But long before any of that, Gosling caught the performing bug from a place much closer to home: His uncle, who was the frontman for an Elvis Presley tribute band.
“He put me and my family in his act when I was 8 years old,” Gosling says. “I learned a lot from watching him trying to make the Elvis illusion seem real. A lot of people thought he was funny, but he was very committed to his act and gave it 150 percent. He left people with the experience of having seen Elvis. I’m lucky I found movies, because I hadn’t been able to recreate that experience anywhere else since then.”
In “La La Land,” which opens Friday, Gosling doesn’t perform any Presley tunes. But he and co-star Emma Stone sing and dance their way through a widescreen Technicolor romance that pays lovely, swoon-inducing homage to vintage musicals such as “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Writer-director Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) even filmed many of the movie’s big numbers using wide master shots, without any cuts or edits — you know, the way they used to.
“Damien wanted to emulate the way great directors like Stanley Donen had done it, with the dance sequences shot in one take, so you can watch the actors’ moves and it doesn’t feel like there was a lot of trick photography,” Gosling says. “A choreographed dance sequence is a high-wire act in that any little mistake becomes very obvious, so there’s a tension inherent in them: You’re waiting for someone to [mess] it up. You have to be really synchronized with the other person.”
The high degree of difficulty in “La La Land” was made a little easier by the fact that Gosling and Stone already knew each other, having acting opposite each other in two previous films (“Gangster Squad” and “Crazy Stupid Love.”)
“Most of the time on a film you’re acting with total strangers: Your job is to make it appear like you have a relationship,” he says. “It’s a lot easier when you actually know that person, like with Emma. You listen to the way they say their dialogue more intently and you watch the way they play a scene more closely, because you know them. It creates a difference experience in the scene for you as an actor, and then later for the audience.”
“La La Land” continues Gosling’s streak of roles in movies that jump across genres and tones: The grave action of “Drive” and “Only God Forgives,” the knuckleheaded comedy of “The Nice Guys” or the satire of “The Big Short” and “The Ides of March.” He’s part of the ensemble cast of “Weightless,” the latest by director Terrence Malick, which is due in March and co-stars Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Michael Fassbender and Christian Bale.
He’s currently wrapping up filming on “Blade Runner 2049,” the top-secret sequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal 1982 sci-fi classic “Blade Runner.” Gosling stars opposite Harrison Ford and Jared Leto, but he’s bound to secrecy regarding the film’s plot or even the character he’s playing.
“Uh, I’m not allowed to say very much,” Gosling says when asked to share something about the movie. “All I can say is that it’s been an incredible experience so far working with [director] Denis Villeneuve and [cinematographer] Roger Deakins. Every day I go on the set, it’s like a master class in filmmaking and storytelling. I feel so lucky to be a part of this film.”