Thursday, June 23, 2005

Flaunt July 04 - Ryan Gosling

It's like a jumble of buts in a jungle somewhere....Its really completely dead. Walk along the street there's noting moving, I've lived in a small Spanish fishing villages.....but they weren't as boring as Los Angeles." -Truman Capote.

Someone should have directed Capote downtown-that is, to the old city, the forgotten city, its soul. When visiting, it is best experienced by car. Sure, there are points along the what where you might stop to explore on foot, but the view is almost better driving in late- afternoon traffic, when the streets are still abuzz.

Begin The Original Pantry, the grandfather of Los Angeles diners, for a cup of coffee. Lewis, there maitre d' - white hair, clear blue eyes, yellow teeth and the warmest smile will greet you. Seated in the back of the room, Ryan Gosling - lanky, blonde, slight beard - will be your tour guide and driver. Pay the man in the cage at the front of the restaurant for your beverages, cash only. While you wait for change, press your toes into the worn spot on the floor below. Note the seven alternating layers of visible linoleum and plywood.

Gosling navigates his vehicle toward the old theater district on Broadway, passing the Orpheum, Rialto, and the Los Angeles, among others. They're early 20th century architectural relics - former vaudeville houses, nickelodeons, and movie palaces - despite that there dilapidated state, still stand proud. He knows the geography of downtown like the back of his hand. The scenery is raw, exposed, a dusty anachronism to the rest of LA. Here, you're meant to look beneath the surfaces of these buildings because there all whole history embedded within their ornate facades.

Life quickens on the street level: a young girl leans against a yellow store sign, refusing to follow her father, a hooker in a raspberry red velvet skirt takes the corner. Gosling quietly watches. He's an observer in the midst of the havoc, the people and cars, more contemplative than quiet or shy. He's friendly and easily connects with the people around him. Driving out near the con-encased Los Angeles River, Gosling waves to the homeless man under the bridge. On the way to he rooftop of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, he converse with a woman in the elevator. "Smells good," he says as the doors close on the tenth floor.

"Its a 1040 party," she says, reminding him that's its April 15 and the end of tax season. "Everything it ten dollars and forty cents. They're severing lasagna."

This is what Gosling does: he studies his immediate environment, engages with it, then melts in to the scene. He's an actor, but not one who necessarily seeks the limelight. Its and interesting paradox. When walking into a theater, his instinct is to find a comfortable place to sit, rather than run up on stage. At The Pantry, when a waiter asks if he's a movie star, Gosling politely dodged the question, giving a courteous half answer. Moments later, when two teen girls, Olga and Luna, ask him for his autograph and incorrectly cite The Unbeliever as the film they just watched him in, he graciously signs the piece of paper they've torn from the waiters notepad. He swears that he rarely gets recognized, or what people usually mistake him for someone else. Nonetheless, these are the peculiarities of his job. And if he doesn't crave the attention, why the chosen profession?

Gosling has been acting since he was a child - his early credits include The All new Mickey Mouse Club, Breaker High, and Young Hercules - yet he doesn't remember what his impulses were that made him want to act. Its these types of characteristics, the previous roles: Leland Fitzgerald (The United States of Leland) is conscious but detached, emotional but numb; Danny Balint (The Believer) is a neo-Nazi who cant escape his Jewish heritage, and and ultimately doesn't want to. In these films, Gosling is the most compelling element to watch. His characters are the most unsettling, the ones where you scrape away layer to understand. In The Believer, Gosling is simply frightening. He is both villain and victim and plays it so convincingly, that it seems impossible for audiences to accept him as anyone else. But the will.

Gosling exists just below the radar, enough that he's able to drop any character with ease. His attempts to keep his privacy private are intentional and he winces at the sight of the tape recorder. Thus far, he's exacted playing the troubled youth, but in his newest film, The Notebook, he expands his horizons as the romantic lead in an old-fashioned love story. Initially, Gosling was doubtful that he could pull off the main character of Noah Calhoun, but nevertheless, the kid wont back away from a challenge, especially when director Nick Cassavetes personally approached him.

I said "Nick...Nicky, look at this face. This is not the face of a romantic lead.' He was like, 'I know that's why I want you to do it. Because that way when she says she loves you, we know its for the right reasons.' So I thought about it, and I thought its important not to get too comfortable as an actor. I think there has to be something at stake to keep you honest."

The Notebook is one of those archetypal love stories. He's a country boy, she's a city girl. Its strength is in its simplicity, no big action effect or complicated story plots, not traces of cynicism or sarcasm. Instead, its just beautiful North Carolina scenery with solid, likeable characters (James Garner and Gena Rowlands, along with younger counterparts, Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Sam Shepard, Joan Allen and James Marsden round the cast.)

"I think the goal was not to try and make a period romance, but to make a story, a movie that could have been made in that time in the 40's," he recalls, siring on a beach chair of the desolate roof of the the Athletic Club. ' There was something about those guys like Bob Mitchum, they just had a kind of quality that you don't see much of anymore." And as Noah Calhoun, this is what Gosling embodies, a heart-on-his-sleeve, no games kind of hero; the kind of man who can rebuild an entire house by himself, and in the film he practically does.

"I think that there was a kind of idea about being a man," he continues, "what a man was back then, which is different now. There are a lot of examples of these guys who are very sensitive boy/men. There was an appeal to me to try and get back to the Bob Mitchum of it all."

The part of Noah Calhoun also interested Gosling because it reminded him of his Uncle Bill. "I've always really liked my uncle. I've thought very highly of him, just the way he lives his life. Having had experience with a person like that, I thought that it would be a really interesting place to kind of spend some time," he says.

"My uncle is the kind of guy who's worked at this paper mill his entire life. He's been working there since he was 18 and he only ever missed three days of work in all that time. One was for his daughters wedding. And one was for the birth of his granddaughter and the other on I don't know. I'm sure it was for a good reason. He's never taken a sick day. He doesn't talk a lot. He shows how he feels through his actions. And I always kind of liked how he was with his wife. His line, his catch phrase, is, 'I told her I lover her at the wedding. If anything changes I'll let her know."

Now the Gosling has traversed the romance lot - including one intense scene on the kitchen table that was cut for rating purposes-he returns to the melancholy/suicidal musings of Henry Letham in Stay, staring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Also in the works is Che, with Benicio Del Toro playing the title role and Gosling as Guevars's cohort, though at press time, the details of this film remain unconfirmed. Initially Terrence Malick was set to direct, not it may be Steven Soderbergh, who originally was set to produce. Regardless of the outcome, Gosling it pleased with his Malick meetings. "It is definitely a highlight in my short career together to spend time with Terry, his wife Becky, and Benicio. The work in a really organic way. It's not forced."

The wind is picking up slightly at the top of the Athletic Club and the vies of the city sprawls to the west into the hazy blankness. Gosling discusses cockfighting (a rooster's instincts are only to fuck and fight, he informs and apologizes for his language), traveling to Uruguay and picking up backgammon, his current red, Culture Jam, by Adbusters' publisher Kalle Lasn, and his friend's one-man band, Eskimo Hunter. On the way home, the Hotel Rosslyn and its sibling, The New Million Dollar Hotel Rosslyn, with a sign that boasts "Popular Prices" and "Fireproof" loom overhead. Round the corner and back on Broadway, the evening hum has given way to gated storefronts and crowded buses heading out to different parts of town. Gosling cruises through the boulevard of green lights. Its quiet, and the lights of the theater flicker on.