It’s not that Ryan Gosling is some all-in method actor, reshaping his life to fit the contours of a character. But the thing about this upcoming Barbie movie is that Ryan Gosling really is Ken, and Ken is Ryan Gosling, and it’s always been this way. And when you really think about it, Barbie basically marks the moment when one of the 21st century’s great leading men will finally reach a kind of singularity with his work.
Gosling said all this (well, more or less) in a new interview with GQ, where he spoke about his shift from indie darling to blockbuster star and how he’s finally making the kind of movies he grew up loving. He also defended his portrayal of Ken against all the haters and losers on the internet, claiming he’s too washed and/or old to play Barbie’s happily devoted partner.
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“I would say, you know, if people don’t want to play with my Ken, there are many other Kens to play with,” Gosling quipped when asked about the backlash that’s emerged in the lead-up to the film’s release (even here at Rolling Stone).
Later, he added (apparently unprompted): “It is funny, this kind of clutching-your-pearls idea of, like, #notmyken. Like you ever thought about Ken before this? … But suddenly, it’s like, ‘No, we’ve cared about Ken this whole time.’ No, you didn’t. You never did. You never cared. Barbie never fucked with Ken. That’s the point. If you ever really cared about Ken, you would know that nobody cared about Ken. So your hypocrisy is exposed. This is why his story must be told. I care about this dude now. I’m like his representative. ‘Ken couldn’t show up to receive this award, so I’m here to accept it for him.’”
Barbie is just the second film Gosling has made after a four-year break following 2018’s First Man (he returned last year with the action flick, The Gray Man). For Gosling, the hiatus was primarily about spending time with his family following the birth of his second child with partner Eva Mendes. When he was ready to return to acting, Gosling said he came at his craft with a new outlook: “I treat it more like work now, and not like it’s, you know, therapy,” he said. “It’s a job, and I think in a way that allows me to be better at it because there’s less interference.”
Treating it more like a job, Gosling suggested, is part of the reason why he’s been drawn to films like Barbie, The Gray Man, and his other upcoming action movie, The Fall Guy. While Gosling’s rise was largely fueled by acclaimed performances in celebrated independent movies (not to diminish the occasional studio smash like The Notebook), those weren’t the movies that drew him to acting as a kid.
“Look, the irony is that the movies that I’ve made so many of, I didn’t grow up watching independent films,” Gosling said. “We didn’t have an art house theater. I didn’t know anything about the kinds of films that I was in, you know? I didn’t have any real frame of reference. All I had was, like, my Blockbuster knowledge.”
Not-at-all joking that his childhood self would like Barbie way more than the first movie he made, the gritty 2001 drama The Believer, Gosling added: “There’s something about this Ken that really, I think, relates to that version of myself. Just, like, the guy that was putting on Hammer pants and dancing at the mall and smelling like Drakkar Noir and Aqua Net-ing bangs. I owe that kid a lot. I feel like I was very quick to distance myself from him when I started making more serious films. But the reality is that, like, he’s the reason I have everything I have.”
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