Headlines are being made about Ryan Gosling’s impending hiatus from acting, which is why it was extra fortunate that we got a chance to talk to the star/heartthrob/Internet meme sensation recently, as part of his press tour for the new drama, The Place Beyond the Pines. The movie re-unites Gosling his with acclaimed Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, for a movie about family, legacy, and the rippling effects of violence.
The discussion with Gosling ranged from topics like the motor bike-riding skills he needed to acquire in order to play the role of bank-robbing stunt driver, Luke, to discussions of the larger state of his acting career and whether or not this movie (about the legacies between fathers and sons) has changed his perspective on children and parenting.
Q: So did you like being that character that has a touch of danger to him? You seem to be moving more and more towards these characters that have a touch of danger to them.
Ryan Gosling: Well, just trying to surf and turf it a little bit. (laughter) Keep it interesting for you guys.
Q: So you ride a motorcycle?
I do yeah.
Q: So talk about that training they put you through.
Well it was just basically me and Rick Miller, when Batman gets on the motorcycle, it’s Rick Miller in the Batman suit. So he is the best and he’s become a good friend and we just was riding motorcycles around Schenectady for a month, that was the training.
Q: Any dangerous turns there?
Yeah, I guess. I mean, the nature of the way Derek wanted to shoot the film was all of the heist in one shot.
Q: It’s kind of like Drive.
‘Drive’ is a very surreal movie, more of a dream, and this is a film that’s all about consequences and the ramifications of your actions. In ‘Drive,’ I smash a guy’s head in an elevator and you never hear about it again. And this, there’s only two shots fired and they resonate through the entire movie. I feel like the driver was someone without, not a real person, and this character is someone that’s very much like just kind of like a mess, a disaster of a person.
Q: Drive was like a fairytale and this one was kind of the opposite of a fairytale.
I guess to me, they are like ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Blue Valentine’.
Q: Do you prefer working with Derek and his style of directing as opposed to other directors because he said that he gives you freewill.
Yeah, he says that, but that’s not true. (laughter) Because, I will tell you a for instance, like for instance with the face tattoo, I regretted it instantly, and I said this looks ridiculous, I can’t do this to me or your movie, I regret it, and he said, well that’s what people do with face tattoos, they regret it. And then he said, well this movie is about consequences, so now you are stuck with it.
And, I was upset at the time but I was glad that he held my feet to the fire in that way, because it did give me the sense of shame that I don’t think I could have acted in the film. I did feel a sense of, I didn’t want to be photographed, or even look at myself in the mirror, and I felt ridiculous and I started to feel probably exactly how this character felt. This was a character who was a melting pot of every masculine cliché, tattoos, muscles, guns, its overkill, and when he is presented with this child that he didn’t know that he had, it’s like a mirror is held up to him and he realizes that he’s not a man at all. That all of those things don’t make you a man, and at the heart of it, he’s an empty person.
So he desperately tries to and then equally as romantic in his own mind, an unrealistically romantic way, trying to turn it around and have this grand gesture to his kid which is equally as foolish as a knife under your eye.
Q: During the robbery scene you sort of squeal when you’re ordering around the bank tellers. Was that also a part of this “masculine character” (laughter)?
That squeal? It was a fear, I did that 22 times. And each take was ten minutes. And it would start four blocks down the street, where I would ride the motorcycle up to the bank, run in, the camera would come in with me and I would rob it, but also I would tell you what really came from, when I first started robbing the bank, I looked down and people were smiling and filming me with their cell phones. (laughter)
And they were just having a great time being robbed, and then Derek came up to me and he was very angry, and he blamed me for not being scary enough. He said, look at these people, they are having a good time, (laughter) and he made me do 22 takes of trying to scare them, and I think at a certain point I got desperate. (laughter)
Q: So what about the scene when you dropped the bag?
That was amazing, I had weighted the bag, because I thought, this lady was just tossing it over and there was no money in it, so we had done like ten takes, and I asked them to weight the bag, and they over weighted it, and so this lady had to throw it over, (laughter) but it just couldn’t make it over the top, and then it got stuck on the top of it and we loved it because it was just like everything that could go wrong, did.
Q: Parenting is already kind of freaky enough on its own – has this role kind of freaked you out about the idea of parenting even more?
Well I don’t know, I really like this kid, who played our kid, Tony Pizza, that’s his name, (laughter) his real name, Tony Pizza Jr, and I don’t know, if they could all be like Tony Pizza, I guess I would have them.
Q: What do you have in common with Luke, and what does Luke have in common with your Blue Valentine character?
I don’t know how to answer that (laughs), that’s a good question. I would have to think about that.
Q: What did you find in him that you could relate to?
Well I guess in the way that I have these, for instance, when Derek and I were making ‘Blue Valentine,’ I said to him that I thought I figured out a way to get away with robbing a bank. If I wasn’t so afraid of jail I would do it, I was that sure of it. And which I guess means I am not too confident in my plan. (laughter) And he said, that’s crazy, I just wrote a script about that, so we thought, well, okay, we should try and make that movie, but it was a fantasy, and the reality of it was very, very different.
And I think I can have a tendency, I can try and romanticize things or create a mythology for something and want to believe the idea of something and try and avoid the reality of it. And so I think that that’s, this character is this, maybe we are similar in that way.
Q: Being set in Schenectady is definitely the opposite of fantasy, it’s a pretty hard scrabble, so how did that being up there, staying in a Holiday Inn or whatever, how did that inform your character? Did it give you an idea of what kind of life he led?
It did and I think it’s part of the beauty of the way Derek works, that he just creates an environment for you that’s so natural that you kind of, if you are in it long enough, acclimate to it in a certain degree. For instance, in the bank, that was the real tellers that work at that bank and people that go to that bank, so he tries to surround you with as much, it was as many people from that environment as possible, so your goal is to try and match their, you try and get to where they are at.