Hey Girl: An Oral History of Ryan Gosling's Rise to Heartthrob Status

Ryan Gosling appears at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. (Getty Images)
Ryan Gosling appears at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. (Getty Images)

Hey girl, did you forget your Ryan Gosling anniversary?

June 25 marks 10 years since the romantic drama The Notebook and its star, a little known Canadian actor named Ryan Gosling, came into our lives.

Gosling had acted before, of course, most notably in the 2002 Sandra Bullock flop Murder by Numbers and in independent films such as critics' favorite The Believer. Some might have even remembered him from his days on The Mickey Mouse Club. But it was his turn as Noah that transformed him from "a common man with common thoughts" (as Gosling's character says in The Notebook) into the sexy man of which dreams (and memes) are made.

To mark this momentous occasion, Yahoo talked to some of the people who helped make him the suave, studly star he is today.

[Related: Ryan Gosling Facebook Hoax Tricks Almost One Million Fans]

Gosling hits the red carpet with Rachel McAdams and Sandra Bullock. (Getty Images)
Gosling hits the red carpet with Rachel McAdams and Sandra Bullock. (Getty Images)

The Discoverer

The native of Ontario, Canada, received his big break in 1992 when, at 12 years old, he attended an open audition for the '90s version of The Mickey Mouse Club. Casting director Matt Casella recalls being instantly impressed in a grueling audition process that narrowed a field of 17,000 kids to six, including Gosling, through an interview, as well as several singing, dancing, and acting auditions, and culminating in a week-long audition camp. Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, JC Chasez, and Keri Russell were among the other actors cast.

Gosling was a cutie at the audition. (Matt Casella)
Gosling was a cutie at the audition. (Matt Casella)

"My whole theory of finding the kids for the show — which I think was sort of the big success of the show — really was the cast and the kids on the show, because I wanted to set the tone that the kids at home watching felt like they could relate to those kids, that they weren't slick, industry child actors," Casella tells Yahoo. "They were like kids at school you'd hang out with. It was important that their personality also came across. That was equally as important as their talent in some cases, and Ryan was certainly one of those cases.

"Normally, I'd say, 'What's your favorite movie?' and... Justin, for instance, was Top Gun. Jessica Simpson — even though she didn't get on the show — Jessica's answer was like, 'Oh, my favorite movie is Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. In Montreal, I'm like, 'Ryan, 12-year-old kid, what's your favorite movie?' And he picks a movie that is three hours long and had subtitles and won the Academy Award for best picture, which was Dances With Wolves. That pretty much right there aced the audition for him. That would never come out of any kid's mouth!

[Related: Ryan Gosling and Britney Spears Played Spin the Bottle Together]

"During the audition, I could tell that he had no fear at all. He was willing to try and do anything I'd throw at him acting-wise, improv-wise. He's great with improv, he spoke French as well. He did amazing accents, along with the French. He did like a Scottish accent.

"He had memorized comedy routines, like one that he did for me is from Wayne's World, which was very popular at the time. He broke into this amazing impression of Wayne and Garth. He then went into a Peter Sellers monologue from The Pink Panther movies — "Does Your Dog Bite?" He did the bit and it was hilarious. He was so funny.

"I knew people would like him watching the show. He also was this really progressive, sort of forward-thinking kid that had opinions on everything. He also had a little bit of a bad boy, sort of a James Dean quality at that age, which may be why I've read in the press a couple of times he said, 'Yeah, I was on the show, but they didn't use me that much.'

"With the singing, did he have a voice like Justin and Christina? Was his voice like that? No, however, his pitch was pretty much perfect. He could belt a song out. The thing that got me about his singing [were] the choices that he made when he performed a song. For instance, his audition song was 'When a Man Loves a Woman.' When he hit the big huge note in the song he literally drops down to one knee, like pleading to this imaginary girl in front of him. I was so captivated watching him perform this song that to me it didn't matter if his voice was like Justin's. It didn't matter, because he sold the song in a way that was equally as good."

Casella says he knew Gosling had made it big shortly after The Notebook was released.

"With me, it was when I started getting phone calls and people didn't want to talk about Britney, Justin, and Christina. [Laughs] I was like, yes, finally they want to talk bout the little diamond in the rough, Ryan. My little Canadian Mouseketeer.

In 2011, Gosling was quoted in Interview magazine as saying, "There was a guy named Matt Casella who we really owe it all to."

"Someone told me, 'Ryan Gosling talked about you in Interview magazine,' and I went and read it and I thought, he didn't have to say this. It was so generous of him.

"A couple of years ago, I bumped into Ryan and he was going on and on about being such a bratty kid and saying, 'I'm really sorry if I came off a little too bratty.' And I was like, 'Ryan, you're cool, you're good.'"

The Co-Star

Once Gosling had been cast, he relocated to Lake Buena Vista, Florida, to join his fellow Mouseketeers, including Jennifer McGill. McGill, now a pop gospel singer and speaker based in Nashville, was a veteran of MMC when Gosling joined the show. They worked together for two seasons.

Justin Timberlake, Jennifer McGill, and Gosling wait to see if their show will be renewed. (Jennifer McGill)
Justin Timberlake, Jennifer McGill, and Gosling wait to see if their show will be renewed. (Jennifer McGill)

McGill remembers while recalling her days on MMC with Yahoo. "I was 16 and he was 13. So my first impression was how adorable [he was], but really what a charming professional this little guy is. And yes, indeed, he was quite suave for a little one.

"He was a charmer and a romantic from the beginning, because as soon as he set foot on that set, he had a crush on some girl. And then the next week or two, he'd have a crush on another one of us. So he kind of made the rounds in his heart. He didn't date any of us that I know of — I will emphasize that I know of. [Laughs]

"My cute Ryan story is, I was sitting on the floor of one of our school rooms and he comes over, he kneels down in front of me, and he looks at me with those puppy dog eyes. He says, 'I was wondering, would I be able to kiss you?' And I looked at him — again, he's 13 — I'm thinking, that's really sweet, it must be my turn. So I told him, 'Well, I have a boyfriend, so I really can't kiss you, but I suppose it would be OK if you gave me a little kiss. Because at the time, I was a people pleaser, and I didn't want to hurt him.

"It was all very innocent. So he leaned in and he gave me a cute little — an itty bitty — kiss on my lips. I felt like it was my brother. I mean, he probably didn't feel that way. I think he looked at me and said something like thank you and I said you're welcome.

"I have nothing but good things to say about him. I don't remember one bad thing about Ryan Gosling.

"The Notebook was the first movie I saw of his and it was really… it was very heartwarming. It encompassed all of his best qualities even from when I met him at 13 as a junior heartthrob. He had that sassy, comical nature, he was flirty, that furrowed brow with the smirky smile. All of his facial expressions and the way that he acted in the movie, as far as all the cute stuff, was how I knew him on the show. I completely recognized him. He was drawing from a lot of his personality from back in the day.

Gosling has many adorable faces. (Getty Images)
Gosling has many adorable faces. (Getty Images)

"Whatever you call those little things, the memes, like 'Hey girl,' that cracks me up. He totally would do that!"

The Blogger

After the Mickey Mouse Club, Gosling continued to work in TV, mostly in teen shows such as Goosebumps and Young Hercules. He also began acting in grown-up movies, including independent films and Murder by Numbers with Sandra Bullock. Then, audiences saw him as the lovelorn Noah when The Notebook was released. At the same time, critics had noticed his acting; in 2007, he was nominated for an Oscar for Half Nelson. By 2008, Gosling Mania inspired Douglas Reinhardt, a fan who happened to be an unemployed blogger in L.A., to start a new blog on Tumblr.

"I've only watched [The Notebook] like once," Reinhardt tells Yahoo while revealing how he came up with the idea for the "Hey Girl" blog. "I thought it was OK. I wasn't a big fan of it.

"I really started to follow him more when I saw the movie Half Nelson. His performance, he was just so real. I liked his acting, so I thought this guy is a really good actor. Then Lars and the Real Girl came out the next year, and I thought, OK, this guy is the real deal.

[Related: Ansel Elgort Is the Next Ryan Gosling]

"I had been working in 2008 for about seven months for Gawker. I had written this thing where I took paparazzi photos of celebrities and I made up stupid stories to go with them for the captions. Then I got laid off and was trying to figure out what to do. I was burnt out on writing and I got really sick. I had a really bad bought of bronchitis, and I was just at home and I had my laptop. I saw the 'yo dawg' memes at the time, like the pictures of Xzibit saying 'yo dawg, I heard you like...' And so I thought what could be something like that? I wanted to do something that's stupid... and I thought, I like Ryan Gosling. Is that url taken? No, oh, I'll take it. Oh, hey girl… my shirt fell off or something like that. The way I came up with it was just to make fun of what was going on at the time."

(New Line/Everett Collection)
(New Line/Everett Collection)

The blog took off. In a December 2010 interview with MTV, Gosling revealed that even he knew about it and read some of the "Hey girl" sayings for the cameras. "They're hilarious," Gosling laughed at the time.

"It was pretty surreal, just because you're hearing somebody read something that you wrote," continues Reinhardt. "I never thought that would ever happen.

Ryan posed with his many female fans at the Blue Valentine premiere in 2010. (Getty Images)
Ryan posed with his many female fans at the Blue Valentine premiere in 2010. (Getty Images)

Reinhardt's blog inspired others, most notably Feminist Ryan Gosling, before he stopped posting regularly in 2012.

"I felt like it had taken its course," he explains. "I felt like I had said everything I wanted to say. I wanted to write other stuff and do different things.

"I'm really glad that Ryan Gosling had a good sense of humor about it and seemed to enjoy it. I wasn't sued or anything, so I'm glad he wasn't litigious." [Laughs]

The Artist

Just as Reinhardt was wrapping up his Gosling project, Mel Elliott was getting started on hers. Elliott is a U.K.-based artist who, since 2007, has created coloring books and paper dolls for adults featuring images from pop culture. She had drawn books about Kate Moss, Kate Middleton, Lady Gaga, Adele, and few others before she got the idea for Colour Me Good Ryan Gosling. The Gosling book is her most famous so far, but she's since turned her pencil to Benedict Cumberbatch and, in September, will release Colour Me Good Tom Hiddleston.

(Mel Elliott/Colour Me Good Ryan Gosling)
(Mel Elliott/Colour Me Good Ryan Gosling)

"I [had the idea] on New Years Day 2012," reveals Elliott. "I had the worst hangover ever and sat wrapped in a blanket, sipping water, and watching Blue Valentine. Ryan was so good in that film and I felt totally drained when it ended. I told my neighbor about how good it was and she had just seen Drive. That's when my mini fan club started and I literally created it for myself and my neighbor.

"I completely immersed myself in him for about two weeks, watched every film and interview that was out there. It was hell!

"Well, I released the book and the press just went crazy for it. It was a total surprise. I honestly thought only my neighbor and me knew who he was. I was kind of disappointed that I had to share him with thousands.

"I've had no contact with his team or Ryan, but he's welcome to come round and borrow my felt tips and get some coloring in tips anytime!"

Gosling — now reportedly Eva Mendes's man — has promised to focus on behind-the-camera work for a while, although his directorial debut, Lost River, was panned at the Cannes Film Festival. Surely, his next turn as director will be better.

Until he returns to the screen, his handsome face with that mischievous smile and those knowing blue eyes will always be there in The Notebook.