Growing up in Canada, Ryan Gosling has been a presence in my life since childhood. Everyone knows he got his start on the Mickey Mouse Club alongside Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, but we never got the Disney Channel here! I knew him from glorious Canadian TV of the 90s, from such classics as Are You Afraid of the Dark, Flash Forward, Goosebumps, Young Hercules and Breaker High, the best show about teenagers going to high school on a cruise ship you will ever see.
But let’s go back to the start. Ryan Thomas Gosling was born in 1980 in London, Ontario. Throughout his childhood, he lived in Cornwall and Burlington, Ontario, where he claims he hated school and was bullied frequently. At age twelve, Gosling auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club, a variety show where kids would sing, dance, and perform skits. Gosling was accepted as a “mouseketeer” and moved to Orlando, Florida. His fellow mouseketeers included Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, who Gosling briefly lived with while filming. The show ended, and Gosling returned to Canada for that stellar TV run mentioned above, and then moved to New Zealand for the starring role on Young Hercules.
After the children’s TV work ended, Gosling’s career really began to get interesting. He started to take on both more serious and adult roles like 2002’s The Believer, and standard studio fare like Murder By Numbers (2002) and Remember the Titans (1999). The dichotomy of his career is best illuminated by his pair of breakout roles: record smashing romance The Notebook (2004), which elevated him to heartthrob status and won him numerous Teen Choice and MTV Movie Awards, and Half Nelson (2006), a dramatic indie that got him his first Oscar nomination.
These films illuminate Gosling’s two biggest strengths: he can be charming, romantic and a total dreamboat, but also an intense performer who brings flawed characters to life. Most of his roles over the next few years can easily slot themselves into one of these two tropes (romantic lead or broken man?), but the most interesting are the ones that combine them: Lars and the Real Girl (2006) and Blue Valentine (2010). In Lars and the Real Girl, Gosling is an introvert who falls in love with a sex doll and treats it as a real girlfriend. In Blue Valentine, he’s a husband who goes from idealistic hipster to an angry, unfulfilled working class man. Critical praise and Golden Globe nominations abound for both of these roles, which remain some of his best.
Around the era of Blue Valentine is also when Gosling officially enters popular culture: he’s no longer “that guy from The Notebook,” he’s Ryan Gosling. This is partly thanks to the controversy around Blue Valentine, in which he defended the film against an NC17 rating over a completely tasteful oral sex scene, and was detonated as “feminist Ryan Gosling.” The memes started here! The second thing that made him blow up was Crazy Stupid Love (2011), his first Hollywood hit in years. The romantic comedy co-starred Steve Carell and frequent onscreen partner Emma Stone, and let the world know he was completely ripped.
And again, since Gosling can’t just be a heartthrob, this is the same year he made Drive (2011), a bloody, violent quasi-art film from director Nicholas Winding Refn. After these career high notes, his resume is inconsistent for a while: the forgettable The Ides of March (2011) and The Place Beyond The Pines (2012), the regrettable Gangster Squad (2013), and the critically panned directorial debut Lost River (2014).
Gosling rebuilds momentum by getting laughs, first with Adam McKay’s financial crisis comedy The Big Short (2015), and then with Shane Black’s neo-noir comedy The Nice Guys (2016). Both films were well-liked and praised by critics, particularly Gosling’s performance in The Nice Guys. Unfortunately, Gosling’s work in The Nice Guys was overshadowed by the behemoth of La La Land (2016), a romantic musical-comedy where Gosling reunited with Emma Stone. The film netted Gosling his second Oscar nominations (and Stone’s first win), and I believe there was a kerfuffle with Best Picture?
Now, with Gosling arguably at the height of his career thus far, he’s about to embark on a new career choice: blockbuster leading man, with Blade Runner 2049. Throughout Gosling’s mainstream popularity he often rejected these types of movies: he was reportedly sought out to play the Green Lantern, the Joker, Batman and Doctor Strange in various superhero films, but turned them all down. He’s been more interested in working with people like Derek Cianfrance, Nicolas Winding Refn and Terrence Malick than with Marvel Studios, so it’s o surprisen that his first foray into a blockbuster franchise comes via Denis Villeneuve, a well-respected and acclaimed director.
Will all this mainstream success finally turn Gosling into the Hollywood leading man that so many have been hoping for? Honestly, don’t bank on it. Gosling remains intensely private about his private life with longtime partner Eva Mendes, and generally uninterested in playing aspects of the Hollywood game. But after Blade Runner 2049 finally hits theatres and gets on our eyeballs, maybe we’ll have a different idea of what Gosling might do next.
Are you a fan of Ryan Gosling? Looking forward to Blade Runner 2049? Let us know!