Ryan Gosling is one of many stars who appear in Ruben Fleischer‘s Gangster Squad. The film’s based on the real-life exploits of mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and the guys who brought him down. Set in 1940s L.A.. Gosling channels his inner Joe Friday, or according to him Bugs Bunny. In the film, he plays Sgt. Jerry Wooters, the right-hand man to squad leader Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin). ScreenCrave recently spoke to the actor about the role, as well as his future projects. Will we ever see Gosling headline a superhero movie? He gave us an answer to that and much more.
The Gangster Squad’s like an old school version of The Avengers. It’s a unique group of people with various skill-sets. Jerry and O’Mara are like Iron Man and Captain America. One’s a smart aleck, while the other’s a boy scout. How did you see Jerry?
Ryan Gosling: Like Bugs Bunny.
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, I love Bugs Bunny. I also love how he wasn’t above dressing up like a lady if he needed to in order to go under the radar.
But Jerry didn’t dress like a lady.
Ryan Gosling: He kind of talked like one. He had a feminine energy — I hope.
You were purposely giving him a feminine energy?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah. It was Bugs Bunny in drag.
Jerry seems very indifferent about his job. There’s one scene where he tells O’Mara, “L.A. is drowning and you want to get a bucket when you should be getting a bathing suit.” If he feels that way about the city, why is he a detective?
Ryan Gosling: First of all, it’s important to point out that the Jerry Wooters character I play is very different from Jerry Wooters the man that the character’s based on. The man himself was very brave and not reluctant in any way… The character, for dramatic purposes–there needed to be sort of a reluctant participant in all of this. So in our story Jerry is someone who has been to war, lost friends, somehow managed to survive, then comes home and there’s a war going on at home. He feels like he’s paid his dues. And also he feels like there’s no point in really getting involved because of the corruption. I mean if you arrest somebody, they’re out a few hours later. He just thinks it’s pointless. So he’s sort of hiding away in a bar somewhere, waiting for the smoke to clear.
Through the course of the film, there’s a slow change in Jerry. He becomes a team player, while O’Mara gets pushed to the edge. How would you describe Jerry’s arc?
Ryan Gosling: We always talked about it in the analogy that he [O'Mara] was like a soldier who was on the ground doing hand-to-hand combat and that Jerry was like a pilot who was used to seeing it from above. I guess in the beginning of the movie it feels like every character’s selected for their specific skill. And yet my character has no special skill, except that he is kind of a part of that gangster world. He can give them a certain amount of access. As the film goes on, I think Jerry starts to realize that he has a little perspective on it. He can kind of offer a little distance and perspective for them so that they don’t just barge into anything and get taken out because they didn’t really put any thought into it.
I noticed you didn’t really work with Sean Penn in the film. You shared a scene for a short time, but there was no dialogue. Do you feel gypped?
Ryan Gosling: I do. I feel like I got gypped on a few levels. One is that I didn’t get to work with Sean. The other one is that I didn’t get to have a Tommy gun, which is like, what’s the point in doing a gangster movie if you don’t have a Tommy gun? Josh Brolin hogged that and I got this little kind of lady gun. It had a sexy ivory handle.
You’ve starred opposite Emma Stone and Anthony Mackie in the past. Was it a coincidence that you all signed on for this?
Ryan Gosling: Ruben just assembled this and it just so happened that a lot of us had worked together before.
Fleischer’s known for his comedies [Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less], how was it working with him on something a little more serious.
Ryan Gosling: I liked this because I kind of thought it was a comedy. It’s not a drama.
There are definitely some funny moments.
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, it’s not like a straight-up comedy but it is like a comic book or a cartoonish take on the genre. But I was a huge Dick Tracy fan when I was a kid. I was nuts. I used to collect all the Burger King cups and everything. I feel a little gypped on that too. I thought I was gonna get a cup out of this.
Let’s talk about another film you’ve recently done, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives. In that, your character owns a boxing club in Thailand. And you appear brutally beaten in the movie poster. Do you spend the majority of the film that way?
Ryan Gosling: No. You know what happened was some guy came to set. He came to do an article on Nick and they asked me to be in the picture but I had all the makeup on because we had just been shooting that scene. And then the guy had to leave, so I just had to take the pictures in the makeup. For whatever reason, somebody got a hold of that and made a poster of it. Now it looks like that’s our poster but it’s not.
It’s not an official poster?
Ryan Gosling: No. That’s malarky. Excuse my language.
OK, so you don’t look like Eric Stoltz in Mask the whole time?
Ryan Gosling: [Laughs] No, but I get my ass kicked in that movie.
Here’s a question I’m sure a lot of fans want an answer to. When are you going to do a superhero movie?
Ryan Gosling: Well, they’re all taken.
Not true. Justice League is coming out in 2015. Superman and Batman are taken. But The Flash and maybe even Green Lantern are up for grabs.
Ryan Gosling: Well Ryan Reynolds is Green Lantern. I can get Flash basically.
So would you ever do one though?
Ryan Gosling: Here’s the thing. Drive was my attempt at the superhero movie. I had a costume and everything. The scorpion jacket. It was like my cape. It was like the idea of a guy that had seen too many superhero movies and then decided that he was going to make himself one.
Gangster Squad opens in theaters January 11.