Robert Pattinson takes on one of his most complex roles in Life, based on the real-life encounter between photographer Dennis Stock and actor James Dean in 1955. And he's been getting some of his best reviews yet.

Robert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan in 'Life'Robert Pattinson saw the other side of the camera in 'Life'

Intriguingly, Pattinson approached the story from a slightly different angle than the film's director, celebrity photographer Anton Corbijn. "Anton really thinks of it as a film about a photographer and photography," Pattinson says. "I've never been that interested in photography, but for me the whole thing was about the son. It's very rare to see a parent who doesn't love their kid. I thought that was fascinating. It's not like he doesn't care; it destroys him, but he's incapable of the empathy needed to love his child. He can't. He's just too obsessed with himself."

Pattinson sees parallels with his own life throughout the film, both in Dean's sudden emergence as a star and in Stock's loss of control in his career. He thinks that both actors and photographers "are almost entirely dependent on the material, especially if you're doing stuff like taking photos of talented people who are incredibly interesting and charismatic. And as an actor, you want to be an artist, but you're so dependent on everybody else. And even if you're great in something, there's only a few actors who the audience acknowledges that they were the reason something's good. With a photographer, it's very difficult to claim stuff, too."

Watch the trailer for 'Life' here:

It has taken Pattinson several years to extricate himself from the flurry of attention that surrounded the Twilight movies. There was a moment while shooting Life that hit him personally. "It was quite strange walking up to the Chateau Marmont as a paparazzi," he laughs. "It was very weird at the actual place. I don't know if it was cathartic."

More: Read our review of 'Life'

And he thinks he's lucky because he never had a career plan. "The stuff I do now is essentially the only stuff I like," he says. "I've yet to do something that is my grab at 'I want to do the number one movie'. I don't know whether that's fear or what, but I'd love it if I could do these kind of things forever. You know you're never going to regret doing it."