Gosling first caught audiences’ attention in, of all things, The Mickey Mouse Club opposite none other than Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. The Canadian-born actor is now an Oscar nominee and a certified movie star after his turn in the unforgettable The Notebook.
In Drive, audiences get to see Gosling in a whole new light. The film from director Nicolas Winding Refn is unabashedly one of the best of the year and that is in large part due to Gosling’s stunning performance as a movie stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for hire. Gosling stars opposite Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman in a movie that not only looks like nothing you have ever seen before, but sounds and feels as unique a cinematic experience as Movie Fanatic has enjoyed in some time.
Movie Fanatic: Did they give you any kind of training to do the driving you did?
Ryan Gosling: I spent two weeks going to this church parking lot with Darren Prescott and every time we got there, there’d be a new Camaro or new Mustang and we would ride it to the rims. And when it was on fire or smoking or just wouldn’t move, some guy would come and take it away and fix it and we’d go home. It was the best two weeks of prep I’ve ever had [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: Did you do your own stunt driving and how much did they let you do?
Ryan Gosling: Some of it. The really cool stuff I didn’t do but the cool stuff I did. The really, really cool stuff was Jay Frye who’s about as good as it gets.
Movie Fanatic: Did you, before this movie, have a real appreciation for cars or was that something that grew during filming Drive... or at all?
Ryan Gosling: I never really cared about cars, I still don’t. I worked on this car that I drive in the movie so I have an affection for it, but just for it. And even it kind of rubs me the wrong way. I worked with this guy Pedro who’s a great guy -- talks about himself in the first person and steals fruit from people’s lawns and puts it in the top shelf of his tool chest and then every morning feels them to see which one’s ripe, which ones he’s gonna eat that day -- and he’s just a lovely guy but he changed my transmission and it really stings. Because I did everything with the car except for that and he knew it. On the last day when I was going to finish the car I came in and he changed my transmission. He thought it was really funny. It cut me because now I can’t say I did everything on the car.
Movie Fanatic: Did you get to keep those bad-ass driving gloves and scorpion jacket?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, I made those so I have many versions of them.
Movie Fanatic: You seem to have a real passion for film as evidenced by your role in making Drive -- not simply acting. Where did that arise from?
Ryan Gosling: When I was a kid and I first saw First Blood, it put a spell on me and I thought I was Rambo. I went to school the next day with my Fisher Price Houdini kit filled with steak knives and I threw it at all the kids at recess, threw knives at them [laughs]. I got suspended which I should have been and I learned my lesson and I’m sorry. But my parents then put a leash on me and said, “This kid can’t watch movies because they put a spell on him.” So I could only watch Bible movies and National Geographic movies and Abbott and Costello movies. Meanwhile all of those movies are kind of violent so it didn’t really work but I see what they were going for.
Movie Fanatic: How did you come to get this fascinating role and how did you approach this character?
Ryan Gosling: Marc Platt (producer) gave me this script and said, “Do you want to produce it with me?” and then any director I wanted, he would support. So, I had to find the right director. My personal feelings about the script were two things. One is that I’ve always wanted to see a violent John Hughes movie and I always thought that if Pretty in Pink had a head smashing it’d be perfect [laughs]. When I read this script and I was looking at this character’s behavior -- he was going around acting like a maniac -- I thought this is somebody who has seen too many movies. And because he was a stuntman, it seemed we could go deeper into that idea -- he had basically become the hero of the movie of his life. I thought that could be implemented into this script but I needed a director who could help me achieve that. I’ve seen Nicolas’ (Winding Refn) Valhalla Rising and his films are deeply rooted in mythology and they feel like fairy tales. I felt like Drive should have a fairy tale quality because it’s set in Los Angeles -- which is a fairy tale land based on fantasy. That driver is more like a knight in his mind anyway. Irene (Carey Mulligan) is the damsel in distress, Ron Perlman’s a dragon, and Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) is the evil wizard. I’m watching his films and I see that his films are like Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales and they’re also very personal. They don’t try and please anyone but him. I wanted this movie to be something that had personality, an identity, and also that you wanted to be in the movie theater to see it. When I saw Valhalla Rising and the guy cuts open the stomach of his friend and starts showing him his own guts, everybody in the movie theater starts hitting each other and laughing and freaking out. Whether you liked it or not, I know that you were happy to see it in the theater. It’s not the kind of thing you want to see at home. I wanted to make a movie that you wanted to go to the movie theater to see.
Movie Fanatic: You have explosive scenes in Drive with Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman, how was working with the two of them and developing these climactic scenes?
Ryan Gosling: Ron Perlman is just an endless well of great lines. For instance, I’m trying to drown him in the ocean and every time I push him into the water, the tide goes out and I’m just pushing his face into the mud. Then, the ocean comes back, it knocks us both over and we have to start again. We do it all night until the sun comes up and he tears his ACL. When we finally get the one shot that we need where I put him under for long enough, he stands up and he says to Nicolas, “Yo, Nicky, that was the one. And if you don’t like that, you don’t like ice cream, mother (expletive).” [Laughs] And he does this snap, and then he limps back to his trailer and doesn’t come out. That’s what it’s like working with him all the time.
Movie Fanatic: Albert Brooks was scary!
Ryan Gosling: He’s the only person we wanted to play this role. He had to do it or we didn’t know what we were going to do if he didn’t. He came on and I think anyone who’s seen the film singles him out as one of the most memorable parts of it. He not only plays that character but he owns that character to the point that he possesses it and you can’t see any one else playing that part.
Movie Fanatic: At the end of the day, could you leave this character behind or did you take it with you -- as in the case of the fight you broke up in New York recently?
Ryan Gosling: No, that (the fight) was stupid [laughs]. I’m not a good enough actor to become a character and be that person for the duration of shooting. What I can do is turn up the parts of myself that are like that character and turn down the parts that aren’t. What I have in common with the character is amplified while I’m shooting. In this case, making this film, it was very peaceful because the character was very introverted, a watcher. I gave myself permission to do that while we were shooting. I wanted to be in character.
Movie Fanatic: The style of Drive is so specific and different, down to the title treatment and the music -- did you know that’s how the final product would be?
Ryan Gosling: This movie wouldn’t have happened if REO Speedwagon hadn’t come on the radio when I was driving Nicolas home from our first terrible meeting. The movie wasn’t happening. It was a bad meeting. It was a bad date -- no one was getting any action. So it was just get out of the car, go home. He wanted to get out and suddenly REO Speedwagon comes on the radio and he starts crying and singing at the top of his lungs, the song to me. He said, “This is it. This movie is about a guy who can’t feel anything unless he’s driving around listening to pop music.” The movie was conceived in my car. He and I creatively mated and created this movie baby. Then we had to raise it together. We would shoot all day, cut out all the dialogue, then go home and edit it, then drive around all night -- going to the 101 diner talking about life and music and movies. That would influence what we shot the next day. So, it had this dream-like quality while we were shooting it and I think that’s what the movie feels like. It feels like we didn’t have a plan going into it. Something happened in the car when REO Speedwagon came on and we were chasing that the whole time. We were trying to figure out what happened, why we both felt that same way. I felt the same way. It should be about this guy who drives around listening to music. He’s from Copenhagen, I’m from Canada. How did that happen? Why are we both having the same idea? Why did REO Speedwagon’s I Can’t Fight This Feeling come on the radio? Are we supposed to make this movie or are we crazy? Have we seen too many movies?