With a Killer Performance in 'Murder by Numbers,' Gosling Sets Himself Apart From the Pack

These young stars are a strange breed. Like something out of a WB version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, there seems to be an ever-regenerating supply of Hollywood hopefuls with impossible smiles, superior bone structure, and a thirst for the A list. Ryan Gosling is different. The 21-year-old Canadian makes most of these would-be actors look like poseurs and punks. While he cops to the fact that he got his start on TV’s Mickey Mouse Club, he’s been making up for it ever since by playing characters who are utterly creepy yet somehow magnetic and attractive. In The Believer (seen on Showtime, it will have a limited theatrical run beginning May 17), Gosling was a Jewish Nazi—obviously conflicted, and not nearly as repugnant as he should have been. In the just-released Murder by Numbers, he plays the scarier half of a pair of spoiled rich kids who kill for kicks. In the movie’s most memorable scene, Gosling, while strangling costar Sandra Bullock, perversely licks her face. It wasn’t in the script. That is one reason we like him. Here are some others:

He’s honest about Hollywood marketing execs: ”There are no numbers in the movie; I don’t know why they called it Murder by Numbers. We had a pool going for the title on the set — I felt like that was a bad sign. For a while they changed it to Foolproof. I hated that, too. With a title like that you really open yourself up to critics — you know, ‘Foolproof is not quite foolproof.’ I went to see a movie the other day and they had a trailer for Enough with Jennifer Lopez. I was like, ‘Ech, enough already with Jennifer Lopez.”’

He didn’t throw in the towel after an inauspicious start: ”I grew up in Cornwall, Ontario, and my uncle was an Elvis impersonator. He had a mustache and no hair and a big birthmark on his face, but he was good. I played his bodyguard and I’d come on stage and hand him a teddy bear for the song ‘Teddy Bear.”’

He turned fellow Mouseketeer Britney Spears into a bad girl: ”Britney and Christina [Aguilera] would come ask me questions about sex, and I just told them what I heard — like positions and stuff. And all the mothers went to Disney and told them I was corrupting their kids…. So, yes, Britney narced me out. And I feel somewhat responsible for how sexual she is right now. When I see her with a snake around her neck, I think, Did I do that?”

He’s fine with being box office poison: ”After Mickey Mouse Club got canceled, I was on a show called Road to Avonlea and that got canceled. Then I did Young Hercules and that got canceled. As I keep talking you’ll see a pattern. I’m the kiss of death.”

About that unscripted lick: ”The movie builds up to that scene, and I just felt like something was missing. So I just asked her, ‘I think I’m going to lick you.’ I felt disgusting about myself afterward, but I think it worked.”

Bullock on the lick: ”He was like, ‘Please don’t be mad at me when the scene’s over.’ It was so disturbing and nice. I was like, ‘Lick away!”’