Ryan Thomas Gosling (born November 12, 1980) is a Canadian actor, film director, screenwriter, musician and businessman. He began his career as a child star on the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club (1993-95) and went on to appear in other family entertainment programs including Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1995) and Goosebumps (1996). He starred in the television series Breaker High (1997-98) as Sean Hanlon and Young Hercules (1998-99) as the title role. His first starring role was as a Jewish neo-Nazi in The Believer (2001), and he then built a reputation for starring in independent films such as Murder by Numbers (2002), The Slaughter Rule (2002), and The United States of Leland (2003).
Gosling came to the attention of a wider audience in 2004 with a leading role in the romantic drama The Notebook, for which he won four Teen Choice Awards and an MTV Movie Award. His performance as a drug-addicted teacher in Half Nelson (2006) was nominated for an Academy Award and his performance as a socially inept loner in Lars and the Real Girl (2007) was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Also in 2007, he starred in the courtroom thriller Fracture. After a three-year acting hiatus, Gosling starred in Blue Valentine, earning him a second Golden Globe nomination. 2011 proved to be a landmark year for Gosling as he co-starred in three mainstream films – the romantic comedy-drama Crazy, Stupid, Love, the political drama The Ides of March and the action thriller Drive – and received two Golden Globe nominations. In 2013, he starred in the crime thriller Gangster Squad, the generational drama The Place Beyond the Pines, and the violent revenge film Only God Forgives. His directorial debut Lost River was released in 2014.
Gosling’s band, Dead Man’s Bones, released their self-titled debut album and toured North America in 2009. He is a co-owner of Tagine, a Moroccan restaurant in Beverly Hills, California. He is a supporter of PETA, Invisible Children and the Enough Project and has travelled to Chad, Uganda and eastern Congo to raise awareness about conflicts in the regions.
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Ryan Thomas Gosling was born in London, Ontario to Thomas Ray Gosling, a traveling salesman for a paper mill, and Donna, a secretary who qualified as a high school teacher in 2011. His father is part of French Canadian descent. Gosling’s parents were Mormons, and Gosling has said that the religion influenced every aspect of their lives. Because of his father’s work, they “moved around a lot” and Gosling lived in both Cornwall, Ontario, and Burlington, Ontario. His parents divorced when he was thirteen, and he and his older sister Mandi lived with their mother, an experience Gosling has credited with programming him “to think like a girl”.
Gosling was educated at Gladstone Public School, Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School and Lester B. Pearson High School. As a child, he watched Dick Tracy and was inspired to become an actor. He “hated” being a child, was bullied in elementary school and had no friends until he was “14 or 15”. In the first grade, having been heavily influenced by the action film First Blood, he took steak knives to school and threw them at other children during recess. This incident led to a suspension. He was unable to read and was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), prescribed Ritalin, and placed in a class for special-needs students. Consequently, his mother quit her job and homeschooled him for a year. Gosling has said that homeschooling gave him “a sense of autonomy that I’ve never really lost”. Gosling performed from an early age. He showed interest in performing when his sister was a performer. He and his sister sang together at weddings; he performed with Elvis Perry, his uncle’s Elvis Presley tribute act, and was involved with a local ballet company. Performing boosted his self-confidence as it was the only thing he received praise for. He developed an idiosyncratic accent because, as a child, he thought having a Canadian accent didn’t sound “tough”. He began to model his accent on that of Marlon Brando. He dropped out of high school at the age of seventeen to focus on his acting career.
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Child actor (1993-1999)
In 1993, at the age of twelve, Gosling attended an open audition in Montreal for a revival of Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club. He was given a two-year contract as a mouseketeer and moved to Orlando, Florida. He appeared on-screen infrequently because other children were considered more talented. Nonetheless, he has described the job as the greatest two years of his life. Fellow cast members included Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and Gosling has credited the experience with instilling in them “this great sense of focus.” He became particularly close friends with Timberlake and they lived together for six months during the second year of the show. Timberlake’s mother became Gosling’s legal guardian after his mother returned to Canada for work reasons. Gosling has said that, even though he and Timberlake are no longer in touch, they are still supportive of each other. Following the show’s cancellation in 1995, Gosling returned to Canada and continued to appear in family entertainment television series including Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1995), Goosebumps (1996) and starred in Breaker High (1997-98) as Sean Hanlon. At the age of eighteen, he moved to New Zealand to film the Fox Kids adventure series Young Hercules (1998-99) as the title character. While he initially enjoyed working on the series, he began to long for an opportunity to play a variety of characters and decided not to accept any more television work.
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Move to independent film (2000-2003)
At the age of nineteen, Gosling decided to move into “serious acting”. He was dropped by his agent and initially found it difficult to secure work because of the “stigma” attached to children’s television. After a supporting role in the football drama Remember the Titans, Gosling secured a lead role as a young Jewish neo-Nazi in 2001’s The Believer. Director Henry Bean said he cast Gosling because his Mormon upbringing helped him understand the isolation of Judaism. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times praised an “electrifying and terrifyingly convincing” performance while Todd McCarthy of Variety felt his “dynamite performance” could “scarcely have been better”. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Gosling has described it as “the film that kind of gift-wrapped for me the career that I have now.” Because of the controversial nature of the film, it was difficult to secure financial backing for a full theatrical release and the film was instead broadcast on Showtime. The film was a commercial failure, grossing just $416,925 worldwide from a production budget of $1.5 million.
In 2002, Gosling co-starred in the psychological thriller Murder by Numbers with Sandra Bullock and Michael Pitt, where Gosling and Pitt portrayed a pair of high school seniors who believe they can commit the perfect murder. Bullock played the detective tasked with investigating the crime. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly described him as “a phenomenal talent even in junk like this” while Todd McCarthy of Variety felt that the “strong and “charismatic” young actors were “let down by the screenplay”. The film was a minor commercial success, grossing $56 million worldwide from a production budget of $50 million. His second screen appearance of 2002 was in The Slaughter Rule with David Morse which explores the relationship between a high school football player and his troubled coach in rural Montana. Gosling has said that the opportunity to work with Morse made him “a better actor”. Stephen Holden of The New York Times described Gosling as “major star material” with a “rawness and an intensity that recall the young Matt Dillon” while Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times was won over by his “raw talent”. The film was released in just three U.S. theaters and grossed $13,411. In 2003, Gosling starred in The United States of Leland as a teenager imprisoned for the murder of a disabled boy. He was drawn to the role because it was unusual to find a character that was “emotionally disconnected for the whole film.” Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that the “gifted actor does everything that can be done with Leland, but the character comes from a writer’s conceits, not from life.” A.O. Scott of The New York Times noted that he “struggles to rescue Leland from the clutches of cliché” while David Rooney of Variety felt that his “one-note, blankly disturbed act has none of the magnetic edge of his breakthrough work in The Believer”. The film grossed $343,847 in the United States and was not released overseas.
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The Notebook and Half Nelson (2004-2009)
Gosling came to the attention of a mainstream audience in 2004 after starring opposite fellow Canadian Rachel McAdams in the romantic drama film The Notebook, a film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, directed by Nick Cassavetes. Gosling portrayed Noah Calhoun and commented on the role: “It gave me an opportunity to play a character over a period of time – from 1940 to 1946 – that was quite profound and formative.” Gosling sought to imbue his character with “quiet strength” and was inspired by the performance of Sam Shepard in Days of Heaven. Shepard co-starred in The Notebook. Filming took place in Charleston, South Carolina, in late 2002 and early 2003. Although Gosling and McAdams became romantically involved in 2005, they had a combative relationship on the set. “We inspired the worst in each other,” Gosling has said. “It was a strange experience, making a love story and not getting along with your co-star in any way.” At one point, Gosling asked Cassavetes to “bring somebody else in for my off-camera shot” because he felt McAdams was uncooperative. The New York Times praised the “spontaneous and combustible” performances of the two leads and noted that, “against your better judgment, you root for the pair to beat the odds against them.” Desson Thomson of The Washington Post praised Gosling’s “beguiling unaffectedness” and noted that “it’s hard not to like these two or begrudge them a great love together”. The film grossed over $115 million worldwide and, with adjustments for inflation, it remains the most commercially successful film of Gosling’s career as of 2012. Gosling won four Teen Choice Awards and an MTV Movie Award. Entertainment Weekly has said that the movie contains the All-Time Best Movie Kiss while the Los Angeles Times has included a scene from the film in a list of the 50 Classic Movie Kisses. The Notebook has appeared on many Most Romantic Movies lists.
In 2005, Gosling appeared as a disturbed young art student in Stay, a psychological thriller film co-starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. In an uncomplimentary review of the film, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said that Gosling “like his fans, deserves better.” Todd McCarthy of Variety felt that the “capable” McGregor and Gosling “deliver nothing new from what they’ve shown before”. The film grossed $8 million worldwide. Gosling was unfazed by the negative reaction: “I had a kid come up to me on the street, 10 years old, and he says, ‘Are you that guy from Stay? What the f— was that movie about?’ I think that’s great. I’m just as proud if someone says, ‘Hey, you made me sick in that movie,’ as if they say I made them cry.” Gosling next starred in 2006’s Half Nelson as a drug-addicted junior high school teacher who forms a bond with a young student. To prepare for the role, Gosling moved to New York for one month before shooting began. He lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and spent time shadowing an eighth grade teacher. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described “a mesmerizing performance … that shows the kind of deep understanding of character few actors manage.” Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle drew comparisons with Marlon Brando and declared that “nobody who cares about great acting will want to miss his performance”. Roger Ebert felt the performance “proves he’s one of the finest actors working in contemporary movies.” He was nominated for an Academy Award. The film grossed $4 million at the worldwide box office. In 2007, he was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Gosling played an introvert who falls in love with a sex doll in the gentle comedic 2007 film Lars and the Real Girl. He drew inspiration from James Stewart’s performance in Harvey. Roger Ebert felt “a film about a life-sized love doll” had been turned into “a life-affirming statement of hope” because of “a performance by Ryan Gosling that says things that cannot be said”. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post described his performance as “a small miracle … because he changes and grows so imperceptibly before our eyes.” However, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times felt “the performance is a rare miscalculation in a mostly brilliant career.” He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film was a box office failure, failing to recoup its $12 million production budget. Gosling starred opposite Anthony Hopkins in the 2007 courtroom thriller Fracture. He originally turned down the role, but changed his mind when Hopkins signed on. Gosling noted that he was drawn to his character, Willie, because he had flaws and seemed like a real person. He spent time shadowing lawyers and observing courtroom proceedings in preparation for the role. Claudia Puig of USA Today declared that “watching a veteran like Hopkins verbally joust with one of the best young actors in Hollywood is worth the price of admission”. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times felt it was a treat to watch “the spectacle of that crafty scene stealer Anthony Hopkins mixing it up with that equally cunning screen nibbler Ryan Gosling … Each actor is playing a pulp type rather than a fully formed individual, but both fill in the blanks with an alchemical mix of professional and personal charisma.” The film grossed over $91 million worldwide.
Gosling was scheduled to begin filming The Lovely Bones in 2007. However, he left the production two days before filming began because of “creative differences” and was replaced by Mark Wahlberg. Gosling had been cast as the father of the murdered teenage girl and initially felt he was too young for the role. The director Peter Jackson and the producer Fran Walsh persuaded him that he could be aged with hair and make-up changes. Before shooting began, Gosling gained 60 pounds in weight and grew a beard in order to appear older. Walsh then “began to feel he was not right. It was our blindness, the desire to make it work no matter what.” Gosling later said, “We didn’t talk very much during the preproduction process, which was the problem … I just showed up on set, and I had gotten it wrong. Then I was fat and unemployed.” He has said the experience was “an important realisation for me: not to let your ego get involved. It’s OK to be too young for a role.”
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Widespread recognition (2010-2012)
Following a three-year absence from the big screen, Gosling starred in five movies in 2010 and 2011. “I’ve never had more energy,” Gosling has said. “I’m more excited to make films than I used to be. I used to kind of dread it. It was so emotional and taxing. But I’ve found a way to have fun while doing it. And I think that translates into the films.” He has also spoken of feeling depressed when not working. In 2010, he co-starred with Michelle Williams in Derek Cianfrance’s directorial debut, the marital drama Blue Valentine. The low-budget film was mainly improvised and Gosling has said “you had to remind yourself you were making a film”. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle felt he “brings a preternatural understanding of people to his performance” while A.O. Scott of The New York Times found him “convincing as the run-down, desperate, older Dean, and maybe a bit less so as the younger version”. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly noted that he “plays Dean as a snarky working-class hipster, but when his anger is unleashed, the performance turns powerful.” However, Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe felt the performance was an example of “hipsterism misdirected”. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. The film was a box office success, grossing over $12 million worldwide from a production budget of $1 million. Gosling’s second on-screen appearance of 2010 was in the mystery film All Good Things with Kirsten Dunst, based on a true story. He played the role of New York real-estate heir Robert Durst, who was investigated for the disappearance of his wife (played by Dunst). Gosling found the filming process to be a “dark experience” and did not undertake any promotional duties for the film. When asked if he was proud of the film, he replied, “I’m proud of what Kirsten does in the movie.” Peter Travers of Rolling Stone felt he “gets so deep into character you can feel his nerve endings.” Mick La Salle of the San Francisco Chronicle found the “chameleonic Gosling is completely convincing as this empty shell of a man”. Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times felt that the film belonged to Dunst, but noted that Gosling “is good too”. The film grossed $644,535 worldwide. Also in 2010, Gosling narrated and produced ReGeneration, a documentary that explores the cynicism in today’s youth towards social and political causes.
2011 saw Gosling expand his horizons by appearing in three diverse, high-profile roles. He co-starred in his first comedic role in the romantic comedy-drama Crazy, Stupid, Love, with Steve Carell and Emma Stone. Gosling took cocktail-making classes at a Los Angeles bar in preparation for his role as a smooth-talking ladies’ man. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post said his “seductive command presence suggests we may have found our next George Clooney”. Peter Travers declared him “a comic knockout” while Claudia Puig of USA Today felt he reveals a “surprising” “knack for comedy.” He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film was a box office success, grossing over $142 million worldwide. With adjustments for inflation, it is the second most successful of Gosling’s career. Gosling’s first action role was in Drive, based on a novel by James Sallis. Gosling portrayed a Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a getaway driver and he has described the film as a “violent John Hughes movie”: “I always thought if Pretty in Pink had head-smashing it would be perfect”. Roger Ebert compared Gosling to Steve McQueen and stated that he “embodies presence and sincerity … he has shown a gift for finding arresting, powerful characters [and] can achieve just about anything. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal pondered “the ongoing mystery of how he manages to have so much impact with so little apparent effort. It’s irresistible to liken his economical style to that of Marlon Brando.” The film was a box office success, grossing $70 million worldwide from a production budget of $15 million. In his final appearance of 2011, Gosling co-starred with Philip Seymour Hoffman in the political drama The Ides of March directed by George Clooney, in which he played an ambitious press secretary. Gosling partly decided to do the film to become more politically aware: “I’m Canadian and so American politics aren’t really in my wheelhouse.” Joe Morganstern of the Wall Street Journal said that Gosling and Hoffman “are eminently well equipped to play variations on their characters’ main themes. Yet neither actor has great material to conjure with in the script.” In a generally tepid review, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times asserted that it was “certainly involving to see the charismatic Gosling verbally spar with superb character actors like Hoffman and [Paul] Giamatti.” Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle felt there was “one aspect to the character that Gosling can’t quite nail down, that might simply be outside his sphere, which is idealism.” He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. The film grossed $66 million worldwide.
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Mixed critical notices and directorial debut (2013-present)
In 2013’s Gangster Squad, a crime thriller, Gosling portrayed Sgt. Jerry Wooters, a 1940s LAPD officer who attempts to outsmart mob boss Mickey Cohen (played by Sean Penn). He was reunited with Emma Stone as his love interest, after their earlier pairing in Crazy, Stupid Love. Stone has said she hopes they will find more projects to work together on. A.O. Scott of The New York Times described the film as an excuse for the cast “to earn some money trying out funny voices and suppressing whatever sense of nuance they might possess.” Christy Lemire of the Boston Globe criticized Gosling’s “weird, whispery voice” and his “barely developed, one-note” character. However, Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times felt that there was “a seductive power” in the scenes shared by Gosling and Stone: “But like too much else in the film, it’s a scenario that is only half played out.” In The Place Beyond the Pines, a generational drama directed by Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance, Gosling portrayed Luke, a motorcycle stunt rider who robs banks in order to provide for his family. The shoot was described by Gosling as “the best experience I have ever had making a film.” A. O. Scott of the New York Times praised the performance: “Mr. Gosling’s cool self-possession — the only thing he was allowed to display in “Drive” — is complicated, made interesting, by hints of childlike innocence and vulnerability.” Scott Foundas of The Village Voice was unimpressed: “Gosling’s character verges on parody … Gosling uses a soft, wounded half-whisper that tells us this is all some kind of put-on … It’s a close variation on the role Gosling played to stronger effect in Nicolas Winding Refn’s existential Hollywood thriller, Drive, where it was clear the character was meant to be an abstraction.” David Denby of The New Yorker remarked that he “reprises his inexorable-loner routine”. The film has grossed $35 million worldwide from a production budget of $15 million.
Later that year, Gosling starred in the violent revenge drama Only God Forgives, directed by Drive’s Nicolas Winding Refn. Gosling undertook Muay Thai training in preparation for the role and has described the script as “the strangest thing I’ve ever read”. David Edelstein of New York Magazine stated: “Gosling looked like a major actor as a skinhead in The Believer and a star in Half Nelson. Then he stopped acting and started posing. His performance in Only God Forgives (would God forgive that title?) is one long, moist stare”. Peter Debruge of Variety remarked that “the wallpaper emotes more than Ryan Gosling.” Stephen Holden of the New York Times criticised Gosling’s inability “to give his automaton any suggestion of an inner life”. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone commented that Gosling, while “meant to be a blank page for us to write on, often looks merely blank”. Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times was disappointed by Gosling’s performance: “Gosling moves through “Only God Forgives” like a mannequin waiting to be brought to life … has never been less dimensional”. Sara Stewart of the New York Post was unimpressed: “Gosling reprises his man-of-few-words persona … Enough already.”
Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The “fantasy noir”, written by Gosling, stars Christina Hendricks, Ben Mendelsohn, and Matt Smith. The film received largely unfavorable reviews. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian found it “insufferably conceited” and remarked that Gosling had lost “any sense of proportion or humility.” Robbie Collin of The Telegraph described Lost River as “mind-bogglingly pleased with itself” while Variety’s Justin Chang dismissed the “derivative” film as a “train-wreck.” Gosling has filmed an appearance in an as-yet-untitled film by Terrence Malick. The film’s co-stars Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Haley Bennett, Val Kilmer and Michael Fassbender. When asked to provide details of the film or his role, Gosling replied, “I can’t comment. A ‘Chatty Cathy’ that one.” Gosling had previously signed on to work with Malick in 2004 on the biographical film Che. However, Malick left the project to direct The New World and Gosling later dropped out with scheduling conflicts.
In early 2013, Gosling announced that he was taking a break from acting, stating,”I’ve lost perspective on what I’m doing. I think it’s good for me to take a break and reassess why I’m doing it and how I’m doing it. And I think this is probably a good way to learn about that.” In July 2014, he signed on to co-star in the detective drama The Nice Guys opposite Russell Crowe.
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In 2007, Gosling made a solo recording called “Put Me in the Car” available for download on the Internet. Also that year, Gosling and his friend Zach Shields formed the indie rock band Dead Man’s Bones. The two first met in 2005 when Gosling was dating Rachel McAdams and Shields was dating her sister, Kayleen. They initially conceived of the project as a monster-themed musical but settled on forming a band when they realized putting on a stage production would be too expensive. They recorded their self-titled debut album with the Silverlake Conservatory’s Children’s Choir and learned to play all the instruments themselves. Gosling contributed vocals, piano, guitar, bass guitar and cello to the record. The album was released through ANTI- Records on October 6, 2009. Pitchfork Media was won over by the “unique, catchy and lovably weird record” while Prefix felt the album was “rarely kitschy and never inappropriate”. However, Spin felt the album “doesn’t reverse the rule that actors make dubious pop musicians” and Entertainment Weekly criticized its “cloying, gothic preciousness”.
In September 2009, Gosling and Shields had a three-night residency at LA’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater where they performed alongside dancing neon skeletons and glowing ghosts. They then conducted a thirteen-date tour of North America in October 2009, using a local children’s choir at every show. Instead of an opening act, a talent show was held each night. In September 2010, they performed at Los Angeles’ FYF Festival. In 2011, the actor spoke of his intentions to record a second Dead Man’s Bones album. No children’s choir will be featured on the follow-up album because “it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll”.
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Gosling is supportive of various social causes. He has worked with PETA on a campaign to encourage KFC and McDonald’s to use improved methods of chicken slaughter in their factories, and on a campaign encouraging dairy farmers to stop de-horning cows. Gosling volunteered in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2005, as part of the clean-up effort following Hurricane Katrina. He is a supporter of Invisible Children Inc, a group that raises awareness about the LRA in Central Africa. In 2005, Gosling travelled to Darfur refugee camps in Chad. He was a speaker at Campus Progress’s National Conference in 2008 where he discussed Darfur. As part of his work with the Enough Project, he visited Uganda in 2007 and eastern Congo in 2010.
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Gosling dated his Murder by Numbers co-star Sandra Bullock for a year from 2002 to 2003. He also dated his The Notebook co-star Rachel McAdams from mid-2005 to mid-2007, and they briefly reunited in mid-2008.
In September 2011, Gosling began dating his The Place Beyond the Pines co-star Eva Mendes. In September 2014, Mendes gave birth to their daughter Esmeralda Amada Gosling.