Once in a blue moon do you get the opportunity to interview an upcoming star who has manners, a quick wit and a humble demure. I'm talking about actor Ryan Gosling, whose new film Drive - a neo-noir caper with action, car chases and gunplay that delivers an intense smash-your-head-in-with-a-hammer-traveling-at-the-speed-of-sound explosion obliterating your senses - is out now.
Gosling plays 'Driver', a man of very few words, but makes up for it in action. Stunt car driver by day, getaway driver by night. Here's what he's got to say about the film and a little about him...
WSB: By far, this is one of the best films I've seen this year and your performance is outstanding! You have this Steve McQueen/Ryan O'Neal persona throughout the film. Tell us about your character.
RG: Thank you, especially for the comparison to Steve McQueen, though no actor could ever take his place. There are elements that people will compare me with Ryan O'Neal from the Walter Hill classic The Driver, but I looked at this character as someone in a John Hughes movie that walks into a happy scene with cotton candy, but who just happens to be carrying an axe and a severed head in his hands that ends up dripping blood all over that cotton candy. In the book, 'Driver' is a stunt man, but he's also a film fan thinking that he's the hero or wanting to be the hero in reality with psychopathic tendencies.
Like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.
He goes through a lot of emotional moments in the film that gives him this dark metamorphous. The director, Nicolas Winding Refn and I discussed this and we decided that 'Driver' is a metaphor for a werewolf.
Nice guy, but don't get him upset when there's a full moon out.
Exactly! As in the werewolf persona, he also justifies his actions.
Drive has this mythological, western, lone gunfighter feel to it.
It's basically a fairytale when you look at it. The driver is the knight errant, Irene, Carey Mulligan, is the princess that needs rescuing, Bryan Cranston is my trusted friend and Ron Pearlman and Albert Brooks are the dragon and evil wizard I have to slay. Though they play such bad guys in the film they're the nicest and funniest guys you'll meet.
That's so true! When I first met Ron Pearlman at a benefit honoring Roger Corman, I thought I was talking to Joe Piscapo the comedian until I finally realized it was him! I mean, how was I to know? He wore all that make-up on the Beauty and the Beast TV show back then! We had a good laugh about it. Albert Brooks is a good guy too. He wrote and directed a film way ahead of its time called Real Life that starred Charles Grodin about a reality show filming the All-American family. I remember he shot the trailer in the red/green stripe process in 3D that played in the theaters. Years later, I ended up dating Grodin's daughter from the film, Lisa Urette, for the longest time then we broke up. She was a talented actress, but it was the only film she ever did. I ran into her mom three months ago in Burbank and asked if she was around thinking I could rekindle the old flame.
So, what happened?
She's got two master's degrees, married, has an eighteen year old son and is living in Italy running a museum.
Looks like you're out of the running on that one.
Gee, thanks for the observation. Speaking of people, Bob Tinnell (writer/director of the cult classic, Surf Nazi's Must Die) says hello.
You know, Bob Tinnell gave me my first acting job. It was a film called Frankenstein and Me.
With Burt Reynolds. It was a good little film.
Yes! Burt was only there for a day, but what a nice guy. I ended up taking that Frankenstein suit home and wearing it around a lot to try and frighten other kids on the block though the novelty wore off pretty quickly when they found out it was me.
What were you like as a kid? What did you watch on TV or in movie theatres?
I grew up in Canada, so we had a lot of Canadian content TV, but I remember, when I was about six years old or so, and I saw a Friday the 13th movie and I thought - this is great! I had this Harry Houdini magic set that had fake knives in it, so I replaced them with my mother's steak knives and took it to school one day. I took the knives out and started throwing them into the wall in the classroom. The teacher intervened and needless to say, my parents were called in and I was expelled from school for the rest of the week.
So what happened?
I couldn't go to the movies any more and could only watch bible type programs on TV after that.
There's been some talk of Oscar buzz with this film and Ides of March. How do you handle it?
I really don't know what to say. Praise... it's an interesting word. Most people out there when you're starting out don't give it to you or they don't believe in your work or they themselves are too afraid to try what you're doing and want to drag you down. The thing to do is just don't listen to them. It's about the work, how you feel and that in your heart you're doing the best work you can do. Don't let others influence you with negativity. Negativity is a killer and has stopped a lot of good people out there from pursuing their dreams. Believe in yourself.
Sage advice. I really had a great time talking with you and I look forward to meeting you again.
DRIVE is currently on release in the States and opens in UK on September 23rd.