By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—People magazine’s designated Sexiest Man Alive co-stars alongside Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”) in the ‘70s-set crime caper “The Nice Guys.”
Gosling, who recently became a parent for the second time with actress Eva Mendes, spoke about tackling the role of a down-on-his-luck private eye named Holland March who teams up with a arm-breaking enforcer named Jackson Healy (Crowe). The two set out to find a missing girl who appears to have become the target of foul play. Her disappearance also ties in with the violent death of a sexy porn star. As the oddball duo begin to uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest levels of law enforcement, they also have to avoid getting killed in the process. The dramedy is written and directed by filmmaker Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Iron Man 3”).
The Canadian-born actor, who was born in 1980, recently talked about his new film, chain-smoking, parenthood and his upcoming role in the new “Blade Runner” movie. Well, sort of.
Q: Your character is basically a chain-smoker in this film. Were you smoking real cigarettes?
Gosling: Yeah. I actually never want to smoke a cigarette again. It’s the best way to quit. Just do a film where you have to smoke.
Q: How many cigarettes did you smoke?
Gosling: I don’t know. It felt like Mike Tyson had been whaling on my lungs at the end of every day.
Q: When Russell Crowe’s character breaks your arm, you let out a high-pitched scream.
Gosling: It’s just how scream. I see a spider and I scream. That’s how I scream. You know, make lemonade out of those lemons.
Q: What was the most surprising thing you found out about working with him?
Gosling: That he bikes everywhere he goes. It’s kind of tough actually. Because we would get to set, and Russell would have 30 miles under his belt and I am just halfway through a donut.
Q: For exercise?
Gosling: I don’t know. He’s just a very active guy. We started moving locations closer to his hotel just because we had to factor in Russell’s travel time.
Q: You are in good shape, so you exercise too right?
Gosling: I thought I was until Russell started biking.
Q: Were you wearing a real cast?
Q: At times your character seems like he’s the most incompetent guy in the room, and then sometimes he seems like the most competent one. Could you talk about how you thought he was at being a detective?
Gosling: Yeah, he’s pretty terrible. (He laughs.) I think his daughter (Holly, played by Angourie Rice) is probably the real detective. I think he’s got good instincts. I love the character. I thought he was very Shane Black (the writer/director). I grew up on Shane Black movies. So, for me, it just really spoke to me as soon as I read it. It’s such a dream as an actor where you get to play somebody that has so many dimensions to them and is so fallible but he’s so redeemable in really small ways.
Q: “The Nice Guys” is a comedy, but it also has a serious component. How was it for you and Russell Crowe to work with the dramatic tone of the movie?
Gosling: It was fun. We all know Shane’s work, and so there’s an inherent understanding of what we’re here to do when we walk into it. I saw it as an opportunity to do a lot of physical comedy that wasn’t necessarily written, but it felt like it was teed up to involve that. I wasn’t sure how that was going to fly when we got there but Russell (Crowe) was really supportive. I remember the first day I went to set, I think it was one of our first scenes, where it was the bathroom stall scene. And I wanted to do this thing with the bathroom door so I went to set early and I was practicing and trying to figure out how to make it work. And I just smelled smoke and I looked behind the door and Russell was smoking, watching me. He was very seriously saying, “I think if you hit it with a different leg it will bounce back better,” and we were immediately having a very serious conversation about the dumbest thing ever. And so I knew it was going to be fun. He was such a champion of me taking it to as extreme of a place that I could take it.
Q: Angourie Rice, who plays your daughter in this, was only 13 when you filmed. She said you were a little cautious about using foul language around her but she was okay with it. But were you a little worried about it?
Gosling: Yeah, I was more nervous about it than she was.
Q: So how did you handle it?
Gosling: The film certainly walks the line and probably crosses it at a few places, and you have to be careful how you handle that stuff. You almost have to structure the scenes like fight scenes where you carefully choreograph them so all the jokes land but nobody gets hurt.
Q: You’ve played a father before on film, but this is the first one since you became a father, right?
Q: How does your mindset change when you became a father?
Gosling: It changes it for the better. Your life becomes better than you ever thought it could be.
Q: Are you more protective?
Gosling: In my own life? Sure, yeah, everything is a potential danger. Ten heart attacks a day. (He chuckles.)
Q: On the surface, this film is about a bumbling private eye, but there’s also a strong family element to it and it delves into the local history of Los Angeles at the time. Did it make you happy that there were all these elements?
Gosling: Yeah, it did. And you can tell that it had taken a long time to write. They’ve been working on this for a long time. It had been in a lot of different incarnations with different people involved. There was a TV show at one point, and then it was a film. It was not set in the ‘70s for a while. All of those versions just bolstered it, strengthened it, and only the strongest ideas survived. I saw about 15 minutes of it with an audience the other day. Afterwards, people were saying that they were surprised they were laughing so much but they also found themselves really emotionally invested as well. So it was nice to hear.
Q: One of your next projects is going to be Damian Chazelle’s “La La Land.” It seems like with your past movies, you are representing L.A. a lot. How does it feel, not being from here but now just representing L.A., in many ways?
Gosling: Because I am not from here, I have a bit of an outsider’s perspective. Most of the people I know are not from here. I grew up (in Canada) hearing about L.A. and Hollywood and dreaming of coming here and working here. So, for me, there are so many facets to Los Angeles that I am always excited when I get an opportunity to explore a different one. Whether it’s from the diversion of Los Angeles when you are driving at night, which we tried to capture in “Drive,” or the romantic history of Los Angeles which we’ve tried to capture in “La La Land,” or in this film, or in “Gangster Squad,” I love this city and I wish we could shoot in it more often. Unfortunately it was a little difficult (to shoot “The Nice Guys” in L.A.). We could shoot here for a week. (Then we went to) Atlanta, which was cold, but the people were very warm.
Q: As an immigrant, do you feel an affinity to other immigrant communities? Communities that might be affected in the next few months by the presidential election?
Gosling: (He laughs.) Oh boy, that’s a vicious question. I spent a lot of time trying to work here and not having a (worker’s) permit, so it was hard for a long time before I finally got a green card. It was even more difficult because people wouldn’t hire me for smaller roles because it wasn’t worth it for them to pay for my permit. In a way it helped because I could only audition for big roles. Those were the only roles that if I got them, people would pay for your permit. So it kind of forced me to aim high.
Q: Your character makes a lot of social commentary about how a lot of things were going downhill in the ‘70s. Here we are, many years later and there are still parallels to that time. Do you think that was intentional on the part of Shane Black, as far as how things are going socially?
Gosling: I think there is a little bit of that. I think Shane is just so smart and the script is very layered. He worked in a little nod to the killer bees at that time. People were very afraid about that. It was a real concern. Obviously, those things are trends that we can relate to. The whole concept that they thought back then that everyone would be driving electric cars in 10 years. All of that comes from Shane. It’s what makes this stuff so great.
Q: What can you say about your upcoming role in “Blade Runner?”
Gosling: Well, (pointing out the window) there’s a sniper on that roof. If I say anything someone will shoot me. (He laughs.)
Q: You are pretty excited, right?
Gosling: I can’t believe that I get to be a part of it. I am a huge fan of the first film and it’s exciting that Ridley (Scott, the producer on this) and Harrison (Ford, reprising his role) wanted to extend the story, felt like there was more to tell. And huge fan of Denis Villeneuve (director) and Roger Deakins (cinematographer), and just the whole thing to me is really, I can’t believe that I get to be a part of it.
Q: So will it be set in L.A., like the first one?
Gosling: It’s going to be (shot) in Budapest.
Q: You’re still in LA in the future?
Gosling: I can’t, in terms of plot, I can’t (say).