Fate, sin, consequences, redemption... are a few of the words that have been used in the run-up to "The Place Beyond The Pines" to capture the thematic undercurrents of the generation spanning saga. These are touchstones in the film and Ryan Gosling sets it all in motion. He co-stars alongside the excellent ensemble Derek Cianfrance has pulled together -- Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Ben Mendelsohn and Ray Liotta -- in the film that follows two men and their sons, and how they collide and come together across decades.
From the first moment Gosling's Luke appears, walking with a steely confidence in a circular steel cage to perform a jaw dropping motorcycle stunt (that nearly killed the DP), we see a man who is both dangerous and damaged. Living a drifter-like existence, he carries the burden of his past on his shoulders and, when a former flame reveals he has a son, his world changes dramatically. It's a part with a lot of nuances to it in a film that brings together many different genres to spin a unique tale. We recently sat down with Gosling to talk about 'Pines,' working with Cianfrance again after "Blue Valentine" and what he's learned from Nicolas Winding Refn, Terrence Malick and more.
Check it out below, and for more, check out our interview with Derek Cianfrance right here.
"My character is a melting pot of masculine clichés. Muscles, tattoos, motorcycles, guns, knives, he’s in some kind of motorcycle boy band – it doesn’t get any worse."
How did this film and part come your way?
We were making "Blue Valentine
" and we were just talking one day and I had this cockamamie plan for how I could rob a bank and get away with it but I'm too afraid of jail, but I was pretty sure it would work and then Derek said “That's crazy, I just wrote a script about that.” We didn’t talk about it again for years and then he finished the script.
I’ll tell you what soured the deal about bank robberies though. I’m finally doing it. I’m on the counter and I’m doing it and I turn around and everyone’s smiling at me and filming me with their cell phones and I realize it’s not like how I thought it would be. And then Derek got mad at me, “They’re having a good time! You’re not being scary enough!” So he made me do 22 takes trying to scare [the people playing the tellers].
The part of Luke isn't necessarily the lead, but its crucial. Was there any options of you taking any other roles in it instead?
I was always gonna play that guy. I loved the way the narrative is structured and I thought it's so smart and the film has all of the conventions of a heist film or a crime thriller, family drama but yet it's deeply constructed and laid out the way that's new so you get to experience all of those things that you love about those genres but you get to experience them in a new way.
For those that haven't seen the movie, tell me about the character.
The movie is a winding long narrative, did it read that way on paper?
The idea is that he’s a melting pot of masculine clichés. Muscles, tattoos, motorcycles, guns, knives, he’s in some kind of motorcycle boy band in the early '90s traveling around with this low-rent carnival circuit – it doesn’t get any worse. He’s presented with this child that he didn’t know he had – and it’s like a mirror – and he realizes that none of these things mean that he’s a man. And that he’s really not a man at all. He’s a surface, superficial person with no depth. So that was the idea, but the face tattoo was too much and I regretted it. So I went to Derek and I said, “I can’t do this, this is ridiculous." And he said, “Well, this movie is about consequences, so now you have to pay for what you’ve done and you have to have it for the whole movie.” And I was so ashamed. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and I couldn’t look at dailies and I just felt embarrassed and I think that was something I couldn’t have acted. And it became a very important part of the character: of shame, of regret. Of becoming something you couldn’t change and having to face it. And then have this child. And try and feel like this person’s father when you feel like a mess and a mistake. So I appreciated that Derek held my feet to the fire on that because ultimately it gave me a gift for the character.
It did. I mean that whole passing of the baton was very clear in the script and the characters are very clearly defined. He allows everyone to come in and personalize it so it becomes different. Derek gets bored easily so he's constantly saying, “Stop saying the lines, surprise me.”
Did you train on your motorbike? Had you ridden before.
I'd ridden, but not like that. Rick Miller
was my teacher, a great guy, and when Batman rides the motorcycle it's Rick in the bat suit, so he's the best.
How many of your own stunts did you do?
Because of the nature of the way that Derek wanted to shoot, he wanted to shoot a lot of the bank heists in one take which involved riding up and riding the bank and then escaping. So it was required of me to do more than I would normally be asked to do in a film.
There's a lot of one takes in it, is that difficult?
They were very complicated, maybe the most complicated thing I've ever been a part of because it required getting to the bank, getting in having the heist go off without a hitch and then in one case in the escape there was all of these elaborate stunts organized, choreographed so that I would drive into oncoming traffic and have all of these near misses with these cars so going into the bank. I knew that 7 minutes from now, after I've robbed this bank I still have to drive into traffic. So there was a lot to keep track of, but I'm sure that there's a lot to keep track of when you're robbing a bank. So it sets up an environment for you where although it's not easy, you're not really required to act very much.
You and Derek must have a shorthand now that you've worked together on two films.
Absolutely. I just loved the idea the way Derek was constructing this linear narrative -- and first off, he’s the most stubborn person of all time. And everyone told him to cut it, to change it, not to do that, no one thought it was a good idea and everyone thought in the edit he would end up changing it anyhow, but he stuck to his guns. He deconstructed all these genres and then arranged them so that you’re able to have all those elements that you go to the movies for in the first place, but you’re able to have an experience watching them that is different. And I admire him for doing that.