Gosling at ease in every role except movie star
This March 10, 2013 photo shows Canadian actor Ryan Gosling poses for a portrait in New York. Gosling plays a tattooed motorbike rider in a traveling circus in his latest film,"The Place Beyond the Pines." (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — What's Ryan Gosling's secret to his on-screen poise, his ability to disarm and provoke merely by his laconic presence?
"Just try not to blink," he says with a self-deprecating smile.
But Gosling's uncanny, communicative stillness — along with his sensitive vulnerability, his serious dedication to his work and, well, the guy ain't bad looking — has made him one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, a widely beloved, new-generation idol. It might be the only role he's uncomfortable playing.
Rather than exude preternatural cool, in a recent interview Gosling spoke more with the uncertain, self-critical grasping of a still-developing actor trying to find his foothold in an illusory profession. Soon to direct his first film, he's looking forward to taking a step back just when moviegoers can't get enough.
"I've been doing it too much," he says of acting. "I've lost perspective on what I'm doing. I think it's good for me to take a break and reassess why I'm doing it and how I'm doing it. And I think this is probably a good way to learn about that. I need a break from myself as much as I imagine the audience does."
But first, this spring will bring two new films from Gosling, starting with "The Place Beyond the Pines," his second collaboration with director Derek Cianfrance, whose gritty portrait of decaying love in "Blue Valentine" was one of the first showcases of Gosling's talent for immersing himself in a character.
In "The Place Beyond the Pines," which opens in limited release March 29, Gosling plays a tattooed motorbike rider in a traveling circus who, visiting an old fling (played by Gosling's real-life girlfriend, Eva Mendes), finds out he's the father of her toddler — a discovery that prompts an awakening in him, along with a desperate urge to support the child. With a more experienced friend (Ben Mendelsohn), he takes to robbing banks in Schenectady, N.Y. His story composes the first section of a triptych connected by a violent incident that reverberates across generations.
"One thing that kind of handed me the key to the character was that I totally overdid it with the tattoos," says Gosling, who has a teardrop inked beneath his left eye in the film. "I said to Derek, 'I got to lose this face tattoo. It's the worst. It's so distracting and it's going to ruin everything.' And he said, 'Well, I'm sure that's how people with face tattoos feel. So now you have to pay the consequences of your actions.' So I had to do the whole film with it and now see it on posters. It gave me a sense of shame that I feel was inherent to the character."
In conversation, Gosling is thoughtful, even eloquent about his acting but less intense and lighter — that calm poise again — than his words make him out to be.
Having started performing as an 8-year-old (coming from an Ontario, Canada, home of divorced, working-class Mormons), the 32-year-old Gosling has now been in entertainment for more than two decades. He was famously part of the "Mickey Mouse Club," along with child cast members Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Often performing in secondary roles to them conditioned Gosling, he says, to consider himself an ensemble player and character actor.
"There's a lot of pressure to be the lead of a film," he says. "I have done it. It's not my favorite way to work."