Entertainment Movies RPatz can’t save ‘The Rover’ from box office failure

RPatz can’t save ‘The Rover’ from box office failure

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The Robert Pattinson phenomenon is undoubtedly possessed of superhuman strength, able to leap giant news stories and block major thoroughfares in a single live appearance. However even Super Rob wasn’t strong enough to draw audiences to actually pay to see The Rover over the weekend.

It might be set 10 years after a financial collapse has crippled Australia, but it seems The Rover, writer-director David Michôd’s follow up to Animal Kingdom, has found a financial concern located very much in the here and now.

One senior Australian producer described this as disastrous, indicating the film’s backers would have been hoping for 10 times that figure …

The Rover debuted outside the Top 10 box office earners, despite opening on a relatively high number of screens for an independent Australian film. Grossing a disappointing $143,000, the average across 41 screens was a little under $3,500 per screen which implies many a near-empty screening.

One senior Australian producer described this as disastrous, indicating the film’s backers would have been hoping for 10 times that figure after the movie impressed critics at Cannes Film Festival a few weeks ago and has since had a very high profile publicity campaign in Australia, alongside largely glowing reviews.  

1The Fault in our Stars$2,438,860320
2How to Train Your Dragon 2$2,170,106484
3Edge of Tomorrow$1,773,797437
6X-Men: Days of Future Past$1,230,901389
7A Million Ways to Die in the West$639,249239
8Grace of Monaco$333,830206
10The Trip to Italy$299,93058
11Godzilla (2014)$184,485123
12The Rover$142,63441

Nonetheless, while the studio and producers will be frustrated, the film should be chalked up as a success for its key players.

For Michod, it represents the critical second film. The statement making next step after his debut feature Animal Kingdom blew up at Sundance Film Festival landing him firmly in Hollywood’s sights.

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The heartthrob: Robert Pattinson in a scene from The Rover. Photo: Supplied

The Rover also arrives two years after Robert Pattinson’s final Twilight film which still clunks in the memory, though clearly louder in Pattinsons. Since that time he has tried and failed to step out of the (presumably glittery) shadow of Edward Cullen, with maligned efforts such as Bel Ami and Cosmopolis.

And it is a little over 10 years since Guy Pearce’s own collapse. His “mini nervous breakdown.” When too much work and pot smoking left him hating the industry. Since then he has been incredibly careful with his role selection, taking long breaks in between at home in Melbourne. The result has been some outstanding work but mostly as villains or in smaller, important supporting roles.

The choice to do any film is considerable given time and career pressures.

For all three men, this was a big decision. The choice to do any film is considerable given time and career pressures. The Rover represented a potential turning point for this impressive trio.

The price of success for Michod was being forced to choose, to stick or twist. Did he pursue the Hollywood dream or take on perhaps the bigger challenge, attempting a second Australian film that still advanced his career.

“After Animal Kingdom played and my life kind of went bananas I spent a long time trying to work out what movie I wanted to make next,” recalls Michod. “Suddenly I had things coming at me. You keep getting told you’ve got to strike while the heat’s on. I ended up spending a couple of years diving down rabbit holes looking at projects I was never going to make.”

In many ways The Rover is the perfect second movie for Michôd.

“I was never going to make something like Captain America because I just hate those movies. I really do. I’m a grown man. Then finally I came back to The Rover which is a film I had already started working on and I really loved the idea of it being the second movie. A much leaner story set in a vast empty landscape that worked like a really dark fable.”

In many ways The Rover is the perfect second movie for Michôd. With a third already in place that is essentially guaranteed a high profile, having agreed to write and direct The Operators for Brad Pitt’s company Plan B, with Pitt also starring. As such, the core requirement becomes cementing a filmmaking reputation for style, substance and quality, something The Rover achieves admirably.

For Pattinson this could be the film that demonstrates more than just a desire to be thought of as an actor, not as RPatz. Playing the puppy-like Rey, a mentally simple Southern American, requires the sort of skills associated with the best character actors. It is a role that would highlight even the smallest acting flaw. Pattinson never looks like stumbling, instead swiftly disappearing into the part.

The contrast to his previous roles partly goes to explaining the crippling nerves he felt when he met with Michôd. “It was terrifying,” he recalls. The moment he read the script he saw the opportunity. “I don’t really like anything. I read it [and] I thought it was strikingly original and it seemed like such an obvious connection to it immediately.

“Normally, the oddball parts, there’s five actors who’ve got a lock on them so you can’t really break in.”

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Guy Pearce is in a good place. Photo: Getty

Guy Pearce is one of those actors.

Michod always thought Pearce would shine in the lead role however. “I’d been writing the character of Eric for Guy for a long time. I didn’t know if he was going to do it. Fortunately for me when I asked him to do it he wanted to come and play.”

“It was a simple as knowing it was David doing it,” says Pearce.

“It was a simple as knowing it was David doing it,” says Pearce. “I enjoyed our time together on Animal Kingdom but really what I enjoyed was the finished film and David’s film making style.”

The result is a performance that perfectly caps of Pearce’s decade. A captivating near anti-hero so layered and subtle that award nominations seem destined.

For for the two actors the immediate aftermath couldn’t be more distinct. Pattinson will be a regular feature on our screens as he pursues his metamorphosis, appearing in David Cronenberg’s Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars, as T.E. Lawrence for Werner Herzog in Queen of the Desert and opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in The Lost City of Z.

Pearce will remain Australia’s most easygoing and least celebrated megastar. Sure he was a Marvel villain, but we’ll next see him once more as Jack Irish. After that, he’ll return home to Melbourne to play some music and reflect on a job well done.

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