Robert Pattinson watched ‘Bully’ before shooting ‘The Rover’

David Michod's “The Rover” opened in Los Angeles and New York today and the Aussie filmmaker has to be happy with the reception so far.  It's scored positive reviews across the board including intriguing raves from the LA Times, Wall Street Journal and Village Voice.  As Michod's follow up to his 2010 critically acclaimed drama “Animal Kingdom” “The Rover” would have been a must-see for any true movie fan, but the presence of Robert Pattinson and, to a lesser extent Guy Pearce, has brought even more attention.

The film finds Pearce playing Eric, a man seemingly burnt out by a near-future world where the collapse of the global economy has turned the entire planet into an almost un-civilized free for all.  This isn't the insane setting of “Mad Max,” but it's clearly the precursor to that unhinged scenario.  After his car is randomly stolen by three fugitives, Eric becomes obsessed with tracking them down to reclaim it.  He quickly finds an injured Rey (Pattinson), who turns out to be a brother of one of the carjackers and has information on their whereabouts.  The duo's relationship slowly turns from a hostage situation (Eric as the taker) to an unexpected bond of mutual respect and slight trust as they travel across the dangerous Aussie desert to find Eric's car.

Pattinson, co-star Guy Pearce and Michod sat down Friday morning for a quick chat about “The Rover” following a classy LA premiere the night before.  For Pearce, whose performance is even more impressive on second viewing, his character's obsessive mission actually has the unexpected benefit of slowly pulling him back from the brink.

“For Eric I think it's entering back into a world that he's pushed himself out of for how many years prior at the start of the film,” Pearce says. “On some level I think Eric has probably not spoken to anyone for a couple of years. [It's not just] about realizing that Rob's character is just a good person it's just opening up some empathy in my character as well.”

For Pattinson, who also has David Cronenberg's “Map to the Stars” heading to theaters later this year, it's almost remarkable that Rey has survived this long.  His brother has protected him most of his life and being abandoned is an almost alien situation to him. While most people would try to escape from or kill his captor, Rey tries to connect with him.  I asked Pattinson at what point he thought Rey begins to think that he could trust Eric.  His answer was somewhat surprising.

“Weirdly when I was thinking about it it was almost immediately,” Pattinson says. “He's such a dependent that he just replaces his brother with Eric almost immediately. I think by the time he sees his brother again he's almost forgotten what he looks like.”

While some have tried to peg Rey as a modern day version of Lennie from Jon Steinbeck's “Of Mice and Men,” Michod had a different inspiration for the character.  This revelation makes Rey's actions all the more understandable.

“Before Rob came to Australia we asked him to watch this documentary called 'Bully.'  The character he is playing — we didn't want him to appear mentally handicapped. He was more like a severely bullied child,” Michod says. “That documentary, you see that kids. Almost as a survival mechanism the almost have this way of pretending or imaging these people are still their friends. It's really weird.”

For more from Pattinson, Pearce and Michod watch the complete interview at the top of this post.

“The Rover” is now playing in limited release.