Eager to make it in Hollywood, aspiring actors often look back on iconic film roles of the past with envy. “If I could just land that role that’ll define me,” they all say, “then I’ll be a star.” Well, this often comes with a price, and this that being unable to escape the image that one’s “breakout” role has adhered to him or her. It’s tough when you start off your career with a hit that also happens to be a sort of niche film, to be considered for a variety of roles.
Sometimes, an actor in this situation will accept his fate, following up the first role with a series of underwhelming projects of similar style but minimal substance. Sometimes, it’s enough to turn an actor off to the trade entirely. But other times, in the case of a select few with unrelenting passion and undeniable talent, an actor will throw himself into a whole bunch of quality films at once, determined to cement his versatility into the minds of the filmmaking community and of the viewing public.
And in the cases of these gallant artists, we can be sure that down the road a point will come when anything they hatch will be pure gold. So what, pray tell, can we call a robust actor on the rise to a prominent status as a proverbial Golden Goose? Well, simply, and quite appropriately, we can call them Goslings.
And from that most unnecessarily elaborate segue ever, we can begin discussing a very specific figure befitting of the above description: Ryan Gosling.
If you know Ryan Gosling, you know that seven years ago, he starred in The Notebook opposite Rachel McAdams, to deliver a cinematic romance that finally made everyone forget about those two morons on that sinking boat. Gosling’s performance as the romantically-named Noah, while not even comparable to some of those to follow, has stuck with him ever since as his most defining contribution to Hollywood.
Since 2004, Gosling had tried his hand at a number of artistic and critically acclaimed projects. It was clear from the get-go that Gosling was aiming to rid himself of the Notebook image. His 2005 role in Stay was a disturbing and dark portrait of mental illness…with a confusing time-warp phenomenon. In ‘06, he portrayed a junior high school teacher struggling with a heroin addiction in Half Nelson—a great performance in a very evocative film. And, best of all was his 2007 acting triumph as a painfully lonely man who adopts the delusion that an anatomically-correct doll he purchased on the internet was his Brazilian girlfriend: Lars and the Real Girl, a hilarious and heartbreaking movie.
No matter what Gosling did in those early years, however, he could apparently not escape being thought of as the guy who scaled a Ferris wheel to hit on Regina George.
But 2011 aims to see that connotation slim.
After a three-year hiatus from acting altogether, Gosling got back into the spotlight with Blue Valentine, the Bizarro Notebook. Blue Valentine’s Oscar Nom for lead actress Michelle Williams earned it a little more notoriety than any of Gosling’s other recent works, but he still had a ways to go.
Gosling must have realized around this point that releasing a movie every year or two wasn’t going to get him de-Noahfied in the minds of the American public. He’d have to really polish up his mission statement. And so, 2011, the Year of Forests and Chemistry, also became the Year of the Gosling.
The first Gosling release of the year was this summer’s Crazy, Stupid, Love, a romantic comedy that teamed the actor’s comedic chops with his physical appeal to create the actor’s most publicly popular role in years. Debuting this Friday, September 16, is Gosling’s starring role in director Nicolas Winding Refn’s action-drama Drive (which centers around a stunt driver involved in a heist-gone-wrong, and is not nearly as mindless as it sounds). Finally, George Clooney’s triple-effort The Ides of March will star Gosling, as a decreasingly naïve political aide to a presidential hopeful played by the big GC. Ides will reach theaters October 7.
Sophisticated romantic-comedy, action-heavy art thriller, and a behind-the-curtains political drama. Gosling isn’t screwing around.
We shouldn’t assume that 2011 will remain unique in terms of the actor’s productivity. Apparently, Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn has taken a shine to his star. The duo is already set to reteam in two developing projects. The first is entitled Only God Forgives, and will place the increasingly omnipresent star player in a Bangkok-set boxing match—the film focuses on the rivalry between a police lieutenant and a local gangster. We’re not yet certain which role Gosling will play; it’d certainly be exciting to see him take a villainous role (whichever character might entail that).
Refn is also working on a remake of the 1976 sci-fi dystopia Logan’s Run with Gosling as the lead: a man on the run from a totalitarian future government that demands termination of every individual once he or she turns thirty years old. It is curious that Refn is adapting this project now, what with the imminent release of the very similar Justin Timberlake-starrer In Time (previously titled NOW). However, similar projects have been helmed in the past, and the cast’s strength is always a definitive factor in terms of which will be better remembered. Although Timberlake is nothing if not charming, Gosling has, in each of his films of the last recent years, proven himself thespian titanium.
Another exciting developing project with Gosling on board is Gangster Squad—Gosling will join the likes of Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña and Giovanni Ribisi as an elite troupe of Los Angeles policemen bent on taking down crime lord Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Gangster Squad will also reunite Gosling with his Crazy, Stupid, Love interest, Emma Stone.
Furthermore, there has also been news revolving around Gosling's team-up with the back-in-the-game Terrence Malick, whose recent The Tree of Life was a resounding hit (with everyone except for star Sean Penn).
Ryan Gosling’s presence off screen has become something of public fascination as well this year. The man is becoming himself a Hollywood fixture, resonating in the public eye with every step he takes. We’ve seen the brave knight of fortitude that is Gosling when he rode in on a steed of bravado to prevent a fistfight between a street artist and man attempting to steal the former’s work in New York City. We saw a somber introspective Gosling shortly afterward, lamenting his involvement and speculating on a sympathetic viewpoint of the would-be thief—it’s really enough to make you rethink your whole perspective on life. And his Disneyland romance with Eva Mendes? Damnit, Gosling. You're a freakin' fairy tale.
But even Gosling’s day-to-day life is prodigious fan nonfiction. Whether you love or not (there are clearly passionate arguments on both sides), he’s undeniably talkaboutable. He’s a presence, and an interesting one. He’s debonair. He’s offbeat. Different for the sake of different? Perhaps. Does it work? Sure does. Plus, he’s got a dog. And he’s not just someone who happens to have a dog—he really loves this dog. He brings him along to talk show interviews. His single sock, barring against the gnawing of a hotspot, has been the stuff of many publicized conversations.
So what does the future have for Ryan Gosling? More interesting roles. More dog socks. And, apparently, the desire to direct. Gosling expressed a desire to remake the 1980 film The Idolmaker as both star and director. His busy schedule is what kept him from following through with this goal, but he has not given up the ambition.
The questions Gosling-centric questions are aplenty. How long will this Gosling surge last for? Will he become another Hollywood staple—the trifecta of handsome, interesting and talented, like the Clooneys and Pitts before him? What kind of visionary can we expect Gosling to be, once he does pick up the camera? Will this desire to direct eventually swallow his acting career? And what, beyond film, can we expect from this mysterious spirit? Political plights? Space missions? A stand-up special? Any of these are beyond welcome, Ryan.
So thank you for this explosion of your presence. Some might call it overly ambitious. Some might say he’s burning his candle at both ends. But say no further. Gosling is an unstoppable force, and one we should be glad to have more of. Thank you, Ryan Gosling. For all the you.
Muggles are wild about Harry Potter.
So magic could happen this weekend at the box office.
The first of seven anticipated films based on the books by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will hit a record 3,672 theaters on Friday on the heels of great reviews and stunning advance ticket sales. Factor in a terrific $9.6 million taken at previews last weekend in the United Kingdom and the stage is set for Harry Potter … to challenge The Lost World: Jurassic Park's record $72.1 million opening weekend take in 1997.
The budding wizard does have what it takes to overcome several big hurdles ahead of him. The film's two-and-a-half-hour running time will result in fewer showings per screen. Still, the three-hour Pearl Harbor managed to post a $59 million opening in its first three days this past Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The Lost World enjoyed its three-day opening during the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend as well, but debuting on a non-holiday weekend can yield big bucks, too. Monsters, Inc. paved the way this month for a huge Harry Potter … opening by earning $62.5 million in its first weekend. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Chirstmas debuted during last year's pre-Thanksgiving holiday weekend with $55.1 million. The Grinch … overcame competition in the form of fellow newcomers Rugrats In Paris, The 6th Day and Bounce. The only other new film to debut wide this weekend is The Wash, but the comedy opened Wednesday to avoid clashing with Harry Potter …. Anticipation is very high for Harry Potter …, given the books' loyal following among children and adults, so a debut better than either Monsters, Inc. or The Grinch … seems guaranteed.
Even if Harry Potter … doesn't break The Lost World's record, the movie may still thrive in the long term.
Unlike Pearl Harbor and Godzilla, which both failed to shatter opening records and faded fast in the face of lousy reviews, the Chris Columbus-directed fantasy is conjuring up fabulous word of mouth and will likely dominate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Think Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace, which opened on the pre-Memorial Day weekend in 1999 to a less-than-anticipated $64.8 million weekend but ended up as the third-highest grossing film of all time with $431 million.
With the arrival of Harry Potter …, Monsters, Inc. will scare a lot less kids this weekend. The Disney/Pixar animated yarn--with Billy Crystal and John Goodman providing voices--should still live large thanks to spillover business from Harry Potter …. Monsters, Inc. dropped a mere 27 percent in its second weekend, to $45.5 million, and crossed the $100 million mark in nine days. That's a record for an animated film, beating Toy Story 2 and Shrek by one day. Its $132 million total through Wednesday puts it ahead of both of the aforementioned. If it holds its own against Harry Potter …, Monsters, Inc. will likely surpass Toy Story 2's $245.8 million total and may even challenge Shrek's $267.3 million to reign as the year's highest-grossing animated offering. For the record, the top animated title is The Lion King, with $312.9 million.
It may be hard to believe, but there are other films showing this weekend at your local multiplex, and some will likely reap the benefits of screening alongside Harry Potter … and Monsters, Inc.
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg deserve a hand for daring to take on Harry Potter …. The pair made cameos--separately--in Training Day, but The Wash isn't likely to be as big a hit as the rogue cop thriller. The rap-driven comedy hit 759 theaters Wednesday and earned $468,000. That's about on par with Snoop Dogg's Bones, which opened on Oct. 24 and scared up a so-so $3.6 million in its first five days at 847 theaters. Expect the same from The Wash.
Bobby and Peter Farrelly can breathe again now that Shallow Hal looks like it will reverse the brothers' recent run of bad luck at the box office. The film's $22.5 million opening is more than the combined totals of Osmosis Jones ($13.5 million) and Say It Isn't So ($5.5 million), the latter of which they produced. With $27.5 million in the piggy bank through Wednesday, Shallow Hal has already stomped past Kingpin poor $25 million total in 1996.
Shallow Hal debuted almost as well as last year's Me, Myself & Irene, but its $24.2 million opening was something of a disappointment for a comedy that reunited the brothers with Dumb and Dumber cohort Jim Carrey. Shallow Hal did beat the $13.7 million that There's Something about Mary earned in 1998. Then again, good reviews and great word of mouth helped Mary earn $176 million. A fat Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't have the same legs--however padded--as a semen-bedecked Cameron Diaz.
Another set of brothers--Joel and Ethan Coen--also should look forward to the weekend. The Man Who Wasn't There continues to expand, having garnered $1.9 million in two weeks in limited release. The black-and-white thriller, with Billy Bob Thornton as a barber who blackmails his wife's lover, is running neck and neck in its second weekend with last year's O Brother, Where Art Thou. That screwball comedy, which amazingly played in theaters for eight months, eventually grossed $45.5 million to become the brothers' biggest hit.
The Man Who Wasn't There isn't likely to enjoy such a long and profitable run. Unlike the goofy but good-natured Depression-era take on Homer's The Odyssey, this serious-minded chiller sees the brothers return to the film-noir sensibilities of Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing. It isn't as accessible or likeable as Fargo, and thus will fail to appeal beyond many Coen Bros. purists.
Another film noir, Novocaine, arrives Friday in limited release. That's obviously a sign of little faith in this extremely dark comedy marking Steve Martin's first film since 1999's Bowfinger. Those who found the Father of the Bride films so lovely and endearing aren't really going to enjoy the sight of dentist Martin pulling out his own teeth.
After coming to the United States to direct Alien Resurrection, Jean-Pierre Jeunet returned to his native France to concoct Amelie. Already a smash in France, this enchanting romance looks set to become the biggest foreign-language hit since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Amelie has made $1 million in a two-week limited run. With great reviews likely to translate into countless awards and nominations, Amelie could go through arthouse roofs to challenge the $14.5 million taken by the year's current foreign-language champ, Iron Monkey.
Expanding from 88 theaters to 1288 theaters last weekend didn't prove bountiful for Life as a House. Kevin Kline's midlife crisis earned just $3.8 million, for a total of $6 million through Wednesday. Life as a House doesn't have the rock solid critical and audience support it needs to become the next American Beauty, as it is being touted by distributor New Line.
After enjoying a personal best opening with The One, Jet Li endured a tough second weekend that saw his sci-fi epic plummet by 52 percent from $19.1 million to $9.1 million. With $33.7 million through Wednesday, The One is close to surpassing the $36.8 million that Kiss of the Dragon crawled its way to this summer. But The One is lagging behind Romeo Must Die, which amassed $38.8 million in 12 days on its way to $55 million.
John Travolta fared somewhat better with Domestic Disturbance. His son-in-peril thriller dropped a respectable 38 percent, from $14 million to $8.6 million, in its second weekend. Domestic Disturbance has accumulated $27.8 million through Wednesday, almost more than the combined totals of Travolta's 2000 bombs Battlefield Earth ($21.4 million) and Lucky Numbers ($10 million).
Heist's $7.8 million opening--$9.8 million through Wednesday--represents a best for a David Mamet-directed film. That's no doubt because this crackerjack thriller, reuniting Get Shorty stars Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito and Delroy Lindo, is the first of the acclaimed playwright's films to receive such a wide release. Heist has already surpassed the $6.9 million made by last year's State and Main and by the end of its first full week is bound to surpass the $10.1 million that The Spanish Prisoner ran off with in limited release in 1998. Heist's future seems as uncertain as a life of crime, considering that this older-skewing offering faces direct competition from Domestic Disturbance, K-PAX, Life as a House and next week's Spy Game.
Having made $41.8 million through Wednesday, the alien-on-vacation melodrama K-PAX is poised to become Jeff Bridges' best outing since 1991's The Fisher King. Co-starring Robin Williams, The Fisher King ended its run with $41.7 million. Bridges clearly benefits when paired with an equally famous co-star, in this case Kevin Spacey.
The end is nigh for Thirteen Ghosts ($35.3 million), From Hell ($29.8 million) and Riding in Cars with Boys ($28.1 million). Expect these, plus Training Day ($72.6 million), Serendipity ($45.8 million) and the underachieving Bandits ($38.5 million), to quickly make way for this month's Spy Game, Black Knight, Behind Enemy Lines and Texas Rangers. The holiday gold rush is about to begin.