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Ryan Gosling,with a touch of Janet Leigh

“I never felt more like Janet Leigh in my life,” Ryan Gosling said with his best straight face.

Written by New York Times | Published: March 31, 2013 2:03:57 am

“I never felt more like Janet Leigh in my life,” Ryan Gosling said with his best straight face.

Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance,who has known Gosling for seven years and directed him in two films,chimed in,“You have a nice figure,like she does.”

Gosling replied: “The hair. That’s why I went platinum.”

The two men were slumped on a sofa in a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria,evidently happy to reprise the bantering double act they honed while promoting the acclaimed 2010 indie drama Blue Valentine. Speaking of their second film together,The Place Beyond the Pines,Cianfrance,39,spoke with earnest passion; Gosling,32,mostly listened and smiled,contributing the occasional wry remark.

Cianfrance was describing the unusual structure of The Place Beyond the Pines,a triptych of related stories,as an homage to what he called “the baton pass” of Psycho,in which the top-billed Janet Leigh made a famously premature exit.

It begins with the faintly mythical tale of Luke (Gosling),a motorcycle stunt rider who rolls back into an upstate New York town and reconnects with an ex,the mother of his child (Eva Mendes,with whom Gosling has been romantically linked). The second segment follows Avery (Bradley Cooper),a police officer struggling to escape the shadow of his father,a powerful politician. The third explores the aftermath of the event that links Luke and Avery,revisiting some of the characters 15 years later.

Each story within the film concerns fatherhood. “Luke is trying to avoid his son growing up without a father. Avery is trying to avoid being his father’s son…,” Cianfrance said.

Despite his departure a third of the way into the film,Gosling’s character looms over the rest of it. “Ryan is playing the legend that the movie’s built around,” Cianfrance said. “Whoever I cast as Avery had to be the flip side.”

He knew Cooper was right when he met him and detected an edge of unease beneath the star surface. “I wrote the role for Bradley to play with that—a guy who’s paraded around as a hero but inside feels corrupted,” Cianfrance said. Gosling,by contrast,was playing a man whose scars were more conspicuous. Luke’s newfound fatherhood inspires a sense of responsibility,which paradoxically compels him to a life of crime.

“When I look at the movie,” Gosling added,“I see this melting pot of all these masculine cliches: motorcycles,muscles,tattoos,guns,and yet when faced with this mirror,which is his child,he sees that none of those things make you a man.”

For Pines,Cianfrance wanted to “put the actors in an aquarium of real life”. They shot in police precincts and used actual tellers for bank robberies. Cianfrance modelled chase and getaway scenes after rough-and-tumble reality shows like Cops. Gosling,a motorcycle enthusiast,trained for months and performed many stunts.

For their next projects Gosling and Cianfrance have reversed roles. Cianfrance can be seen in Towheads,a comic psychodrama directed by his wife,Shannon Plumb,that also stars their two sons,Walker and Cody.

Gosling is making his directing debut with How to Catch a Monster,which will star Christina Hendricks,his Drive co-star,and Mendes. All he will say about the film is that it was inspired by a screening of Drive at Cannes.

When Hendricks’s character meets a sudden,gruesome end,“the audience gave a standing ovation”,Gosling said. “It was the strangest thing I’d ever been a part of,and in some way my movie is a bit about that experience.”

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