We all know that Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod have a high regard for Robert Pattinson but it's still nice to hear it again and again.
From The Herald Scotland
AS the winner of several Olivier awards, British director Declan Donnellan is used to the odd coup de theatre, that moment when events on stage take a turn for the astonishing.
But what happened on the red carpet in Berlin for Bel Ami, his feature film debut, had even Donnellan thinking he had lost the plot.
"There was one moment when I thought I'd gone mad," says Donnellan, who was in Glasgow last month for the film festival premiere of Bel Ami with the movie's co-director, the theatre designer Nick Ormerod.
"I was convinced I heard some people scream 'Nick', 'Declan'. I thought this is really pathetic, you've gone mad. But we looked round and there was a group of about six people who had photos of us taken from the set, pulled from the internet. We were so grateful," he says, laughing. "We threw them in Rob's face."
The "Rob" to whom he refers, and the reason why Donnellan and Ormerod were amazed to receive any attention at all, is Robert Pattinson, one of the stars of Bel Ami but best known for playing Edward Cullen in the Twilight saga. For Twihards, as fans of the vampire films are known, Pattinson is a one-man Beatles, or a taller Daniel Radcliffe, take your pick. When he walks a red carpet it gets very noisy, very quickly.
Bel Ami, adapted from the Guy de Maupassant novel, is the tale of Georges Duroy, a French country boy and former soldier who has no talents to speak of but plenty in the way of good looks. Arriving in fin-de-siecle Paris, Georges finds himself a job as a political journalist just as war is brewing. More importantly to his towering ambitions, he finds a role as favoured "friend" to many a powerful man's wife.
After Water for Elephants and Remember Me, Bel Ami marks another staging post in Pattinson's trek from teen film star to leading man. Though the Twilight saga grinds on (brace yourselves for Breaking Dawn: Part 2 later this year), the 25-year-old is wisely thinking about what happens next.
His chances of impressing in Bel Ami are aided by a cast of fellow actors which includes Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas as the Parisian ladies charmed by Georges.
It's possible to see a certain irony in Pattinson, a young actor largely known up to this point for his good looks, playing a character who has little else to offer but his handsomeness. Donnellan is having none of that. (Kate: You tell 'em Declan!) "I've worked with actors for 35 years and some very, very good ones. Rob is unbelievably talented. He is not Georges Duroy." (David Cronenberg, who directs Pattinson in the forthcoming Cosmopolis, also praised the Pattinson acting chops when I interviewed him recently.)
Indeed, one of the reasons Pattinson, together with Scott Thomas and the rest of the cast agreed to work for not very much on what is Donnellan and Ormerod's feature debut (they previously have a short film to their names) is that they know the pair through the theatre, or through Donnellan's textbook on acting, The Actor and the Target.
The difference between stage and screen acting is one of scale, says Donnellan. "But great film actors still act. The camera likes to see people think, but so does the audience."
Which leads us back to Pattinson. Most feature film debuts struggle to get an audience. Pattinson's name and face on the billboards should mean that won't be a problem for Bel Ami. There might also be added interest because of what we'll delicately call the film's more intimate scenes. (Kate: ahem...)
"I've done worse on stage," laughs Donnellan. "It is the most unerotic experience in the world doing a sex scene. It ain't erotic on stage either, but you can laugh more on stage."
As for the possibility the film will attract the type of audiences not normally drawn to adaptations of 19th-century French novels, their attitude is that everyone is welcome. That said, they acknowledge that when they began working with Pattinson the first Twilight film was just opening. "The whole mania hadn't started yet," says Donnellan.
On set, Pattinson just got on with the work. "He's very much his own man," says Donnellan. "He's very quietly serious. All of that Rob hysteria you see is completely absent from the set. There's no sense of that at all, he's a nice guy from Barnes."
Their first real taste of that "hysteria" was the Berlin Film Festival red carpet. That turned out okay, and they have similar hopes for the film when it opens in the UK next week
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Thanks to Nancy for the tip!