Thanks to Warner Brothers and Producer Joel Silver, movie-goers can travel back in time this summer. Directed by Shane Black, "The Nice Guys," takes place in 1970's Los Angeles, when down on his luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. During their investigation, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest circles of power. Now this sounds like fodder for a great film pairing. The film also stars Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Angourie Rice, and Yaya Dacosta.
Ryan Gosling sat down recently with us to discuss his new film, working with Russell Crowe, playing comedic roles, fatherhood and his new project the untitled Blade Runner Project.
Examiner: What were you smoking, real cigarettes?
Ryan Gosling: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I actually never want to smoke a cigarette again. It's the best way to quit. Just do a film where you have to smoke.
E: You are a chain smoker in the film, how many cigarettes did you have to smoke?
RG: I don't know, it felt like, you know, Mike Tyson had been whaling on my lungs at the end of every day.
E: Did you have a real cast on?
RG: Uh, -ish. It was real-ish,
E: That's good. Those things are nasty.
RG: Have you had one?
E: Yeah [laughs]
E: Could you talk about finding this character? At times it seemed like he was the most incompetent guy in the room, and then sometimes it felt like he was the most competent. And sometimes he was making you believe one way or the other. Can you talk about how you thought he was at being a detective?
RG: Yeah, he's pretty terrible. I think his daughter is probably the real detective. No, I think he's got good instincts. I love the character. I thought he is very Shane Black (writer and director). And I grew up on Shane Black’s movies. So for me it just really spoke to me as soon as I read it. It's such a dream as an actor where you get to play somebody that has so many dimensions to them and is so fallible. But, you know, so redeemable in really small ways.
E: This movie is a comedy, but it also is serious sometimes. How was it for you guys to work with the dramatic tone of the movie?
RG: It was fun, you know. We all know Shane's work, and so there's an inherent understanding of, kinda, what we're here to do when we walk into it. I think for me, when I read it, I read it as an opportunity to do a lot of physical comedy that wasn't necessarily written, but it felt like it was teed up to involve that. And so I wasn't sure how that was going to fly when we got there but Russell (Crowe, co-star) was really, I mean Shane was of course as well, but Russell was really supportive. I remember the first day I went to set, I think it was one of our first scenes, where it was the bathroom stall scene. And I wanted to do this thing with the bathroom door and I went to set early and I was practicing and trying to figure out how to make it work. And I just smelt smoke and I looked behind the door and Russell was smoking, watching me. And he was very seriously saying, you know, I think if you hit it with a different leg it will bounce back better and we were immediately having a very serious conversation about the dumbest thing ever. And I knew it was gonna be fun, you know. He was such a champion of me doing, taking it, to as extreme of a place that I can take it.
E: So Shane was kind of telling you guys at certain moments, “Don't do it so big.” I mean, how was that like?
RG: Yeah, you know well we tried to give a lot of variation for Shane. He had his options. We didn't really know, you know, we just trusted Shane. We knew that he knew what he was doing, and what he wanted. So we tried to give him as many options as possible.
E: How about the language? You know, she was thirteen at the time. She said you were a little cautious about the language. She's okay with it. But you were a little worried about it?
RG: I was more nervous about it than she was.
E: So how did you handle it?
RG: Yeah, I mean I feel like the film you know certainly walks the line and probably crosses it at a few places, and you have to be careful how you handle that stuff. You almost have to worship the scenes like fight scenes where you carefully choreograph them so all the jokes land but nobody gets hurt.
E: So after becoming a dad in real life, I think this is the first dad role...
E: Yeah, character.
RG: No I've played dads before.
E: After you came dad in real life.
E: So what's your mindset change as a new father?
RG: It changes it for the better, your life becomes better than you ever thought it could be. And...
E: More protective?
RG: Protective of who?
E: Protective like, controlling. Like, “Ah, that is dangerous, don't touch that.”
RG: Now you mean in my own life, do I get more? Sure, yeah, everything is a potential danger. Ten heart attacks a day.
E: Did you immerse yourself in the 70’s vibe and music, because it seemed when we were talking to the girl, Angourie (Rice, played Gosling’s daughter, Holly). She seemed kind of surprised at the soundtrack, when it was placed in, she said she liked it. Did you guys listen to music on the set, 70’s music? Did they try to keep a vibe going during the filming?
RG: Uhm, no. I liked the way they handled the time period in the sense that the seventies was never the joke. It was never the gag, was never the outfits, or the you know, those are kinda easy and I felt like Shane really tried to avoid those. He really wanted it to feel like a heightened version of the 70’s but that it was set in the 70’s and not self aware that it was set in the 70’s.
E: So Russell actually grew up during the 70’s, and you were born in the 80’s. Did he give you some advice, like “Oh, I remember the 70’s and you don't.” What kinda of research did you do to get ready for a role that happens in the 70’s?
RG: Uh, honestly I should say I did a lot of research on the set. It's not really that kind of film. It's, to me, it was more about just it's own world. It's Shane Black's head. It's more about getting into his head and figuring out you know what he wanted. We really didn't. We got there, they did such a great job with production design and costumes, and all that that really, so much of that work was done for us.
E: So Russell didn't mention anything about the 70’s?
RG: I honestly don't think Russell remembers a lot. He tried to remember some things that happened, but...
E: You did a lot of action sequences in this film. Did your dancing experience help? How were the action sequences with tight pants?
RG: It hurt. It was very, uh, you know, I think the last sequence, that kind of almost Harold Lloyd kind of like ending, with the character as he chases this film can falling off of buildings and through glass, through plate glass windows and through ceilings, and chasing mermaids, and you know it was, it took like, I think 3 or 4 days to shoot. But it was really fun for me because I grew up on slapstick films not that this is slapstick but there is an element of that in it. So for me it was an opportunity to finally make something like the films I have grown up on.
E: So you didn't know if there were action sequences? Like there were a lot of stunts?
RG: Yeah, there were certain things that my stunt guy Brett, who was actually really helpful because he had played the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, the theatrical version of Wizard of Oz for a long time. So we just worked a lot on making the action sequences kind of like almost like funny in the scarecrow type way.
E: Now I have to ask, when Russell breaks your arm, and you let out a scream. It sounded very similar to the Mexican scream. So I don't know if you are aware of that.
RG: What's the Mexican scream?
E: Exactly how you do it in the movie, it's exactly that's how they do it.
RG: It's just how I, you know. I see a spider and I scream. That's how I scream. [inaudible] You know make lemonade out of those lemons.
E: You saw the script for this. Did it please you the fact that on the surface you can say it's about a young cop. But there's a real strong family element to it. There's a historical element to it. Did it make you happy that there were all these elements?
RG: Yeah, it did. And you can tell that it had taken a long time to write. They've been working on this for a long time. It had been in a lot of different incarnations with different people involved. There was a TV show at one point, and then it was a film. You know, it was not in the 70’s for a while. And I think all those versions just bolstered it, and strengthened it, and only the strongest ideas survived. It is interesting I saw only 15 minutes of it with an audience the other day. But afterwards, you know, people were saying that they were surprised they were laughing so much but they also found themselves really emotionally invested as well. So it was nice to hear.
E: So one of your next projects is going to be “La La Land.” It seems like with your past movies, that you are representing LA in a lot of your films. How does it feel, not being from here but now just representing LA, in many ways?
RG: Because I am not from here, I have a bit of an outsiders perspective. Although most people I know are not from here. You know I grew up hearing about LA and Hollywood and dreaming of coming here and working here. So for me, there's so many facets to Los Angeles that I am always excited when I get an opportunity to explore a different one. Whether it's from the diversion of Los Angeles when you are driving at night, which we tried to capture in “Drive,” or the romantic old, the history of Los Angeles which we tried to capture in “La La Land,” or in this film, or “Gangster Squad.” I love this city and I wish we could shoot in it more. Unfortunately it was a little difficult. We could shoot here for a week. Atlanta, it was cold, but they were very warm.
E: In that sense, as an immigrant, do you feel an affinity to other immigrant communities. Communities that might be affected in the next few months by some certain thing?
RG: [laughs] Oh boy. That's a vicious question. No I spent a lot of time trying to work here and not having a permit, so it was hard for a long time before I finally got a green card. And even more difficult because people wouldn't hire you for smaller roles because it wasn't worth it for them to pay for your permit. In a way it helped because you could only audition for big roles. Because those were the only roles that if you got them, people would pay for your permit. So it kind of forced me to aim high.
E: Your character makes a lot of these social commentaries, a lot of things are going downhill in the 70’s. Here we are, many years later. Do you think that was in the commentary about what's going on today, as far as how things are going socially? It's far worse obviously.
RG: I think there is a little bit of that. I think that's what's so, I think Shane's just so smart. And the script is very layered. And yeah, he worked in a little...like the nod to the killer bees at that time, I guess that was really, people were very afraid that that was real. And I think that obviously those things are, those things kind of are trends and we can relate to those. That whole concept that everyone will be driving electric cars in ten years. All of that, it's Shane. It's what makes this stuff so great.
E: What can you say about “Blade Runner” before you leave?
RG: Well there's a sniper on that roof. If I say anything someone will shoot me [laughs].
E: Just be a ventriloquist, and say something. You are pretty excited right?
RG: I can't believe that I get to be a part of it. I am a huge fan of the first film and it's exciting that Ridley (Scott, director) and Harrison (Ford, actor) wanted to extend the story, felt like there was more to tell. And huge fan of Denis Villeneuve (director) and Roger Deakins (cinematographer), and just the whole thing to me is really, I can't believe that I get to be a part of it somewhat.
E: So will it be in LA, like the first one?
RG: It's gonna be in Budapest
E: You still in LA in the future?
RG: I can't, in terms of plot, I can't.
E: What was the most surprising thing you found out about working with Russell Crowe?
RG: That he bikes everywhere he goes. Yeah, it's kind of tough actually. Because we would get to set, and I would just be. You know Russell would have 30 miles under his belt and I am just halfway through a donut.
E: For exercise?
RG: I don't know, he's just a very active guy. We started moving locations closer to his hotel just because we had to factor in Russell's travel time.
E: You are in good shape, so you exercise too right?
RG: I thought I was until Russell started biking.
"The Nice Guys" is set for nationwide theater release on May 20, 2016.
Pictured here: Ryan Gosling at the Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures "The Nice Guys" held at TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA, May 10, 2016. Photo © 2016 Joe Martinez/ Picturelux - All Rights Reserved.
Additional reporting by I. Hasegawa.