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Ryan Gosling's Transformation From Childhood To Barbie

Jun 25, 2023

"Barbie" has been an undeniable smash hit and pop culture phenomenon, with the box office receipts matching the universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Much of the credit for why the movie turned out so well has been given to the performances, including Ryan Gosling as the film's main Ken, aka "Beach Ken." To some, it seemed like an odd choice for the actor, especially given that he's always been fairly choosy about his roles and had previously gone through a period where complex character dramas seemed to be his favorite type of project. But Gosling's film career has always covered a variety of genres in projects big and small, with a mix of fairly safe hits and more creatively risky projects.

But how did Ryan Gosling go from the Canadian-born son of a traveling salesman and a secretary to an in-demand Hollywood A-lister and multiple Academy Award nominee? From his early dreams of becoming an actor, to the years he spent pursuing music instead, to television-turned-movie-star with a side business as a restaurateur, Gosling's life and career has certainly been an interesting one to follow. Here's how he got there, what makes him a different kind of movie star, and what he plans to do now that he's riding high on all that Kenergy.

Just about every actor who has ever lived can generally pinpoint a specific moment, event, or memory that made them realize what their dream career was. Gosling, like so many other actors of the last couple of generations, had that revelation while watching movies. He apparently didn't particularly enjoy the experience of being a child, but found solace in the escape of listening to music and watching movies with his mother.

Interestingly enough, he became fascinated with the character of Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, the actor whose legendary machismo serves as the catalyst for Ken's fascination with the patriarchy and manhood in "Barbie." Unfortunately, that led to life imitating art when Gosling brought a knife to school after watching "First Blood," earning the then-first grader a suspension. But the movie that Gosling credits as the one which lit his acting fire was 1990's "Dick Tracy," a somewhat forgotten adaptation of the comic strip of the same name starring and directed by Warren Beatty. It's arguable that the movie's greatest contribution to cinema is that it indirectly brought us Gosling.

Even though Gosling had stars in his eyes and dreamt of Hollywood from a young age, it was in music and dance that he got his first tastes of performing and show business in general. Among his earliest gigs was performing as an eight-year-old wedding singer alongside his then 10-year-old sister, Mandi. Impressed by the young man's skills and stage presence, Gosling's uncle — an Elvis impersonator who performed under the stage name Elvis Perry — started bringing his nephew along as a sort of stagehand, handing him various props as he performed.

Around the same time, Gosling also took up ballet at a local company, helping to hone the dance skills that would come in handy years later for a certain Oscar-nominated performance. Gosling credits being the only boy on an otherwise all-girl ballet squad, in addition to being raised mostly by his mother and considering his sister his best friend, as establishing a lifelong ability to be securely in touch with his feminine side. Ryan and Mandi have remained close ever since, with Mandi frequently being Ryan's guest at industry events throughout his career — up through and including his "Barbie" press tour.

After spending his tween years building up his various talents, Gosling scored a pretty respectable first on-screen gig when he was cast on the "The All-New Mickey Mouse Club" in 1993, the second revival of the classic kid-centric musical variety show. His stint on the show was brief, but it still helped to put him on the map and served as a springboard to what was soon to be a very busy television career.

It's fun to note that Gosling wasn't the only future superstar on the show during that time. Among his co-stars were Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, and Justin Timberlake, all of whom would become major pop stars within just a few years of their time as Mouseketeers. But while everyone else gravitated towards music, the direction that Gosling's path also seemed to be taking him in up to that point, he instead decided to revisit his dreams of becoming an actor after his time on the series came to an end. Though that era of "The Mickey Mouse Club" remains sadly missing from the Disney+ library, it's not at all difficult to find various clips online of Gosling performing on the show.

As his "Mickey Mouse Club" co-stars were making multi-platinum records, going on world tours, and winning Grammy awards, Gosling instead spent the bulk of the '90s doubling down on building his acting career on television. After hanging up the mouse ears, Gosling scored small roles in shows like "Are You Afraid of the Dark?," "Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues," "Road to Avonlea," and "Goosebumps."

In 1997, he landed his first major television role on the teen sitcom "Breaker High," though it only lasted for one season. He followed that up with another one-season show, but this one was much more high-profile and starred Gosling in the title role. "Young Hercules," a prequel series to "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," had Gosling play the younger version of Kevin Sorbo's warrior for 50 episodes across 1998 and '99. It might not have been the hit that sister shows "Hercules" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" were, but it helped to prove that Gosling wasn't just some child actor with his best years behind him — and Hollywood came calling soon after.

Though he had previously done a television film as well as the little-seen "Frankenstein and Me" (1996), in which he starred alongside Burt Reynolds, Gosling's movie career didn't truly kick off until he appeared in the 2000 sports drama "Remember the Titans." The biopic saw Denzel Washington lead an ensemble full of Hollywood up-and-comers that also included Donald Faison, Hayden Panettiere, Kate Bosworth, and Ethan Suplee – and Gosling definitely took the attention he got from the role and ran with it, easily becoming the breakout star among the young cast.

Within the next few years, Gosling would mix smaller films like "The Believer" (2001) and "The United States of Leland" (2003) with big time Hollywood fare like "Murder By Numbers" (2002) and "The Notebook" (2004). There's no question that it was his appearance alongside Rachel McAdams in that popular Nicholas Sparks adaptation that really put Gosling on mainstream America's radar in a big way for the first time. A-list leading man Ryan Gosling had truly arrived, and he's stuck around ever since.

What does one do once the checks start rolling in from various successful acting projects and your Hollywood career is really picking up steam? If you're Ryan Gosling, you pour all of it into buying and renovating a Moroccan restaurant in Beverly Hills. In 2004, Gosling claimed that he spent pretty much every dollar he had at the time on the business, putting a full year into renovating it himself, and opening it with Chef Ben Benameur.

But it all worked out, as Tagine not only remains in business to this day, but Gosling is still the co-owner of the swanky eatery. While these days he isn't seen popping in to visit with the staff, mingle with diners, or wash a few dishes as often as he used to, he is still more than just a passive owner and spends time at the restaurant as often as he can. There is no denying that the chance to even just catch a glimpse of Gosling is a key component to Tagine's popularity, but it's also a well-regarded restaurant in its own right for both its cuisine and its atmosphere, even apart from its celebrity connection.

Not too long into his movie career, Gosling established that he wasn't just going to be a rom-com guy or the star of mindless action movies and the like. Once he got a couple of successful films under his belt and was in a position to be a little more picky about his projects, Gosling definitely demonstrated a pull towards movies that ended up receiving acclaim both on their own and also for his performances within them.

The first example of that was 2006's "Half Nelson," in which Gosling plays an inner-city school teacher who is also struggling with substance abuse issues. He earned widespread acclaim for his performance and racked up a number of nominations, including an Oscar nod for Best Actor. He followed this up with more highly-praised performances in "Fracture," "Lars and the Real Girl," and "Blue Valentine." Though he still wasn't too good for lighter fare like "Crazy, Stupid, Love" during this period, it definitely felt like he had risen to the next level as an actor, one for whom raves from critics and audiences alike were going to be the norm going forward.

Even though Gosling had appeared in a few action-adjacent movies — and of course, had played legendary warrior Hercules during his television career — the actor had yet to truly be the kind of action star like the ones that inspired his future career as a child. That all changed when he starred in 2011's "Drive," a highly-stylized action drama in which Gosling plays a mysterious character known only as The Driver.

It helps that "Drive" wasn't just some over-the-top, car-based action romp like "The Fast and the Furious" or "Gone in 60 Seconds." It was instead more of an indie-minded action flick that mixed satisfying set pieces with complex character drama. The fact that so much of the imagery and the music evoked a clear 1980s vibe only seemed to further bring Gosling's childhood love of that era of action films full circle. Gosling reteamed with "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn two years later on "Only God Forgives," another highly-stylized action movie that didn't get the same critical love as "Drive," but is easily Gosling's most violent film to date.

Ryan Gosling's career got a little bumpy in the early 2010s, at least in terms of critical response to his movies. In fact, it led him to take a brief hiatus from acting in 2013 in order to regroup and figure out what direction he wanted his career to go in and how to get it back on track. He also expressed the need to give the audience a break from him, which he says was probably needed after the actor appeared in a whopping 10 movies between 2010 and 2013.

Luckily, just as his professional life was in flux, things were going beautifully for Gosling personally. While filming 2012's "The Place Beyond the Pines," Gosling began dating co-star Eva Mendes. The couple remain together to this day, and have two daughters together — Esmeralda and Amanda. Though they appear together at events and have revealed some details about their children, the pair are extremely private about their relationship and family overall, with Mendes having significantly scaled back her own career and public life in order to focus on being a mother.

As mentioned earlier, Gosling had roots in singing and dancing before he officially went down the acting path. In fact, even his first acting gig on "The Mickey Mouse Club" involved performing in musical numbers. It's an aspect of his talents that he had briefly showcased from time to time — including a scene of him singing a song in the movie "Blue Valentine" — but he finally got the chance to fully show off what he could do with the 2016 movie musical "La La Land."

In various scenes and numbers throughout the movie, Gosling proved that he still had decent singing pipes as well as some fancy choreographed footwork with co-star Emma Stone. Not only did "La La Land" announce the brief return of Gosling as a singer and dancer, but it also scored him his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He didn't take home that prize, but he did win a Golden Globe for the role, his first and thus far only award win from one of the major associations. Apparently, he needs to do more musicals if he wants to win more awards.

Though Gosling had starred in a number of big-budget films, he had yet to be the top-billed star of a $100+ million production until he landed the lead role of Officer K in 2017's long-awaited sequel "Blade Runner 2049." With Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard taking on a supporting role, it was arguably Gosling's movie — and it was the first time he had fronted a movie with such a massive production and marketing budget. After years of hovering between indie movies and modestly-budgeted studio fare, Gosling had reached a new plateau for his career in terms of what was being spent on a movie that he was the star of.

Reviews for "Blade Runner 2049" were strong, with some even arguing that the movie had managed to surpass its highly-respected predecessor. Unfortunately, it tanked at the box office, so much so that director Denis Villeneuve feared that it was going to mark the end of his career. If there was any question as to whether Gosling's presence had anything to do with the movie's poor financial performance, he put that to rest a few years later with a movie that broke box office records with him as the male lead.

The world being skeptical of a live-action Barbie movie seems like a distant memory at this point, because we are now in the period after the release of "Barbie," a bona fide box office smash that was also a huge hit with critics. Of course, Gosling likely had faith in the project because, like some of his previous movies, it had the makings of a popcorn blockbuster but also had an indie-minded creative team behind it. So he knew that it would at least be a good movie, even if he — and everybody else — probably couldn't have predicted the level of success it has seen.

Like his fellow lead, Margot Robbie, Gosling's performance as Ken in "Barbie" strikes the perfect balance between goofy comedic archetype and genuinely complex character. Sure, Ken isn't quite as complex as Barbie and his thoughts don't ever truly get as deep as hers, but there is clearly a lot more going on behind his charmingly silly smile than meets the eye. However, while the combined critical and commercial success of "Barbie" — and the obvious fun Gosling had working on it — has generated speculation about a sequel or even a Ken-based spinoff, neither Gosling, Robbie, nor director Greta Gerwig have deals in place for future movies. So whether Gosling has his first franchise on his hands remains uncertain.