Because when Gosling teams up with the Danish director (who was also responsible for turning Tom Hardy into a murderous, beefy inmate for Bronson), he gets cruel. First, he was the nameless assassin in Drive, and now, he plays the drug-smuggler with major mommy issues in Only God Forgives, a movie that (eek!) has no problem with turning Ryan's face into hamburger meat. Which he liked, because he enjoys how intense the visceral reaction an audience has whilst experiencing on-screen violence.
While this may mean that the days of "feminist Ryan Gosling" are over, he has faith in us, as his fans, to keep creating the insane viral memes he seems to inspire. And don't worry; we won't let him down.
Was it easier to step into your character in Only God Forgives since you played a similar character in Drive?
Gosling: “Yeah, Nick [Winding Refn] and I had a history, and obviously some trust. He works chronologically, so there’s never a true sense of what kind of movie you’re making. He’s discovering it just as much as the actors are. He’s along for the ride. This film was different from Drive — there’s a lot of silence — but in Drive I was the Driver, and in this film, I’m more of the actual vehicle for the audience to experience the story. I did feel a difference between the two characters.”
Ryan, you get pretty beat up in this movie — to the point of almost being unrecognizable. Was that something that appealed to you? Were you into breaking away from the pretty-boy look?
Gosling: “Well, that wasn’t originally in the script. Again, with Nicolas working chronologically, things come up. Being trained by these stunt coordinators, it felt foolish to not stay true to the culture of fighting.”
You’ve recently been attracted to incredibly violent, but incredibly stylish movies where crime and pain aren’t exactly glorified, but they look, well, cool. Do you still think there’s room for the 'Hey Girl' Ryan Gosling kind of movies, or are you deliberately leaving it? How are we going to keep making memes of you?
“You all seem to find a way, so I’m not worried about that. Well, I thought I never made a violent film until Murder By Numbers was brought back to my attention. It wasn’t something that was really interesting to me. I wanted to work with Nicolas, and Drive became more violent once he came on board. It’s a part of who he is. It’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve been experimenting with these kinds of roles. The reaction has been strange — much stranger than anything I’ve ever done before. For instance, when we did Drive, we were at Cannes. When Christina Hendricks gets her head blown off, everyone cheered. People were so happy about it, and excited. They started stomping their feet and clapping. It was the most bizarre reaction I could imagine. I’m learning the genre. I don’t understand the reaction, but there’s a real hunger for this kind of film.”
Do you ever worry about alienating your fans?
“I don’t think you can really think like that. That’s a dangerous road to go down. I feel very lucky to have been able to work with Nicolas because he makes films from a very personal place. That’s not always the case in Hollywood. It’s nice to be around that, where someone’s life is all about the movie. It’s an interesting way to work. It’s been a good experience, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from it.”
When the film premiered at Cannes, there were reports that when you were little, you loved movies so much, you would put them in your pants. Can you speak a little to that?
“Do you really want to know about this? Yeah, I saw Rambo when I was twelve, and brought knives to school and threw them at kids. So, my mother made me stop watching R-rated films. I got my hands on Blue Velvet, and in order to sneak it by her, I stuck it down my pants. The idea that I had a movie I couldn’t show anyone, and had to hide in my pants, felt good. It made an impression on me. Something in me clicked, and I knew I wanted to make something like that one day.”
Were you a Blue Velvet fan?
“Yeah, I liked it. Obviously. I put it in my pants, I liked it so much — yeah, I should stop talking.”
Only God Forgives is currently in theaters.