Robert Pattinson set to play Lawrence of Arabia

Days before his cinematic head-trip, “Cosmopolis,” is slated for limited release, Robert Pattinson announced that he is going to play none other than British Army officer T.E. Lawrence in the upcoming indie flick “Queen of the Desert.” The movie will also star Naomi Watts and will be directed by art house icon Werner Herzog.

T.E. Lawrence became a legend during World War I by helping Arab troops overthrow the Ottoman Empire, shaping the modern Middle East. Nearly three decades after his death, Lawrence gained another kind of immortality by being the subject of David Lean’s epic “Lawrence of Arabia.” The movie is widely considered one of the best ever made and it launched the career of star Peter O’Toole. And as anyone who’s seen the flick in a theater can attest, the movie is a sprawling, overwhelming masterpiece.

[Related: Indie Roundup: Director Fernando Meirelles talks about ‘360’]

“Queen of the Desert” reportedly focuses on Lawrence’s relationship with writer/explorer Gertrude Bell (Watts) as they help establish the Hashemite dynasties in Iraq and Jordan.

It’s going to be interesting how Herzog puts his stamp on the material. Herzog described the movie to Indiewire last year as a “big epic film set in the desert.” The director has made plenty of epic films in his day — “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” “Fitzcarraldo” — but the main characters are more likely as not to descend into madness as rise to heroics.

It will also be interesting to see how Robert Pattinson will make the role of Lawrence into his own. O’Toole’s performance was so masterfully controlled that 60 years later it was used as the model for Michael Fassbender’s creepy android David in this summer’s “Prometheus.”

Of course, Pattinson, who became an international celebrity by playing a sparkly vampire in the “Twilight” franchise, is eager to prove his acting chops. His performance is pitch perfect in “Cosmopolis,” directed by David Cronenberg, but the movie, filled with long, dense monologues punctuated by freakish moments of violence, seems designed to alienate Twi-hards looking for another Edward fix. In aligning himself with Herzog, Pattinson seems set on busting himself out of the heartthrob pigeonhole along with building his indie cred.

“Queen of the Desert” is reportedly going to start production this fall.

See the trailer for “Cosmopolis”:

“Cosmopolis” Theatrical Trailer

Follow me on Twitter (@jonccrow)

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