If it feels like Ryan Gosling has descended on Hollywood, it’s because he has – Gosling has had no less than three leading roles in films over the last three months. Each showed different sides of his talent. In Crazy, Stupid Love he proved his comedic and romantic chops, in Drive he exhibited his action coolness, and now in Ides of March he plays lead in an ensemble stacked with some of the greatest actors working today. We talked about working with George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti and more in our interview. Check it out…
You recently described your character in Drive as a guy who’d watched one too many action movies. What do you think your character in this film has watched too much of?
Monster movies. This is kind of like, I thought, a monster movie set in the political world about the Two Faced Man. I feel like I’m always trying to make a movie about the Two Faced Man in some way. Then when I saw this poster I thought that I’d finally done it.
It’s hard to define this character because you never know which way he’s going to go. How was that for you as an actor, to have a character like that and have to make choices to make him real?
I thought that his dilemma was a very strong one to play because I think he’s someone who wants to be effective and make change and change people’s lives, had good intentions. But he can only be effective if he gets into the White House and if his candidate is going to lose then he’s not going to be able to make change. So, he’s faced with this moral dilemma of whether he should jump ship or dance with the one that brung him.
How political are you or were you before you did this film? George Clooney is obviously a very politically minded person. Did he influence you in that respect at all?
Well, I was not as informed as I would liked to have been and part of the reason for doing the film is that it would force me to do the research and become informed. I’m Canadian and so American politics aren’t really in my wheelhouse. But at the end of the day it’s not a political film and it doesn’t have any kind of message. It’s meant to be a good time at the movies. It happens to be set in a political forum, but I guess it could be set on Wall Street or in Hollywood.
How similar are the worlds of show business and politics, from your experience?
I don’t know enough about either one to comment, but I do think that there’s a similarity in my character’s job and my own in that it’s very difficult to be honest. You’d like to be, but it’s very hard to tell the truth because everything you say gets taken out of context and chopped up for news in parts. So you have to be very careful.
During your research what took you by surprise?
Well, there’s so much that I don’t know. I feel like one of the things that I watched that I felt was really helpful, in some way, but more than anything is worth mentioning was this film Boogie Man. It’s a documentary about Lee Atwater. I recommend it.
When you looked at Morris (George Clooney’s character) did you associate him to a particular president, a reference point in terms of a presidential candidate that you were thinking of?
There’s not really anyone like George, and so he is in some ways he seems like America’s dream for president, in some way. A dreamboat president. I thought that it was very courageous of him to take that role because he’s shattering that dream and kind of shattering people’s ideas of him. So, I thought that was a pretty interesting choice for him to take considering that he’s so involved in the political world. People often confuse you for your characters and so there could’ve been some risk involved there, but he took it.
How hard is it to keep in shape?
Muscles. We’re talking about muscles? They’re like pets, basically and they’re not worth it. They’re just not worth it. You have to feed them all the time and take care of them and if you don’t they just go away. They run away. I don’t know how to answer the question.
Evan Rachel Wood told us earlier that Clooney sprayed your crotch with water. Was there anything else that he did to you on set?
Well, he doesn’t want me to tell them. He said, “Could you cut it out with telling my practical jokes,” because he thinks that people are going to be looking for them now and he won’t be able to use them.
You’re in virtually every frame of this film and spend a lot of time working with Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Can you compare working with the two of them?
They’re two of my heroes, so it was terrifying just on a base level. They have very different styles. I wouldn’t want to comment on them because I don’t want to cheapen it with my opinion of it. They’re incredible to watch and I learned a lot from working with them.
There’s a theory that if you run against someone faster than you then you run faster, working with those guys has to up your game, I’d imagine.
I don’t know about that, but I know that watching Phil work was something that I needed to see. I feel like I didn’t realize that I was getting as lazy as I was getting until I watched Phil work because he puts it all on the line every single take. There’s not a take that he lets slide. I needed to see that.
Is your own perceived laziness then a part of having made several movies and having stardom invading on all the prep that you might’ve done as a hungrier actor?
A lot of people say about Phil that he’s good in everything, in every movie. But I don’t think that people realize how much an actor has to fight to create enough space for themselves in order to do that kind of work. That can be perceived as difficult, but it’s the reason why they’re able to be so effective every time, because they know the conditions that they need to work in order to be at their best. So, I think as an actor there’s a struggle between how much…you heard things about Val Kilmer, for instance, who’s like one of the best actors around, but then I heard that he was difficult. Now, as I work more I realize that “difficult” is just a word that people with money give you, a label that to tell other people with money that you won’t just do what you’re told.
What did you take from working with Clooney and how he dealt with being in front of and behind the camera and how he directs himself?
He’s a mystery to me. He’s so busy all the time. He’s doing so much that it’s hard to understand how he’s doing it, but he’s doing it pretty effortlessly. He’s directing, producing, writing, starring in. He’s got the satellites of Darfur project. He’s got all these practical jokes. I don’t know how he does it. I have no idea.
Did he inspire you to generate your own projects either as a writer or producer?
Yeah, that’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and part of the reason that I wanted to work with him was just to see exactly how that works up close.
How hands on was he with your performance?
He’s very hands on. This was something that I just kind of allowed myself to be directed in because he knew this movie like it was a song in his head that he was trying to explain to you. This whole world is in his wheelhouse and I just really followed his lead.
Your character’s age isn’t revealed in the film, but is around thirty –
A gym question is coming, isn’t it? So, how at thirty does he keep his abs? That’s what I want to be asked. Call it ‘The Abs of March.’ (laughs)
Out of all the great actors in this film, which one made you the most nervous to work with?
Have you met Phil Hoffman?
I saw this character with the storyline losing his innocence, his virginity, if you will –
All right, interesting (laughs).
But there are others that argue that these might have been his true colors the whole time. Do you think it was one way or the other way?
I think you can take whatever you want from it. I have my feelings, I think that he made a decision to sever his mind from his heart. I don’t know if that’s something that you can ever reconnect, and whether it was already severed or not, I guess that’s up to the audience.
What is it that’s the most disappointing about the experience of the campaign? On one hand they take the secretary because they want his delegates, but your character seems to be more disappointed about Morris sleeping with the intern.
Well, I think it’s that he has a crush on her. So, it’s personal and not necessarily political. I mean, I think it’s both, but I do think that you can’t eliminate the personal reaction to that.
It’s like finding out your dad slept with your girlfriend –
Ouch. Why even say that? It just makes me mad thinking about that.
Ides of March opens October 7. Check it out.