2011 is the year of Ryan Gosling. He killed in Crazy, Stupid Love, and he’s about to blow everyone out of the water with Drive. You guys really aren’t prepared for how amazing his performance is. I’m ALL about this movie, and I can’t wait for all of you to see it. Last week, I had the chance to sit down with Ryan Gosling, and I was instantly struck by two things. He is one of the most soft spoken actors I have ever met, and he is WAY more handsome live than he is in pictures. Seriously, he touched my knee a little, and I swooned. There’s your headline: “Gosling makes Katz swoon.”
Anyway, read on for the full interview!
Your character has been referred to as being half machine and half human, in that you’re a hero at night and a human during the day. Did you guys talk about that? Did you try to work that into your performance?
Well, that was more how Nicolas [Winding Refn, Drive‘s director- ed.] connected to it. I connected to him by way of…ok, so when I was a kid and I first saw First Blood, after I saw it, it kinda put a spell on me and I thought I was Rambo. I went to school the next day and put all the steak knives in my Fisher Price Houdini kit, and I threw them at all the kids at recess, and I got suspended, which I should have been, and I’m sorry about what I did, and I learned my lesson. But my parents kinda put a leash on me and said, “We can’t let him see violent movies because he just goes crazy.” So I could only watch, like, bible movies and National Geographic movies, which are very violent anyways, but I saw what they were going for.
My point is that I understand the spell that films can cast on you, and that, when I read this script, the behavior of this character seemed to me like somebody who had seen too many movies and was trying to…and had become the star of his own action film. So, that’s more how I thought about it.
I felt like the film plays out like a classic noir, in fact very similar to Robert Mitchum’s Out of the Past. I don’t know if you’ve seen that film.
I haven’t seen it.
The characters are mysterious guys with mysterious pasts they don’t talk about. I don’t know how much you guys talked about it being noir actually, or if it’s just an undertone, if you were conscious of that character being such a classic noir guy. It really suits you, as an actor, so I was wondering if this is a route that you plan on going or, like you’ve done in the past, every film seems very different, and whether or not you’re going to continue to choose things that are different, because this works for you really well.
Well, I hope that they’re different. Once they stop being different, I should stop. Sometimes you don’t get it right, so you want to try it again, so it’s not so different from something else, but you don’t feel like you got it, so you have to keep working at it. In terms of not talking, it was a relief because, on a more practical level, I had just done Blue Valentine, which was highly improvised, and all I did was talk, talk, talk. Then I had to promote it, and just talk, talk, talk, and I was tired of my own voice in general. I felt like the more I talked, the less I felt like saying. So, we just went to the set with this and removed all dialogue that wasn’t absolutely necessary, and it turned out that there wasn’t much that was. People are smart. You can look at a character and see how they feel about that person they’re talking to or how they’re reacting to something. They don’t need to tell you. There was that, and once he became so silent, then he started to become like those characters you were referencing, the man without a past, but it seemed to suit the character, and it seemed to suit the film. Also because we wanted to make the film feel like a fairy tale and we thought the only way the audience is going to connect with this on a deep level is if we get into the mythology of these characters, this place, and this story. Los Angeles is a fairy tale place built on fantasy, so we made it fairy tale land, and we tried to make the driver a knight and Irene (Carey Mulligan) this princess in a tower who needed to be rescued. Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) was the evil wizard, and Ron Perlman was the dragon.
So it’s not a noir at all, it’s a fairy tale?
We treat it like a Grimms[sic] brothers fairy tale, but Nicolas seems to think it falls under the genre of neo-noir. I’ve heard him say that, and he knows what he’s talking about.
You don’t seem particularly worried about the commercial appeal of your projects, but this movie is being treated a little differently from Blue Valentine and Half Nelson. It’s going to get a wide release, it’s going to be out there for more people to see. Is that exciting? Are you nervous about it? Because it is still not the most conventional movie in an exciting way. Is that something you think audiences are going to respond to, or do you think it might be a disappointment, commercially?
The beauty of making films this way is that they don’t cost much to make, so I don’t have those pressures. It doesn’t matter to me. It just has to make its money back, which is not very much to make. I think this film has more of a shot out there in the world because it’s getting more support than those other movies. A lot of times just the marketing campaign alone can kill a film. It’s not based on the merits of the movie. But we made this movie for the audience and for the theater. I wanted this film to be a film that you wanted to be in the movie theater to see, not one you want to watch at home. And there are those movies, but there are those films that you’re glad to be in a theater to see. For instance, when I first saw Valhalla Rising, Nick’s movie, halfway through the movie, the character cuts open his friend and pulls out his guts and shows them to him. Everybody lost their minds. They were hitting each other, getting up, laughing, screaming. It just evoked a real hodgepodge of emotions. I guarantee you everybody in that theater, whether they liked it or not, was glad that they saw it in a theater. So, my hope is that that’s what we made. We made it to be played loud, we made it for the big screen, and I think people will appreciate that.
You take such an active role in the development of these projects. Are you thinking about directing at any point, and how influential were you in the casting of the film, because the casting is somewhat surprising, in many ways, and did you talk about that, making surprising casting choices?
Well, I helped produce the film, so I had to be involved in all those things. Mark Platt was my partner, and the real producer of the film, but he allowed me to produce with him. Nicolas and I, we went through the casting process together. Albert Brooks we wanted from day one.
Even though he’s one of my heroes, and one of my favorite comedians and filmmakers, I also think there’s a violence in him that I wanted to see in action. He’s scary because you love him. He’s charming, and that makes it even scarier.
Was he easy to get?
I think he was confused why we wanted him for that part, but I think he knew that he could do it. Anybody who’s seen the film singles him out as one of their favorite parts of it. Just that he not only can do it but just possesses it, and you can’t imagine anyone playing that character. I know I can’t.
Just to kind of piggy back on that, as a producer on the film, can you talk a bit about when [Hossein] Amini came in, the scriptwriter, because the book is really different than what ultimately was on screen and what the script was. Did you have a hand in developing that?
Yeah, it was me, Hoss, and Nicolas. Actually, Nicolas forced Hoss to live in his attic.
The director forced the screenwriter?
Yes, to live in the attic, to be there for him 24/7 when he had an idea, so they would write together, and Hoss made a deal that he would only write at night, so he would have his days free. So we would all meet at night, and we tried to implement…it was a great script. Hoss had written a really great script, but it was so authentic to Los Angeles and gang culture that you would have to make a Ken Loach-style film in order to honor that script because it was so authentic, and what we wanted to make was a violent John Hughes movie that was a fairy tale about a guy that drives around listening to music at night because it’s the only way he can feel anything, and a guy that’s seen so many movies that he turned himself into a superhero and made his own superhero costume. That’s what excited us, so Hoss helped us to realize that, and he did it in no time at all. Took him a week, two weeks.
He probably wanted out of the attic.
[laughs] Yeah, probably.
He wrote the script in two weeks?
No, Hoss had been writing draft after draft, and the script we originally got was the one that had been developed for Hugh Jackman, which would have been a really big budget film. We didn’t have that kind of money, and it wasn’t the kind of movie we wanted to make, so we had to tailor it to our fantasy.
So do you think you want to direct?
It seems like you’ve got so many films coming out that you’ve got a lot of experience that you want to gobble up, and with that, it sounds like maybe you’re trying to find yourself with as much experience to become a director. Is that what it is?
There’s a lot of filmmakers I want to work with before I make my own films. I’m getting a chance to work with them. I wanted to work with George Clooney, because he’s an actor turned director, and I wanted to see how that was in action, and I’m learning from Nicolas and Derek (Cianfrance), who did Blue Valentine and this movie [The Place Beyond the] Pines and Nicolas I’m working with a lot because I’m learning a lot. I’m just basically trying to treat it as a film school for myself before I make my own films. Not to undervalue the movies themselves because they’re all movies I want to see, you know? I want to see those movies, so I’m making them, but I’m also trying to get as much out of them before I move into that.
But you’re working with Malick as well, right?
I can’t comment on that. [smiling]
Did you bring Nicolas onto the project?
Mark Platt owns the material, and he said he wanted to make this film together, and whoever I wanted to get to direct the film, he would support it.
What was it that made you so interested? And I know you have plans to work with him in the future. What makes him so exciting to you?
I just feel like his films are so personal, and I know that for a fact because he only shoots what’s interesting to him, and he fetishizes his films. They literally turn him on, and if they don’t, he’s not interested. He sexualizes them, he fetishizes them, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a pair of gloves or the way something sits in the frame. It physically has to excite him or he’s bored. So he’s making these movies only for himself, and so they feel personal. I’m just lucky that he and I share the same fantasy, so we can take a film like Drive, and it can be personal to both of us and have a very clear identity. Mark Platt has this expression…most movies are these feathered fish because they don’t fly and they don’t swim. A lot of them don’t have an identity because they’re not allowed to because there’s so many cooks in the kitchen. Nicolas makes films for a small amount of money with people who give him the control. That’s what we had on this film, and we were able to make the film personal and have its own identity.
Do you think that freedom will be curtailed a little bit on something like Logan’s Run?
Well, it will be interesting to see how that works in a studio system, but they’re so supportive of Drive, and they’ve been so supportive for us in the development process of Logan so far, that there’s no reason for us to doubt them. They’ve been nothing but supportive.
What interested you in that particular remake?
I don’t care about them, but Nicolas does. I came to him with this, and I said, “I want you to make this film,” and he said OK, and he came to me with Logan’s Run, and he said “Now it’s your turn.” He told me, I’d never seen the original movie.
I haven’t seen it. Sure, I’ll watch it. I hear it’s great.
Do you worry about that influencing you?
No, because it’s so different from our idea for Logan’s and we want to go back more to the book. Also, we have other ideas. And that film was shot in a mall in the 70s. I can’t see how it would influence us. I’ve been really enjoying the process of developing it. We’re focusing on that. We’re trying to create this world and make a movie we want to see, like we did with Drive.