At some point in the last few years, Ryan Gosling became the Internet’s best friend. There’s the YouTube video of him breaking up a street fight in New York City, and the ridiculously popular “Hey Girl” meme. The man even has dish towels with his face on them being sold on Etsy (a product that was brought to his attention during a recent interview).
Nevertheless, the star seems to react to Gosling mania with bemused detachment. (Regarding the “Hey Girl” meme, he told the Hollywood Reporter last week that “I don’t think it’s really about me.”) Besides, he has other things to worry about, like pretending to rob real bank tellers and riding a motorcycle, which he did for his new movie, “The Place Beyond the Pines,” which hits theaters this Friday.
The film has Gosling re-teaming with “Blue Valentine” director Derek Cianfrance. Here he stars as Luke, a motorcycle stunt driver whose life takes a drastic turn after he finds out he has a son.
Gosling sat down with Moviefone to talk about his latest project, why he was ashamed by his character’s face tattoos, and how he successfully made the transition from “Mickey Mouse Club” kid to adult actor.
So don’t worry, I won’t be bringing out any dish towels with your face on it during this interview.
Thank you. You never know these days.
You seemed to take that in good spirits, all things considered.
Well, what are you going to do? What are my options? I guess once they start making dish towels with your face on it you’ve got to find another job.
This is your second film with Derek Cianfrance. Is it easier working with a director you’ve been with before?
Yeah, you know I’ve been with the same agent since I was 14 and the same manager since I was 16. History is something that I thrive on. So I am just happy to be at a point in my career where I’ve developed a little history with some people and I am not eager to let that go. It’s sort of one of the keys to creativity. On a practical level, you trust the person so you don’t have to try and tell the story. In a case like this, it’s easier just to be a part of the scene and trust that the director is going to tell the story and you won’t have to. But on another note, “Blue Valentine” was twelve years for Derek, six years for me, and that was in the prep. That movie’s been affecting my life for a few years now.
Just having been in it. Having it out there in the world. It’s, like, six years of my life. And then we make this together. We have hours logged, and there’s a trust that comes with that and a sort of brotherhood that you have to work to have.
It feels like there’s no real hero in “Pines.”
I think this film is about consequences. Every character is having to directly relate to the ramifications of their choices. Everyone is kind of being given a mirror in the movie. In my case, it’s a melting pot of masculine cliches — muscles, tattoos, motorcycles, guns. Yet, when he’s faced with this child, it’s like a mirror, and he sees that none of those things make a man, and that he’s none of a man at all.
Do you think he knows what he’s doing is bad? Or is he just completely blinded by this kid in his life that he’s trying to do whatever he can at all costs.
Well, he’s a guy with a face tattoo. He’s not someone who really thinks things through. He’s sort of an unthoughtful person who doesn’t understand consequences.
Did a lot of thought go into the face tattoos?
It did. In the beginning, we were trying to make it a portrait of someone who obviously lived a life making bad decisions. We were trying to get the most bad tattoos of all time. And then I went too far with the face tattoo and was embarrassed. I said to Derek that I really wanted to get rid of it. I felt a lot of shame for having gone too far and for making a decision that was careless that might ultimately affect the movie. I was so ashamed that that shame lived with me on set, as I had to wear that stuff around.
So looking in the mirror every day, you were ashamed?
Looking in the mirror, seeing it on film. It was humiliating, and I feel like that was something inherent to the character, and probably something that I couldn’t have acted.
How much bike riding did you do in this film?
Derek wanted to shoot all the bank heists in one take, which were like ten-minute takes, and they involved me riding into the scene, going into the bank, robbing it, and making a getaway. So I had to do a lot more because of that.
That sounds exhausting, doing take after take like that.
They were exhausting but for reasons that I didn’t expect. Derek thought to hire people that really work at the bank and have the real patrons of that bank be the ones you robbed. When I was robbing it I looked at them and they were all sort of smiling and some filming me with their cell phone cameras, and I realized that they were just having a good time and they were happy to be in the movie. So Derek said to me that it was my fault, that I was not being scary enough. So I did twenty-two takes, each ten minutes. It brought out a level of hysteria in me that I hadn’t initially planned.
You’ve been playing the on-screen vigilante as of late. You have this film, “Drive,” and you get to fight in “Only God Forgives,” which reteams you with “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn.
Well, I get my ass kicked [in “Only God Forgives”]. In the first script, it was me being a good fighter. But I got there and I trained for two months, and I realized that it was the guys who were training me that I was going to have to pretend to be beating in the fight. It just felt stupid. So we just thought it would be more realistic to get my ass kicked.
Not many people have been able to successfully transition from kid star to action hero. Do you think there’s one thing that you did that others haven’t — something that helped set you apart?
It was the “The Believer.” [Director] Henry Bean gift-wrapped me a career. It was extreme. It was exactly what I needed to shift the perceptions of me, even in myself. I didn’t really feel — as much as I wanted to make movies — I was going to have these kind of opportunities.
I don’t know if I was just young and overconfident, faking-it-until-you-make-it kind of thing, or that I did have a sense that I could do it. I know when I got that part, I didn’t believe that I could do it. I think once my confidence was shaken, I was able to do better work. That’s funny that that keeps happening. Every time I get a little big for my britches, I realize all the things I don’t know, I suddenly make a small step forward. For whatever reason, every time I was confident I just did sh*tty work. And every time I was humbled by that realization I had a small window of time where I did something that was worthwhile.