How To Act Like You're In Love - Cineplex - 2011 (January)
This article is from the magazine Cineplex, dated January 2011, featuring Ryan Gosling.
The high-res magazine scans are from Cineplex Magazine Archive.
Cover: Blue Valentine's Ryan Gosling on love, marriage, and setting things on fire.
Table of Contents: Method Man - Canadian actor Ryan Gosling throws himself into every role he chooses, and that dedication helped immensely with his latest film, the heartbreaking relationship drama Blue Valentine. Here Gosling talks about the years he spent prepping to play a man who can't hold onto the one he loves. By Ingrid Randoja
How To Act Like You're In Love
Ryan Gosling reveals the extraordinary ways he and Michelle Williams prepared to play a married couple in love, then not in love, for Blue Valentine. Hint: It involves burning stuff.
By Ingrid Randoja
Feel free to question Ryan Gosling’s idea of romance. The London, Ontario-born actor believes his new film, Blue Valentine, is a deeply romantic affair despite the fact that it chronicles the painful unravelling of a marriage.
"Yeah, what the f-ck was he thinking," Gosling says, laughing at his own take on the movie during an interview at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Looking relaxed in a neatly pressed dress shirt and jeans, the 30-year-old is quick to point out what he meant is that each of us defines romance differently. "We tried to make an objective portrait of this couple’s love story so it can be interpreted as however you want," he says. "It's like that line in the song, 'Baby, baby, where did our love go?' I like that song, and it’s a sad sentiment, but it's just a question."
Directed by Derek Cianfrance, the film casts Gosling as Dean, a blue-collar mover who falls for Cindy (Michelle Williams), a nurse who dreams of becoming a doctor. But this isn’t a conventional boy-meets-girl tale, rather the film moves back and forth in time, jumping between Dean and Cindy’s early, tender moments of courtship to their bitter and destructive falling out.
Gosling is the rare Hollywood actor who isn’t afraid to play vulnerable men. He first turned heads for his turn as the Jewish neo-Nazi skinhead in The Believer, and he brings the same kind of intensity to playing hurting men in love, as evidenced in both The Notebook and Lars and the Real Girl.
Blue Valentine asks him to, once again, assert his male sensitivity.
"One of the things Derek told me when we first started talking about the film, he said, 'You know, you’re the wife and she’s the husband in this movie.' Only in the sense of going against the cliché that all a woman is looking for is a man who loves her, and loves the kid, and comes home at night," the actor explains.
"It’s like [Dean] is a person who is full of potential but has no ambition, and makes his purpose in life just being her husband and this little girl's father and doesn't want any more than that. What I like so much about [Michelle’s] character is that it is not enough. She’s been told that should be enough, and even though that’s a romantic idea, she wants someone who has dreams outside of just being with her."
Cianfrance had been trying to make Blue Valentine for 12 years and Williams, who agreed to star in the film seven years ago, had been thinking about her character for all that time.
Gosling came on board four years ago. For an actor who’s known for intense character preparation — he worked and lived as a furniture builder for a month before shooting The Notebook, making the movie’s kitchen table on which he and co-star Rachel McAdams behave rather naughtily — years of prep time set his creative juices flowing.
"We both worked on these characters for a long time," says Gosling. "Mine for about four years and Michelle for more. We did a lot of different things. Derek had both Michelle and I call him and leave him messages on his phone as the characters, just talk as the character, share experiences that we thought they had growing up."
Cianfrance also had the actors live together in the film's house for a month before shooting. Some days he had them fight, other days he would ask them to be lovey-dovey. They even pretended to share Christmas, complete with wrapped presents.
"Some of that found its way into the movie, but I think all of that work finds its way into the fabric of the film," he says, "you can feel it."
Not every director appreciates that kind of pre-filming intensity. Gosling’s quirky behaviour preparing for The Lovely Bones — including gaining 60 pounds — irked director Peter Jackson to the point he let Gosling go one day before shooting began (he was replaced by Mark Wahlberg).
But, in truth, what would you expect from an actor who, as a teenager, fought Walt Disney executives for better skits and roles during his stint on the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club?
Gosling prides himself on his work ethic, but he also loves when weird and wonderful moments come out of nowhere to enhance his performance. He experienced one of the strangest moments of his career while making Blue Valentine, and it involved Dean and Cindy’s wedding photo.
"We had such a great time filming the first part of the film, when we were in love," remembers Gosling. "We were just riding high and loving life, and we had to destroy that love for the second half of the film, you know?
"We couldn’t do it, we didn’t know how, so Derek thought it best if we do a ritual. We took our wedding photograph to the grocery store and bought a load of fireworks. We tied them all to this wedding picture and put it in a big wheelbarrow and doused it in kerosene.
"We set our love on fire," he says. "It went up like the Fourth of July. When it was over, the picture remained but the frame had melted in a heart shape, and everything else had burned except the image of our mouths kissing. It was amazing, like, love lives on."
Still one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors (he dated Sandra Bullock, and had a very public relationship with Rachel McAdams), could making a movie about a failing marriage dissuade him from tying the knot? "No, it didn’t make me feel like, 'No, I don’t want to get married or anything like that," he says.
"I didn’t come to any conclusions, it just raises a lot of questions and I like questions more than answers. I don’t feel like I have many answers, which is weird because I get asked questions all the time."
Ingrid Randoja is the deputy editor of Cineplex Magazine.
Ryan Gosling brings his uncompromising acting approach to his music career as well. In 2007, Gosling created the two-man band Dead Man’s Bones with friend Zach Shields. The pair plays eerie music inspired by a mutual love of ghosts, werewolves and Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride.
While making their first album, 2009’s Dead Man’s Bones, the duo gave themselves Dogma-like rules, such as recording every song in no more than three takes, playing all the instruments themselves — even if they’ve never played them before — and including a children’s choir in the mix. The result is a strange, but fun, collection of tunes that show off Gosling’s strong, haunting voice.