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Tale of a Dark Horse

Tale of a Dark Horse

Articles - Directing

“I can’t wait until I’m a 50-year old man—that’s when the good
parts come! That’s when you can do more. You really can’t start
playing around until you have time on your side,” says Ryan Gosling.

That’s not the kind of statement you’ll typically
hear from a 22-year old actor on the rise, but Gosling is not
your average Hollywood newcomer. For several years he has been
quietly committing a collection of fearless performances to film,
and doing it opposite some of the industry’s most respected talent.
In the process, he’s gained a reputation as one of Hollywood’s
most promising young players—but not without raising a few eyebrows
in the process.

First gaining attention as a small-town football player in Remember
the Titans
(2000), it was Gosling’s powerful turn as a conflicted
Jewish neo-Nazi in Henry Bean’s The Believer that proved
his acting chops. Though he didn’t think he was quite “appropriate” for
the role, Gosling felt compelled to read for it, knowing what
a challenge the character would be. “I guess I was the last guy
that auditioned for it, and I’m sure they were tired and finally
just said ‘Okay, him. Fine. Cast him!’” he says,
laughing. But Gosling is quick to acknowledge his debt to Bean: “The
only reason that you’re even talking to me is because
Henry Bean picked me out of a crowd. He likes the dark horse;
he likes a challenge. Whatever his reasons, he gave me most of
the oppor­tunities I have right now.”

Though Gosling received an Independent Spirit Award nomination
for The Believer,other parts have not always come so easily.
In fact, he had to do a bit of selling to land his title role in
Matthew Ryan Hoge’s The United States of Leland, the story
of a young man who commits a crime in the name of mercy. After
reading the script, Gosling’s longtime manager, Carolyn Govers,
contacted Hoge to let him know that she had his Leland. “She sent
The Believer and he watched it and e-mailed back saying ‘No, you
don’t!’” Though selling himself may be one of the most uncomfortable
parts of the business for Gosling, he knows that it’s sometimes necessary. “It
was basically me going in there and letting them know what I could offer—that
I was going to be a soldier for them. I take it pretty seriously, maybe
too seriously at times. But I wanted to let Matt know that I would go
to war with him on his first movie and I’d do anything in my power to
get it right.”

Though Gosling knows that his choice of material
has treaded a darker path, he is more concerned about working
with good material than worrying about his image. “It’s occurred to me that if I continue
to do the types of projects I’ve been doing, there’s the whole
risk of being typecast as ‘the weird guy.’ But at the same time,
I have to do the best of what’s out there. If I play that hand
and try and be a part of the best thing that’s out there, then
20 years from now—if I’m lucky enough to have 20 years—I’ll look
back and see how this all played out.” MM

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