He's had plenty of roles, but Ryan Gosling hasn't made the same movie twice.
Recently, he starred in the dark indie "Blue Valentine," the zippy romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid Love," and the action thriller "Drive." On Oct. 7, he'll headline "The Ides of March," a drama about a staffer for a presidential candidate (George Clooney) who gets plunged into dirty politics. His resume also includes quirky comedies ("Lars and the Real Girl"), thrillers ("Murder By Numbers"), and one of the most beloved romances of the last twenty years ("The Notebook.")
His fans have noticed the diversity. "What I find appealing about Ryan is the wide range of roles and movies he does," says Leslie Henstock, a movie buff in Manhattan.
"I think the variety of choices in his films is what makes him stand out in his age group." said, Lindsey, who asked that her last name not be used, but is the owner of the website GoslingFan.com. "He doesn’t repeat himself. He is brave, and he doesn't stick to what he knows because he challenges himself."
Because he's in so many types of movies, Gosling can also reach almost every kind of audience. That lets him appeal to more people than an actor who only makes silly comedies or gory horror flicks.
But simply showing up in a movie isn't enough. "Sometimes, when a star has too many films arriving simultaneously, you are suddenly privy to their limitations as an actor," says Nathaniel Rogers, a film critic who runs TheFilmExperience.net. "The rush of new Gosling work has had the opposite effect. From 'Blue Valentine' through the three new films [this year], there's just a tremendous, exuberant range on display. On this side of the Atlantic, I can't see any competition for the Best of His Generation trophy."
The film industry agrees about Gosling's skill. He received a best actor Oscar nomination for playing a drug-addicted school teacher in the 2006 drama "Half Nelson," and when his co-workers talk about him, they tend to rave. Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of "Drive," says, "He has this incredible gift as an actor to say a thousand words without a line of dialogue. There's just this aura that tells stories."
Gosling's range and charisma are combined with a startling commitment to his performances. "He is willing to show real vulnerability and ugliness," says Henstock. "There are moments in 'The Notebook' when he is absolutely tragic, begging, weak. He has a journey."
But when the role calls for it, Gosling is just as willing to be a hunk. Remember his ridiculous abs in "Crazy, Stupid Love?" That's "not altogether common in male stars," says Rogers. "[They] tend to need to be heroic on screen or avoid categorization as a mere heartthrob."
That commitment enhances his work on set.
"He came [to 'Drive'] with a really interesting perspective," Refn says. "He felt that [his character] shouldn't talk unless he had something to say, which almost makes him a silent character. I was loving that aspect of it because silence makes you more dangerous and mysterious."
At this point, box office receipts are the only thing holding Gosling back from complete A-list status. Despite critical acclaim, "Drive" flopped with American moviegoers, making less than $30 million, and "Crazy, Stupid Love" has been only a modest hit. Even "The Notebook" only did moderate business, suggesting that people have yet to connect with a Ryan Gosling movie as much as they connect with Gosling himself.
Gosling has an off-screen image as a nice guy, a crucial part of movie stardom. He recently made headlines for breaking up a street fight, and then refusing to brag about it.
"He cares about the world and what's going on," says Lindsey of GoslingFan.com.
Taken together, these elements bode well for Gosling's future. "Is there anything he can't do?" asks Rogers. "If Hollywood calls on him as often as I'm guessing they will, we'll find out."
Mark Blankenship is on Twitter as @CritCondition.