Ryan Gosling on ‘Blue Valentine’: ‘What Happens to Love?’

The movie treats love like a murder-mystery, says Gosling. “You try to trace down the killer – is it him, her, their jobs, money, time?”

In “Blue Valentine” Ryan Gosling plays Dean, a husband fighting against the receding tide of his marriage to Cindy (Michelle Williams). Directed by Derek Cianfrance, the film is one of the more intimate portrayals of love and marriage to reach the screen in a long time. “Blue Valentine” took 12 years to get made, and required a total commitment by the actors who worked in the closest of quarters. Having received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, Gosling addresses the fate of the film and the process of making it with Wrap editor Sharon Waxman.

You look suspiciously like Derek (the director) in the second half of the movie? What’s that about?

I just thought Derek looked cool; I liked the way that he is with his kids. I also had been working with him for four years. Michelle had been working with him for six. I started to associate all these dialogoues that we were engaging in with him.

After sticking with a project for that long, did you believe it would ever happen?

I didn’t know. The thing about Derek that’s special is he has patience. He waited 12 years to wait for the right people and the right circumstances — to film this question that he wanted to ask.

What’s the question?

What happens to love? Where does it go? He treats it like a murder-mystery. This couple’s beautiful love has been shot down in cold blood, and you spend the rest of the film trying to trace down the killer: is it him, her, their jobs, the parents, money, time, erosion? Whodunnit?

Your performance in this film is absolutely heart-breaking. Have you had that experience yourself?

I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again. That’s what I love about the film. It doesn’t pretend to know everything. I didn’t realize that most movies are trying to do, until I read this. In a time where culturally it’s a prison riot of opinion – everyone, no matter how informed they are, feels entitled to give an option. Without any accountability for what they’re saying. Blogs, television culture. No one is ever accountable for what they’ve said.  You’re inundated with opinions. So here’s a filmmaker who’s asking you questions.

Was that the process? Derek has said that he considers you and Michelle co-writers of the film.

It was always questions – who is Dean? Where does he come from? What does he look like. He was telling us what to think about.

So Dean came from you?

It comes from everything that’s around you. People you grew up with. The character would change a lot; I’d have to build him up. Then the film wouldn’t go, and I’d tear him down for parts. And build him back up.

We all know this guy. He’s a guy everybody likes, but nobody respects. He’s filled with creativity, but has no drive or ambition. It’s a romantic idea. He doesn’t want anything outside of her. For certain girls that’s enough.

Was it hard to shoot the scenes in the present, where the marriage breaks down?

I don’t remember much of it. It took seeing the film to remember it.  We shot 24/7 while we were shooting. We waited years, and then when we got there we just shot everything. He even shot us while we were asleep. We’d shoot a scene where Michelle and I were fighting for hours. I’d get exhausted and take a nap on the couch. I’d wake up and he’d be shooting me, and she was cleaning the house.

Michelle went home at the end of every day and went back to being a Mom. I just stayed in it. I don’t know how she kept both people alive. She has a very vast interior landscape. It probably looks a lot like Montana, where she cames from — mountains and big stretches of road. That’s what the pace is like with Michelle – she doesn’t give up anything easily, everything takes time to get there.

How would you describe your interior landscape?

 Like a box full of rats.

Do you mean you're angst ridden?

No, really, I’m pretty generally happy. Always kind of happy.

So what is your take on the NC17 rating?

I don’t think that it’s simple. By us fighting the NC17 we’re not saying kids under 17 should see the film. What we’re saying is people don’t realize if you get that rating you can’t play in a lot of major theater chains. You can’t have television spots. You’re saying you don’t want anyone to see it.

If you want to pinpoint the oral sex scene, there’s plenty of scenes of men receiving oral sex that are R rated. In Black Swan there’s a scene with two women, and that’s fine. But between a husband and wife is considered pornographic. I don’t really understand their system of rating.

But what happens if you lose that scene? Isn’t it just that a lot more people then see the movie?

That’s up to the fimmaker. Derek took 12 years to make this fim. I don’t think anyone should tell him what he should or shouldn’t lose. He put it all on the line, this is the movie he wanted to make. You can’t make a love story without the physical act of love, presenting it in an honest and unexploited way.

Most films have music on top of those kinds of scenes, and they have cuts, and they’re probably way more graphic. But because his doesn’t have music, it’s one wide shot, it feels more voyeuristic and more real. The MPAA isn’t looking at the fact that this is a film about kids that have sex carelessly. There’s consequences to that. Having this child affects the rest of her life. It’s not a scene that’s there for arousal. It’s all about the ramificatoins of your choices. There’s an effect to them.

What’s next for you Ryan?

I’m making a movie with a young upstart named George Clooney. He’s directing the play Farragut North, but it’s now titled ‘The Ides of March.’ We start in February. He’s the candidate, and I play his press secretary.