All Sides of the Camera
It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to see Ryan Gosling in a major movie.
He took some time off to make Lost River, which marked his directorial debut, while his partner Eva Mendes gave birth to their first child, Esmeralda.
Now the 35-year-old Canadian actor and ever-popular sex symbol is back in action with the new film, The Big Short, an insider’s look at the 2008 financial market’s collapse. In the role of Jared Vennett, a fast-talking Wall Street investment banker, Gosling serves as the film’s narrator and helps guide audiences through the complex chain of events surrounding the global banking crisis that resulted from the catastrophic plunge in the sub-prime mortgage market.
The movie is based is on the best-selling non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine, which explained how the mortgage-backed securities bubble developed and ultimately burst, panicking financial markets and plunging the world into a deep recession. The film focuses on some of the key players involved and exposes much of the greed and corrupt behavior that precipitated the crisis.
“This film was a massive education for me,” Gosling says. “Until I read the script, I never would have imagined that you could take audiences through these events and make a compelling movie out of it. But (director/screenwriter) Adam McKay has been able to create a rich film experience that will surprise audiences with how much they are going to learn about what really happened and how this financial disaster came about.”
Directed by McKay and co-produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, along with Paramount Pictures, The Big Short is a tour-de-force portrait of high stakes finance and the distinctive personalities who alternately contributed to and profited from the 2008 crisis. Pitt also co-stars in the film alongside Steve Carrell, Christian Bale, Marisa Tomei, and Melissa Leo.
Ryan Gosling lives in New York with his girlfriend of the past three years, Eva Mendes, 41, and their baby daughter, Esmeralda, now 16 months old. Next year Gosling, who received a best actor Oscar nomination for his memorable role in Half Nelson (2006), will be seen in the musical comedy, La La Land opposite Emma Stone, as well as the crime thriller, The Nice Guys.
He is about to begin shooting the highly-anticipated Blade Runner 2, co-starring Harrison Ford, the sequel to the cult 1982 Ridley Scott film.
STRIPLV: Ryan, wherever you go, it seems like the whole world loves you. How do you handle the attention and how has your massive stardom changed the way you relate to the outside world?
GOSLING: 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 developed 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.
STRIPLV: What made you want to be a part of The Big Short?
GOSLING: I was intrigued by the subject matter and l discovered while reading the script and preparing for the film that, like most people, I didn’t know what was really involved in the (2008) financial crisis. It’s an important film in that respect and we should all know more about how the financial markets operate, because they have such an impact on our lives.
STRIPLV: How would you describe your character, Jared Vennett?
GOSLING: My character is loosely based on a real person, and he serves as a tour guide who helps take you through all the events and helps explain a lot of the complicated terminology and financial matters. He takes you along for the ride and gives you the information you need to understand the crisis as it was evolving and connect all the people and their role in what happened.
STRIPLV: Was it difficult to be able to understand the very arcane ways that financial markets operate and all the complex financial instruments involved?
GOSLING: (Laughs) You have to treat the financial world like this place where they’ve created their own code, to make it as hard as they can, so no one can understand what they’re doing! It was like learning another language. But once you get past the jargon and begin to grasp how different financial instruments were being bundled into giant packages and then being traded, then you can focus on how the game is being played.
STRIPLV: What role does Jared play during the onset of the crisis?
GOSLING: Jared was the one who knew that the credit default swaps were eventually going to lead to a collapse. He was someone whose job was to make money for the bank, but he also had a good instinct to know when things were getting out of hand. A lot of his colleagues and bosses weren’t interested in hearing him warn of the dangers involved and that’s why people were making fun of him and calling him “Bubble Boy” or “Chicken Little.” But he was right.
STRIPLV: The Big Short is not the kind of movie you would necessarily expect a filmmaker like Adam McKay (The Other Guys, Anchorman 1 and 2) to make…
GOSLING: No, but even though he’s best known for his wonderful comedies, he does something very unique with this story. At the same time, as the film is dealing with some very serious issues, there’s also a lot of humor that comes from the absurdity of how the financial markets operated and the people who were part of that process.
STRIPLV: Were you a big fan of Adam McKay’s comedies before you decided to make this film with him?
GOSLING: Adam McKay is someone I’ve wanted to work with for a long time because I love his comedies and his way of creating interesting characters who have this special energy. I’ve watched some of his movies over and over again because they’re that funny and that good. He is extremely talented and it was such a pleasure to make this film with him and work with so many outstanding actors.
STRIPLV: What was it like working with Steve Carrell again after working together on the hilarious 2011 hit film, Crazy Stupid Love?
GOSLING: 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 someone that considerate and generous around. Steve is also a great actor and I think his performance in this film is very special. His character is based on a real person, and you would never know it unless you had met the actual guy he’s playing, but Steve’s performance is so accurate. He got the walk, the way of speaking, everything about the man, exactly right.
STRIPLV: You chose to spend a lot of time the past few years working on your recent film, Lost River, as opposed to acting. Why did you want to go in that direction?
GOSLING: I wanted to tell a story where I had control over the final product and bring my own vision into making a film. People who watch movies have this impression that actors are really the important part of the process, but in reality, there’s this little man behind the curtain who has an idea, a vision of what should be taking place in front of the camera. A film set is really a director’s world and I wanted to experience that, and now I’ve seen how hard a job it really is.
STRIPLV: What surprised you most about directing?
GOSLING: (Laughs) …that there’s always something going wrong. But you need to pretend that everything’s under control and project a lot of confidence. So you need to do a lot of acting as a director too, and look very much in charge and keep the atmosphere very positive and creative. You spend most of your time solving problems and often you only have a few minutes to figure things out—like a scene that’s not working and you need to finish the shot to move to the next location, but you can’t do that until you fix the dialogue or something else to make that scene play properly. Or your D.P. (cinematographer) is telling you that the sun’s going down, you’re losing the light, and you still have more shots left to do. (Laughs)
STRIPLV: What gave you the greatest satisfaction from being behind the camera?
GOSLING: 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 and I wanted them to contribute in their own way and that the movie would be a collective work and not just mine.
STRIPLV: Did you ever imagine, as a young boy performing with your uncle, that you would get to this level as a performer?
GOSLING: I have no idea what I was thinking as a kid. I was just having fun. My uncle was a big influence, though. He was living with my family at the time for about a year and he had begun performing as an Elvis impersonator. Prior to that, the house was pretty ordinary. My father was working in a factory and my mom stayed at home. Suddenly you’re living with Elvis and your whole family gets involved. So one person is singing back-up vocals, another works as a bodyguard, and you feel like you’re part of this strange new world. After my uncle left though, life was pretty boring and I wanted to find a way back into that world. So I did everything I could to get there. I took singing lessons, dancing lessons, and then auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club. And that was the start of it. Really. Even though (the Disney people) thought I was a bad influence, I still had a great time there.