Ryan Gosling in “The Place Beyond the Pines.”

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Ryan Gosling finds 'The Place Beyond the Pines'

  • Article by: DENNIS LIM
  • New York Times
  • April 1, 2013 - 4:31 PM


“I never felt more like Janet Leigh in my life,” Ryan Gosling said with his best straight face.

Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance, who has known Gosling for seven years and directed him in two films, chimed in, “You have a nice figure, like she does.”

Gosling replied: “The hair. That’s why I went platinum.”

The two men were slumped on a sofa at the Waldorf-Astoria, evidently happy to reprise the bantering act they honed while promoting the acclaimed 2010 indie drama “Blue Valentine.” Speaking of their second film together, “The Place Beyond the Pines,” opening Friday, they were not exactly finishing each other’s sentences but had clearly settled into a rhythm. Cianfrance (pronounced SEE-in-france), 39, spoke with earnest passion; Gosling, 32, mostly listened and smiled, contributing the occasional wry remark and arched eyebrow.

Cianfrance was describing the unusual structure of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a triptych of related stories, as an homage to what he called “the baton pass” of “Psycho,” in which the top-billed Janet Leigh made a premature exit.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” begins with the faintly mythical tale of Luke (Gosling), a nomadic motorcycle stunt rider who rolls back into an upstate New York town and re-connects with an ex, the mother of his child (Eva Mendes, with whom Gosling has been romantically linked since the shoot). The second segment follows Avery (Bradley Cooper), a police officer struggling to escape the shadow of his father, a powerful politician. The third explores the aftermath of the event that links Luke and Avery, revisiting some characters 15 years later.

Each story within the film concerns fatherhood and the burden of legacy. “It’s the idea of trying to avoid something and ending up colliding into it,” Cianfrance said. “Luke is trying to avoid his son growing up without a father. Avery is trying to avoid being his father’s son. Every character in the film deals with that. They’re avoiding a bit of destiny.”

Despite his departure a third of the way into the film, Gosling’s character looms over the rest of it. “Ryan is playing the legend that the movie’s built around,” Cianfrance said. “Whoever I cast as Avery had to be the flip side.”

He knew Cooper was right when he met him and detected an edge of unease beneath the star surface. “I could see this storm inside of him, like a pot of boiling water with a lid on it,” Cianfrance said. “I wrote the role for Bradley to play with that — a guy who’s paraded around as a hero but inside feels corrupted.”

Gosling, by contrast, was playing a man whose scars were more conspicuous.

“I was trying to create a portrait of somebody who had made a lifetime of bad decisions, and tattoos were the best way,” he said.

In experimenting with (temporary) tattoos he went a bit overboard. After one regrettable choice — an exclamation mark under his eye — he said he told Cianfrance he wanted it removed before filming: “But Derek said, ‘Well, this movie is about consequences.’ ”

On “Blue Valentine” Cianfrance had Gosling and Michelle Williams live together for a month in what would be their characters’ marital home.

For “Pines” he again wanted to “put the actors in an aquarium of real life,” he said. They shot in police precincts and used actual tellers for bank robberies. Cianfrance modeled chase and getaway scenes after rough-and-tumble reality shows such as “Cops.”

While Rick Miller, a veteran stuntman, handled the most dangerous scenes, Gosling, a motorcycle enthusiast, trained for months and performed many stunts. One robbery scene was designed as a single-take set piece that allowed no room for error.

“There’s no place to cut or hide a stuntman,” Cianfrance said. “Ryan had to rob the bank, come out, start his motorcycle — it doesn’t start, finally it starts — go out into traffic, be pursued by a cop, blow through an intersection and avoid, like, 36 cars. We shot that scene 22 times.”

How many did Cianfrance think were usable? “Just that last one.”

Gosling deadpanned, “Welcome to my world.”

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