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Blue Valentine - Ryan Gosling interview

Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GOLDEN Globe nominee and Oscar-tipped star Ryan Gosling talks about some of the controversy surrounding Blue Valentine and its US certificate, why he thinks it’s both realistic and romantic and how much it drained him as an actor.

He also talks about forthcoming projects with Steve Carell, George Clooney and Carey Mulligan.

Q. The poster describes Blue Valentine as a love story. Would you call it that?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah.

Q. Would you take a date to it?
Ryan Gosling: [Laughs] I would. I think it’s very romantic, personally. Back home they call it an anti-love story. The writer-director of the film [documentary maker Derek Cianfrance] said that when he first started work on the film 12 years ago it was a reaction to all these films that he was watching where all the actors were seemingly carved out of marble and made in the image of gods. He wanted to make a movie that was made in the image of man and that embraces the idea that our faults are what make us special and human. These characters in the film can’t embrace each other’s faults because they are living with this idea of perfection that only exists in movies, which I think is romantic to acknowledge.

Q. How did you find working with Derek?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, I feel like I’ve been dreaming that this person would come into my life who would want to work this way. I like filmmakers who are willing to just dismantle the whole idea of the filmmaking process in general and just go with… he always treated the filming process as if the convention of making a film was like a big monster hand trying to get its grasp on us. He did so many things… for instance, in the beginning of the movie where my little girl wakes me up – he set up the cameras in the living room that night and I went to sleep and I woke up and the crew had all snuck in and were just filming me sleeping.

Then my little girl woke me up, we went out into the yard, and there were cameras in the forest filming us. There was so much thought put into what would be the most fruitful environment to put us in. He’s very thoughtful… the idea is that acting is a last resort, so he’ll do as much work as he possibly can to avoid that.

Q. Did you film it in two different parts – the falling in love and then the breaking up? And did that help your relationship?
Ryan Gosling: Yes and yes. To shoot all the beautiful stuff first, the falling in love, was like a dream… we had to build this castle and then tear it down! But when we were tearing it down, we knew what we were losing. It would have been hard to go back and forth between time periods and feel the weight of what you were losing otherwise.

Q. Is it easier to do a film like this with a co-star like Michelle Williams?
Ryan Gosling: I don’t think I could have done the film without her. Also, she was on this for six years [as well]. I knew who she was and I knew she had a level of commitment. So, when we went into making the film we had this sort of trust because we’d proven our dedication to the project and to each other over that time. But we never met – except once – until we showed up on set, so we really met each other on camera, in character. So, when something is happening for the first time for the audience, it’s really happening for us as well. We didn’t have many do-overs either; most of it was all in one take.

Q. But did you know where they were going?
Ryan Gosling: We knew that eventually we’d be living together with a kid and we knew what the scenes were, but within each scene Derek would give us basically a point A and a point B and however we wanted to get there was up to us. You could draw a line between those two dots; it could be a squiggly line, or any colour you wanted it to be, but you had to get between those two points. But you never really knew what the other one was going to do. So, it would have a life of its own. The script was like a traditional script… he wrote 75 drafts. But when we got on set he said: “This script is 12 years old, it’s dead to me, so if you say any of the lines you’ll bore me – action!”

Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

Q. Does the future room at the motel actually exist?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah [smiles]. It’s on the 13th floor of a Ramada Inn and it’s right next to the leather and lace room. But don’t try to get a reservation because it’s always booked out! And people were coming in and out of it the whole time we were shooting, which was very odd.

Q. Did you have to put on weight for the latter part?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, we tried to put on some weight. I was supposed to put on a lot but I got concerned that people would walk out of the film and feel like: “If he hadn’t of let himself go, it would have worked out.” So, we didn’t want it to be too extreme. So, Michelle and I had an eating contest and she won [laughs]!

Q. How do you feel about going that kind of method?
Ryan Gosling: I did it for The Lovely Bones. I got up to 210lbs and they never even shot it [laughs]!

Q. How did that feel?
Ryan Gosling: Terrible! I was fat, bald and unemployed, walking around New York. It was not a fun time. And it’s not good for you. I don’t know how Christian Bale does it. It’s incredible what he does, really, and I’m in awe of his commitment. But it’s your job though. Every job has its downside and this is one of them for us. Also, you gain all that weight and it affects your psychology and your idea of yourself. That’s why some people do it and some people don’t. It just depends how deep into it you want to go and why you’re doing it in the first place.

Q. How much does playing a character like Dean take out of you, especially when you’re tearing the castle down? Do you go home in a downbeat mood?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, I left it all on the field after the film. I can’t imagine going back and doing another independent drama for a while. I went and made a comedy with Steve Carell afterwards.

Q. Isn’t that with the guys who made I Love You, Phillip Morris? They’re from the independent scene, so is that more commercial?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah. It’s a comedy. It’s a completely different experience to doing this. When I first moved to Los Angeles I did a pilot when I was 17, a small part, and so did Steve Carell. But I remember watching him shoot one day and he was so funny that they [the crew] couldn’t make it through the takes. It was the first time that it ever occurred to me that you could be so good that it was a problem. I made like a promise to myself that I’d work with Steve one day and this came along at the right time, after Blue Valentine.

Q. What do you play in it?
Ryan Gosling: I play this local lothario. His wife, played by Julianne Moore, divorces him and I try and teach him the ways of how to pick up girls. He’s an assassin. He finds what your button is and presses it and keeps a straight face. But he’s always trying to sabotage you. He’ll find out a way to look at you. A lot of his stuff is really straight, so he hits you in this way that you can’t really tell it’s coming. So, you start laughing and you get in trouble.

Q. Coming back to Blue Valentine, was it a relief to get the awards recognition after the US furore surrounding the certificate and the threat of an NC-17 rating? How did you feel about all that [it’s now an R]?
Ryan Gosling: In the States, that NC-17 rating would have meant that virtually no one could have seen the film – not just kids under 17, which I agree with; they shouldn’t. But it means that it can’t play in a lot of major theatres and they can’t run adverts for it on television or in newspapers. It was more of a relief to find out we’re officially not pornographers [laughs]!

Blue Valentine

Q. But could you understand it at all?
Ryan Gosling: Not really. It was confusing. It seemed like a real double standard. You can’t speak to them directly, so you can’t really find out exactly why. You’re just guessing. But that ratings system really needs to be revisited. We’re happy that they re-thought our rating but the problem still remains. It’s bigger than our film. It’s 10 people who live in the valley representing parents across America. How is that possible? They just make these decisions and they decide for these parents what is and isn’t acceptable. I mean, their tolerance of violence is so different to their tolerance of sexuality. If violence is involved in the sexuality it’s somehow perceived as entertainment, but if love is involved with sexuality it’s seen as pornographic and is not acceptable. So, the film becomes relegated to art-house theatres and doesn’t get out to the people who it was made for. Find out more

Q. Do you feel like you’ve done your time in independent cinema for a while, because they are so mentally tough to get through?
Ryan Gosling: No. I love these films. Every time I make a movie… I don’t have this idea that I just want to make small movies that no one ever sees. Every time I make these films I really think that they’re going to be bigger than Avatar. It just never happens. But every time I’m sure that this is the one. I mean, I think The Blair Witch Project probably helped to instigate that because it makes you feel like it’s possible to make a small movie that resonates and becomes a success. So, that would be my dream – to make a small movie that would be so good that that would be the special effect. Authenticity… you’d feel like you were watching a film in 3D and everyone would run and see it.

Q. So where does Drive, the one you’ve done with Carey Mulligan, fit in? You play a Hollywood stuntman I believe?
Ryan Gosling: Nicolas Winding Refn, the director, is a very special filmmaker and I think it’s ended up being more like a cross between Blue Velvet and Purple Rain, which I’m excited about and I hope everyone else is.

Q. Do you get to do your own stunts?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah [smiles]. All car stuff. He’s a good driver, so he doesn’t have to roll his car. But there’s a little drifting, some 360 spins, some precision driving… I spent a couple of months [with stuntmen]. We’d go to a big parking lot and there’d be a good new Mustang or something and you’d just run it until it was stripped and then the tow truck would pull it away and we’d go home. It was the best time of my life [smiles].

Q. How far down the line are you with the George Clooney film, The Ides of March?
Ryan Gosling: We start mid-February. It’s an ensemble piece. But my character is the one who takes a kind of downward spiral. He’s an idealist who kind of loses his ideals. I’m a huge fan of George and Grant Heslov, his [writing and producing] partner. They did two of my favourite TV shows, which were unscripted. They have a lot of really interesting ideas. I’ve been working with George a little bit now and he has so much enthusiasm and is so enthusiastic about this film. There’s nothing he hasn’t thought of and it’s very infectious.

Q. Has he taken you around the world of politics?
Ryan Gosling: I’ve been promoting this. But he said to me about this: “Go and campaign [for Blue Valentine in awards season], because we’re about to make a campaign movie.” So, I’m taking it [the film promotion] as research.

Read our review

Blue Valentine opens in UK cinemas on Friday, January 14, 2011.