Let’s hear it from goofy Mr. Gosling
LOS ANGELES—“First of all, I’m a little hung over and my mom is here so if you could take it easy on me, that would be great,” Ryan Gosling announced at the start of a recent presscon in New York.
When journalists turned around to see Donna Gosling, Ryan said, “Mom, can you raise your hand? There she is, back there. She looks like my girlfriend, which is a problem.” Donna, an attractive woman, smiled at her son’s pronouncements.
She must have chuckled many times, as did we, as Ryan fielded questions with a wry, bemused stance. With his half-smile (right lip curled) and a knowing look in his blue eyes, Ryan is blessed with a goofy charm and sense of humor—so his replies should be read in that context.
In “Crazy, Stupid Love,” directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Ryan finally realizes his dream to work with Steve Carell. He plays Jacob, a stylish playboy who decides to become a guru to Steve’s schlubby Cal, who has just been dumped by his wife (Julianne Moore). In separate scenes, Ryan bares his buff body in front of Steve and Emma Stone. Emma reacts with a memorable line: “It’s like you were Photoshopped!”
Ryan admits that, in real life, women do approach him, “but then they realize that I am not Ryan Reynolds. Then they go away.”
Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon, Josh Groban, Analeigh Tipton and Fil-Am actress Liza Lapira costar in “Crazy, Stupid Love.” Reggie Lee, another Fil-Am actor, makes a cameo appearance as a cop.
Did you have to promise to do the nudity to get the part?
There may or may not have been a casting couch involved, with Steve. I can’t comment on that.
How did you keep a straight face when, as Steve told us, he improvised and fell on your private parts?
What was it like to have Steve Carell fall into my private parts? Is that your question while my mother’s here? Really? I’m sorry, mom. Look, if you’re going to lose your comedic virginity, you want to lose it to Steve Carell. He’s very gentle.
Your character knows a thing or two about dressing up and style. When did you start to appreciate good clothes?
I grew up with my mom and sister. I’m kind of a girl about some things and clothes are one of them.
Did you pick your own clothes when you were a kid?
Mom, how was I when I was a kid? (Mom started answering but she was way in the back of the room.) All right, that’s enough. I used to make my own clothes, things like that, when I was a kid. I had pretty strong ideas. I was just emulating a lot of people.
I wanted to be like Billy Idol for a long time. I also wanted to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. When I first saw “Rambo,” it put some kind of spell on me. I thought I was Rambo. I put a bunch of steak knives into my Fisher Price Houdini Kit and I took it to school. I threw them in the direction of the kids at recess because I thought I was Rambo and we were still in the movie. I was suspended. I learned a lesson and I’m not proud of it. My mother said I couldn’t watch R-rated movies anymore.
Can you share with us how you built up your body for that abs scene?
It was just a lot of exercising. Anybody could do it. It’s easy when you’re an actor because you have time to do it and they give you the right people. There’s a team of people helping you do it.
It was intensive—you lift a lot of heavy things and suddenly, a muscle grows. But muscles are pointless. They don’t do anything. They just help you lift that heavy thing. They’re not practical and they become like pets. You have to feed, pet and think about them. When you don’t pay attention to them, they just go away.
Do the muscles make you feel better?
No. I just felt goofy having them. They just felt weird. They’re these weird things that sit under your skin that don’t do anything. What’s the real point in having them?
What’s your definition of a man?
Steve Carell—he’s my kind of man. I learned a lot from him. I’ve been a fan of his since I was 17. I moved to Los Angeles and one of the first roles that I got was a small part in a TV pilot that didn’t get picked up, thank God. But Steve was in it and he had a small part, too. I was so impressed by him that I would go to the set just to watch him work.
One day, Steve was so funny that the boom operator threw down the boom and had a laugh attack in the corner. They actually asked Steve to not be so funny because they couldn’t get the scene done. It was the first time that I’d ever seen someone who was so talented that it was a problem. I’ve seen all his films.
Steve also produced this film but he would sometimes leave the set halfway through the day because he’d watch his kids’ soccer practice or game or a recital. I want to be like Steve.
Were you surprised that they wanted you for this role?
I campaigned for this role. I wanted to work with Steve. I’ve been wanting to find something to do with him since I was 17. I heard there was a really great part in this movie that he was doing. I was campaigning for it before I even read the script or knew what it was about. I was just lucky that it turned out to be a great part.
Your “Dirty Dancing” scene with Emma is funny. Can you talk about watching “Dirty Dancing” for the first time?
It would be inappropriate for me to tell you how I felt when I first watched “Dirty Dancing” but I enjoyed it. I’ve always loved that movie. Sometimes, my friends and I have a few drinks. We go dancing. We try and lift each other like in the movie. So I thought it would be a fun thing to try in the movie. When we got on the set, Emma Stone didn’t believe that I wouldn’t drop her. So she made me try with a stuntwoman and prove it to her. I lifted this stuntwoman 10 times and I never dropped her. Then after 10 times, Emma was like, “Yeah, but you’ve just lifted her 10 times. You’ve got to be tired. I’m not doing it.”
How do you prepare for a role?
Usually, when I take on a certain role, the first thing I try and figure out is what’s the percentage of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in that character. For instance, when I did “Blue Valentine,” I figured that character was 80 percent Daffy and 20 percent Bugs. In this film, it was really exciting to just kind of play Bugs Bunny. I watched a lot of Warner Bros. cartoons. I tried to play Bugs and Steve tried to play Daffy.
How was George Clooney as your director in “The Ides of March”?
Sometimes he came up to me and gave me direction. It was some of the best direction I’ve ever had. It’s very insightful and specific. He gets you into this serious emotional state. And then he walks away and you realize that he’s been spraying Evian water on your crotch the entire time and now, you look like you’ve wet your pants. Then he says, “Action!”
Can you tell us something about “Drive”?
It’s weird. We tried to make like a violent John Hughes movie. What I love about “Drive” is how it was born. I thought Nicolas (Winding Refn) would be the right director for the film but I wanted to meet him first. We went out to dinner and it was like a really bad date where neither one of us had anything to say to each other or there was no chemistry. It was clear no one was getting any action that night. I just wanted to take him home so I got the check early.
I had to give him a ride to Santa Monica. It was really awkward in the car. So I turned on the music. REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” came on and Nicholas started crying and singing at the top of his lungs. He started banging his fist on his knees. He said, “This is the movie. It’s a guy who drives around at night listening to pop music.” I had secretly been feeling that way, too. This was not in the script. It was a miracle to me that he said it. But what I loved was that the movie would never have been made if REO Speedwagon hadn’t come on the radio. I love it when films are born in a way that fit the circumstances that create them.
Leslie Mann said in our interview that she has a crush on you.
I have a crush on Leslie Mann, too, so I think you just made a love connection.
Can you talk about being cast in “The Notebook,” which remains one of the top romantic movies for many people?
It’s important to me to remember that when I was cast in “The Notebook,” it was the first role I was offered outright. I didn’t have to audition. I was shocked by that. I went to Nick Cassavetes at his house and he was in the backyard. He said, “You know why I want you to do this part? Because you’re not handsome. You’re not cool. You’re not like all these guys out there. You’re not a movie star. You’re nuts. I could believe that you would meet a girl once and build a house for her. You’re crazy like me and that’s why I want you to do this film.”
When did you realize that you wanted to be an actor?
It was an amalgamation of things. My uncle was an Elvis Presley impersonator. He lived in our basement while he was doing it. He looked nothing like Elvis. He was bald, had a mustache and a big birthmark. But when he performed, he was Elvis. He would spend all his time making his own costumes. He was quite obsessive about it. He was like a racehorse banging against the boards before the race. I grew up around him. I watched him create and become that character so, unknowingly, he showed me how to do it.
I wasn’t good at anything else. I wasn’t doing well in school. TV was my only friend. I saw Raquel Welch on “The Muppet Show” and she was the first crush I had. She was dancing with this big furry spider. I thought, how do I get to meet this woman? She’s on TV and that’s where I have to go. So that probably planted some weird seed and I went on many roads to get there.
You’ve often cited your mom for helping you study when you were younger. What role does she play in your life now that you’re a man?
My mom is a constant inspiration to me. She just graduated from a university a couple of weeks ago. I’m very proud of her. She’ll be teaching in high schools. She was the best teacher I’ve ever had. She gave me the self-confidence to try and have the life that I want, to try and live my dreams. I’m excited for her students because I’m sure she’ll have the same effect on them.
E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.