Academy Award nominated actor Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) is considered one of the best young performers in the industry today, starring in such movies as Lars and the Real Girl, The Believer, The Notebook, Fracture, Blue Valentine and most recently, Drive.
In The Ides of March, a political thriller produced, written, directed and starring George Clooney, Gosling portrays Stephen Meyers, the press spokesman for Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) who is running in the presidential primary race for the Democratic Party ticket. But Meyers falls prey to backroom politics, the treacherous manipulations of veteran operatives and seduction by a young intern, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood).
Was it more important for you to work with George Clooney on this or was it the subject matter that interested you?
The subject matter was interesting, but I was really compelled by working with George and this cast. What I think is very interesting about it is that it’s not a political film. You don’t have to know anything about politics to enjoy it. It’s a thriller, it’s supposed to be a good time at the movies. It could be set on Wall Street or in Hollywood.
Our characters are all here because we believe in Morris, and we believe in his campaign. I think that all of us as actors were here because we believed in George, and we believed in his campaign, which was this film.
What’s the difference in working with a director who just directs and a director who also acts in the film?
I’d never worked with an actor/director before, so this is my first time. There’s no one like George, so I can’t imagine if I worked with another actor/director it would be a similar experience. He’s a very unique guy.
He’s doing so much at once, he’s the director, he’s the producer, he’s the writer, he’s the star, he’s working on his project with satellites above the Sudan, he’s got ten practical jokes in the works at all times. I don’t know how he does it!
As an actor he’s very present and very professional. As a director he’s got a great visual eye, and he knows how to communicate what he wants. He knows what he’s talking about.
Did you get to rehearse a lot?
Yeah, we rehearsed a little, but rehearsal isn’t a big part of George’s process, at least not on this film.
What was it like filming in Cincinnati, as George was from that area?
Being with George was like hanging out with the Beatles. We’d be shooting and there would be parking structures where every level was filled with people watching us shoot. It’s a really great city. I didn’t realize it was so pretty.
With George wearing so many hats in the film, did you feel confident enough that you were able to ask him questions or did you just go with your own instincts?
That’s the thing that’s amazing with him, he never felt anything but present. He was multi-tasking and wearing so many hats and yet all he wanted to talk about was the scene.
What kind of research did you do to get into the head of Stephen Meyers?
This film was really George’s so I just talked a lot with him about it and he gave us a lot of documentaries and books to read. And I talked to some people that want to remain nameless, but I had a lot of help.
How cynical were you about politics before this and were you more cynical after playing the role?
I wasn’t more cynical, I was more informed.
Did you know Evan previously? How far were you into filming when you did the love scene with her, and do you find those types of scenes awkward?
They are all different and it depends on what you have to do in them and how well you know the person. It’s better to be a team, because it’s your job as the guy in the scene to block the camera from seeing a lot of things on the actress that you’re working with.
You’re always on defense, and running interference for them. It’s like a dance routine, you choreograph it pretty carefully.
Did you and Even get along well?
Yeah, we got along like a house on fire. She’s really special and she’s a hell of an actress, and kind of a genius. She has a photographic memory; her mind is a scary place.
Did you learn anything about filmmaking that surprised you doing this movie?
I learned a lot from Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Watching him work was something I really needed. He just puts it all on the line every take, and that’s rare.
There are a lot of young people who still have hope for the future. Do you think after this that the do-gooders can even make a difference anymore, or is it hopeless?
I’d hate to think that it’s hopeless. It’s a cautionary tale. Stephen’s dilemma is a real one in that he wants to be effective, he want to effect change in the country, but he can only be effective if he’s in the White House, and if his candidate is not going to get there that presents a moral dilemma for him.
Does he dance with the one that brought him, or does he jump ship and get into office so that he can change people’s lives? It’s the idea of necessary evils, severing your heart from your brain, and is it possible to ever reconnect them again?