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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Ben Mendelsohn, a phenomenal Australian actor, plays a character who Luke engages with throughout the film, but he’s also a very quirky guy. We recalled a scene where Ben’s character is doing nothing but chasing geese and asked Ryan how those little scenes of nothingness fit in the film while also being extremely important and workable parts of the film:
Ryan Gosling: That’s just Ben Mendelsohn. If we cut to Ben right now he’d be chasing geese or some equivalent of that [Laughs]. That’s just what it’s like hanging out with him. We just came across the geese and shot that scene.
We then asked Ryan how he met Derek in the first place and started this wonderful cinematic team:
Ryan Gosling: I remember a long time ago an ex-girlfriend had just come from a meeting and was like “I just had lunch with you. I just had a meeting with a guy who looks exactly like you.” Then I started hearing about my doppelganger, and finally a few years later we met to start talking about Blue Valentine. I said “You just wanted me because I look like you!”
A lesser known fact is that Ryan Gosling will be acting as director for the first time on a film titled How To Catch A Monster, so we asked Ryan if he’d be mirroring anything he’s learned from Derek into his own directorial style:
Ryan Gosling: You learn from all directors, all these guys. At the same time though, you learn it’s not just a style you can adopt. They have a vision and a strong point of view, and they have a filter by which they send everything though unique to each of them, so I guess the idea is to try and admire that but not emulate it. You can only be yourself, and it sounds cheesy, but when it comes to filmmaking there’s really nowhere to hide. You can tell so much about somebody by the films they make, and it’s only while I approach this do I now realize how much of the filmmaker you can see in their films.
We then asked his thoughts on becoming a Hollywood star and commercial success, using the example of The Place Beyond The Pines and saying it’s a “personal independent film,” that kind of movie that will draw audiences, but not big-time audiences:
Ryan Gosling: Well not with that attitude. [Laughs]
I’m not very good at knowing what people want. I don’t have that talent. The best I can do is make films that resonate with me and see what happens. It’s not something I feel I can predict, and maybe if I try to do that I’ll be instantly humbled, so I’m going to stay out of that.
While doing some research for the film, Ryan found out some tidbits about robbing banks to make his performance as real as possible. We asked what the most interesting things he learned were:
Ryan Gosling: In the bank teller’s training, they’re actually told to give up the money if a robber even asks for it. The truth is, all the guns and yelling are not really necessary. I’m not really promoting or advocating this, but in theory you could say “I’d like to have all of that, please,” and they have to do it. I don’t think any of the show is necessary. You just go and politely ask for all the money, and they have to give it to you, and you get away with it!
Apparently Ryan had always wanted to rob a bank, which is something Ryan told Derek before getting the role of Luke. We of course had to ask more about this “dream” of his:
Ryan Gosling: I had this delusion that I knew how to get away with it, and I thought it was my idea, and then it turned out Derek had been writing the same thing. What I really found out is that this guy in Tel Aviv had been doing it for years, with great results, robbing banks on a motorcycle with the box truck parked in an alley nearby.
Talking about the bank robbing and violent outbursts, we asked Ryan what kind of background he gave his character Luke:
Ryan Gosling: Again, it was loading it with as many masculine cliches as possible, all these ideas of what it is to be a man and the willingness to be violent – that such acts could be some kind of proof of manhood. He was quick to show that as he is in almost every other respect, but also kind of hoping that all of that stuff would fall kind of flat with what was really required of him just to be present. All he really had to do was be there.
We then asked Ryan what his definition of being a man is:
Ryan Gosling: Doing what you say you’re going to.
Drawing from our time with Eva Mendes, who revealed her and Ryan were long-time friends before shooting The Place Beyond The Pines, we again asked if a friendship makes acting together easier or more awkward at times:
Ryan Gosling: I think in our case it was helpful because we did know one another. When you’re filming a movie it has a dream-like quality, like these characters in the film knew each other in another life, as did Eva and I. It felt like it added an authenticity to the connection.
It’s harder to pretend, which ultimately makes it better, which is one of the reasons I love working with Derek and hopefully continue to work with him. In my film I also casted people who I’ve worked with before, and I like that idea. You spend so much time filming a movie just tip-toeing around people’s processes and getting to know one another, I think you waste a lot of time being polite. It’s nice in this case with Derek where we had a shorthand, and were able to be brutally honest with each other. Hopefully if we keep working together we’ll grow.
Going back to How To Catch A Monster, one of the other writers asked who Ryan has announced as confirmed cast members:
Ryan Gosling: Christina Hendricks, Eva [Mendes], Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith from Dr. Who, Ben Mendelsohn…
Ryan Gosling: [Laughs] I’m sure they’ll follow…
Finishing up, we asked what we could expect to see Ryan in before How To Catch A Monster, obviously including his second hook-up with director Nicolas Winding Refn:
Ryan Gosling: Well there’s this and I did a film in Thailand called Only God Forgives with [Nicolas Winding Refn].
“Is that as violent as Drive?”
Ryan Gosling: Way more violent. Actually, I wouldn’t say way more violent, but I will say way more extreme.
“Do you think you’ll always act?”
Ryan Gosling: I don’t know, I mean, they’re making coloring books out of me, we’ll see.
I’d like to thank Ryan Gosling for taking the time for this interview, and be sure to catch The Place Beyond The Pines when it opens March 29th!Previous