The Ides of March is truly a Ryan Gosling movie.
George Clooney may star as a Pennsylvania governor running for president during the pivotal Ohio primary, but it is Gosling’s political aide who lies at the heart of what is The Ides of March.
Gosling visited with Movie Fanatic and takes us inside the Clooney set and what it was like working opposite such an astounding cast including Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and Max Minghella.
The actor is having quite a year. He recently starred in Drive - don’t miss our Ryan Gosling Drive interview - and scored a summer box office hit in Crazy, Stupid, Love. But it is his work on The Ides of March that should land him a spot at the Kodak Theatre as an Oscar nominee.
In our Movie Fanatic interview, Gosling talks about Ides, his next picture, Gangster Squad, as well as what it meant to him to act opposite a star in Clooney who was also the film’s director.
Movie Fanatic: You have a lot of one-on-one scenes opposite Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, George, Philip and so on. As an actor how do you prepare for that volley and what did it mean to you?
Ryan Gosling: It meant I was scared every day. Obviously Phil, but Marisa too, she’s one of my favorite actors. She’s never bad. To me, she’s like Gene Hackman. She’s never been bad. You can’t find a bad Marisa performance, no matter how bad the film is. She’s always great. The same is true of Paul and same with Jeffrey Wright. I did learn a lot from them but they’re secrets. I don’t want any other actors to know.
Movie Fanatic: Did you discover anything about yourself or filmmaking during this process?
Ryan Gosling: I learned a lot from everybody. But I learned a lot from Philip Seymour Hoffman. Watching him work was something that I really needed… He puts it all on the line, every take. And that’s rare.
Movie Fanatic: What kind of research did you do to get into your character’s head?
Ryan Gosling: This film really is in George’s wheelhouse so I just talked a lot with George about it and he gave us a lot of documentaries and books to read. I talked to some people that want to remain nameless but I had a lot of help.
Movie Fanatic: Was it more important for you to work with George on this or tackle the subject matter?
Ryan Gosling: The subject matter was interesting but I was really compelled by working with George and this cast. I think it’s a very interesting subject matter. And what I think is interesting about it is it’s not a political film. You don’t have to know anything about politics to enjoy it. It’s a thriller. It’s supposed to be a good time at the movies. It could be set on Wall Street or in Hollywood.
Movie Fanatic: What’s the difference between working with a film school trained director and one who also acts, as George does in the film?
Ryan Gosling: I’ve never worked with an actor-director before and so this was my first time. And also it’s hard to compare it. There’s no one like George so I can’t imagine if I worked with another actor-director it would be a similar experience. He’s a very unique guy. He’s doing so much all at once. He’s the director. He’s the producer. He’s the writer. He’s the star. He’s working on his project with satellites above the Sudan. He’s got 10 practical jokes in the works at all times. I don’t know how he does it.
Movie Fanatic: George was wearing so many hats in this film, did you feel comfortable approaching him with any question?
Ryan Gosling: That’s the amazing thing is he never felt anything but present. He was multi-tasking and wearing so many hats and yet all he wanted to talk about was the scene and your performance.
Movie Fanatic: George is a notorious prankster. Did he pull any on you?
Ryan Gosling: Sure. It’s always on the verge of happening. You have to keep your eye out. There was a certain point we had a Nerf gun behind the camera and if he didn’t like a take, he’d shoot.
Movie Fanatic: This film could be seen as reflecting society’s feeling that politics are broken. Do you think the little guy can still make a difference?
Ryan Gosling: I’d hate to think it’s hopeless. Ides of March is more a cautionary tale, I guess. His dilemma is a real one in that he wants to be effective, he wants to effect change in the country but he can only be effective in the White House. And if his candidate is not going to get there, that presents a real moral dilemma for him. Does he dance with the one who brought him or does he jump ship and get into office so he can change people’s lives?
Movie Fanatic: So do the ends justify the means?
Ryan Gosling: That is the question - the idea of necessary evils. After severing your heart from your brain, is it possible to ever reconnect them again?
Movie Fanatic: Have you ever taken any jobs just for the money, like your character flirts with?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, when I was a kid, I did everything for the money. I didn’t really want to be an actor, I just wanted the money. I did that from when I was 12 to 18 or 19. Then at a certain point, my mother said, “You’ve worked enough for money -- so now, don’t ever do that again. You’ve done enough of that already.” So I tried to take her advice.
Movie Fanatic: Many child stars don’t make it to the next part of a career.
Ryan Gosling: It’s hard to make the jump from being a child actor to an adult actor because it’s hard to change people’s perceptions of you. If I hadn’t gotten The Believer, if Henry Bean wasn’t crazy and hadn’t hired me because I was the worst choice for the role and liked that idea [laughs]… I was gift-wrapped a career. That’s what you dream of. Because all I had done was children’s television. Trying to make films, it was very difficult. So that movie was a real gift for me. Evan (Rachel Wood) has really made the transition really elegantly as well but I think it’s because she never really was a kid. I think we always saw the woman in her so then she didn’t really have to change anyone’s ideas. Everyone knew it and they were just waiting for it to come out.
Movie Fanatic: Would you say that money’s not an issue anymore?
Ryan Gosling: I like you too much to talk about money [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: You have great chemistry with Evan Rachel Wood. Did you two get along well?
Ryan Gosling: We got along like a house on fire. She’s really special. She’s one hell of an actress and kind of a genius. I think she has a photographic memory. Her mind is a scary place [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: What else do you have coming up?
Ryan Gosling: I’m doing a film right now called Gangster Squad which is a 1950s gangster picture with Ruben Fleischer (director) and Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen. It’s got a great cast. Josh Brolin is the lead and Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Emma Stone, Michael Pena. Nick Nolte just signed on, that’s pretty exciting.
Ryan Gosling: I’m still trying to figure that out [laughs]. I’m on it right now and it’s a mystery to me.
Movie Fanatic: What makes a film the next one for Ryan Gosling?
Ryan Gosling: For me now it’s all about the filmmaker. If you’re not on the same page as the filmmaker there’s no point in doing the film. I used to think that you could still get your point of view in somehow but it doesn’t really work. I’ve got Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine director), I’ve got Nicolas (Drive director). In some way, I’ve been dating filmmakers for the last 10 years and now I want to get married.
Movie Fanatic: Finally, I want to congratulate you on that last scene in The Ides of March, because you did the whole thing with your eyes. Your eyes were dead, it was great.
Ryan Gosling: I give good dead eyes [laughs]. It’s on my list of special skills next to horseback riding.