As Netflix gears up for the summer release of its most expensive film to date, The Gray Man, Augustman brings the movie’s titular star and the living embodiment of the TAG Heuer spirit, Ryan Gosling, into the spotlight, in honour of one of the great, idiosyncratic talents of modern times – noted for fearlessly challenging himself and turning out critically-acclaimed performances under pressure.
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Since transitioning from TV into film at the turn of the millennium, Ryan Gosling has become one of Hollywood’s most versatile leading men by always daring to be different. Few other actors would have taken on such challenging early films as The Believer, Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl. Yet they earned him rave reviews, Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, and a reputation as the most exciting young actor in Hollywood.
But it was Drive that turned Gosling from an acclaimed actor into a new type of leading man – one who could lend himself to whip-smart ensembles (Adam McKay’s The Big Short, which co-starred Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt).
Furthermore, in three short years, Gosling went from the smash-hit musical La La Land (which earned 14 Academy Award nominations and won Gosling a Golden Globe) to iconic sci-fi revival Blade Runner 2049 (co-starring Harrison Ford) to prestige biopic First Man (in which Gosling played astronaut Neil Armstrong).
Gosling isn’t only fearless in his choice of roles, but fearless when he films them too, shooting many of his own stunts. It’s work that clearly fascinates the actor – not only did Gosling play a stuntman in both Drive and The Place Beyond The Pines, but recently signed on to play one in The Fall Guy, to be directed by a former stuntman in David Leitch. The forthcoming The Gray Man, meanwhile, will be Gosling’s most action-packed role to date.
Directed by the brothers Anthony and Joseph Russo, who presently rank second in the list of most commercially successful directors of all time thanks to the combined gross of their four MCU films, The Gray Man film is based on Mark Greaney’s novel of the same name, featuring an ensemble cast led by Gosling who plays a CIA operative with damning secrets of the agency and a bounty over his head. Stopping at nothing to take him out is his cohort-turned-rogue operative played by Chris Evans. Joining in the high-octane action/thriller in their supporting roles are heavyweights Ana de Armas, Rege-Jean Page, Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard.
From playing the brooding wheelman in Drive to singing and dancing in La La Land, to now evading capture as a highly-skilled mercenary in The Gray Man, Ryan Gosling is an actor who defies easy categorisation. The attributes his roles do have in common: a willingness to be fearless, to constantly challenge himself and push what’s possible.
Owing to his commitment to excellence, versatility, but above all, ability to thrive under pressure, Gosling has recently been appointed by luxury Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer as its ambassador. But Gosling also embodies another key aspect of the brand: a new breed of masculinity that’s both sensitive and low-key, a confidence that is by definition effortless, much like the brand itself.
“A star since his early days, Ryan Gosling has grown to become an icon – one both enigmatic and inscrutable. He is a true artist who chooses his projects with utmost care and dedicates himself to them like no other, not only shaping his character but the entire creative direction. The movie Drive represents the strongest link with who we are today,” said TAG Heuer CEO Frédéric Arnault.
Gosling’s commitment to excellence even extended to his very first TAG Heuer ad campaign photoshoot featuring modern iterations of the iconic Carrera model in sporty yet elegant styles – handpicking the award-winning photographer Pari Dukovic and collaborating with him in every step of the creative process. The result: a campaign of vibrant visuals, inspired by Gosling’s own desire to shoot a campaign unlike any other, and one that marks yet another daring departure for the star.
“Ryan said he wanted to do something completely different. Colour has emotion and it’s completely unexpected. In creating these portraits it was about creating something timeless and timely at the same time. TAG Heuer’s watches have a timeless quality to them and that’s exactly what we wanted to do with the campaign,” said Dukovic.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Gosling’s performances have often drawn comparison to the late Steve McQueen, the first and foremost face of TAG Heuer, another leading man with a passion for motoring, stunts and spectacle. And who, like Gosling, became a style icon as well as a movie star.
In the following interview with TAG Heuer, Gosling shares about his career and latest role plus his thought on the watch brand.
You’ve just finished shooting The Gray Man, Netflix’s biggest blockbuster to date – what was it like working with the Russo brothers? Regé-Jean Page who stars in it as well mentioned he was surprised that for such a big-budget film, there was a lot of room for improv and last-minute re-writes.
The Russos are great like that. Always taking things apart and putting them back together. I can imagine some directors working on that scale might be hesitant to take their movie out of the garage for a joyride. The Russos just drive it like they own it. It’s the most fun I’ve had on a film in a while.
What’s it like filming with the new COVID-19 restrictions?
It made me appreciate the crew even more. It was the largest team effort I’ve ever been a part of. Multiple crews, in multiple countries, finding a way to work under these restrictions and still come together to tell the same story.
Wolfman is in pre-production – this feels like a departure for you, what about this project made you want to do it?
I’ve always loved horror movies and thought Wolfman was one of the great characters. Watching horror is actually where I first started thinking about how films were made because I would have to remind myself that it was just a movie when I would get too scared. I would imagine the special FX people on the other side of all the blood gags, or Freddy Kruger in the makeup chair, and then I could handle it. It’s great to finally be on the other side of it now and making one of my own.
There is this idea in Hollywood that you do one for them, and one for you, but you don’t ever seem to do that, which is rare. Was that a conscious decision?
Yeah, I heard that one too. I never found it that cut and dried though. In the beginning, I felt my job was just to get work. I was trying to pay my rent and maybe get some health insurance. That was the goal. Then I got lucky, and you need to be lucky, and I started to work more regularly. So then I needed a new goal. For a while, it was just to take on roles that would challenge me. But then that got boring because it was for an audience of one. Movies are also made to be watched by other people. It’s a two-way street, so I’ve tried since then to look for films that can work for us both.
You were influenced by films a lot as a kid – First Blood, then Rocky. Is it true that after you saw Rocky you picked a fight then got your ass kicked?
No, but I would try to channel Rocky growing up, to psych myself up for some of the challenges I was facing. Everything about that film from the theme to Eye of the Tiger, to Stallone having to sell his dog to get it made can strike a chord in anyone looking for inspiration to keep on swinging.
I won’t ask you about the Harrison Ford punch, the most-asked question of that press run ever, but is there anything you learnt from him?
Ever since I was denied an autograph by my favourite wrestler as a kid, I’ve gotten used to the idea that most people don’t live up to the hype. But I have to say, Harrison is one of the few who is actually as cool as you think he is. What did I learn? That most of the iconic moments from his films were his idea.
How was the lockdown for you last year – how did you spend it? What did you do to get through it?
Our kids were at a difficult age to not be able to see other kids or interact with people, so Eva and I did our best to entertain them. I think we did more acting in quarantine than in our films. Tougher crowd though.
You were homeschooled as a kid – was that good practice for home-schooling your own girls during that time? How were you as a teacher?
I was only homeschooled for a year, but it did really turn things around for me. I had a great teacher though. My mother was so good at it that she became a teacher and has BAs in English, History and Education, so she was the perfect person to ask for help when we needed it.
You have two young girls – your eldest daughter watched you on the set of Blade Runner 2049 and shouted, “You’re winning,” while you were filming a fight scene with Harrison Ford. Later, they thought you worked on the moon after you shot First Man. Do they have a better understanding of what you do?
Yeah, I think they finally figured out that my name is actually The Gray Man and I’m an assassin for the CIA.
What films of yours can you show your girls? Presumably La La Land and not a lot else? Not sure they’re ready for Drive, or Blue Valentine just yet…
I’m not in a hurry for them to see any of my movies. Eva did a kids’ film though called My Brother the Pig that was a big hit with our girls. I highly recommend it by the way, she’s amazing in it.
How’s your Spanish these days? As you’re raising your daughters bilingual, can they talk without you knowing what they’re saying?
It’s more like Spanglish right now, thank God. Once it’s full Spanish then, Ay Dios Mio, Coño!
You learnt the piano in six months for La La Land – do you still play?
No. But my neighbour is learning now and getting me back for all my incessant practising.
You’re a motorbike enthusiast – and did 70 percent of the motorbike work yourself in The Place Beyond the Pines according to veteran stunt coordinator Brian Smyj. Was there any hairy moment, or stunt you wanted to do but weren’t allowed?
The director wanted almost every scene/stunt involving the motorcycle to be shot in long, single takes, so naturally there were some close calls. I wish I could have done all of it, but I also understand why the insurance company drew the line on me riding my bike in something called the Globe of Death.
Is just getting on your bike for a ride something you’ll do? What else do you drive in terms of cars?
Most of the time now, I only drive cars that are big enough for two car seats and a Doberman. But I still have my car from Drive and my bike from Pines. I take them out from time to time. Luckily Eva’s side of the family are car collectors, so I don’t have to be.
The TAG Heuer Carrera is the showcase for their motor racing heritage – their uncluttered clean lines making it the perfect driver’s watch. As a car enthusiast, is that something that’s important to you?
I don’t know enough about the specifics of a “driver’s watch”. I guess I have more to learn before I can really be called an enthusiast, but I do appreciate its timeless design.
“I like clean and simple designs generally. Growing up, we lived on a pretty tight budget. I gravitated towards things that were simple and timeless, so I didn’t have to think about keeping up with trends.” – Ryan Gosling
What drew you to TAG Heuer?
TAG Heuer has quietly and consistently been a classic and iconic pillar of excellence in its field for over 160 years. Partnering with them was an easy decision and time, in general, is just something I think a lot about now. My kids are growing up fast, so I keep an eye on the clock in a way I never used to. Partnering with TAG Heuer also signifies that for me.
The history of TAG Heuer dates back to when they first started making dashboard chronographs for automobiles and aircrafts under the name of Heuer – is that something that factored into your decision?
When I was working on First Man, the phrase “built like a Swiss watch” kept coming up on my visits to NASA in reference to their spacecrafts. That was the gold standard they used. TAG Heuer has been at this for so long and in so many different iterations. They’ve distilled their work down to something that’s emblematic of what great engineering and craftsmanship can and should be.
How is your time-management generally?
With so many things actively trying to distract you now, it’s easy to lose track of time. It’s actually one of the reasons I wear a watch. I like being reminded that the clock is ticking.
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You’re often likened to Steve McQueen – someone else also associated with both a passion for cars and TAG Heuer – how do you view the comparison?
I can relate to his interest in cars and motorcycles. When I was a kid, a family friend kept his motorcycle in our backyard for a few months. He was trying to hide it from his mother. It didn’t run and I was too young to drive it anyway, but I was content just to sit on it all day. Up until that point, the happiest moments in my life were when I would ride my BMX around my neighbourhood. Those were my first experiences of independence where I wasn’t a passenger anymore, I was the driver. It was a formative experience, so I’ve had a soft spot for vehicles ever since.
You were very involved with the creative of your TAG Heuer shoot with photographer Pari Dukovic – please share more about the process?
Well, I suggested the photographer but that was kind of a no-brainer. He’s really talented and fast. Everything else was a result of his collaboration with the creative team at TAG Heuer. I thought the way they were using the shutter speed to create time drags was a great, visual way to play with time. Anyway, I had fun working with them on it and that’s not nothing because photo shoots aren’t usually my idea of a good time.
“All my learning has had to be on the job. In the beginning, I spent most of my time convincing people that I knew what I was doing and the rest of my time trying to convince myself. I was always in, what seemed to be, sink or swim situations. I did my share of sinking, the Internet can attest to that. But I got used to working under pressure and kept seeking it out because it’s all I knew.” – Ryan Gosling
You’re interested in how cars are put together – even putting the car from Drive together from scratch, bar the transmission – do you take a similar interest in the intricate workings of watches?
Saying I put the Drive car together from scratch is a strong overstatement. I did manage to get it up and running though, which felt like no small miracle. But watches? No. The wrenches are too small. I leave that to the experts.
What are your favorite memes about yourself?
Easy. Disneyland and Cats.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PARI DUKOVIC FOR TAG HEUER