Ryan Gosling often plays characters who are good at what they do whether it be politics (“Ides of March”), high finance (“The Big Shot”) or crime (“Gangster Squad”). His latest role in “The Nice Guys” could not be any more different. He plays a not-so-competent detective who gets involved in a mystery in 1977 that runs from the porn industry to government officials. To solve the mystery, he teams with a strong-arm expert played by Russell Crowe.
Gosling was drawn to the flawed nature of the character as created by director/writer Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”). Here’s what Gosling has to say about his work in “The Nice Guys”:
Q: How do you describe your character?
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A: He’s pretty terrible. I think his daughter is the real detective. I think he has good instincts. I loved the character. It really spoke to me as soon as I read it. It’s a dream for an actor to get to play someone with so many dimensions.
Q: Was doing all the action scenes tough?
A: It hurt. I think the last sequence that is almost a Harold Lloyd kind of ending took three or four days to shoot. But it was really fun for me because I grew up on slapstick films. Not that this is slapstick, but there’s an element of that in it. It was an opportunity to make the kind of films I grew up on.
Q: How hard is it to do a film that has both serious and funny moments?
A: It was fun. I think we all know Shane’s work. There’s kind of an inherent understanding of what we are here to do. For me, when I read it, I saw it as an opportunity to do a lot of physical comedy. I wasn’t sure how that was going to fly, but Shane and Russell (Crowe) were very supportive.
Q: The script has a lot of different elements, from being a buddy movie to family drama. Was that the draw?
A: Yes. You could tell it had taken a long time to write. They had been working on this for a very long time and been in a lot of different incarnations. All the versions bolstered it and strengthened it. The strongest ideas survived. I saw 15 minutes of the movie with an audience and they said they laughed a lot but were surprised to find themselves emotionally invested as well. That was nice to hear.
Q: You’re from Canada but seem to be drawn to films set in Los Angeles, including “Gangster Squad,” “Drive” and “La La Land.” Is there a reason?
A: I think because I’m not from here I have a bit of an outsider’s perspective. I grew up hearing about LA and Hollywood and dreaming about coming here and working here. For me, there are so many facets to Los Angeles, I’m always excited when I get an opportunity to explore something different. I love the city and I wish we could shoot here more.
Q: You have played fathers in the past. How different is it playing a dad when you are one?
A: Fatherhood changes your life for the better. Your life becomes better than you ever thought it could be. But when you have a child, everything’s a potential danger and I have 10 heart attacks a day.
Q: How did having the film set in the ‘70s affect the production?
A: I liked the way they handled the time period in the sense that the ‘70s was never the joke. The gags were never the outfits. Those are easy and I felt like Shane tried to avoid those. He wanted it to feel like a heightened version of the ‘70s but not self aware that it was set in the ‘70s.
Q: How did you prepare to work on a film set in the ’70s?
A: I should say I did a lot of research on the ‘70s. But, I didn’t. It’s really not that kind of film. To me it was more about this being its own world. It’s inside Shane Black’s head. So it was more about getting into his head and figuring out what he wanted. They did such a remarkable job on costumes and production design that most of that work was done for us.
Q: You are only 35. Did you ask Russell Crowe about the ‘70s?
A: I honestly don’t think Russell remembers much about the ‘70s.