Canadian actor Ryan Gosling is in a good mood. The day we interview him is the same day the Golden Globe nominations are announced and the 30-year-old is up for Best Actor for drama Blue Valentine, which cuts between the early stages of a relationship and its drawn-out break-up a few years later. It also happens to be the film we’re speaking to him about.
“It’s an honour,” he says. “But more importantly, the nomination is the difference between people seeing this movie or not.” It’s obviously something Gosling’s concerned about, especially after a fierce battle with censors over a certain sex scene in the film…
Blue Valentine was threatened with an adult rating in the US, but you appealed and won. What was the process like?
Frustrating. They don’t tell you why, there’s no debate, you just get told the scene you have to cut. And if you get that rating it means you can’t air on TV, you can’t have ads in newspapers and you can’t screen anywhere but in big cities with arthouse theatres. We weren’t saying kids under 17 should be able to see the film, but getting that rating effectively means nobody can see your film.
What did they have a problem with?
It was the oral sex scene. But the film is about sex with consequences. [Michelle Williams’ character] has casual sex, gets pregnant and ends up having the kid. It affects the rest of her life. It stops her going to med school. The idea that parents wouldn’t want kids to see the ramifications and consequences of sex seems strange to me. The film isn’t glorifying anything, it demystifies things.
Did you or Williams find the sex scenes difficult to perform?
No. In most movies they’re embarrassing to perform because they’re gratuitous — they’re supposed to be sexy. These scenes weren’t. It was really important to us that it made you feel like you were watching people have sex, not like you’re watching a sex scene. To be honest, that’s probably why we got in trouble.
Do you ever keep mementos from your films? For instance, the doll from Lars And The Real Girl…
I’ve still got her. She’s sat by my window in my house, reading a book. I can’t put her in the garage because I’d feel weird about it. And I know that’s weird. Obviously she made an impact on me. I always approach roles like that thinking, “Why not have as much of the experience as I possibly can?” I just try to go in as far as possible. It doesn’t feel like a job, it just feels like researching a character. The more you learn about somebody, the better the portrayal you can give of them.
You starred in The Notebook, which is one of the biggest tearjerkers of recent years. Do you ever cry at films?
Yeah. All the time. Anything that’s by Disney makes me cry. Dumbo gets me every time. All Dogs Go To Heaven is another [technically not Disney, but it is a cartoon]. When the dog dies at the end it’s like my brain just can’t handle it. It’s so sad.
Was ReGeneration — the documentary you produced exploring political cynicism in today’s young adults —something you did because you think celebrities should have a social conscience?
I don’t think anybody has a responsibility, but I look at people like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie and they’re almost more informed than some of the people whose jobs are to know what’s going on. If you ask Clooney about the Sudan, he’ll know when there was a rebel attack or how many people were injured. His attitude is that if cameras are following him around, then he can point them at where they should be shooting. Acting can be such a decadent lifestyle. You’re just inundated with images of you, it makes sense that you would want to focus on other people. It’s the only way to not throw up on yourself.
It’s a long way from performing on The Mickey Mouse Club alongside Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. What are your memories of that?
I remember them being depressing because I realised very early, around the age of 12, that I wasn’t some kind of child prodigy like the rest of them were. That said, I was inspired by being around people that were fulfilling their destiny in some way. I didn’t think it was my destiny, but it did encourage me to go and find out what that was. Which I think I have. And like I say, I’ll always be a big fan of Disney.
Blue Valentine is at cinemas nationwide now
(Image: Rex Features)