AFTER A FOUR-YEAR HIATUS, THE CANADIAN OSCAR WINNER IS BACK ON THE SCREEN, SLATED TO PLAY KEN IN 2023’S BARBIE. BUT FIRST HE TAKES ON THE ROLE OF EX-CIA ASSASSIN IN NEW NETFLIX ACTION/THRILLER THE GRAY MAN
BY WILL HARRIS
Getting your start as a member of The Mickey Mouse Club and making your way to the Academy Awards on two separate occasions isn’t exactly what you’d call a predictable career path, but all things considered, traveling that particular route has served Ryan Gosling well.
Mind you, Gosling currently co-starring with Chris Evans in the new Netflix action-thriller The Gray Man isn’t the only one who found fame during the run of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club: among those who shared the spotlight during the show’s six-season run were J.C. Chasez and Justin Timberlake of NSYNC, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Keri Russell. That said, to hear Gosling tell it, he was lucky to be in the mix at all.
“I was wanting to be a dancer, all the girls in my class were auditioning, so I did too, and somehow I got on [as a cast member],” Gosling said during a July 2011 appearance on Late Show with David Letterman. “And then when they hired me, they realized that I couldn’t really dance or sing and I wasn’t talented, so they stopped using me.”
If you’re wondering if Gosling was just being self-deprecating to get a laugh out of Dave, we regret to inform you that he wasn’t: in a 2010 interview with CNN, Gosling recalled how, “One time they put four of us in a dance routine, but I was so off [and] I was on the end, so they just pushed the shot in closer on the other three guys to frame me out.”
Fortunately, things got better for Gosling pretty quickly after the conclusion of his two-year stint as a Mouseketeer. Returning home to Canada, he soon picked up episodic work on Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps, secured a role on the teen dramedy Breaker High, and starred as the title character on the Fox Kids series Young Hercules. After the latter gig, however, he made the decision to transition into film work and never looked back, finding rapid success from playing a jock in 2000’s Remember the Titans, a Jewish neo-Nazi in 2001’s The Believer, and a sociopathic student in 2002’s Murder by Numbers.
It was his performance in the 2004 romance The Notebook, however, that turned him into a proper mainstream heartthrob, and he followed that a mere two years later with his first Oscar nod for 2006’s Half Nelson.
“You know how in movies people realize stuff about themselves and are able to implement it into their lives? Well, I’ve never been able to do that and I don’t think I’m alone in that,” Gosling told The List in 2007. “What I felt about Half Nelson was that I could relate to the day-to-day struggles of the characters, even if the specifics are different from my own struggles.”
Ironically, by the time Gosling got the Oscar nod for Half Nelson, he was pretty much done with any semblance of struggling in terms of his career. The next few years found him starring in a flurry of films that earned him both commercial and critical success, including 2010’s Blue Valentine, 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love, Drive, and The Ides of March, and 2012’s The Place Beyond the Pines.
Granted, there were a few hiccups after that run (the less said about Lost River (2014), which he wrote, directed, and co-produced, the better), but all was forgiven by the following year when he turned in a memorable performance as part of the ensemble of Adam McKay’s The Big Short. From there, Gosling scored critical acclaim for his co-starring role alongside Russell Crowe in the 2016 action-comedy The Nice Guys, which he followed with an Oscar-nominated turn in La La Land. And how do you top that? By getting the opportunity to work with Harrison Ford in the long-awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049.
“The best part [of working with Harrison Ford] is that you hang out with him and you realize that all those iconic moments from his films that you love are his like ‘I love you,’ ‘I know’ from Star Wars, or shooting the guy in Indiana Jones,” Gosling told EW. “He’s just like that all the time. Normally I’d say there are hundreds of ways to play any scene, unless you work with Harrison and you realize there’s only one great way and he’s already figured it out.”
Jumping from science fiction to science fact, Gosling then played Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle’s First Man, but from there he did something surprising: he stepped away from acting in order to spend time with his kids…and unlike a lot of actors, he actually stayed away. “I was lucky enough to be able to do that,” Gosling told Empire. “But at a certain point I was like, ‘Wait a second, I have two kids, I gotta go to work!” Fortunately, that was right around the same time the Russo brothers came calling, inviting him to play the titular character in their Netflix flick, The Gray Man.
But that’s not all: next year, you’ll also be seeing Gosling playing opposite Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.
Yes, that Barbie. And, yes, Gosling is playing Ken. What’s funny is that there’s a joke in The Gray Man about Gosling looking like a Ken doll…and what’s even funnier is that he hadn’t even been cast in Barbie when they shot it.
“Shockingly, that line pre-dated his involvement in that movie,” co-director Anthony Russo told Screen Rant. “We tried several alts when we shot [that scene]. We commonly shoot alts. We like to have options in the edit room. So we did have other versions of that beat in the edit room but we did commit to the ‘Ken doll’ line. It just seemed the funniest to us. But by the time we did commit to it in the edit, he was playing Ken.”