In New Again, we highlight a piece from Interview’s past that resonates with the present.
The highly anticipated Gangster Squad, which follows LAPD detectives in the 1940s and ’50s attempting to crack down on the underground Los Angeles crime scene, is finally coming to theaters this Friday, January 11th. It features Ryan Gosling as part of an all-star cast, along with Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Emma Stone. But before his bona fide A-List status, before The Notebook, before any “Hey Girl” memes, Ryan Gosling was just another talented young actor (and former Mickey-Mouser) searching for his place in the movie business.
We published a quick chat between him and Kevin Spacey almost 10 years ago, in February of 2003. Back then, he was the 22-year-old lead in an indie movie called The United States of Leland, in which he played a shy teen who has committed an inexplicable and shocking crime. Spacey produced the film and played Ryan’s father. As their interview for us revealed, the two share more both an appetite for difficult roles and a playful sense of humor.
At the time of the interview, Gosling is unemployed and searching for parts that are a little more lighthearted than the dark films he’s been doing. It’s hard to think of Ryan Gosling as a struggling actor, but it happened, and it brings into perspective the mega success he’s eventually found over the past decade. —Melissa Belk
The Sundance Kid and The Two-Time Oscar Manby Kevin Spacey
As a neo-Nazi in The Believer (2001) and a precocious serial killer in Murder By Numbers, Ryan Gosling made a name for himself by chilling his audiences to the bone. And with his next film, The United States of Leland (produced by and featuring Kevin Spacey), which debuted last month at the Sundance Film Festival, this 22-year-old Canadian once again sends shivers up spines as the schizophrenic title character. Gosling recently chatted with Spacey and revealed that despite cinematic evidence to the contrary, he is still all about flowers and puppies. And rams.
KEVIN SPACEY: Is this Ryan Gosling?
RYAN GOSLING: Is this Kevin? How the heck are you?
SPACEY: I’m extremely well. How are you?
GOSLING: I’m okay, but I just ate some McDonald’s—and now I’m regretting it.
SPACEY: It’s a little early in day for a Big Mac, don’t you think there, Ryan?
GOSLING: No, I had one of those bagel numbers.
SPACEY: How’s your dog?
GOSLING: George is excellent, thank you. So, what’ve you been up to?
SPACEY: I’ve been trying to shape your meandering and aimless performance in [The United States of] Leland.
GOSLING: I feel for you, man.
SPACEY: Actually, I saw the film again last night. We screened it for about 70 family members and friends.
GOSLING: Apparently I’m neither your friend nor your family. I wasn’t invited.
SPACEY: It’s astounding that I actually have 70 friends and family members. But the picture played very, very well. I’m enormously proud of it. As you know, it’s just been accepted into the Dramatic Competition Category at Sundance, which will really be the first public showing of the movie. But I’m curious about your experience of playing Leland, and how you got into the mind of a character like him.
GOSLING: It was tricky. But it was really great to work with Matthew [Ryan Hoge, the film’s writer and director]. I’d never worked with anyone like him. He’s really talented, don’t you think?
SPACEY: Definitely. I love you a great deal, and you know that, but he’s the real star of the movie. In what way was it different working with Matt than with anyone you’d worked with before?
GOSLING: I think it was nice to work with somebody who is really specific and asks more questions than I do. I really felt led by him. It was really nice to sort of give up control. We talked about this before, but it was interesting to play this character, because [in addition to mine] there are two younger versions of Leland. Coordinating all of that was fun.
SPACEY: And it really does work seamlessly. You really feel that the little boy and the teenage boy seen during flashback actually turned into Leland, as you play him.
GOSLING: And I think it makes the character a lot more real. A lot of times when you play a character it’s hard to watch, but when you get to see different versions of that character it somehow just makes it more…
SPACEY: Yes, I know. I’ve often wished I could’ve watched a different version of a performance I’ve given. [both laugh]
GOSLING: Are you working right now?
SPACEY: I’m not, actually. Have you been working since I saw you last?
SPACEY: What’s the matter? Nobody will hire you?
GOSLING: Nobody. I’m putting on a one-man show about unemployment. Will you come?
SPACEY: I will definitely come. Are you doing some of your music?
GOSLING: No, I’ve just been reading—
SPACEY: —But you do write music; you’re also a songwriter.
GOSLING: I play a little bit.
SPACEY: What do you play? Guitar?
GOSLING: Yeah. [laughs]
SPACEY: Well, you could play the kazoo. You’re from Ontario. Anything’s possible.
GOSLING: I play this really interesting instrument made out of beaver pelts.
SPACEY: Listen, buddy, your personal life is your own deal. So what do you hope to be doing now? I mean, now that you’ve had the experiences you’ve had, on both Leland and Believer, which, by the way, was an incredibly well-received performance—in fact, I believe you’ve been given the honor of the Russian Golden Ram award, haven’t you?
GOSLING: You heard about the Ram?
SPACEY: I know all about the Golden Ram. You’re talking to a fellow Golden Ram award winner. I have the Ram literally sitting across my desk here.
GOSLING: I never got my Ram.
SPACEY: You’ve got to have an inside connection to the Russian mafia to actually get it.
GOSLING: What does the Ram look like?
SPACEY: It’s a ram on top of a pedestal. It’s… a ram. You may have to win some other damn thing before they decide to send it to you. But, I was pleased you won one, because I don’t think there are many of us. It’s a very selective club. I’m hoping, personally, that next year, with Leland, you might win the Norwegian Goat. [both laugh] So, now that you’ve had these two really complex and, if I might say, satisfying performances, what is the process for you? Do you have an interest in trying to play something different? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Is it McDonald’s?
GOSLING: [laughs] I think I’ve been really spoiled. I think Believer and Leland were such great things to have been a part of, and I learned a lot. Every script I get I compare to those, and it’s not fair to the stuff I’m reading. But I’d like to do something a little lighter. I’ve been in a dark place for the past couple of years. So, maybe a comedy about puppies. Flowers and puppies.
SPACEY: We’re doing a lot of things here at Trigger Street [Spacey’s production company]. I’m going to put feelers out.
GOSLING: Do you have something you’re working on now?
SPACEY: We have a number of things.
GOSLING: Can I work on them?
SPACEY: Do you want an acting part, or would you like to be part of the crew?
GOSLING: Catering’s fine with me. I make a mean tuna fish sandwich. And I can always make McDonald’s runs if you need it.
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE FEBRUARY 2003 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
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