“I wish I could do every film silent now,” Ryan Gosling tells a table of journalists at the Cannes Film Festival in May. “Talking is distracting.”
That might seem like an odd boast for an actor who this summer stole the show as a chatterbox pickup artist in Crazy, Stupid, Love and this fall stars as an assistant to a presidential candidate in George Clooney’s The Ides of March (October 7). But it gets to the essence of his role in Drive, a brisk, eccentric crime film in which Gosling plays a laconic stunt driver who secretly serves as a getaway chauffeur for heists.
Gosling signed on before Drive had a director, and asked for Danish-born, American-raised filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, the Pusher trilogy), who had never made a film in Hollywood. Refn refers to his first meeting with the star as a “blind date,” which “led to us basically having a mental fuck in a moving car and creating Drive.”
The movie engages in a peculiar mix of tones, moving from a breakneck robbery sequence to an admirably understated romance plot, in which Gosling’s character attempts to rescue a young mother (Carey Mulligan) with an ex-con husband from the fallout of a job gone wrong. The violence in the film is also unusual; Refn likens it to the “heightened reality” of a fairy tale.
The filmmaker’s peculiar approach to screen bloodshed is part of what led Gosling to select him. The actor recalls watching an audience react to a disembowelment scene in Refn’s Viking epic Valhalla Rising. “You [could] see that they were embarrassed because they didn’t know if they were supposed to take it seriously or not,” Gosling says. “They were almost embarrassed that they enjoyed it.”
Gosling and Refn, who plan to reunite for a remake of Logan’s Run, say they found their primary inspirations for Drive simply by driving around L.A. and watching movies—everything from Walter Hill to John Hughes. “It was strange because we ended up watching Sixteen Candles,” Gosling says. “If it just had a head-smashing, it would be a masterpiece.”
Drive, starring Ryan Gosling • Opens Sept 16