Mr. Gosling, Your role in Drive earned you cult celebrity. It now looks like you’re trying to change that image. Are you?
I don’t plan my career according to such criteria. I can’t predict what impact a film will have, anyway. I just wanted to become a good character actor.
Well, you are certainly revealing other talents now: In The Nice Guys, you demonstrate your flair for comedy, and in La la Land you even star in a musical.
I’ve always loved comedies – especially the physical kind that you seldom see anymore. I grew up watching Mel Brooks, so for me, there were many reasons to do The Nice Guys. It felt like: Finally I get to do that.
A lot of people were surprised to see you do comedy …
In all of my movies, I felt there was always a pratfall I could add. I always had so many ideas in the back of my head.
Did you ever think you might alienate your fans by changing roles?
No, that sort of thing is always a trap. You can’t listen to praise the same way you can’t listen to criticism. If you start watching yourself while you work, you start repeating things that worked, that people liked. And then it’s over.
Can you explain why what you do works?
I am not sure why it works when it works. It’s all instinct. It’s like dancing: You don’t know what song is going to make you want to dance.
It’s that simple?
The hardest part is finding the character. Once you do, the acting is easy. But it’s coming to know this person that’s most difficult. The only complicated part then is the shoot. With many films, you are dealing with the kind of structure that people believe is required to make a movie: You rehearse, you shoot wide shots, they get closer, there’s a closeup, you move on to the next scene, there’s continuity. Once everyone is happy, you can go. The next day, it starts all over again. But not all directors work like that. Some just want you to be true. And so working with them is easy. You see it in the result – everybody is good, even the non-actors.
You’ve experimented with filmmaking now, too, and directed Lost River. What were you hoping to achieve?
As a director, I can be totally myself. I don’t mean that in an egocentric way, I mean that I can reveal myself and the way I think. I am completely exposed, there’s nowhere to hide. And that means a lot to me. Since I turned 30, I have felt the need to be even more creative in my work. But I haven’t forgotten my mother’s words about becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none. I have to concentrate on one thing at a time, which is why I didn’t give myself a role in my directorial debut.
Has working as a director changed the way you act?
I learned a lot from that experience. Absolutely. I won’t try and have an in-depth conversation with the director again while the sun is going down and there’s precious little light left for shooting. I learned that lesson.
But you’re not planning any more filmmaking projects at the moment.
Do you feel disillusioned?
No, it was one of the best experiences of my career. But it is also a job that takes up all your time. When you direct, you are in a real relationship with your project. You can’t just abandon it because you are responsible for everything. It’s a very, very intense experience. You have restless nights, you never get a break, the whole thing is never-ending.
What do you do when you’re not working or spending time with your family?
I spend my free time talking about movies, or working. I want to be making things. I always want to collaborate with people who are as passionate as I am about a project because then something really great can come out of it. I am a real film freak: There were summers when I watched four movies every day. But not on the big screen? No, I watch 80 percent of my movies on TV.
There are directors who just want you to
Shouldn’t you be advocating going to the cinema?
Yes and no. I am grateful for streaming services because they turn me on to films and people’s work that I would not necessarily see. Obviously, I would like all my creative work to be seen on the big screen, but for me, it is more about connecting with the audience.
One of your future projects is bound to reach a big audience. What can you tell us about the Blade Runner sequel?
First of all, there is a chip in me that will explode if I say too much, so I will be careful. I have read the script. It’s a natural extension of the story. It follows the characters that you love and it takes you deeper into their world.
What do you think about the current Ryan Gosling mania?
I was once out walking my dog at two in the morning and there was this guy in a Drive jacket walking down the street. It made my day. It was perfect. Praise without stress. Nothing makes me happier than a moment like that.