On Saturday January 12th, actor Ryan Gosling was honored with the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at the 38th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). The award was presented to Gosling by his close friend and two-time co-star, Emma Stone.
Gosling received the award in recognition of his eclectic career spanning over 20 years with standout performances in films like The Notebook, La La Land, Blue Valentine, and his upcoming role in the new Barbie movie.
The Kirk Douglas Award highlights an actor or actress with “commitment to justice and human dignity, and for their work in the entertainment community to end hunger.” Gosling joins an esteemed list of past recipients including Forest Whitaker, Angelina Jolie, Viola Davis, and Melissa McCarthy among others.
Emma Stone Presents the Award
Gosling’s friend Emma Stone, who has co-starred with him in 2011’s Crazy, Stupid Love and 2016’s La La Land, presented Gosling with the award on stage at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara.
Stone highlighted Gosling’s humility and talent, saying:
“Ryan Gosling is an incredibly special artist – one of our greats and one of my personal favorites. When I think of today’s leading men, I think of Ryan Gosling. But I also want to take a moment to talk about Ryan Gosling, my friend.”
She went on to praise his commitment to choosing complex, intimate independent films as well as big budget movies focused on social issues:
“Ryan is an actor who dares to walk that slippery slope between drama and comedy and is somehow precisely calibrated to it all. He does this while balancing tough gritty indies and thoughtful big films that span social commentary.”
Gosling was clearly moved by Stone’s heartfelt words, hugging her on stage before beginning his acceptance speech.
Gosling Acceptance Speech and Career Retrospective
In his acceptance speech, Gosling thanked the festival for the “very flattering and unnecessary” award saying the honor gives him “all the more reason to continue trying to contribute meaningfully to the medium that has given me so much.”
He also looked back on his wide-ranging filmography from heavier dramas to romance, comedy, and musicals:
“I like to think myself as something of a student of film who is still trying to figure out how it works. I’m thankful for the breadth of opportunities I’ve had already to test myself in different genres.”
Gosling said he feels fortunate to have been able to take risks throughout his career including his breakout role as a Jewish neo-Nazi in 2001’s The Believer up through one of his most recent commercially successful films La La Land:
“I’ve been lucky to work on some pretty eclectic films over the years, films that I wouldn’t necessarily choose if I was focused solely on building some kind of career for myself.”
The 37-year old star gave credit to directors he worked with who took a chance casting him against type or who pushed him as an actor. He highlighted his Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance who had him do boxing training and lose weight for the role as well as Damien Chazelle who had him train intensely for months to play a jazz musician in La La Land.
Gosling capped off his speech by thanking his family for their support, especially his two young daughters who he said will “one day watch his films and see all the mistakes he’s made and feel the pride of seeing their dad’s personal failings so nakedly exposed.”
“I’m kidding…mostly,” Gosling joked.
Career Retrospective Highlights Risk-Taking Roles
As part of the ceremony, clips were shown from many of Gosling’s most acclaimed films highlighting his ability to take on risky, complex roles.
Some highlights from his career:
- Breakout role as Jewish neo-Nazi in The Believer (2001)
- Showcased exceptional acting skills alongside Michelle Williams in relationship drama Blue Valentine (2010)
- Displayed on-screen chemistry and comedic chops with Emma Stone in Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)
- Sang and danced his way to Golden Globe win starring opposite Emma Stone (again) as a struggling musician in La La Land (2016)
- Physically transformed through extensive training to play Neil Armstrong in biopic First Man (2018)
- Takes on first big budget mainstream role playing Ken opposite Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig’s new Barbie movie
The career retrospective made it clear that while Gosling has mainly shied away from traditional mainstream blockbuster roles, he has consistently taken risks playing complex characters that showcase his acting talents.
Whether playing a drug-addicted teacher (Half Nelson), womanizing lothario (Crazy, Stupid Love), or alcoholic private investigator (The Nice Guys) – Gosling is not afraid to take on unsympathetic roles and find the humanity in them.
Praise for Upcoming Barbie Role Opposite Margot Robbie
In press interviews over the weekend, Gosling also discussed his most high-profile role to date – playing the iconic Ken opposite Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig’s new Barbie movie slated for a 2023 release.
The film is shaping up to be another risk-taking passion project for Gosling based on his and Gerwig’s vision for bringing depth to the famously plastic dolls. Gerwig has said her ambition is to “subvert expectations” of what a Barbie film can be.
“I saw an opportunity to go into the role to be very Ken-doll like and make fun of that. But then Greta was like, no, you have to play it straight.”
Early footage received a positive reception at industry screenings with praise for Gosling’s comedic performance. Film critic Scott Menzel said Gosling “steals the show” showcasing “excellent comedic timing.”
Given Gosling and Gerwig’s pedigrees, there is anticipation building in the industry that the new Barbie movie could achieve both critical and commercial success when it hits theaters next year.
What’s Next for Gosling
Coming off recent box office disappointments Blade Runner 2049 and First Man, Ryan Gosling’s star power had dimmed slightly in recent years. But with buzz building for his comedic work in next year’s Barbie, there is hope the blockbuster could return him to A-List status.
Beyond Barbie, Gosling is attached to several high profile projects over the next few years:
- The Actor – reteaming with La La Land director Damien Chazelle
- Untitled racing film from Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski
- The Fall Guy based on the 1980s TV series – potential franchise play
With Gosling balancing personal passion projects with more mainstream commercial films, he seems poised to continue taking the types of risks in roles that have defined his career up to this point.
And with longtime collaborators like Emma Stone and Damien Chazelle in his corner, the veteran star has plenty of opportunities ahead to keep “trying to contribute meaningfully” as he said in his Santa Barbara speech.
The Kirk Douglas award he was honored with this weekend seems like just the beginning of the next chapter in Ryan Gosling’s eclectic, risk-taking career.
Photo Highlights from the Weekend
Here are some photo highlights of Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Greta Gerwig at the Santa Barbara Film Festival (photo credits: Getty Images):
|Emma Stone hugging Ryan Gosling after presenting him the Kirk Douglas Award on stage.
|Ryan Gosling waves to the crowd while accepting his award.
|Director Greta Gerwig looks on as Ryan Gosling accepts his award – the two collaborated on the upcoming Barbie film.
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