A short chat with Ryan Gosling of “Drive”

No disrespect to Keri Russell or Justin Timberlake, but Ryan Gosling is easily the most powerfully versatile actor to emerge from that thespian crucible we call the Mickey Mouse Club. He’s done very well playing relatively straightforward leads in “Fracture” and the chick-flick phenom, “The Notebook,” but the 30-year-old Canadian with an oddly urban accent has specialized in playing a wide variety of oddballs and doing it better than anyone of his generation. Right now, he can be seen going way into the violent dark side of life with the rather remarkable thriller, “Drive.” From Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, it’s a fascinating blend of 70s/80s aesthetics, true romance and deliberately ugly brutality. Describing his attraction to the film, Gosling says, “I’ve always wanted to be in a violent John Hughes movie. I always thought that if ‘Pretty in Pink’ had a head smashing, it’d be perfect.”

He was more serious than you might think when he said that. And so it went as a very interesting Mr. Gosling spoke with Bullz-Eye and other journos about his latest film. Check out a sample of the roundtable discussion below and then head over to Bullz-Eye to read the full interview.

On his unusual relationship with violent cinema and on being a head-smashing “superhero.”

When I was a little kid, when I first saw “First Blood,” it put a spell on me. I thought I was Rambo; I even thought my face felt like Sylvester Stallone’s face when I touched it. I went to school the next day. I put steak knives in my Fisher Price Houdini kit, and I took ’em, and I threw them at all the kids at recess. I got suspended, rightfully so, and I’m sorry and I learned my lesson and I never did anything like that again. But my parents said, “This guy can’t watch movies, or violent movies anyways.” They put me on a leash and I could only watch Bible. National Geographic movies, and black and white comedies, Abbott and Costello…

I understand the effect that movies can have on you, and the kind of spell that they can cast on you. When I first read this script, I felt like this is a guy who’s just seen too many movies. He’s going around acting like he’s the hero of his own action movie. I wanted to play a superhero, but all the good ones are taken. I thought, “Well, I can create my own, potentially.”

On working with “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known previously for such hyperviolent slices of cinema as the acclaimed “Bronson” starring Tom Hardy and the Danish “Pusher” trilogy.

Look, ever since Nicolas was a little boy, his mother has been telling him he’s a genius and everything he did was genius. Even when he was watching “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” while he ate his cereal before he went to elementary school in the morning. Obsessively, she believed he was a genius. I think that, you get told that enough, eventually it becomes true. I’m not sure that he really started out as one, but I do believe he’s become one.

He is a very unfiltered filmmaker. He just makes what he wants to see. If it’s boring to him, he won’t shoot it. He fetishizes things, in a way… He sexualizes things because he can’t maybe be as sexual as he’d want to be [because he’s married]. He talks about filmmaking a lot like having sex. It has to arouse him and has to be sexually interesting to him, even if it’s a pair of gloves or where you hand is in the frame. It has to literally turn him on.

  

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Surprise! It’s the return of the end of week movie news dump.

I thought I’d shock everyone and do a post that’s not built around a trailer — there’ll be time enough for that on the weekend.

* Tom Cruise may or may not be many things, but I’ve never really thought of him as a rocker. Yet, that’s exactly what he will be in the promised film version of “Rock of Ages.” I’ve long had mixed feelings about Cruise as an actor — he can be very good in some things and disastrous in others — and I have mixed feelings about this project, too. To be specific, I like good movie musicals but strongly dislike eighties hair bands and what some of us used to call “corporate rock.”

On the other hand, Mike Fleming touts Anne Hathaway, who I have few or no mixed feelings about, as a possible costar. I wonder what she’d look like as a glam rocker…

anne_hathaway

* A star has been set — or at least gotten to the serious negotiation stage — for the long discussed “Jack the Giant Killer” coming from Bryan Singer and his old screenwriting cohort, Christopher McQuarrie, writes Mike Fleming. He’s that kid who was so great in 2002’s “About a Boy” grown-up into 20-something Nicolas Hoult. Hoult has also appeared on the UK “Skins” and will be turning up in the upcoming “Mad Max” reboot/sequel or whatever.

Mike Fleming, however, is not correct when he describes the tale as a “scary” variation on “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It’s an entirely different, far less commonly told, fairy tale. As Wikipedia tells us:

Jack the Giant Killer is a British fairy tale about a plucky Cornish lad who slays a number of giants during King Arthur’s reign. The tale is characterized by violence, gore, and blood-letting.

No wonder they’re making a movie of it.

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Weekend box office: “Little Fockers” and “True Grit” face off as the movies have a worrisome New Year’s (updated)

It’s hard to know what Marshall Rooster Cogburn and stern young Mattie Ross would make of a little or big Focker. However, this weekend turned out to be a surprisingly close competition over a weekend that won’t be giving studio executives any particular excuses to party like it’s 2009 and they’ve just released “Avatar“.

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in

As Anne Thompson reminds us, this is a weekend when, unlike the usual rather steep decline of ongoing films, we’ll see very small drops or, especially for family films, significant increases. The Box Office Mojo weekend chart, bears that out.

With no major new releases, “Little Fockers” suffered a 14.7% decline, which would be fantastic almost any other weekend, netting an estimated $26.3 million for Universal. That would be somewhat more impressive had the film not cost a ridiculous $100 million. On the other hand, after two weeks, it’s earned back that amount plus some change. Not bad for a movie that probably has the worst reviews of any recent major hit. (Among “top critics,” only funny guy Glenn Kenny failed to drub the movie with a review that double-damns with the faintest possible praise.)

Nipping at its heels, and perhaps very likely to be the more profitable film over time, was the Coen Brothers’ typically excellent first true-western, “True Grit.” Nikki Finke points out that Friday, New Year’s Eve, “Grit” actually earned a bit more than “Fockers.” I guess we can attribute that to the superior movie-going taste of the nation’s wallflowers. (What night did we see this again?) Still, the total estimated take was $24.5 million for Paramount. On the other hand, the price tag was a mere $38 million.Add to all of that a probable slate of Oscar nominations (though I doubt more than one or two wins) good word of mouth — the second week drop was a beyond miniscule 1.7% — and the proven ability of the Coens’ to make films that people continue watching decades later, and you’ve got one case of a studio being amply rewarded for taking a chance on an old school western. Westerns are, of course, deader than a doornail. The exception is when somebody makes a good one.

UPDATE: I failed to mention previously that, at over $86 million already generated by “True Grit,” this is also apparently by far the most successful Coen Brothers films so far by quite a lot. For comparison, “No Country for Old Men” made $76 million and change for its entire run, including a “Best Picture” Oscar win. Better yet, “True Grit” has an ending that won’t leave a significant portion of the audience angry or dissatisfied, so this film should have really significant legs. I doubt they’ll make another western any time soon, but if the Coens want to make “Truly Grittier,” no studio head would stop them.

Jeff Bridges with CGI botox and some new guy in Another Jeff Bridges showpiece, “Tron: Legacy,” held on fairly well in week 3 with a small 4.4% drop and a weekend estimated total of $18.3 million for Disney. It’s still about $30 million shy of making back its $170 budget, though I’m sure that’s just a week or two away. Still, this is no unalloyed coup. Guess I’m not the only person who wonders why the original “Tron” is even discussed today as anything other than a technological advance.

The New Year’s weekend was an overall bummer. It was down 26% compared to New Year’s 20010, and the year as a whole saw movie receipts declining very slightly. Anne Thompson says it went from $10.6 million to $10.5 million. She added that the real issue is not that seemingly tiny increase. It’s obscured by increasing ticket prices for 3D and other films, but that overall attendance declined by a “whopping” 5%, according to Thompson. I think we can attribute that to a stagnant economy, improving home entertainment options, and the inability of the industry to bring back the long-lost ability to turn movies into events worth getting out of the house for. Call me a complete and utter lunatic, but avoiding the insanely obviously cookie-cutter storylines and characterizations of most movies today might also help slightly.

Still, there was good news this week for a number of family films and Oscar hopefuls too numerous to mention. It also wasn’t bad for the two limited releases which came out last Wednesday. Both were rather downbeat films dealing with relationships unhappy, happy, and non-existent. “Blue Valentine,” with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a married couple on their way to a break-up, emerged victorious from it’s battle to avoid a bookings-killing NC-17 with an R-rating and scored the best per-screen average of the holiday weekend, $45,000 in four theaters for a weekend estimated total of $180,000.

Meanwhile, “Another Year,” which I’ve been covering, started the New Year in, I’m guessing, reasonably OK fashion with $20,000 in six theaters for a total of $120,000. A film about a happy couple and they’re incredibly miserable friends and family members, a likely and definitely well-deserved Oscar nomination for Lesley Manville is the very low budget’s film’s hope for real profitability.

anotheryear-14

  

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Ryan Gosling takes on the screaming meme

For some reason clever net prankster(s) at a site called “Fuck Yeah, Ryan Gosling” have been picking on the excessively skilled and excessively pretty actor Ryan Gosling with a ‘net meme featuring the words, “hey girl.” If you have seen them, then you’ve got some company and that would include Ryan Gosling. Check out this bit of high-end junketeering for the formerly NC-17 rated “Blue Valentine.”

Movie TrailersMovies Blog

H/t to Film Drunkard Vince Mancini.

  

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It’s your of end the week movie news non-filibuster

While Bernie Sanders did his thing on the floor of the senate today, Hollywood liberals, and a few conservatives too, we’re busy doing their thing so that the guys who owned all the studios would have all the more money to save from their big, big tax break. To wit…

* Robert Rodriguez and the other makers of  the modestly budgeted “Machete” got a nasty surprise from the Texas Film Commission, which appears to be reneging on $1.7 million in tax rebates. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, It has something to do with a law against providing the incentives to films portraying Texas and/or Texans negatively. Every film portrays people negatively. This reeks of political selectivity, probably related to the film’s deliberately nonpartisan lampooning of anti-immigrant hysteria and demagogic politicians. “Machete” goes out of its way to avoid naming the evil politician played by Robert De Niro as a member of either party, in fact.

If Texas doesn’t change it’s tune, and fast, I agree for once with the L.A. Times‘ Patrick Goldstein and seriously hope nobody from outside the state shoots a single foot of film in Texas until such time as the state seeks to elect non-mouthbreathers to statewide office. They have, indeed, fucked with the wrong Mexican.

Danny Trejo is

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