Ryan Gosling on creating ‘blue-collar Bond’ role | Inquirer Entertainment
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Ryan Gosling on creating ‘blue-collar Bond’ role

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:20 AM July 17, 2022
Scene from “The Gray Man” STORY: Ryan Gosling on creating ‘blue-collar Bond’ role

Scene from “The Gray Man” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Ryan Gosling is known for a carefully curated body of work that is as diverse as his skillset as an actor. Indeed, the two-time Oscar nominee (“La La Land,” “Half Nelson”) isn’t just known for his commercial flicks (“The Notebook,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and the upcoming “Barbie”), but also for his daring foray into more arthouse fare (“Blade Runner 2049,” “Drive”).

But the versatile 41-year-old actor has really got his work cut out for him in Netflix’s “The Gray Man,” which launches on July 22.

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The movie follows the life-or-death situation that CIA operative Courtland Gentry (Ryan) aka Six finds himself embroiled in after he’s forced to guard an encrypted file that uncovers secrets involving corrupt colleagues. Helping Six expose the coverup is Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas), who’s also on the verge of burning all her bridges with the CIA.

Long before his stint with the CIA, the highly skilled ex-con was plucked out of a federal penitentiary in Florida—where he had been incarcerated since he was 15 years old—by his handler Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton).

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But after an unexpected turn of events, Six suddenly finds himself getting hunted by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a sociopathic former cohort in the Agency’s elite Sierra program “with a higher kill count than the entire Mossad.”

The film is Ryan’s first all-out actioner-cum-espionage thriller that pits him against “Captain America” star Chris Evans in a cat-and-mouse chase around the world. The production is the most expensive film ever made by the streaming network. Shot in more than seven locations, including France, the Czech Republic, Thailand, Croatia, Austria, Azerbaijan, and Los Angeles, it reportedly comes with a $200-million price tag.

And why not? After all, “The Gray Man” is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (“Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame”), Tinseltown’s second most commercially successful directors of all time, after Steven Spielberg.

Chris Evans

Chris Evans (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Spy, action movie fan

For Ryan, however, the decision to take on the project was more personal than professional.

“I was a fan of spy films and action movies growing up,” Ryan told us in our roundtable interview with him early this week. “You know, these are the movies that made me fall in love with movies as a kid. I’ve always wanted to be in a film like this. So, it’s exciting to finally be in one.”

But just because he wants to be in a high-profile action or spy film doesn’t mean Ryan will accept any role that lands on his lap.

“Obviously, there’s been a lot of great action films and great characters,” the actor mused. “So, for me, it was like, ‘How do you create a character that feels new in some way?’ For this project, I thought the idea of a spy who doesn’t want to be a spy was compelling. Six has no romantic ideas about being James Bond … He would rather be at home watching Netflix like the rest of us.

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“I also liked his spirit. He never gives up no matter what situation he’s in … no matter how impossible or extreme the obstacles are, even when he’s falling out of a plane without a parachute.

“And Six remains hopeful, you know? It’s like that line in ‘Dumb and Dumber’ that says, ‘So you’re saying there’s a chance (laughs)?’ I like that relentless kind of optimism in spite of how bleak things are. They’re fun and exciting to play. As a kid, I always found inspiration in that.”

When we asked Ryan how he managed to make his convincing portrayal feel like second skin to him, he likened it to the way plumbers would go about doing what needs to be fixed.

“To personalize the role, I tried to approach it the way a plumber would,” he explained. “Like, this is just someone doing his job. If you have a leak, he goes in and fixes it. So while they let Six wear fancy clothes and send him to fancy locations, he’s still a very blue collar kind of guy—and I thought that was an interesting juxtaposition.

“We see Six in the kind of work that he does in the glamorized way that we’ve seen these kinds of characters in other films. But I felt like that made this character unique, and that’s how I connected to him.”

Scene from “The Gray Man”

Scene from “The Gray Man” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Incredible legacy

The film is based on Mark Greaney’s 2009 debut novel about the freelance assassin and former CIA operative. So given its genre, it wouldn’t be a stretch to build a franchise around Six/Court, like what Hollywood did to Agent 007, who is fleetingly referenced in a scene, and the Jason Bourne series, starring Matt Damon.

Explaining the possibility of seeing Six or Court in more missions following the release of “The Gray Man,” Ryan said, “Maybe he’ll be seen as a ‘blue-collar Bond.’ It’s hard to compare because the James Bond films have such an incredible legacy.

“But I do think that Six is an interesting person because this movie is about what he wants. A lot of the heroes in these films want either revenge or power or money or information. But Six just wants to be free. All he wants is his freedom. And that’s something most of us can relate to.”

Amping up the pressure for Six is the fact that it is Chris Evans’ bloodthirsty character who’s going up against him.

“Yeah, Six and Lloyd couldn’t be more opposite,” Ryan noted. “That’s what was fun about these two adversaries. Lloyd relishes his job … it’s something that he’s always wanted to do. He has such romantic ideas of himself and what he does for a living. He has these delusions of grandeur.

“Six, on the other hand, just doesn’t want to have anything to do with this world. So, people like Lloyd are so far away from Six’s mindset that he can’t understand why they do what they do.”

When asked about an incident on the set on the first day of filming, where Chris accidentally hit him with his prop gun, Ryan quipped, “Accidents happen. Look, acting is a great job. You get health care, free food, and they drive you to work. So, every once in a while, you have to take a gun to the face (laughs) — it’s a small price to pay.

“But our fight scenes were so much fun to do. And Chris was having a lot of fun playing his character—which made it even more fun for me to play off of him.”

Preparation

Asked what he found challenging about preparing for the action-packed fight scenes, Ryan said he was careful not to actually hit the other actors and the stunt people.

He explained, “It took a lot to find Six’s style of fighting. I had an amazing stunt coordinator named Danny Hernandez, and we spent months learning different styles of martial arts and curating what would be the best style for me and my character. So much of the credit goes to him and all the other stunt performers who are responsible for making it look like I actually know what I’m doing (laughs).

“Looking back, I don’t think I was really all that physically prepared. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to work more on my cardio, because I didn’t anticipate how much running there would be in Prague.

“But I did my best day. And it was fun to kind of push myself in that way. So, to recharge and sustain my energy, I took a lot of Epsom salt baths (laughs). It was very physically challenging.

“Other than my time with the stunt team, I also worked a lot with this technical adviser named Chili Palmer, who used to be a Delta Force member. He was as close to the Gray Man as you’re ever gonna get. So I just tried to be joined at the hip with Chili, who was there with me for every scene, from how I would stand or what I would say. He had so many great suggestions that were from his own experience.”

Scene in Prague

Which of the film’s many action sequences is his favorite?

“There are so many, but the one in Prague was so much fun to do because it’s such a beautiful city—from the town square to the stuff that happens on the train,” he recalled. “The train sequence kind of summed up the whole experience for me because there’s a moment at the end where I’m running on top of the train cars, and they’re falling out behind me!

“In the whole movie, it felt like I was barely making it out of every action sequence alive. That scene in Prague was also the last thing that we shot, so it just felt very exciting.”

How different was it to learn action choreography compared to dance choreography? Did having a dance background help the actor prepare for his role in “The Gray Man”?

“I guess it did,” Ryan said, laughing. “I didn’t know that it was going to be helpful. You know, the Russos told me that that it would be inserted by the stunt team and I guess it did in the end. If I could just have worn my Hammer pants, I think I would have done even better. Unfortunately, that didn’t suit the film. So, maybe in the sequel (laughs)?”

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TAGS: Netflix, Ryan Gosling, The Gray Man
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