Ryan Gosling is charming in the manner of truly charming people. His trick is to make you think that, somehow, you are the charming one.
He laughs easily, a husky, conspiratorial chuckle. He listens carefully and answers thoughtfully, as if he hasn’t been asked the same question a thousand times before, as if the two of you are old friends catching up, not two strangers sitting in a hotel in Los Angeles surrounded by publicists.
This is Gosling’s magic – to be the devastatingly handsome but sensitive guy with the firm handshake and the sly smile. And we all love him for it.
It helps that he is tremendously talented, a child actor done good, a kid from Nowheresville, Canada, who somehow climbed over the wall into Hollywood.
And after threatening to retire from acting (and after his poorly received directing debut Lost River), Gosling is back with a vengeance in his new film The Nice Guys. Your character in The Nice Guys is a single father. This is your first role as a dad since you became an actual dad. Did experience bring anything to the role?
That’s a good question. I guess this character in The Nice Guys is your nightmare version of a father. He’s the manifestation of your fear of how bad a father you could be. And there’s something cathartic about that.
Your character in The Nice Guys is a single father. This is your first role as a dad since you became an actual dad. Did experience bring anything to the role?
You’ve played a lot of dark roles. The Nice Guys is a slapstick comedy. Were you in the mood for something a bit lighter?
This was a lot of fun, like the kind of stuff I grew up on. I grew up on Mel Brooks films. That was film to me until I got a little bit older and realised there were other kinds of movies.
The film is set in the ’70s. In a way, it’s like a love letter to a lost Los Angeles. Did you have an image of LA in your mind as kid growing up in Canada?
It’s cool that you asked that. I definitely had an image of it in my head when I was a kid. And I think I’ve made films trying to find that same image again. Drive was part of that, of that Los Angeles in my mind.
You spent your childhood appearing in kids’ shows. Where did your ambition and drive come from?
The biggest influence was probably my uncle. He moved in with us when I was a kid and became an Elvis impersonator. And he looked nothing like Elvis – he was bald, he had a moustache, he had a giant birthmark. But he was Elvis when he was on stage. Watching him become that character, watching him become someone else, watching that energy around it and the way it brought the best out of everybody.
So you could have ended up an Elvis impersonator?
And take the reins from him, or take the sideburns or whatever you want to call it, and carry on the legacy? No. But I wanted to find some way to keep that feeling, to be around that energy. So I went at it a bunch of different ways. I joined a dance company for a while, I tried a bunch of different ways of finding my way back into it. And then films began having an impact on me.
What film had the most influence on you?
This is going to sound ridiculous, but I remember watching Boyz n the Hood and there is a scene where Cuba Gooding Jr. gets pressed against a car by another police officer and he starts crying because it’s so humiliating. I remember thinking in that moment that I could totally identify with him, and I’m a little white kid from Canada. That’s the power of film.
The Nice Guys is out in cinemas across Dubai from Thursday May 26.