Winslow opposite Willem Dafoe in gothic arthouse horror The Lighthouse. Throw his menacing Reverend Preston Teagardin into the mix from The Devil All The Time and itu2019s hard to paint a picture of who Pattinson even is u2013 an ever-changing coatrack of characters in different, difficult films that he plays with fierce sensitivity and curious oddness. After 10 years, it looks like he might finally be starting to bury the legacy of Twilight. So why is he zipping up a Batsuit and jumping right back into another big studio franchise?

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Soon to be the new Bruce Wayne in Matt Reevesu2019 dark, grounded take on the DC comics, the fan backlash has already started u2013 with the first trailer for The Batman digging up old online comments about Pattinsonu2019s u2019emo rootsu2019 (made worse by Batmanu2019s new eyeliner). Whether heu2019s doing it because it looks like a genuinely interesting take on the character (it does), or because he finally saw an opportunity to eclipse one franchise with an even bigger one, donu2019t expect Pattinson to make the same mistakes he made when he was 21. He might be swapping his pigeonhole for a Batcave, but he knows better than anyone how to escape if he wants to.

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The Devil All The Time arrives on Netflix on Wednesday (16th September) u2013 check out our lists of the best TV shows on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide

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How The Devil All the Time’s Robert Pattinson killed the ghost of Edward Cullen

New Netflix thriller The Devil All The Time proves just how far the British star has come since Twilight.
By Paul Bradshaw

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