For many Twilight fans, it’s hard to imagine life without Robert Pattinson after his brooding performance in the 2008 film.
But Pattinson, 22, who stars in the independent film How To Be, almost decided to change his career focus, the film’s director tells PEOPLE.
“He was thinking about giving up acting and maybe doing music solely when this role [in How To Be] came along,” the film’s director, Oliver Irving, tells PEOPLE. “He wanted to play the roles he wasn’t getting.”
Irving says that for Pattinson, being cast as the lead of role of an awkward, quirky young musician who hires a self-help guru to come live with him “got him back into the swing of things again.” Irving adds that after the Harry Potter films, in which Pattinson played Cedric Diggory, “He was looking for something more challenging.”
Among the challenges for Pattinson in How To Be, which filmed prior to Twilight, were playing the guitar, harmonica, and, for the director, muting his good looks.
“I said, ‘You’re banned from cutting your hair between now and the shoot,'” says Irving. “We had to give him the most awkward haircut we possibly could, and we cut his trouser length a little bit too high. Things like that played down his apparent good looks.”
Honing his musical skills, however, came naturally to the actor. “He downplayed how good he was,” says Irving. While playing the guitar and harmonica, Irving says, “A lot of the time he would turn out to have a really good technique and we told him he needed to play it more simply.”
Irving says he isn’t surprised that Pattinson’s star has risen since the film, which is available on demand on IFC Festival Direct on April 29. “He has a playfulness and naivety that he was able to inject into the character. He’s very down to earth and unpretentious. I think that’s probably what makes him appealing.”
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