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February 21, 2008.
Born in Ontario, Canada, to a strict Mormon family, actor Ryan Gosling
started his career as a Mousketeer in the early '90s version of The
Mickey Mouse Club. Sharing that distinct career boost with the likes of
Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, Gosling has
clearly veered away from the gossip mag profiles that his fellow MMC
alumni have earned themselves.
Instead of focusing on garnering an audience of peers, Gosling kicked off
his film career playing a neo-Nazi in The Believer. Then he did such
roles as a young murderer in The United States of Leland, an
unsuitable lover in The Notebook, a suicidal patient in Stay
and now, the lover of an inflatable doll in Lars and The Real Girl
a film which has gotten the Oscar nom for original screenplay.
Though it seems like a huge leap to take on the role of a guy who
establishes a real, though seemingly delusional, relationship with an
inflatable doll, Gosling has the acting skill to make it work. Certainly he
has given life to tough parts before: witness his study in subtlety defining
Dan Dunne the inner-city junior high teacher with a drug habit who forms
an unlikely friendship with one of his students in Half Nelson.
That part got him a dark-horse Oscar nomination for Best Actor last year.
So, although it's no longer that surprising that he can lend depth to his
characters with skill far beyond his peers; Gosling likes to keep
challenging himself... and us.
You've had some remarkable success with your choice of films. Is there a
conscious process as to how you choose your characters, and in particular,
your character in this film?
For the most part, when I read scripts I can't relate to any of the
characters. So when I can, I jump on it. I think movies make it look easy to
be a person, and I don't think that it is [the case]. It's kind of
complicated to balance out who we are, who we think we are, who we think
people think we are, so I look for characters that feel human, that have
jobs, that have to work for a living, and aren't sure what's wrong with them
and don't know how to change it.
So you're really into this guy Lars? What did you see in him that struck
First of all, the film hit me as a Harvey or a Harold and Maude
or Being There. There are these movies that we all love, but there's
not that many of them. They're in a genre by themselves. They just occur
once in awhile. But I love them, and I thought this was my opportunity to
play in one of them. When I read Lars I wished Gene Wilder could play
the part. If he did, this would be the greatest movie ever. So I thought it
was just a great opportunity for me to get to be a part of something that
won't come around again.
This is more of a comedic turn compared to your other movies. Did it open
up your eyes to do more humorous films, as opposed to those that you've done
that were dark and desolate?
Yeah, well, I think Craig Gillespie is a great director, because we took it
seriously. The more serious we took it, the funnier it got. This kind of
takes it back to Gene Wilder, when he falls in love with that sheep in
Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask, he
really falls in love with that sheep. He's looking at it lustfully and it's
just the funniest thing ever. I think that a lot of comedies are trying to
be funny. But this movie walks an interesting line. It's funny and sad at
the same time.
Well, it is a black comedy. Do you have other favorite black comedies
beyond the Gene Wilder ones and stuff like Catch 22? Any that
Yeah, sure... that's a good one. I think for the most part, we were thinking
a lot about films from the Hal Ashby [Harold and Maude] vein.
The tagline to this film "The search of love begins outside the box"
makes the film sound like a salacious, perverse kind of movie but it wasn't
that at all. Was that something you brought to it, or was it on the page?
Though it is about relationship with a sex doll, he doesn't have sex with
it, and doesn't see her like a sex object at all.
I felt struck by how rebellious it was to make a movie [like this] that was
nice. To make a movie that believed in the goodness of people. To ask the
question to everyone who is afraid of being themselves. Like what would you
do if you walked into a place of total acceptance? It's an interesting
When you first were pitched the film, did you think it was going to be a
crass, perverse film?
I heard the tagline, about a guy with a sex doll, and I didn't think it
would last a whole script. But when I read the whole thing, I found myself
crying, I was so connected to it, I couldn't believe this writer took me on
this trip, made me care about these people, made me care about this doll who
became a woman to me as I read this script. It became romantic to me about
this guy who loves, and makes this choice to love and doesn't need to be
loved in return, doesn't compromise his hopes to be with someone. He just
has all this love to give and he gives it.
This movie isn't just about a fantasy love, it's also about a fantasy
community. People might look at it strangely as if it doesn't exist. Maybe
in Canada this place might exist.
I think people don't give people enough credit. I was in your camp in the
beginning, and then I saw the effect of Bianca on the crew. The crew who
never read the script; they thought of it just as a job. Suddenly she had an
interesting impact on everyone. The idea of her she's a symbol. She forces
you to be creative with yourself through her. A lot of people were
interested in taking that ride.
Another thing about the community [Lars lives in] is everyone thinks that
they go along with it, but that's not true. Through the course of the film,
Craig made sure that there were people that were doubting. The film focuses
on the people who are willing to take this trip, because they are the
interesting ones. There are lots of people in this film who don't want to do
it and so they're not interesting. It's a dead end they're not willing to
go on this trip with him. That's what makes this film special. I was waiting
for someone to burst Lars' bubble, do something terrible but the film
doesn't focus on those people. It acknowledges them [and] moves through it
but focuses on those who will.
What kind of research did you have to do for this movie?
What are you implying? [laughs] But for Lars, it's a real love story,
he's not really... it's not a doll to him. And there's a whole community of
guys out there who have relationships with these dolls and now, since I've
done this film, I am very interested in it. I think it's fascinating. But
Lars doesn't consider himself part of that community. He's in a love story.
He met a girl on the internet. She came out to live with him, caught a
terminal illness and died... That's a movie I'd see anyway.
What did you learn about this community of men who become attached to
dolls like this?
Well, I think it's easy to be judgmental about them. There's an interesting
documentary on the BBC about them. There are very complicated relationships.
They [the dolls] are a very huge emotional support for them. One guy is a
hang-glider, and he takes his doll to watch him hang-glide. He needs that
support. It's not that far from a kid who needs his teddy-bear. It's
possible. You go through something with that bear, you go through fun times,
you cry with that bear, you really experience things with it and bond with
it. Should you ever lose it, it would be heartbreaking. You would see a real
sense of loss. We're all capable of this.
How did you develop the character of Lars?
It's always different for every movie. For me it's fun to start from
scratch, play different characters so I can't use the same tricks developed
from the last thing. On this... these things just kind of happen. Really
they happen [more] when pursuing ideas that are than aren't. You never
really end up using them but subconsciously you tend to use them.
And was the physical image of Lars your idea?
There was no picture of Lars. I had a beard. I shaved it. And I saw before I
shaved my mustache off... I glanced up in the mirror and I saw him looking
back at me. He was kind of wearing women's clothes underneath and that came
from doing a fitting. And nothing felt right for some reason. So I felt like
he needed something feminine. There was no feminine energy to him, to his
whole life. Without judging it, he would just gravitate toward things that
are feminine just because they are interesting, they are exotic. We put him
in women's long underwear, as close to it as he could have. I gained some
weight for it. It changed the way I moved my body. It was a whole process.
Is it hard acting with something that doesn't give any expression back?
Well, that's what acting is anyway. We're all pretending something in front
of each other. We're used to it. I'm pretending to be this character, you're
pretending to be that character, I'm pretending to be sexy, I'm pretending
that you are too, we're pretending that we're making love, whatever it is,
it's all an act. It was kind of a more honest version of that in a way.
Did the crew embrace her, dress her, you know... hang out with her, when
she was on set?
She certainly has a presence to her. When she came on set, you could feel
it. There was a sense of excitement when she was in a scene... everybody
liked her. She had magazines in between takes, she had kind of an entourage,
women who took care of her. She had her own trailer. She wasn't on set when
she wasn't in a scene. It was like working with another actor for the most
She's very pretty.
Yes, I think so too.
Where is she now?
She's at my house.
Is that true?
Yes, she's reading a book by the window.
When you weren't in front of the camera, did you stay in character?
That's interesting because I hear a lot of actors do that, they become the
character. I always get so jealous when I hear that because that seems like
so much fun. But I don't become the character. They become me. I am all of
them. I turn on all of the parts about them that are me and turn off all the
other parts that aren't.
Are there people in your personal life that have come over to your house
and seen the doll?
I take her out.
How do they react?
Everybody likes her.
Where do you take her?
Bars, you know.
One of the other things about this the film, is that you meet her through
the internet. What's your experience with the internet? Do you have your own
MySpace page and do a lot of surfing?
I'm just getting into it. I really kind of resisted technology for a long
time. I have a band [Dead Man's Bones], we have a MySpace page. I think it's
kind of fascinating, you get to talk to people you would never get to know.
One woman in Ohio, she wrote us, she says everyday she comes home with her
kids and they put on our song and they kind of go crazy in their house and
dance around. It's neat. It's neat to kind of have that kind of relationship
with people you would never meet.
So when you do a film like this, do you feel like you have to do
something totally different with the next one?
Well, the next project is called The Lovely Bones, which is directed
by Peter Jackson, from a really great book by Alice Seybold. We start
rehearsals in a few weeks.
I heard your character in The Lovely Bones is the father. How is
it for you, not having children, to play the father of a daughter who has
been killed? How are you going to summon up that character?
That's a good question. We'll see, I don't know. I'll have to wait until we
meet each other. I try not to go into anything with a real set idea of how
it's going to happen. It depends on the kids and we'll just have to develop
a relationship with one another. It's a tricky role, because anyone who has
a kid, it would be really hard for them to play a role where they lost a
kid. I don't think they would want to go there. And I can understand that.
And anyone who doesn't have one, it would be very difficult for them to
understand what that was like. So I think either way it's a very tricky
Once you've been nominated for an Oscar, what changes?
Yeah, I get more free stuff. It's a bizarre system. It's backwards...
[because now I can afford to pay for it].
Music is also a big part of your life. Dead Man's Bones your band with
Rachel McAdams' brother wasn't your first experience with music. What role
has music been in your life, and what made you come back to it?
Music is a big part of my life. I started out as a dancer. But then I
realized that you can't really make a living with it so I started acting. My
father was a musician and always played music.
Have you ever jammed with your fellow actor friends?
I've played with a couple of times with Jason [Schwartzman]. He's the real
deal. He doesn't consider himself an actor. He's a really talented guy. A
real talented writer.
Is it hard having time to squeeze in a band?
Not really, you get a lot of downtime as an actor.
And what's your favorite band or music?
I've been getting into a lot of Balkan music and klezmer stuff lately.
Now that you are part of the Academy, has the process started for you in
this year's Oscar run-up?
It's exciting because I get all the free screeners. I'm really excited about
So you don't have any idea of your favorite movies this year?
I saw this movie called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly directed by
Julian Schnabel which I think is one of the best movies I've seen this year.
I hope people go and see it.
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