It is a scientific fact that the astonishingly talented actor Ryan Gosling causes one of two reactions in females: He either renders them speechless or makes them shriek uncontrollably. Waiting in the press line outside of the Lobero Theatre on Tuesday night, a gaggle of females with “The Notebook” in hand wailed “Ryan!” much to the chagrin of reporters, myself included. At merely 27, Ryan Gosling, the recipient of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s inaugural Independent Award, has accomplished much more than mere heartthrob status. But when I was confronted by Mr. Gosling himself, smiling a foot away from me in the press line, my mind drew a blank. With deep-set blue eyes, Gosling bears no resemblance to the often profoundly troubled characters he plays. He raised his eyebrows, awaiting my question, and I blurted, “Which presidential candidate do you support?” He squinted, looked confused, and said, “I don’t know.” And that was that.
Thankfully, Jenelle Riley of Back Stage West Reporter, who interviewed the actor in the Lobero in between clips of his eclectic, primarily independent films, was slightly more levelheaded. Riley said Gosling was the most “consistently compelling” actor working today, and asked about his fledgling days in the Mickey Mouse Club and the show “Young Hercules.” “This is actually a roast, isn’t it?” Gosling asked, as the crowd laughed uproariously. Though his acting talents are formidable, the soft-spoken Gosling proved that he also has excellent comedic timing and a winning sense of humility. “What’s my worst nightmare? Watching all my work in front of these nice people and then talking about it,” Gosling said, and he couldn’t have sounded more earnest.
During the interview, Gosling’s acting methods remained as mysterious as the chameleonic characters he plays, from a crack-addicted middle school teacher in Half Nelson, to the Jewish neo-Nazi in “The Believer.” “Are you a method actor?” Riley asked, to which Gosling responded, “No. You have to go to school for that.” Though Gosling’s acting gifts are plentiful, he was wittiest when telling colorful anecdotes about his life. When he was nominated for an Oscar in 2006, Gosling was looking through his window as he watched a man fly off his motorcycle into an intersection. “And there I was, watching this guy having the worst time in his life, and I was having the best time in mine,” he said.
Ryan Gosling’s career demonstrates a string of triumphs in very low-budget movies, and reveals his uncompromising drive to make films that remind people what art is supposed to be. Gosling’s only real commercial success came after playing a multitude of murderers and a neo-Nazi. Feeling ill, he went to the doctor, who wrote him a prescription to “make a romantic comedy,” so he made “The Notebook.” It’s not surprising that the film was successful, Gosling said, because “nothing I’m in makes money, and everything Rachel [McAdams] is in does.”
Though Gosling was clearly uncomfortable talking about his clips, his charisma and charm were apparent. He had total reverence for filmmaking, insisting, “Acting is weird, because you’re taking credit for everyone else’s hard work.” Despite Gosling’s almost painfully introverted artistic process, charisma seems to ooze out of his every pore. This push-pull duality creates a dynamic which, apparently, drives women nuts. When Riley asked what it was like acting with Anthony Hopkins in “Fracture,” Gosling said it was similar to how he felt at this moment. “Are you comparing me to Hannibal Lecter?” Riley asked. “No, but you look delicious,” Gosling responded. Riley beamed excitedly, did a giant thumbs-up at the audience and promptly forgot her place in the interview, which made me feel just a little bit better.