The only person who doesn’t think Ryan Gosling is a sex symbol is … Ryan Gosling. “I’m not that good-looking,” the star of the new film “First Man” insisted. “I think I’m a pretty weird-looking guy.”
“Every role I got, up until ‘The Notebook,’ was the weirdo, freak, psychopath, nerd, outsider character guy,” he said. “I think things have changed.”
The rest of the world thinks so, too. Gosling, 37, reunites with his “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle for the new film “First Man,” which is generating Oscar buzz. Gosling plays astronaut Neil Armstrong in the biopic, which recounts the astronaut’s legendary space mission and moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Review-Journal: What’s your idea of a great Sunday if you’re not working?
Ryan Gosling: Just relaxing with my family (partner Eva Mendes and their two daughters, ages 2½ and 3). We go to the park. We bring chalk and draw pictures. We like to watch “Daniel Tiger.”
Let’s talk about “First Man.” What did you know about Neil Armstrong before playing him?
I think as soon as I learned what the moon was as a young boy, I learned that a man named Neil Armstrong walked on it. But the truth was I knew very little about him. When I met with Damien to talk about this movie, he told me that he wanted to uncover the man behind the myth. Neil Armstrong had this incredible life but was a very internal man. He had a gift for understatement. And, yes, he was a man who had this passion for aviation. He learned how to fly before he learned how to drive.
How did you research this icon?
The greatest challenge of this movie was getting it right because you’re playing a real person. I knew Neil’s family would see it, and it was important for me that the film was truthful. … As for the research, I went to NASA, which was fascinating. Later on, the astronauts who came to the set were extremely helpful, supportive and always available to answer questions. And I was able to meet the real Janet Armstrong, Neil’s wife. We spent time together in their home. I also met Neil’s sister and we spent time at the farm where Neil grew up. I’ve never had more help on a film. You could feel how much love people had for Neil, Janet and their legacy.
What was it like to say the famous line: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
I think that’s arguably one of the most famous things that has ever been said. And it was a huge responsibility to get it right. The goal was to not just sonically get it right or to parrot it. I feel like that line says so much about what I admired about Neil, which was his ability to see everything in broader terms. He could see a giant leap in one small step. He was a man representing his country and a human being representing mankind. It’s such a profound thing to say. It has always fascinated me — who is that person who could make this heroic moment not about himself, but about everything? It was an honor to be able to say it.”
You’ve been nominated twice for an Oscar (for “Half Nelson” and “La La Land”). What would it mean to be nominated again for “First Man”?
I would be doing Neil a disservice to make (it) about me. The honor was to make a great film, and even more so that Neil’s sons, Eric and Mark, are happy with the film. That is the best outcome.
What do you like about working with the same people again, like Damien Chazelle or Emma Stone?
I love working with the same people because you really get to know a person and how they work. When you do projects together, you can hit the ground running because you are familiar. There is no time wasted.
You’ve ascended to the A-list now. Do you feel the change?
The acting is the same, but there are many more opportunities for me now. But there are also more chances for me to really (expletive) up.
Was there ever a time when you considered quitting acting?
When you’re a young actor, people tell you on a daily basis that it’s not possible or you can’t do it. You hear, “It will never happen for you. Get a day job.” Nobody believes in you except for a few people. You learn not to care about other people’s opinions. You tune them out.
How do you ignore life’s naysayers?
You numb yourself, if you’re smart. It’s really the same for everyone. If you listen to other people, you really wouldn’t ever do anything. You’d be too afraid to try.
One last question: Do you cry when you watch “The Notebook”?
Not for the same reasons you do.