Ryan Gosling goes to a bleaker La La Land in 2049
LOS ANGELES—Ryan Gosling fights a lot of guys, including Fil-Am actor, body builder and former wrestler and mixed martial artist Dave Bautista, in “Blade Runner 2049.” But Ryan told us whose punches he had to watch out for: Harrison Ford’s.
“If Harrison keeps punching me in the face, I don’t want to see what it’s going to look like,” Ryan said with a laugh in our recent talk with him in downtown Los Angeles, the setting of his acclaimed contemporary musical film, “La La Land,” and “Blade Runner 2049,” when the sunny metropolis has become a bleak, gray and toxic city.
In Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic set three decades later, Ryan plays a new blade runner, LAPD cop K.
To ensure the moviegoers’ full enjoyment of Denis’ film—a cineaste’s dream, visually stunning and absorbing—and avoid spoilers, we’ll just share the basic plot described in the studio’s production notes:
“…K is sent on an assignment that, for very different reasons, could have more far-reaching consequences—calling into doubt the divide between people and replicants, between humanity and technology, which could lead to anarchy or even war.” Part of K’s mission is to find Harrison’s Rick Deckard, an ex-blade runner who’s gone AWOL for many years.
“As a fan of the original, I was curious as to how they were going to evolve the story and those characters,” said Ryan, looking preppy in a denim jacket, argyle sweater and slacks. “I saw the original when I was 12. It was 10 years after it came out. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel when it was over. I thought I was just going to see a regular science-fiction film, but what I saw was something else altogether.
“What is just as interesting as the film itself is the experience you have after you’ve seen it. Part of the reason it became such a cult film is because people couldn’t shake it. It stays with you, and you care about these characters and the world it created feels nightmarish but possible. It haunts you.
“So, when I heard they were making a sequel, I was curious. I wanted to know what happened to those characters. But, the questions you have to ask yourself when you’re looking at the screenplay are: Is it its own piece, does it have its own story to tell, is that story useful in some way to the audience, is it a valuable emotional exercise, and is it worth everything that we are going to put into this?
“I felt it immediately when I read the screenplay. The fact that Hampton (Fancher, writer), Ridley and Harrison have decided that this is the way it should go, that now was the time to tell this story, and that this was the story to tell was very comforting. It just felt like a wonderful opportunity to be a part of something special.”
The Golden Globe best actor winner for “La La Land” spoke effusively about Harrison: “He’s the best collaborator you could ask for. He’s such a great partner and an incredible storyteller. To create one character in your career that an audience would want you to revisit would be an achievement for an actor. In Harrison’s case, that has happened so many times for him, with many different characters. It’s almost unprecedented.
“It’s interesting because he has created these seminal movie experiences for all of us, these cultural touchstones. We all get to experience them. As we’ve been traveling in the press junkets, country to country, I observed that it isn’t just one role—it’s his whole body of work that means so much to so many people.
“To have a window into what that experience was like for him—making all those great films over the years—was a very good experience for me.”
On Denis describing Ryan as his muse, the actor chuckled as he cracked about his fellow Canadian, “I have to give him 50 bucks a day to say that. He will do it if you deliver. We were great partners. He was very collaborative but also very clear with his own vision. So much of this movie existed in his head, so what was important to me was to take a deep dive into his dream of what this could be, and to help him in the best way that I knew how to realize that.
“Something that both Denis and I connected on was that we both grew up like an hour away from one another and both had been affected similarly by this film and now, we made the next installment. So, the theme of memory in the film, shared with our collective memories of the first film, was very helpful to our process.”
Denis often lets his muse’s eyes do the “talking,” in the film’s wordless moments.
To create Los Angeles and the earth in 2049—in which the environment is more toxic and the weather is harsher and colder—Denis and his team avoided CGI and green screens.
They constructed sets all over Hungary, where the film was shot. The result is a visual feast, however in muted tones, because of the barren, decaying urban setting.
“It was very special because I have never done a science-fiction film,” Ryan pointed out. “I assumed there would be a fair amount of green screen involved. But, when I first went to Budapest, I went to visit what is technically in the screenplay a very small set. But not only have they made that set—when I looked out the window, they created the street outside and the buildings across the street.
“They also created the buildings within the distance. Every window of these buildings has its own lighting pattern, mirroring a separate, autonomous life and story. Then, it started to snow. So, the level of which Denis was prepared to commit to his vision in that way was not only inspiring, but also as an actor, you are not forced to imagine very much. So, I felt that Denis did everything in his power to give us every tool we could have to do the best job that we could do.”
Ryan goes from the future and into the past as he prepares to play the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, in “First Man,” which reunites him with “La La Land” director, Damien Chazelle.
“We haven’t started yet,” Ryan said. “But, it’s a fascinating story. It’s been a really incredible experience so far, just getting to spend time with Neil’s family and his boys, ex-wife and childhood friends, and going to his childhood town in Wapakoneta (Ohio). All the people who are involved are so passionate about the story.
“I grew up in a world where I was told they put a man on the moon so you can do anything. I’m not sure if we say that as much anymore. I benefited from that. That changed the perspective of a lot of people. So, it’s exciting to be able to explore that story again.”
In the meantime, in the present, Ryan’s life is dominated by three girls—his love, Eva Mendes, and their two daughters. “I feel very lucky to be surrounded by them,” he gushed. “My life is much better as a result of that.”
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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