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Not an Action Figure

Big blowups were improvised, some lasting hours, and there was no way to fight fair with Gosling. “You’ve got to fight dirty, you’ve got to bite his ear,” says Williams, “because if I tried to match his energy and speed, I would never win.” She was initially hesitant about working with him. “With all that capacity, Ryan could be a steamroller. I know guys like that, and they take up all the air. I thought, I’m timid and I’m not going to be able to breathe. But within minutes I knew how wrong I had been. He’s incredibly sensitive and generous and will do anything to help you.”

The improvisation paid off in sex scenes with Williams that are difficult to watch—not because of any physical act, but because they are so emotionally raw. Blue Valentine was given an NC-17, a decision Gosling called “misogynistic” in a statement to the MPAA: It’s “okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex.”

Gosling makes it hard not to sympathize with Dean. His desperation for Cindy might be off-putting in less charismatic hands, and her reasons for her discontent are purposefully vague. But Gosling, who was home-schooled by his mother (and whom friends call a proud mama’s boy), is on her side. “Michelle’s is the more interesting role,” he says. “There’s this idea that if a woman has a husband who loves her and isn’t cheating, she should be happy. But what if you’re not happy?”

Next spring, Gosling will headline two big studio films: the Warner Bros. comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love, with Steve Carell, and his first action film, Drive, in which he plays a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. You could argue that it’s a sissy move, the very thing he professes to hate, but he’s doing it his way. The comedy is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the wicked minds behind Bad Santa; and Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn—known for highly violent art films—is directing Drive (a choice orchestrated by Gosling). In addition, Gosling is in talks with George Clooney about starring in the film version of Farragut North, and Cianfrance, who just announced a second drama with Gosling, is hoping to do a musical with him. “Ryan is the closest guy that could be Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, all wrapped into one.”

Gosling might dislike the current business of Hollywood, but, actually, he’s a die-hard fan of the classic studio system. “It used to be mandatory to sing, dance, and act—to do comedy as well as drama,” says Gosling. “You came out here and trained. Over time, [actors] got compartmentalized. If you tried to play a character that was south side of a character you were made famous for, you were kicked to the curb, or shamed into getting back in line. The idea,” he says, “is to go back to the way things used to be.”


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