Ryan Gosling

Powerful perf turns critics into believers

HOMETOWN: Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

FAVORITE ACTOR: David Morse

NEXT PROJECT: A film called “United States of Leland.” “It’s a really special movie. Kevin Spacey is producing it. We start shooting in November. I don’t know how to classify it. It’s very thought-provoking.”

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF 10 YEARS FROM NOW?: “I’ll probably be on Daily Variety’s ‘Whatever Happened to Those 10 Actors We Were Supposed to Watch?’ list.”

WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ACTOR?: “Because there was no more room in ‘NSync.”

It sounds like an enormous leap of faith to cast a young actor for the lead as a neo-Nazi in a feature film when his previous experience was as a dancer on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” roles on Canadian and New Zealand television and a small part in “Remember the Titans,” but director Henry Bean was willing to take that chance after a fiery cold reading from Ryan Gosling.

“There was an amazing period when we all were seeing an actor become a star before our eyes,” marvels Bean, whose film, “The Believer,” won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year and catapulted the 20-year-old Gosling from struggling unknown to hot commodity. “It’s like discovering something before anybody else.”

Before getting the role in “The Believer,” the story of a young man grappling with the contradiction of being a Jew and a neo-Nazi, the picky Gosling turned down work — even though he needed the money — and held out for quality material.When he got the part of Bosley in “Remember the Titans,” it represented a chance not only to learn the craft of acting on film, but also to make enough cash to survive for a few months. Then a friend read scenes to him over the phone from a script for “The Believer.”‘

“I just begged and begged for a chance,” says Gosling, who grew up in Cornwall, Ontario. “I told them, ‘I know you have bigger names auditioning but I’d really love it if you could fit me in somewhere, during lunch, for five minutes.’ ”

Gosling got his chance, reading a scene set in a coffee shop in which the main character, Danny Balint, espouses his racist views to a reporter.

“He gave a fascinating reading,” Bean recalls. “It’s a very talky scene. A lot of the things he says are very abstract. His body was extremely expressive. He was able to use his body to convey that his ideas existed not only in his head but everywhere in his physical being. When I watched the video audition tape, I found that his line readings surprised me even after I heard them four or five times.”

Gosling is awaiting the release of another indie feature in which he appears — “The Slaughter Rule,” with David Morse. In 2002, he can be seen in Castle Rock “Murder by Numbers,” opposite Sandra Bullock and Ben Chaplin, and he will soon shoot “Unites States of Leland.”

But Gosling will no doubt remember “The Believer” as the defining moment of his acting career.

“The first time I watched it was at Sundance,” Gosling says. “I just felt this overwhelming sense of joy. I felt we did something we could be proud of.”

Pic is set to air on Showtime Sept. 30.

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