Why Ryan Gosling’s driving performance was a turning point in his career

Every once in a while there’s a performance that changes the course of an actor’s career forever, showing his range and ability to push himself into new roles. The performance opens up our perception as an audience to what they can do. It is not something that you can fully know when you see it. However, when you are able to look back and trace the trajectory that has followed, it becomes clear: this role has become a vital part of what they bring to the table.

Nicolas Winding Refnthe 2011 movie Drive started the last decade with a very different performance from his lead Ryan gosling. This is a prime example of how an actor can reinvent himself in something new. This stripped down story of a driver who finds himself caught in a criminal world that will begin to crumble the simple life he worked to build is an arthouse film disguised as an action thriller. Not only was it a change of pace for the actor, but it was a role he wasn’t even meant to originally have. According to Empire, he was originally supposed to be Hugh Jackman in the lead as the titular pilot, which seems odd in hindsight now.


Image via FilmDistrict

You could see how that would make sense at the time. After all, Jackman was coming out of both an acclaimed performance in the X Men movies, which had a lot of action, as well as movies like Prestige which also showed its range. Gosling, meanwhile, was best known for his performance in Notebook, which is a film that I have nothing against in particular, although it is certainly the opposite of Drive.

In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine Jackman in the role as opposed to Gosling. It’s not so much a blow to Jackman as a compliment to Gosling. He took on a role that was different in tone and style as well as in approach. Driver is an almost entirely silent type, a performance that required a drop in what defined many of the earlier roles Gosling had played before. He generally played smoother and more moving characters. All that left here, and in its place is a role that would question what the actor was capable of. It was to our advantage although it was not what we expected.

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the film, it is important to take stock of how the former Mickey Mouse Club The member rose to the occasion and the impact it had. It was an impact that reshaped our collective perception of Gosling from being more than a pretty face into an actor who could do a lot with very little. It turned out to be a good choice in the cast as Gosling was more than capable of handling the difficult role, even if it wasn’t the one mainstream audiences would have imagined for him at the time. Any surprise felt that the tone and acting didn’t match what people predicted would happen only benefited the story, instilling in it a sense of uncertainty that is too often lacking. to movies.


Image via FilmDistrict

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That is, unless you expected the simpler action flick than the trailer describes. One person was so exasperated by what they considered to be a misrepresentation in the marketing of the film that they filed a complaint which, from 2017, was still in dispute. While such a claim is clearly without merit, it shows just how much of an enigma Drive and Gosling’s performance is. For my part, the first time I saw the film was when I was in high school and I made the decision to make a good film to see on a date. After all, there’s Ryan Gosling in it, he was just in that other romantic movie, right? This turned out to be a big mistake when it came to a good “date movie”, with moments of graphic violence and general sadness, but not when it was a good one. film overall because of Gosling’s reinvention of himself.

It just can’t be overstated how much of a physical performance this is, with times when just a glance from Gosling is all a scene will get. In total, he only utters 116 lines in the entire movie. Throughout the 100-minute runtime, that’s barely one line per minute. It’s not just the total number of lines it pronounces, it’s also how it says them. It only says 891 words, or about 7.68 words per sentence. As Gosling himself told the Los Angeles Times in 2011, that decision to talk less was an intentional decision he made as an actor at the start of filming. This was due to the number of words he had said in Derek Cianfrancethe 2011 movie Blue valentine.

“After Blue Valentine and all the press and all the talk for this movie and in this movie, I was tired of talking,” Gosling said at the time. “We also wanted to create an atmosphere of being in the car and the charm that it gives you, and talking to you out of that charm.”


Image via FilmDistrict

This is precisely the impact that Gosling creates in Drive. It is intoxicating and attracts you. The economic nature in which he speaks makes every line he says all the more impactful. A key moment comes when he’s in a restaurant and accidentally bumps into someone he has worked with before. It is the quietest scene, although the most exemplary. When the man starts asking him to do another job, Gosling steps in to stop him dead. He speaks in a coldly threatening tone as he orders the man to “shut your mouth or I’ll kick your teeth in your throat and shut it for you.” He cuts the silence with frightening efficiency, making it clear that his character has a capacity for violence that seethes beneath the surface.

Gosling’s once-unusual silence speaks volumes, carrying with it a mixture of tension and uncertainty. The performance always falters on the verge of being defined by the kindness he shows to those he loves or a rampant rage towards those who threaten that existence. The transition from a sweet little smile to a cold stare is something Gosling puts on delicately. The mask he created for himself in this role is disturbing but fascinating. It’s a mask that he always puts back on, wearing it as he did in Drive to meet the different needs of subsequent performances. He still makes it his own, although the clues to the performance he has developed as a pilot are unmistakable.

A year after Drive, he appears when Gosling plays the troubled Luke in Cianfrance’s 2011 The place Beyond the Pines. Gosling is not the main character, which is revealed as the story progresses, although he dons the mask when he faces moments of crisis that will soon consume him. He wears it again when he returns to work with Refn as Julian in the 2013 film. Only god forgives. Much more confrontational than Drive, Gosling always wears the mask amid the chaos and violence at hand. In Blade Runner 2049, the mask becomes part of Gosling’s incarnation of Replicant K trying to find his way in the world. It comes back when he becomes Neil Armstrong in 2018 First man.

All of these performances are iterations and different forms of what Gosling started to develop in Drive. It’s more than him being just the “loud and quiet” type. Rather, it’s a unique way in which Gosling plays vulnerable and uncertain characters that owes to his performance from a decade ago. It was the start of how Gosling’s characters used a mask to hide their fears with a comfortable but tenuous state of being. It wasn’t just a defining point in his career, but a defining acting choice that he has taken with him in every new role he takes on. Beyond being just an exceptional film, it is this lasting impact of Drive that deserves to be remembered.

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