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Ready for Anything

From Disney child star to Hollywood heartthrob, Ryan Gosling is comfortable wherever his career takes him.

Sifting through Ryan Gosling’s accomplished career thus far, it’s hard to pigeonhole the actor into one specific genre. He’s stolen hears starring in romantic comedies, dazzled in dramatic roles, and of course, showed he’s a bit of a triple threat with his choreographed moves and singing voice in the smash hit La La Land.

One of the hottest names in Hollywood today, Gosling first broke into acting when he left his native Canada for Orlando and the opportunity to star in the Mickey Mouse Club alongside other familiar names such as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But, while those three went to become mega pop stars in the music industry, Gosling found his niche on the silver screen, first starring in several independent films before receiving widespread commercial recognition in 2004’s The Notebook.

From that point, Gosling would weave his way in and out of various genres accumulating plenty of accolades and awards along the way. Fresh off last year’s Blade Runner sequel, Gosling has reunited with La La Land director Damien Chazelle for First Man, a look at astronaut Neil Armstrong and his mission to the moon. The film, due out in October, has been gaining major buzz and could likely end up earning both Gosling and Chezelle more Oscar attention.

A father of two daughters with actress Eva Mendes, Gosling spoke to us about parenthood, the many path’s he’s travelled during his career and why he credits his time as a Mouseketeer with forever changing his life.

How do you handle the attention and how has your massive stardom changed the way you re- late to the outside world and how do you deal with all that attention?
I try to enjoy my life and enjoy the experience of meeting people who appreciate movies and who also like my work. I don’t think I’ve really changed my way of looking at what I do or how I see my life. What changes is the way the world sees you and how they’ve already develop a specific impression of who you are and when people meet you they feel they know you personally.

That’s a strange feeling sometimes but I try to be as natural as possible when people come up to me and want to talk or just say hello. I don’t try to change my behavior to conform to any image or perception that people might have of me from seeing my movies or reading articles about me. I try to behave as normally as I can and be myself.

In the past, you have singled out Steve Carrell and Russell Crowe as great actors that you have worked with. What was so memorable about working with those two?
Well Steve is probably the nicest person you could ever hope to meet. It just makes for a wonderful time on the set when you have some- one that considerate and generous around.

Russell, also, is just an incredible actor and everything he’s done I’ve admired. He’s always been there as a reference for, me in terms of an approach to something or how he approached a certain genre.

So Russell is a role model?
More in the sense of somebody’s career who I admired. Not that I would try and emulate that but more that I admired it and appreciated it.

You’ve also tried your hand at directing with 2014’s Lost River. What kind of satisfaction did you get from being on the other side of the camera?
It’s working with the actors, many of whom I had already worked with before and admired greatly and seeing how they bring their own perspective and magic to the characters they’re playing. I saw a big part of my job as trying to create an environment where the actors could be as creative and involved in the process as possible.

I wanted them to be able to bring their own ideas and experiences to each scene and feel that they were part of an artistic collaboration. I didn’t want it to be all about me and my vision, but I wanted them to contribute in their own way and that the movie would be a collective work and not just mine.

I’d like to direct again. I mainly want to keep challenging myself and collaborate with the best people and do as much interesting work as I can. Fortunately, I have a lot of good friends who are very supportive and believe in me. They encourage me to keep pushing myself.

Do characters rub off on you while you’re playing them?
I think so. But I’ve never had that experience that some actors talk about where they become the character, or they take it home with them. I never had that experience, but you have to do what you can to try and understand that character and a lot of times that means just spending your free time trying to come to some kind of understanding of that character, so it does bleed its way into your personal life.

You seem at your happiest when indulging in comedic sensibilities. Does humor come naturally to you?
I like doing comedies. A lot of it depends on my mood and wanting to do something different. I like looking at things differently and I’ve always had a pretty good sense of humor. I did some comedies earlier in my career and it came to me pretty naturally. So I’m comfortable doing those kinds of movies. Sometimes I can get into a frame of mind where I want to do very dark and intense stories and then it’s nice to do lighter stuff.

You’ve done some very good romantic comedies in the past. Would you consider doing another one?
If a good script came along, yeah. I like the feeling you get from watching a good romantic comedy. It puts you in a mood where you really understand how irresistible love can be. We all do the wildest and craziest things when we’re in love or looking for it even though it can take you to some very high and very low emotional places.

Does being a father make you want to indulge your lighter side?
I think it does. I’ve never had so much enjoyment as I’ve had being a father even though I’ve never slept so little in my life (laughs).

Has becoming a dad changed you?
I don’t know. I always wanted to have children and not having had a father present when I was growing up, I’m probably trying harder to be the best father possible.

I love women and I love being surrounded by women. I love having daughters and I look forward to when they’re older and having that same kind of rapport that I’ve had with my sister and with most of the other women in my life.

How do you like to enjoy your downtime with the family?
I love cooking and going out to eat. Eva doesn’t eat meat, but she loves fish and rice and pasta. When I’m cooking, I try to vary the menu as much as possible. I own a Moroccan restaurant, Tagine, in Beverly Hills, and one of my favorite items on the menu is lamb and couscous in honey sauce.

Why did you get involved in the restaurant business?
I liked the idea of creating a romantic place to have dinner and interesting, exotic food. I also love hearing jazz music playing in the background. I like that kind of atmosphere.

Since you were a child actor yourself, do you kind of relate to the kids being on set?
Yeah, like I am conscious of it because I still remember being pulled from the scene to go to school in the trailer and it’s a weird life to be a child actor. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you feel you have no other choice what to do.

You were hired to be part of The Mickey Mouse Club for Disney where you described your time there as being fairly wild and mischievous. Was that your nature?
As a child, I remember that after watching Rocky I went to school and, believing I knew how to fight, I challenged a classmate much bigger than me. I got punched in the face and then I was the one who apologized.

I was always looking for trouble … I suffered from ADHD and I had a lot of trouble socializing. I had no friends and I hated being a kid. I couldn’t wait to get older and become an adult. I think that’s one reason I wanted to be an actor just so I could have a job and find something that would give me a different kind of life.

Did your time on The Mickey Mouse Club change you?
I had the best time of life on the show. It was the first time that I made friends and felt normal. I also got to work and hang out with Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. All of them were incredibly talented and I was just glad to be there and be part of that world. That was the time where I knew I had to work hard and succeed in that world. Because I was so bad at school, I was terrified that I would wind up working at a factory. So that gave me a plenty of incentive to succeed as an actor.

It was funny, when preparing for La La Land, I thought having done The Mickey Mouse Club would be a huge advantage. I thought I could do all the moves pretty easily. But I was deluding myself. I had to work much harder than I imagined, and I was just lucky that I had several months  to train so I could look as professional as possible. I also had to learn to play some jazz piano as well as doing some tap dancing and singing. 

What was the first thing you did when you earned a serious pay check as an actor?
I bought a house for my mother. I paid in cash! My mother had spent so much of her life constantly moving from one apartment to another with me and my sister that it gave me so much joy to be able to do that for her. You can’t imagine how happy that made me.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s June 2018 issue.