Ryan Gosling Driven to Make Movies Your Parents Don't Want You to Watch
It might seem odd to find Ryan Gosling, the onetime Oscar nominee best known for critically acclaimed indies including Half Nelson (2006) and Lars and the Real Girl (2007), cracking skulls in the riveting new thriller Drive, playing the kind of role once reserved for iconic tough guys like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen.
Yet for Gosling, who grew up watching “four movies a day,” it is the culmination of an ambition born, much to the chagrin of his concerned parents, after watching Sylvester Stallone in First Blood as an impressionable preteen.
“I thought I was Rambo,” says Gosling, 30, who sometimes seems to enjoy confounding reporters with terse evasions to even the simplest questions. But today, at ease in downtown Toronto’s Ritz Hotel, where a throng of festival-goers have assembled to grill the Canadian-born actor about his starring turn as a stunt-car driver embroiled in a deadly mob heist, he is engaged, talkative and even a touch nostalgic.
“I filled up my Fisher Price Houdini kit with steak knives, then I went to school and threw them at the other kids during recess. I didn’t hit anyone, thank God, but I got suspended and my parents decided I couldn’t watch action movies.”
Undeterred, Gosling satisfied his appetite for escapism with the movies he was allowed to watch – National Geographic films and Biblical epics, which the former Mickey Mouse Club star says were, unbeknownst to his parents, more violent than vintage Stallone. Still, his limited view of all the world had to offer left something to be desired.
Once the ban was lifted, Gosling made his way back to the video store, obsessively tearing through four a day for two summers. Today, Gosling says he wants to make the kind of movies he loved back then, which may explain why Drive, an edgy film noir marked by brief eruptions of shocking violence, has a distinctly retro feel.
“It’s a violent John Hughes movie,” Gosling says, adding that he and director Nicolas Winding Refn spent evenings during the shoot driving around Los Angeles, unwinding at the 101 Diner and finding some measure of emotional release in ’80s power ballads. (Inspired, Refn was known to pantomime drum solos on his star’s dashboard.)
All this, of course, draws on the seminal events of Gosling’s childhood. “At the end of that second summer, the guy at the movie store gave me Blue Velvet – a VHS tape that he literally slipped to me under the table. I took it, put it in my pants and drove home on my BMX. And I decided then that those were the movies I wanted to make, stuff that got slid to you under the table.”
Drive opens today at the Century Centre 9, the AMC Van Ness, the Sundance Kabuki and the CinéArts at Empire. For tickets and showtimes, click here.