NEW YORK – Oddly enough for a guy who grew up in show business under the protective umbrella of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club, actor Ryan Gosling these days takes his philosophical cues from Warner Bros.’ cartoon cut-ups Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
For Gosling, the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies duo of cool rabbit and flustered duck represent a sort of yin-and-yang approach to dealing with life’s challenges, and he professes, perhaps tongue in cheek, to gauge all his film roles by them.
For his role as smooth lounge lizard Jacob in the romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” Gosling said during press interviews staged by Warner Bros. that the formula held true.
He explained: A Bugs character, like the carrot-chomping rabbit, would be calm, flippant, insouciant, something of a wise guy and cool amid chaos. A Daffy character, like the often discombobulated duck, would be hyper, exasperated and usually the butt of some cruel scheme or joke.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” gives Gosling a chance to employ this cartoon ethic in a rare comic performance. Primarily, he’s been celebrated as an intense dramatic actor in parts ranging from a young neo-Nazi in 2001’s “The Believer” to the disaffected young husband in last year’s “Blue Valentine.” In this role, his Jacob is a womanizer who decides to take Steve Carell’s divorcing schlub Cal under his wing and turn him into a hipster player.
“Jacob is definitely like Bugs Bunny,” Gosling said. “Every time I make a movie, I try to think what level of Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck is the character. It was one of my favorite dynamics as a kid. And in its purest form Jacob was Bugs and Cal was Daffy and then they switch roles about half-way through.”
The Canadian-born Gosling got his start in show business at an open audition in Montreal for the TV series “The All New Mickey Mouse Club.” In 1993 he was picked from 17,000 aspiring performers for a spot on the show, and in his two years in Mouse ears he roomed with co-star Justin Timberlake.
That may be where he picked up his affinity for cartoon philosophy. But Gosling merely shrugs vaguely when asked about the source of his Bugs-Daffy theory and insists that it’s really valid.
“For instance, my mother was having a hard time at her job and she didn’t know what to do,” he said. “And I didn’t know what to tell her. So I just bought her the Warner Bros. cartoons boxed set and I said, ‘if you’re ever in a situation at work and you don’t know what to do, just be Bugs. Never be Daffy.’ And she got promoted.”
So, what percentage of Bugs or Daffy is he?
“Oh, that varies,” he said with a wry grin. “I’m still trying to figure that out. It depends on the moment. It’s just a nice way to check in with yourself – when you need a check up from the neck up.”
- Dennis King