To have one great movie hitting the multiplexes is reason enough to admire a young actor, but to have two on the same day? Ryan Gosling's smarter-than-you'd-think comedy Crazy Stupid Love and the rip-roarin' stuntman-on-the-run thriller Drive hit our screens today.
And Gosling, the 30-year-old Canadian, has a habit of picking fine films. Among them are his 2001 breakthrough The Believer, Half Nelson, Lars & The Real Girl, The Notebook and, recently, Blue Valentine. So, what's his secret?
"Just follow the script," he smiles. "And the smart people. If you surround yourself with really smart people, it helps you look smart too, you know.
"You can make smart choices easily enough -- everyone kind of knows what the interesting projects are, and you have to decide to take that gamble, or to go for something a little more commercially sound. I've tended towards the interesting projects and I've just been lucky that some of them worked."
And now that Gosling is a recognised face with proven box-office, he has got to the point where the interesting and the commercial happily collide.
Take Drive, for example. This could be just another pedal-to-the-metal vehicle -- if you'll excuse the pun. Fast cars, nice guy on the run, mafia on his tail, hot single mum (Carey Mulligan) by his side -- all part of a well-worn genre. But director Nicolas Winding Refn is going back to the genre's roots, delivering a film that's far more Steve McQueen than Jason Statham.
"I love taking people's expectations and then just going deeper," says Gosling. "You can always surprise people when you're dealing with a genre piece. The expectations keep leading their minds down one path and it's a thrill to be able to swing a left and take them somewhere else entirely."
I have to admit that I was shocked at how good Gosling's other September movie proved to be; Crazy Stupid Love is far less the gross-out bromance and far more The Squid & The Whale.
The cast should have tipped me off, of course, Gosling playing the ladykiller who trains Steve Carell's recently dumped, easily pitiable father-of-two in the art of picking up beautiful girls for anonymous sex. Also in the mix are Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei.
"Again, it's the genre thing and how to pull the rug from under people," says Gosling, "but without losing sight of what makes these genres so loved in the first place."
There is one scene that fans of The Notebook will find particularly funny. Having got his latest prey home to his luxury penthouse home, Gosling's lothario takes off his top -- to reveal a torso that inspires the response: "Seriously?! F**k! It's like you're Photoshopped!"
All real? Or was Gosling Photoshopped?
"All real," he smiles, "but with some really, really good lighting. And maybe just a tint of CGI.
"We're sending up those movie moments when the hot young couple get together, and it's all sweet and sweaty. And that moment worked both as a little bit of irony and a good old-fashioned Mills & Boon money shot.
"I was happy to be treated like a piece of meat in the name of art."
With a starring role in George Clooney's The Ides Of March, due here on October 28, Gosling is now busy shooting two films -- The Place Beyond The Panes, with Rose Byrne and Bradley Cooper, and reuniting with Emma Stone for The Gangster Squad, which also stars Sean Penn. Gosling then plans to reunite with his Drive director Refn for Only God Forgives, and later, a remake of the 1976 classic Logan's Run. Busy man.
"Hey, I'm a jobbing actor," he smiles, "and that means, you know, get 'em while they're hot, because tomorrow, the good scripts might just dry up.
"And then I'm going to be reduced to just taking my top off all the time . . ."
>Drive and Crazy Stupid Love hit cinemas today. >Read George Byrne's verdict, page 35