PARIS — Robert Pattinson is no stranger to scents. Pre-beard, the actor would pretend to shave, apply shaving cream, use a razor, then cologne. But after that time, there was a long hiatus.
“To be honest, until I started working for Dior, I hadn’t worn perfume in years,” said the longstanding Dior Homme fragrance ambassador on Friday morning, sitting in a suite in Le Bristol Paris hotel.
“I really do like all the products from the line,” said Pattinson. “The new one, it smells delicious.”
The Blaze, comprised of cousins Guillaume Alric and Jonathan Alric, directed the film campaign for the latest fragrance.
“They’re great directors,” said Pattinson, referring also to Romain Gavras, who lensed the prior Dior Homme ad. “I wanted to work with them anyway, to do other things.”
Pattinson saw The Blaze’s treatment — elements of the screenplay — for the new campaign way before it was filmed, and it included dance.
“I don’t dance — at all. Ever,” admitted the actor, who recently was in movies such as “The Lighthouse,” “Waiting for the Barbarians” and “The King.” “The best parts of their music videos are always a kind of interesting, experimental dance sequence. I think subconsciously I really wanted to do that, but I just don’t have the capability.
“When I saw the treatment, I was terrified for months going into it, dreaded the day when it was going to happen,” Pattinson said.
Fast-forward to that day, when he ended up in an empty club in Brooklyn, N.Y., on a spotlighted dance floor. Pattinson danced there, while The Blaze guys danced in sympathy near the camera, so he didn’t feel too alone.
“We did four takes, and I was kind of getting used to it a little bit,” Pattinson said. But then he learned dancers were being called in.
“I was like: ‘What do you mean, dancers? There was no mention of other people in this,’” he said. It wasn’t two or three dancers, either. Two-hundred professionals were brought in to dance around Pattinson.
“It was one of the most unbelievably terrifying experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “I might as well have streaked down the middle of the Champs-Élysées.”
Pattinson thought his fear of dance had become a distant memory.
“Then I went to a party the next week and everybody was dancing,” he said. “I genuinely thought the phobia had gone. I really, really confidently walked up to the dance floor, and then it was like — nope! Terror, fully back.”
That fear quotient is important for Pattinson’s acting.
“I’ll find something [that] makes me really frightened in my real life, and I’ll try to do a part [that] forces you to confront it,” he said. “It makes something real if you have to confront something in yourself. It doesn’t feel like you’re acting as such, because there’s a baseline of reality to it. Because it makes you feel it a little bit more if it’s like ‘Oh God, I look like an idiot doing this.’
“There are a lot of parts when you find out where your comfort zone is, and then immediately try to break it afterward,” he continued.
Pattinson said for himself this increasingly becomes the fun part of acting. “Then it becomes scary that you’re not finding yourself scary,” he said.
A few years ago Pattinson thought he had become too cerebral about acting roles.
“You’d think because you’d thought about it so much then you must have cracked the part, and what you’re doing must be interesting,” he explained. “But then I sort of realized I feel if you’re spending all of your effort internally, it doesn’t look like anything on screen.
“I realized I was avoiding using my physicality more because I was self-conscious,” said Pattinson, who turned toward more physical roles. “They’re the only parts I really like at the moment.”
Playing Batman in Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” is up next.
“I’d done quite a few sort of crazy people in a row,” Pattinson said. “I was thinking ‘Hmmm, this is becoming a rhythm, a habit.’ So I need to break it. I was thinking that is kind of what I am afraid of. I realized maybe subconsciously I’ve been avoiding big movies, and so I thought I wanted to do something where it felt dangerous for me to do it. It felt scary.
“I liked it when my announcement came [about the role] and everyone was like ‘Nooooo!’” Pattinson laughed. “It’s kind of like ‘Ahhhhh — this feels good.’”
Despite there being no real comic book culture in England, as a child he felt a connection with Batman.
“But — I mean — I think everyone had a Batman outfit at one point in their lives,” he said. “I can’t really claim it to be a special thing.
“As I got older, the Batman movies always seemed to exist as a sort of canon unto themselves,” continued Pattinson, explaining that since the Tim Burton ones “they seemed very unique. That’s my first real awareness of comic book movies. Still now…it seems a little bit independent [from] all the other ones. I think they all seem a bit darker.”
Pattinson called Batman “a strange character.”
Directors are key to the actor, who said there are “millions” he’d like to work with.
“I’d love to work with Cristian Mungiu. He did ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.’ [That said,] I don’t think he’s ever going to make a movie in English,” Pattinson laughed.
“Definitely there’s a whole bunch of directors — a lot of whom I’ve never even met — and I’ll send an e-mail like once a year,” he explained, modulating his voice to sound almost like a child’s, saying: “‘Hey, I’m wondering if you’re in London for a coffee.’”
Back to his normal voice, Pattinson added: “And they’re like: ‘No, I am still in Romania, ‘cause that is where I live.’”
Pattinson said when parts come along that really excite him, they’re always something he never would have thought of himself.
“Because if I’ve thought of it, it’s probably a bad idea,” he said. “Everything I’ve liked has always come completely out of nowhere. I like bringing your interests to somebody else’s interests, rather than it being all your [own. That] seems a little bit more flat.”