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Ryan Gosling On Making "Lost River," Ignoring The Haters, & Loving Detroit

The mega-star dishes all about his directorial debut.

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He melted hearts around the world in The Notebook, made you swoon with his "photoshopped" abs in Crazy, Stupid, Love, and captivated you in The Place Beyond The Pines. So when Gosling announced he was taking a break from acting two years ago, it was as if the world was actually ending.

But now we've learned that while he was absent from the big screen, he was busy writing and directing his very first film, Lost River. I headed to Apple's "Meet The Filmmaker" event to hear about the movie from Gosling first-hand — and I can happily confirm that he is, in fact, a real live human being and not a beautiful figment of our imagination. Here's what I learned.

1. Gosling chose to make a film based on Detroit because he's had a ~crush~ on it since he was a kid.


Ryan Gosling: I guess growing up in Canada, Detroit was far enough away that I never got there, but close enough that I had like a crush on it or something. It just seemed like everything cool came from Detroit, you know? Eminem, Model T, and just the whole iconic idea of the American dream. I got there just two years ago — it's very different now. There's bankruptcy, it's like 40 miles of abandoned buildings, a lot of houses burning, [they're] turning off the power to the street lights. And within these empty neighborhoods, occasionally there's a family trying to hold on to their home, and it seemed that the dream had turn into a nightmare for these people. So I thought I'd like to try to make a film about that.

2. He started shooting footage around Detroit for about a year until he realized he should make a movie with it.


RG: The Motown projects were about to be torn down, and I wanted to film them, so I got a Red camera. I started shooting them, and then there was the Palace Theater where the Stooges first played, and that was being torn down. So I just started filming, and then after a year I realized, I guess I'm shooting footage for a movie, and I guess I'm making a movie — this is lonely I should get some people here. So I wrote the script, and then I got the actors, and eventually we were shooting.

3. In order for the film to have a sense of reality, he included real people from the city in some of the scenes.


RG: One of my favorite scenes in the movie is with Matt Smith and this lady in a gas station. This gas station was the only one for like 10 blocks where we were shooting, and I think they were selling something else at the gas station, something like people really wanted. They didn't care that we were making a movie, they just, you know, had to get it. So there was a real tension because we were trying to shoot this film and people were really sort of upset that we were there, and at a certain point we thought, just let them in the scene, you know? So what happened was they started sort of interacting with the actors, and Matt did this amazing job of pulling this one woman into this scene and they started dancing together — it was literally like the fantasy and the reality was sort of dancing together and really highlighted what we were trying to do.

4. Picking out the cast and crew made him feel like George Clooney in Oceans 11.


RG: I worked with Mendelsohn on a film called Place Beyond the Pines, I almost worked with Saoirse Ronan on a film, I worked with Christina Hendricks, and a lot of my crew came from other film sets. I kinda felt like George Clooney in Oceans 11 where I got to pick my special team and everyone was a specialist in their field. They also were all friends and I trusted them. It was a very small movie set, a family homemade thing — and in my experience, that's when you get the best results.

5. He used some "techniques" from Animal Planet to help shoot a few scenes.


RG: This kid Brandon who plays a little boy in the film, turns out he doesn't like the camera, and he would get very upset and run away from it when he saw it. Which, you know, makes it difficult when you're trying to film a scene. But I loved him and he was such a special kid, and I remember seeing on the making of the Animal Planet how guys would wait for months just to get a shot of a bird coming out of a nest, and I thought, that's a long time to wait for a bird to come out of a nest, you know? But when you see that shot you're like, god damn thats a beautiful shot. So we adopted those tactics in a way — we sort of put on long lenses and hid in the bushes and at one point we hid under some laundry in his room so we didnt make him nervous, and he was able to be natural. We ended up getting some of my favorite stuff in the film.

6. The film has a dark "Goonies" vibe to it.


RG: When I first did the script my composer texted me a few hours later and said, 'Dark Goonies. Cool.' And I was like, ok good, he gets it. I think like Goonies and the whole 80s sensibility of films I grew up on —you know like Batteries Not Included or Gremlins — there was something happening then when I first started watching movies and it was very kind of experimental. I wanted a film that had that sensibility.

7. A Kendrick Lamar song had a very important role in one of the scenes.


RG: Mendlesohn, he has an amazing scene at the end where he has this crazy, terrifying dance attack. And I didn't know what he was gonna do, but he said, 'Look, just set up the camera and I'm gonna do my thing.' And he came in and put down his iPad and put Kendrick Lamar's 'Bad Bitches' on and he started to do this terrifying dance routine that was like nothing I could have written.

8. Gosling had to do a lot of acting (off-camera).


RG: I was surprised that there was so much acting involed with directing. I was glad that I've been an actor before, because you're constantly acting like there's not a problem, but there's always problem. Everything's always going wrong and you're always acting like it's fine, it's a part of the plan.

9. And his advice on becoming a filmmaker is to ignore the haters.


RG: Just do it! And don't listen to the haters. You gotta just keep going and make your movies. And now's a great time to do it because you can use your iPhone and you can make a film. There's no real reason not to now — there's so many ways to show your film online. You can use your friends as actors. You know what's great about your friends, and [you can] just give them the chance to show that. And if you're a filmmaker then you shoot that, and you get a friend who wants to be an editor and let them cut it. Now it's so much easier. There's a casting website called Cast It Talent, which we used for our movie for certain characters. You don't have to have an agent to audition on the site, and that's how I found my lead character Ian on the site. You get to see your project in 100 different carnations and it helps you to understand what you're making because people are giving you all these options and ways to see it.

Lost River is now playing in select theaters and available for download on iTunes.

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