I’m not really sure how else to introduce Ryan Gosling besides saying the name Ryan Gosling. Known for his pretty-boy looks, phenomenal acting talents, and all around “Savior of the Universe” personality, Gosling has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood right now – for good reasons. Whether you’re watching one of his comedic roles like Crazy, Stupid, Love, an independent film like Blue Valentine, or one of his childhood efforts like Remember The Titans, Gosling always commands the screen and always delivers.
Recently, Ryan was able to break away from his hectic life of breaking up fights, saving people from traffic, and giving people movie roles so he could spare a few minutes for a roundtable interview session at the press day for his upcoming film The Place Beyond The Pines. Luckily, I was one of the few who were allowed to sit with Ryan and talk about the working relationship he’s created with director Derek Cianfrance, the physical changes he made for the role of Luke, and his experiences on-set.
Before we even got to questioning though, a little musical discussion was had with Ryan because he walked in the room playing Prince on his iPhone. Can you say swagger? OK, now to the actual interview!
We started the interview wanting to get into Ryan’s mind about his character Luke. We used the words childlike and violent, but we then left it up to Ryan to describe his character’s intentions:
Ryan Gosling: Explain myself? [Laughs]
Look, Luke’s in some kind of motorcycle version of a boy band in the early 90s doing some low-rent carnival circuit, it doesn’t get worse than that. He’s kind of like a melting pot of every masculine cliche between tattoos, muscles, guns – it’s a joke. Then he’s presented with this child he didn’t know he had, and it’s like a mirror is held up to him, and he realizes he’s not a man at all. None of those things make you a man. He’s a completely surface person without any depth, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of shame. In the same way that he over-romanticized himself and created his own mythology, he has the same romantic ideas of turning it around which causes him to start robbing banks, which is as poorly thought out as his face tattoo.
Getting into the physical traits of his character Luke, we asked how he personally felt about the tattoos which covered his entire body:
Ryan Gosling: Ashamed. That’s how I felt, and I guess that’s how [Luke] felt too. The plan was “Let’s create a portrait of somebody who has lived a lifetime of making bad decisions, so let’s use the most amount of bad tattoos ever seen.” Then when I did the face tattoo, it was just too much, and it was overkill. I went to Derek and I said “I can’t do this, this is ridiculous, it’ll ruin the movie,” and he just said “Well, I’m sure that’s how people with face tattoos feel, they regret them.” I really fought him but he said “No, this movie is about consequences, and now you have to pay the price.”
So I really did feel this overwhelming sense of shame. I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror and I didn’t want to be photographed. When I was holding our son [in the film], a kid named Tony Pizza, which is really his name, I felt so ashamed that this was his father, that he had to look at me. It gave me something that I probably couldn’t have acted. When I walked in that church and I was looking that way, I just felt so embarrassed.
Highlighting the emotional depth Ryan was able to give his character Luke, we asked how he was able to inject so much honesty and drama into his performance:
Ryan Gosling: It’s hard to talk about performance without talking about Derek, because so much of what we do is teed up by him and the environment he creates, and also the style in which he works.
For instance, with the church scene. The great thing about Derek is he never writes these emotional marks into the script. That’s never scripted. You never come into the scene feeling this pressure that you have to hit this high note. If they happen, they happen naturally. In the case of that scene, it was early on in the movie and I felt that I had just got lost in the surface nature of the character. I felt I had overdone it. I just walked into that church and felt, like I was saying, a sense of shame.
As time passes in The Place Beyond The Pines, we see Luke’s child grow up and eventually be portrayed by actor Dane DeHaan. We asked Ryan if they ever talked about sharing characteristics or how they discussed the father and son relationship:
Ryan Gosling: Derek didn’t want us to talk or meet, actually.
Joking about Luke’s bad-boy attitude, someone asked if it was harder for Ryan to talk and smoke a cigarette or ride a motorcycle:
Ryan Gosling: Oh, I smoked a lot in that movie. Probably the smoking, but the riding was tough. It was mostly me because of the way Derek wanted to shoot all the heists in one shot, including the riding in and the escape. I had ridden before, but never like that on the street. The cool stuff was Rick Miller though. When Batman rides a motorcycle, it’s Rick Miller in the Batsuit. He’s the best in the business and has become a good friend, we had a great time – he was very patient with me.
Getting serious again, I asked Ryan about the fantastic working relationship he’s built with director Derek Cianfrance between Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines, asking how the two work together so well:
Ryan Gosling: Honestly I just feel very lucky to have met him and worked with him. It’s hard for me to explain. It’s even hard for me to explain and I’m watching how much effort goes into something that feels so effortless.
I think this movie is the directorial equivalent to a real bank heist because it took so much planning to pull off, and I think what I admire about [Derek] is how he makes his filmmaking so invisible. Even though it’s cinematic, it’s a very hard thing to do, it’s very un-self conscious. He’s just got guts in the way he structured The Place Beyond The Pines even when people told him not to, but he’s just the most stubborn person I’ve ever known. He just wouldn’t change it.
To me what’s amazing is the film has all the elements of a traditional heist film between being a crime thriller and a family drama, and yet it’s deconstructed and laid out in a way for the audience to have a different experience with that kind of a movie, which is very hard to do.
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