'Remember Me' producer: Rob Pattinson a 'soulful' presence who will be a big-time actor
"Remember Me," Robert Pattinson's attempt to branch out from his trademark lovelorn-vampire role (to a lovelorn regular-guy role), was only a modest performer at the box office this weekend, earning $8.3 million. But the film offers several notable attributes; in addition to Pattinson's first turn as a leading man in a mainstream release not titled "Twilight," it's a mid-budget drama in a time when such films are an endangered breed. And it came from Summit, a company that has flirted with a number of genres, but never this one.
Just before the film opened this weekend, we caught up with producer Nick Osborne of Underground Management, who with partner Trevor Engelson produced the film, on the challenges of making this type of movie, the acting virtues of one Mr. Pattinson and the perils of shooting in a big city when you've got one of the most famous faces in the world on your set.
-- Steven Zeitchik24 Frames: A lot of people look at this film and say "Rob Pattinson, Summit, of course it got made." But you toiled for a long time to get it off the ground.
Nick Osborne: It's not an easy movie to get going -- it's a dark love story set in New York, and we kept trying to get it set up at studios and no one was interested. Eventually it got to Allen [Coulter, the director], and he had interest, but we still had trouble finding an actor. There are simply very few actors in that age range who could pull a role like this off. And I was on IMDB Pro one day and put in "male stars 18-27," and he literally came up as No. 2. And we called Summit and they said, "Actually, we really like the kid, we're doing a movie with him."
So this was before the 'Twilight' phenomenon took hold?
NO: It was right around the time of Comic-Con, when they started to realize how big a movie they had on their hands. But we needed to get Rob interested too. He had read a lot of scripts. He was at the Oakwood Apartments and he would drive to the In-N-Out Burger every day and read scripts in the back of his car. And he eventually read ours and said he wanted to do it. Then we had to put together a budget that made sense [about $16 million] before we could get going.
You were able to keep the budget manageable because of the tax credits you received for shooting in New York. But from reading some of the accounts it sounds like the city posed some other issues given a star of Pattinson's popularity.
NO: It was a crazy shoot in many ways. There was fan interest and paparazzi in every outdoor location, especially places with young people and tourists like Central Park and Washington Square Park. We were a small movie so it caused us some problems. The more seasoned paparazzi know in New York [because of the local laws] they can get close to the star and you can't do anything about it. It's almost like a constant negotiation -- "If we give you this will you move back?" It was kind of insane. We had crew members who worked for 30 years who said they had never seen that amount of crazy. And there are Rob and Emilie [de Ravin] trying to do this intimate, dramatic scene.
Did it finally calm down?
NO: It was definitely a relief when we went to the stage the last two weeks. We shot in east Brooklyn. But even outside of Manhattan it could be tough. There was a beach scene where Rob and Emilie kiss, and as we're shooting it we see this paparazzi suddenly coming out of the water. He had swam around for hours with the camera over his head to get a shot.
What? Like some kind of paparazzi mermaid?
NO: It was pretty incredible. But then he got his shot and he made a lot of money off it, so I guess it was worth it.
Do you think the fan frenzy ever gets to Pattinson?
NO: I have a great respect for him. The attention he's gotten over "Twilight" is incredible and he handles it with such grace. I've never seen him in a bad mood about it. The paparazzi do get to him a little, I think, going back to Britain has been a lot easier for him. He told me a story the other day that he was in a pub and after two hours of sitting there the bartender said, "You know, you look just like the kid from 'Twilight.' '' And then the bartender said, "Oh my God, you are that kid."' And then they kind of walked away. [We] Brits are like that. [We're] more self-effacing. A Brit sees a famous person and he almost crosses the street.
Did you see anything from Emilie or Rob that gives you the sense they have seriously bright acting careers ahead of them?NO: They both take their craft so seriously. There's a soulfulness to them too. And I think Rob really wants to be a serious actor. The other stuff is just part of the job.
Obviously Pattinson's presence helped push this particular film through some development hoops. Do you think better days lie in store for the genre?
NO: Straight-up dramas are tough. You still hear from studios they don't want to do it that much. And when they do it's for a reason. "Dear John" is based on the brand of Nicholas Sparks. "Last Song" will be helped by that too. I love dramas. But critics are harsh. It's almost like when you try to do something serious they bring out the guns even more. But these movies will get made. Every market has a vacuum at some point, and then they need to fill it again.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Rob Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin. Credit: Michael Loccisano / Getty Images