What a terrific year Ryan Gosling is having. From “Crazy Stupid Love” to “Drive” and now “Ides of March”, Sandra Bullock’s one-time toyboy seems to have emerged as the most employable actor in Hollywood. Well deserved status too, what with how good he is in each film.
In “Ides of March”, Gosling plays a governor’s (George Clooney) idealistic staffer who will do anything to see his boss and friend get the big seat at the White House.
You have a lot of one-on-one scenes opposite Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, George, Philip and so on. As an actor how do you prepare for that volley and what did it mean to you?
It meant I was scared every day. Obviously Phil, but Marisa too, she’s one of my favorite actors. She’s never bad. To me, she’s like Gene Hackman. She’s never been bad. You can’t find a bad Marisa performance, no matter how bad the film is. She’s always great. The same is true of Paul and same with Jeffrey Wright. I did learn a lot from them but they’re secrets. I don’t want any other actors to know.
How well do you know Evan Rachel Wood. When you film those love scenes, do you find that awkward and how do you approach that?
They’re all different and it depends on what you have to do in them and how well you know the person. It’s better to be a team because a lot of the time it’s your job as the guy in the scene to block the camera from seeing a lot of things on the actress that you’re working with. So, you’re always on defense, Running interference for them. It’s like a dance routine. You choreograph it carefully.
We got along like a house on fire. She’s really special. She’s one hell of an actress and kind of a genius. I think she has a photographic memory. Her mind is a scary place [laughs].
In terms of your character, what kind of research did you do to get into his head?
This film really is in George [Clooney’s] wheelhouse so I just talked a lot with George about it and he gave us a lot of documentaries and books to read. I talked to some people that want to remain nameless but I had a lot of help.
There are many hopeful young people who are going to be political science majors in college. After your experience with this film, do you think that do-gooders can even make a difference any more or is it hopeless?
I’d hate to think it’s not hopeless. The Ides of March is more a cautionary tale, I guess. [My character’s] dilemma is a real one in that he wants to be effective, he wants to effect change in the country but he can only be effective in the White House. And if his candidate is not going to get there, that presents a real moral dilemma for him. Does he dance with the one who brought him or does he jump ship and get into office so he can change people’s lives?
So do the ends justify the means?
That is the question; the idea of necessary evils. After severing your heart from your brain, is it possible to ever reconnect them again?
How cynical were you about politics before The Ides of March and how cynical are you now after playing the role?
I wasn’t more cynical, I was more informed after playing the role. I guess I wasn’t that informed [before], I only knew what I read.
Are you apolitical? Do you avoid the whole political process?
Hey, I’m Canadian, so they won’t let me vote! But I’ve been out of Canada for so long that they don’t care what I have to say, either. I’m a man without a country [laughs]. Sure, I’m interested and I try to stay informed. I live with my sister who just graduated in Journalism and she’s very politically minded. So she’s trying to keep me informed as well. Part of the reason why I did the film was so I could become more informed.
I want to congratulate you on that last scene because you did the whole thing with your eyes. Your eyes were dead, it was great.
I give good dead eyes [laughs]. It’s on my list of special skills next to horseback riding.
Have you ever taken any roles just for the money?
Yeah, when I was a kid, I did everything for the money. I didn’t really want to be an actor, I just wanted the money. I did that from when I was 12 to 18-19. Then at a certain point, my mother said, “You’ve worked enough for money. So now, don’t ever do that again. You’ve done enough of that already.” So I tried to take her advice.
Was it more important for you to work with George on this or tackle the subject matter?
The subject matter was interesting but I was really compelled by working with George and this cast. I think it’s a very interesting subject matter. And what I think is interesting about it is it’s not a political film. You don’t have to know anything about politics to enjoy it. It’s a thriller. It’s supposed to be a good time at the movies. It could be set on Wall Street or in Hollywood.
What’s the difference between working with a regular director and one who also acts in the film?
I’ve never worked with an actor-director before and so this was my first time. And also it’s hard to compare it. There’s no one like George. He’s a very unique guy. He’s doing so much all at once. He’s the director, he’s the producer, he’s the writer, he’s the star. He’s working on his project with satellites above the Sudan. He’s got 10 practical jokes in the works at all times. I don’t know how he does it.
So, what did he do? Did he do any pranks that were particularly annoying or funny?
Sure. It’s always on the verge of happening. You have to keep your eye out. There was a certain point we had a Nerf gun behind the camera and if he didn’t like a take, he’d shoot.
Your character in Ides of March starts off a bit disheveled and ends up wearing an Armani suit. Did your character’s clothes influence you at all?
I think it’s a big help. A lot of times what you wear affects how you feel or how you move which can give you clues about this character.
Did you work with the costume designer at all?
Yeah, I often work with the same costume designer and now we have a dialogue, a shorthand. Her name’s Erin Benach. And we did Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines and Drive together. It’s very helpful to me.
What was it like to work in Cincinnati since George is sort of from that area?
With George, it was like hanging out with the Beatles. We would be shooting and there would be parking structures with every level filled with people watching us… It’s a really great place. It’s very beautiful. I like the bridges.
It seems that you, George, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s producing, are trying to do something different in today’s Hollywood. Is that a conscious effort?
I can’t speak for those people, I don’t really know. For myself, it’s not a conscious effort to go in an opposite direction. It’s about trying to personalize the films that you work on and make something that you want to see. It’s a big screen and you can fill it however you want. The more freedom you’re given, the more specific it becomes. It’s not about going in the opposite direction, it’s about going internal.
Did you discover anything about yourself or filmmaking during this process for The Ides of March?
I learned a lot from everybody. But I learned a lot from Philip Seymour Hoffman. Watching him work was something that I really needed. He puts it all on the line, every take. And that’s rare.
Do you have any aspirations to get into writing or directing?
Yeah, I think I will…I’m working on it.
What do you have coming up?
I’m doing a film right now called Gangster Squad which is a 1950s gangster picture with Ruben Fleischer and Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen. It’s got a great cast. Josh Brolin is the lead and Anthony Mackey, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Emma Stone, Michael Pena. Nick Nolte just signed on, that’s pretty exciting.
Is there a genre that you haven’t tackled yet that you’d like to?
For me now it’s all about the filmmaker. If you’re not on the same page as the filmmaker there’s no point in doing the film. I used to think that you could still get your point of view in somehow but it doesn’t really work. I’ve got Derek Cianfrance, I’ve got Nicolas. In some way, I’ve been dating filmmakers for the last 10 years and now I want to get married.
- Ashley Hillard