Ryan Gosling felt the pressure of making Blade Runner 2049
TO say that the seminal sci-fi thriller Blade Runner had a huge impact on Ryan Gosling would be an understatement.
Although Gosling was only 12 years old when he watched - on VHS in his native Ontario - Ridley Scott's dystopian tale of a detective on the hunt for synthetic humans called Replicants, "it stuck".
"It was very different from anything I had seen up to that point," Gosling says of 1982's Blade Runner, which was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release, but has since become one of the most revered and imitated films of all time.
"The hero becomes the villain, the villain becomes the hero. It makes you question what it is to be human. It's a romantic and nightmarish portrait of the future. You feel like you have seen the future somehow ... It's heavy stuff for a 12-year-old. It made an impact."
Gosling would go on to become a child star, appearing as a Mouseketeer alongside the likes of Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera in The mickey mouse Club and on family TV shows.
Yet even years later, when he relocated to Downtown Los Angeles, where much of Blade Runner was shot, the movie was still with him.
"I would be lying if I said there weren't a few drunken nights where I wandered around the Bradbury building pretending I had a blaster in my pocket," he says with a laugh.
"Then to be asked to be a part of it now, to actually physically enter the world of Blade Runner, it was a pretty strange experience."
That "strange experience" saw Gosling cast in the lead role of K in the long-awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Shrouded in secrecy, the new film opens tomorrow, 35 years after the original.
When Scott brought back the writer of the original, Hampton Fancher, to pen the script for Blade Runner 2049, the team crafted it with Gosling specifically in mind.
And when Scott handed over the directing reins to French-Canadian Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) so he could move ahead with his Alien franchise, the new director had no intention of seeking a different leading man.
According to Villeneuve, the twice Oscar-nominated Gosling also become a valued collaborator in what both knew would be a high-stakes venture, due to both the scale and ambition of the sequel, and audience expectations within the diehard sci-fi community.
"Only Ryan could have brought to the screen what is there now," says Villeneuve. "His performance is by far one of the most moving performances I have witnessed as a director and I am very proud of what he did. I also owe him a lot because it was by far the most difficult film adventure I ever took on and his energy, his positive attitude ... I knew from the start that I was not alone in the boat, he was rowing with me."
Gosling was also aware of expectations. For a movie as revered as Blade Runner, merely "good" was never going to cut it for the sequel.
"I have heard 'Don't f--- it up' a lot," Gosling says with a laugh.
Gosling has become one of the most respected and successful actors of his generation, with a broad resume that runs from rom-coms (Crazy Stupid Love) and tear-jerkers (The Notebook) to quirky indies (Lars and the Real Girl) and gritty dramas (Half Nelson).
While he doesn't have a huge action blockbuster under his belt thus far, he says that his Oscar-nominated role on La La Land came the closest to his Blade Runner 2049 experience.
While the much loved musical shows a sun-drenched, romanticised version of contemporary LA and the dark detective story shows a hellish dystopian vision of future LA, the two shared a scale and ambition unlike anything Gosling had experienced.
For the long and arduous Blade Runner 2049 shoot, the fiercely private Gosling relocated his family (he has two daughters, Esmerelda and Amada with wife Eva Mendes) to Budapest, where Villeneuve and his team had built enormous sets to create a world wracked by environmental degradation and climate change-induced chaos, with minimal use of CGI.
"It was massive," says Gosling. "I have certainly never worked on anything, ever, near this scale."
As if the fan pressure wasn't pressure enough, there was also the prospect of meeting the standards of the star of the original film, Harrison Ford. Ford has a reputation for not suffering fools gladly.
The veteran, who is back in 2049 as the mysterious Blade Runner Deckard, didn't arrive until late in the shoot, but his presence was felt long before he physically stepped on set.
"We were constantly asking each other, 'Do you think Harrison is going to like this? How do you think Harrison is going to feel about that?'," recalls Gosling.
"Then it was just a relief when he got there because he could tell us for himself - and he doesn't mince words."
Gosling needn't have worried. Despite being belted in the face by the Star Wars and Indiana Jones great thanks to a mistimed punch during a fight scene, Gosling marvelled at Ford's professionalism, preparation and sense of fun.
"He is so much funnier than you expect," says Gosling.
"He's also extremely focused and serious - he strikes the ideal balance."
And as for the grim, neon-drenched, nuclear-hazed vision of the future portrayed in Blade Runner 2049, Gosling says he is "cautiously optimistic" humanity can avoid a similar fate.
"I certainly hope that none of this comes true," he says. "Except for the flying cars."
Blade Runner 2049 opens tomorrow.