Ryan Gosling: Hot. Hotter. Hottest (?) Actor Working in Hollywood Today

Ryan Gosling, who turned 30 on November 12, 2011, co-stars in George Clooney’s new film “The Ides of March,” which is to open the 68th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2011. Clooney both acts and directs in the film, portraying the fictional Governor Morris, ( based on Dr. Howard Dean), in a run for the Democratic presidential nomination. The film is based on the play “Farragut North,” which was written by Beau Williman, who worked for Dean in 2004. Gosling’s character is Beau Williman, who quickly learns about political dirty tricks.

Paul Giametti plays a rival campaign manager. Others in the film include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei in supporting roles. I was there at Howard Dean’s 2004 “scream heard ’round the world” (the ValAir Ballroom in Des Moines, IA) and I am looking forward to seeing how the movie makes use of that climactic moment in the Dean run for the roses, a double-miking “dirty trick” played by the Kerry forces, (or so political lore has it.)

Gosling also just acted in his first romantic comedy (“Crazy, Stupid Love”) with Steve Carell and Emma Stone. Next up will be his turn as an action hero in “Drive.” It seems that the handsome, idiosyncratic actor can play anything and is everywhere these days, just as it seemed as though Shia LaBoeuf was everywhere a year or so ago with “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” “Transformers” and his Indiana Jones, Jr. turns. Once an actor “hits,” that actor seems ubiquitous.

With Gosling, however, you get the sense that, like Marlon Brando (whose accent he says he copied after living in Florida with Canadian roots—born in London and grew up in Cornwall, a mill town on the border of Quebec and the United States)— he’s more about the craft of acting than most. Gosling has been acting since the age of 12, after winning a spot in the Disney Florida troop alongside such future stars as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Brittney Spears. He beat out 17,000 other child actors and, with his mother (Dad, a paper mill worker, had split), Ryan and Mom and older sister Mandi, moved to the Yogi Bear trailer park in Kissimmee, Florida, where Gosling says he was a loner. Ryan’s acting paid the bills and was the family’s sole source of income.

Of his Disney years, Gosling has said, “I loved the idea that Walt Disney had this dream of a place and then made it a reality.” Later, in discussing the David Lynch film “Blue Velvet” Gosling says, “It’s so clearly one person’s singular dream. The fact that somebody believed in their idea so much to make it a reality…I want to be that kind of person.”

Gosling has become that kind of actor, with indie cred but also the bankability of roles such as his 2004 starring role in “The Notebook” opposite Rachel McAdams. After “The Notebook” hit, he took a job in a sandwich shop near where he lived. Why? Gosling says, “I’d never had a real job.” He dropped out of school at 17 to pursue an acting career full-time. Noting that, “The problem with Hollywood is that nobody works” he concludes that it would be “a much happier place” if actual work were performed by the residents.

Gosling has done some serious work in films that were honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, most notably his lead actor nomination for the role of drug-addicted teacher Dan Dunne in “Half Nelson.” Many experts predicted he would be nominated last year for his leading role opposite Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine,” but only co-star Williams got the nod.

Of that film, Gosling says it’s the best film he’ll ever make and comments (to Brett Martin in “How to Look Like A Movie Star,” January, 2011 “GQ”) on Director Derek Clanfrance’s dedication in having the cast actually live together in a house, as a family, prior to shooting. Clanfrance had spent 12 years on the film, declaring it “the film that I was born to make” and he allowed his actors to improvise much of their dialogue. “They had so much to do, so much to say in it,” says Clanfrance.

As for Gosling, he appreciated the opportunity to become part of the illusory reality of a happy couple whose marriage falls apart, saying, “I thought it was really smart of him (Clanfrance) to do that, because even though you don’t see it in the film—they’re not scenes in the movie—I think you can feel it.” He also commented on the onscreen chemistry with Michelle Williams, saying, “It’s a love story, you know, and physical intimacy is a part of that and we were trying to capture that in a way that was not gratuitous or trying too hard to be sexy or something.” Gosling felt another dream world had been created in “Blue Valentine.” He told Brett Martin in the January, 2011 “GQ” article “How to Look Like a Movie Star,” “Michelle and I found it hard to take off our wedding bands when it was over. We’d built this castle and then had to tear it down.” He also commented, “What I like about the film is that it leaves it (the ending) open.”

By that, Gosling means the end of the film, where the young couple seems as though they could, conceivably, reconcile. In that way, “Blue Valentine’s” ending was similar to last year’s Nicole Kidman’s film “Rabbit Hole.” Kidman was Oscar-nominated as Best Actress last year in that film, which also leaves the viewer to decide if the couple, (whose son has been killed in an automobile accident), is going to survive the tragedy or not.

Gosling’s onscreen chemistry with his leading ladies has been remarked upon repeatedly. In “The Notebook,” his scenes with Rachel McAdams were so incendiary that they almost earned the film an ‘R” rating. Gosling told “The Guardian” on January 4, 2011, “It’s a love story, you know, and physical intimacy is a part of that and we were trying to capture that in a way that was not gratuitous or trying too hard to be sexy or something.”After making “Murder by Numbers” with Sandra Bullock, the two became a real-life couple from 2001 – 2002, despite the fact that Gosling was 22 at the time and Bullock 37, a 16-year age difference. (The 47-year-old Bullock is rumored to be dating another younger Ryan, the twelve years younger Ryan Reynolds, age 34, her co-star in “The Proposal,” who is just out of a brief marriage to Scarlett Johansson.)

In a career that, despite his relative youth, has been ongoing for 18 years, Gosling is making his mark, and he’s doing it his way, selecting films that are idiosyncratic, like “The Believers” (2001) or “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007) and then switching smoothly to more mainstream box office flicks. He has starred opposite Anthony Hopkins (“Fracture,” 2007) and played Hercules in a 1998-1999 TV series, “Young Hercules.” Gosling is nothing if not versatile.

As Gosling put it: “There’s this idea in Hollywood, and I’ve seen it work for people, where the unspoken rule is, ‘Do two for them and one for yourself.’ And that’s kind of considered a fact. I’ve never really found that to be true for me. I’ve gotten more opportunities out of working on things I believed in then I ever did on things that weren’t special to me.”

For this singular actor, who points to Gary Oldman as his own favorite actor, the method works for him. It works quite well for his audiences, as well, as this dreamer (“I come from a family of believers.” “GQ” article) lights up the screen every time he appears. It’s said that Gosling will reprise the hero’s role of a “Sandman” who hunts down “runners” in William F. Nolan’s classic novel turned seventies film “Logan’s Run,” a role previously played by Michael York.

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