Timothée Chalamet's bowl cut may topline The King, the Netflix original that roughs up William Shakespeare's Henriad trilogy... (And, don't get me wrong, the bowl cut and the talent underneath it acquit themselves very well.) But there's just no battling Robert Pattinson as the Dauphin of France for the spotlight, especially in shoulder-length, gentle blond waves and an accent that surely put him on the shortlist to play Chef Louis in The Little Mermaid Live! Topping off a year that also found him fantasy-boinking a mermaid and throttling a seagull to death, our future Batman is in just as fine and outlandishly unmodulated form in the new epic. Henry V may be victorious in the Battle of Agincourt, but Pattinson's Dauphin wins the war.
"I just had a feeling he would make it fun," director David Michôd told The Hollywood Reporter of casting the Twilight survivor in the supporting role. Pattinson delivered, prompting the filmmaker to praise his "razzle dazzle" and "bold choices."
Those "bold choices" include the aforementioned accent, dripping in education and disdain, a sneer that's almost comical, and a pretty spectacular face-plant into at least six inches of mud. Pattinson doesn't appear until about an hour into The King's 140-minute runtime, but his entrance prompted a screening room full of critics and journalists to audibly react, mostly with laughter. Audiences have come to expect the unexpected with Pattinson, and his outrageous choices made for a welcome tonal shift in this otherwise gritty film.
As The King is a literal rewrite of Shakespeare, the language is different, but the action and intrigue are still dense and sometimes plodding. "I think the movie needs that character at that point," Michôd told MTV of the Dauphin's entrance.
While the motivations of people close to Henry are constantly in question, the Dauphin is pure foil. Henry is bringing his army to take France for England; Pattinson's character is basically trying to scare him out of his mad father's kingdom. There's no great development, no digging into his psyche. Aside from one disturbing display of cruelty, the Dauphin mostly sprawls grandly in chairs and belittles his challenger.
"His whole purpose is to be a jerk and to just torment Timmy,” said Michôd on a Variety podcast. “So I kind of needed him to be a larger-than-life jerk. He needed to be ridiculous. He needed not to have a lot of substance underneath him. He’s just there to annoy.”
His commitment to his wholly repellent character — one that his director told Variety is "in ways that I fully 100% endorse and love ... a Robert Pattinson creation" earned Pattinson at least one new fan on set.
"I had no clue at the depth of joy, playfulness, funniness... I had no idea about any of these aspects of the human that clearly can do that," Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Henry IV, told MTV of Pattinson. "I kind of think of him as wan, withdrawn, vegan vampire."
Yet, even modern cinema's most beloved known-weirdo sometimes wonders if he's gone too far. “I couldn’t quite tell, is this ridiculous?” Pattinson recalled to The New York Times of his first day filming The King. But the laughter of costar and the film's co-writer Joel Edgerton assuaged his fears, giving the actor permission to make the Dauphin as over-the-top as he liked.
If you finish The King wishing that Pattinson had taken it just a little bit further with his over-sized cameo, Chalamet has provided a complementary mental picture. When MTV asked the star for his best memory from filming, it was Pattinson's arrival — "and Juuling in full costume" — that immediately came to mind. Theoretically, the Dauphin spinoff movie that Netflix subscribers ought to demand would include plenty of that.
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