For some actors, it can be a curse to be instantly identified for your most successful film, which for Ryan Gosling was his role Noah Calhoun in the beloved 2004 romantic drama The Notebook. However, in Gosling’s case, it is his blessing.
The actor has taken his newfound Notebook devotees continued to garner critical acclaim and award nominations for his performances in films like 2006’s Half Nelson, 2007’s Lars And The Real Girl, and this past year’s All Good Things.
Now the 30 year-old is about to take them to a realm of romantic drama very few dare to tread with his role in the film Blue Valentine. In the film, he plays Dean Periera, whose marriage to his wife Cindy, played by Michelle Williams, is falling apart. Ryan discussed what attracted him to the role.
“Well, I didn’t realize until I read this script is that most movies think they know everything,” Gosling says, “And here was this objective portrait of this couple that wasn’t really pretending to know any of the answers to the questions it was asking. It just really wanted to know what happens to love, where does it go, how can it be there, and then, years later, there would be no evidence of it ever being there.”
Gosling was asked what attracts him to fairly intense roles like the one of Dean.
“I don’t know,” Ryan replies, “I wish I did. I think that not knowing is part of what keeps it interesting for me, the fact that I found myself in these crazy situations and I’m not really sure why I’m there. It’s something I’ve been compelled to do for a really long time and I’m really hoping why that is. I think every movie is a chance to understand that a little more.”
The film’s director Derek Cianfrance’s first film was 1998’s Brother Tied, as well as several documentaries such as Battlegrounds and Dream The Impossible. Ryan talked about how much creative freedom
“It was like all he did was ask questions and he never tried to tell us how we should feel and tell us what we should do,” Gosling said of Cianfrance, “All he did was ask us how we felt and what we felt. And for years, Michelle for six years and me for four and he was on it for twelve. And I think as a result of it, now we’re all asking it of the audience.”
Gosling also spoke of the role reversal he and Williams had to engage in for their characters
“One of the first things Derek said to me, I think, in our first meeting is that I was the girl and she was the boy and I think that helped both of us,” Ryan says.
With that in mind, it was asked whether any of the scenes of Dean and Cindy fighting were adlibbed.
“Well, what was required from the scene was scripted,” Ryan explains, “But how we got there, Derek would give you a point A and a point B and you’d have to draw a line. But it could be a squiggly line or a straight line, any kind of line you wanted, but you had to get from point A to point B.”
“When we met each other, really, we met each other on camera,” he adds, “I knew Michelle had been working on her character for six years and I had been working on mine for four, but we had talked about it and I think we had dinner once in all that time. So what’s happening for the audience for the first time is also happening for us for the first time.”
In the film, time jumps back and forth between the present day and Ryan and Cindy’s more blissful years as husband and wife. Ryan talks about how he and Williams managed to create the couple’s history together.
Blue Valentine has encountered plenty of critical acclaim, including two Golden Globe nominations for Best Dramatic Actor and Actress for its two respective stars. It has also encountered controversy when the MPAA gave the film initially an NC-17 rating for an intense sex scene, before the studio behind the film, The Weinstein Company, successfully had the MPAA alter the rating to an R without any edits whatsoever. Gosling gave us his thoughts on the initial rating.
“I was surprised,” he says of it, “I’m confused and I get more confused because there’s no real answer. I’m told it’s because of the oral sex scene in the film, but I’m confused because there’s plenty of oral sex scenes in other movies or it’s a man receiving it from a woman that are R-rated. And yet, ours is reversed and it is perceived as pornographic. Black Swan has an oral sex scene between two women and that’s an R rating, but ours is between a husband and his wife and that’s NC-17.”
“Then, of course, you start to think how is it possible that these torture movies, when you can torture women in the sexual context, that can have an R rating, but a husband and a wife making love is inappropriate,” Ryan continues, “A lot of people think, what’s the big deal? It’s an NC-17. It means that people under 17, kids, can’t see it, but that’s not true because what it
Ryan elaborated for us on how challenging, as well as how important, the sex scene in question actually was for the film.
“It’s a different kind of day,” he says, “Most love scenes that I’ve shot were very different from this film. We tried very hard and it was very important to us that the sex scenes feel authentic, that they not feel sensationalized or just that they feel honest and intimate, that it be how can you make a love story without showing the physical act of love and that it’d be this kind of way that these two characters communicating to each other something physically without the words.”
“And so, they were very important to us and we chose to shoot them in a way that most of those kinds of scenes in that nature have music on top of it and they have lots of cuts,” Gosling adds, “And we decided to not have any music on top of the scenes and really not to have any cuts as much as possible, just to have the camera sit in the room and for you to feel like you’re there.”
Gosling was asked to compare his intense role in this film to that of his previous film All Good Things.
“I think that they’re wildly different,” Ryan says of them, “The romance in both, I don’t know how, but they are very different, which is why I guess I was attracted to them both. I thought that All Good Things was an interesting opportunity to explore the process of…a large amount of homicides start as domestic
“So I thought the film was a good opportunity to kind of explore all those warning signs,” he adds, “So that if someone saw the film, they might think they were with the guy from The Notebook, but you could look at those warning signs and see some similarities in your relationship and get out before it got worse. Also, it’s just an interesting character study because that character was such a fascinating and very complex person. And in terms of Blue Valentine, I feel, for me, that was kind of a murder mystery as well. It was like you start the film and you realize that this beautiful couple’s love has been shot down in cold blood. And then, you spend the rest of the movie retracing their steps, trying to find out who’s the killer. Is it him? Is it her? Is it the kid? Is it money? Is it time? Is it their upbringings? Is it work? Who killed it? It’s like a whodunit?”
Ryan also talked about his physical transformation he underwent for his present-day look in the film.
“Well, initially, the character was supposed to have gained a lot of weight and I started into that process,” Gosling says, “And then, we started to think that was dangerous because we didn’t want to risk that people would see the film and walk out and think,
In one scene, Gosling and Williams’s characters have wild, confrontational night in a motel in its “Future Room”. It was asked whether “The Future Room” actually existed.
“Well, that room, if you’re interested, is in The King Of Prussia at the fourteenth floor of the Ramada Inn,” Ryan answers, “It’s right next to the leather and lace room, which I’m told is constantly sold out and hard to get, so if you want to get in, you’d have to start making a reservation now. I’d have preferred any room to that room.”
It was brought up that another scene where Ryan’s character Dean is on the floor in a bathroom is a type of scenario many people can relate to.
“Really,” Gosling replies, “I’m told that’s true, but I never had that experience. This film, I don’t remember making it. The lines really got blurred for me as to what was real and wasn’t real.”
“Somebody’s like, ‘I hear stories about making Apocalypse Now,’ but I feel like this was our own little, I have some taste of that,” he continues, “I remember doing scenes where I fell asleep and I woke up and they were still shooting. He waited 12 years to make the movie. He wasn’t going to let anything go by, so he shot the entire process.”