Ryan Gosling has been preparing to play a Ken doll for 27 years ever since his 1995 screen debut. Don’t believe us? Well, the proof is in Gosling’s filmography…and his “Ken-ergy” quips.
Well, we’re opting to take those words quite literally. Two Academy Award nominations later, and Gosling is finally getting his chance to bare his chiseled abs and knockoff Calvin Klein briefs for Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” epic, in theaters July 2023.
Sure, it may seem that Gosling’s darker roles (ahem, “Half Nelson”) may not totally fit in the Mattel-produced Barbie Dream World, but every step in Gosling’s fated path proves he’s been Ken for a long time coming. It is all about Ken-presentation, after all.
“I felt like I was seeing myself. I felt seen,” Gosling added. “I think a lot of Kens will feel seen when they see this. Gotta do it for the Kens. Nobody plays with the Kens.”
With Margot Robbie as Barbie and a rumored slew of alternate Kens rumored to be played by a waxed Simu Liu, “Doctor Who” star Ncuti Gatwa, and more, let’s turn back the clock to see how Gosling has been prepping to play the Ken figure for decades.
Below, we chronologically track Gosling’s Ken-volution.
“The Mickey Mouse Club” (1993-1994)
Gosling got comfortable with IPs long before Hollywood was ruled by them. And heck, Mickey Mouse is even a toy too! Gosling starred in “The Mickey Mouse Club” alongside fellow future A-listers Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears. Showing off the triple threat talent at age 13 no doubt proved to come in handy with the rumored musical numbers in “Barbie.”
Gosling’s co-star Simu Liu, whose own dance troupe background helped him land the part, revealed that “Barbie” writer-director Greta Gerwig was looking for men who could get down.
“Greta was talking about how much she loved watching men dance because it’s such an expression of artistry you’re not used to seeing from typical men,” Liu explained. “She audibly guffawed, she giggle-screamed — and then I got the part.”
While Liu confirmed that “Barbie” is not a musical, but that the film is “wild” and “incredibly unique.”
Yes, we’re doing deep cuts only. Gosling starred in “Goosebumps” episode “Say Cheese and Die” about a cursed Polaroid camera that kills whomever it takes a photo of. Dark, we know. But let’s break it down for a second: Back in 1996, Gosling is taking on another kids’ story (“Barbie” is geared towards children…and collectors, but we’ll get to that later) and this particular episode the future Oscar nominee starred in is, at its roots, all about the pitfalls of modern-day fame. The iconic Ken doll no doubt has a few plights he’s dealing with, namely realizing that he is in fact not a real person. And thus Gosling’s “Goosebumps” parallel gives us, well, goosebumps.
“Young Hercules” (1998-1999)
Do we even need to explain? Even as a teen, Gosling could rock a fake tan. When asked back in 2017 what role he was most proud of, Gosling reflected on his early days, telling one interviewer (via The Huffington Post) that it was hands-down the short-lived adventure series “Young Hercules.”
“I had a fake tan, leather pants,” Gosling said. “I was fighting imaginary monsters. They weren’t really there, but I was acting like they were there.”
And 25 years later, Gosling transforms once more into a barely-clad tanned god for Ken.
“The Notebook” (2004)
“If you’re a doll, I’m a doll.” That’s the famous line from the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook,” right?
Gosling starred as lovestruck mill worker Noah, who courted wealthy vacationer Allie (Rachel McAdams) before World War II. Their epic romance spanned decades and continents, with viewers believing that much like Barbie and Ken, Allie and Noah were literally made for each other. This is the American Girl Doll meets Barbie period piece outfits, available in stores soon.
“Half Nelson” (2006)
Sure, on the surface you may wonder what playing a drug-addicted middle school history teacher has to do with being Ken. But Gosling’s performance in “Half Nelson” landed him his first Oscar nomination, which we can only expect will be on par with “Barbie.” As Dan (Gosling) relies on substances to feel nothing (or enter a Dream World, if you will), Ken similarly can’t feel real pain because he’s a doll, a puppet of society, a manufactured embodiment of capitalism. See, “Barbie” can get dark too.
And Gosling’s character in “Half Nelson” still has more going for him than Ken, as Gosling puts it. “Ken’s got no money, he’s got no job, he’s got no car, he’s got no house,” Gosling told Entertainment Tonight. “He’s going through some stuff.”
At least drug addict Dan has a job!
“Lars and the Real Girl” (2007)
Sorry Barbie, you’re not the first doll Ken has loved. Gosling starred as the titular Lars in Craig Gillespie’s Oscar-nominated dramedy about a stunted man who enters a tenderly romantic relationship with a sex doll he purchased online.
“I heard the tagline, about a guy with a sex doll, and I didn’t think it would last a whole script. But when I read the whole thing, I found myself crying, I was so connected to it, I couldn’t believe this writer [Nancy Oliver] took me on this trip, made me care about these people, made me care about this doll who became a woman to me as I read this script,” Gosling told Pop Entertainment back in 2008. “It became romantic to me about this guy who loves, and makes this choice to love and doesn’t need to be loved in return, doesn’t compromise his hopes to be with someone. He just has all this love to give and he gives it.”
He added, “For Lars, it’s a real love story. It’s not a doll to him. And there’s a whole community of guys out there who have relationships with these dolls and now, since I’ve done this film, I am very interested in it. I think it’s fascinating.”
Seems like Ken had a thing for brunettes before meeting blonde bombshell Barbie.
“Blue Valentine” (2010)
The perfect pairing of Michelle Williams and Gosling as two ill-fated lovers charts the course of an entire relationship, from first kiss to a doom-filled marriage. “Blue Valentine” easily argues against the concept of a fairytale ending, and with the expected plot of “Barbie” to be Barbie and Ken’s fall from grace (and, perhaps, falling out of love with each other), “Blue Valentine” could be an indicator of a depressed ending for them both. We never know if “Barbie” could be a break up movie…
“All Good Things” (2010)
Loosely inspired by the real-life story of convicted killer Robert Durst, “All Good Things” centers on David Marks (Gosling) who falls for Katie (Kirsten Dunst) while trying to get out from under his demanding father (Frank Langella) and decline working for the family real estate empire. Katie later disappears, and David is the prime suspect while also being tied to a string of murders. David goes into hiding dressed as a woman. Aside from Barbie potentially being in danger with Gosling as Ken, it also goes to show that Ken is open to any crossdressing cosplay.
All aboard the Barbie Beach Cruiser! Ken will no doubt be behind the wheel of a hot pink Jeep in “Barbie,” harkening back to his silk bomber jacket-clad days as a stuntman turned getaway driver.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” (2011)
Need. We. Say. More? Ken’s abs and playboy charm didn’t just come from nowhere…
“The Place Beyond the Pines” (2012)
Playing Ken wasn’t the first time Gosling debuted blond locks. The two-time Academy Award nominee transformed into a tattoo-clad, bleached blond motorcycle stunt driver carny named Luke, who falls for a local woman (Eva Mendes) and turns to robbing banks to support his growing family. Beyond just the blond ‘do, “The Place Beyond the Pines” also introduced Gosling to his real-life biggest fan in longtime partner Mendes, who already has laid her claim to Ken’s boxer briefs.
“Only God Forgives” (2013)
Gosling teamed up again with “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn for “Only God Forgives,” a neon-tinted, Bangkok-set exploration into Oedipal complexes and drug smugglers with existential crises. Gosling stars as Julian, who is dead set on finding his brother’s killer at the urging of his seductive mother. God may forgive, but will the “Barbie” god equivalent Mattel be as understanding if Ken steps out of line, or enter the sorrowful real world?
“The Nice Guys” (2016)
Set in 1970s Los Angeles, Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys” follows two private investigators, played by Gosling and Russell Crowe, who work together to find a missing girl and solve the murder of an adult film star. The now viral footage of “Barbie” being filmed in L.A., you know, the one with Gosling and Robbie rollerblading in neon bodysuits, similarly touches on a #MeToo moment with Barbie slapping a passerby who smacks her behind. No more Mr. Nice Guy (or girl) for the Barbie and Ken duo. Plus, they will probably have to solve how to return to Barbie Land after unwittingly entering the real world…
“La La Land” (2016)
Speaking of escaping, “La La Land” reminds us that the City of Angels is most comparable to a Barbie Dream World after all. Gosling starred as Sebastian, a jazz musician who falls in love with budding actress Mia (Emma Stone). As their romance ebbs and flows, the pair sing, dance, and forge their respective careers in L.A. Gosling’s Oscar nominated triple threat talent will certainly be put to use in “Barbie” with a few rumored musical numbers ahead. And writer-director Damian Chazelle’s follow up “Babylon” stars Gosling’s “Barbie” co-star Robbie. It’s a small world after all.
“Blade Runner 2049” (2017)
“K” aka Gosling is as much a doll as any: He is a replicant in a futuristic world, set out to hunt down other illegal models (dolls?) like himself. But Gosling’s character K may be half human, half robot, predating Ken’s stark awakening that he too is a doll. Will Ken similarly have an existential quest to meet his maker, Mattel?
“First Man” (2018)
Sure, Gosling plays real-life astronaut Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle’s “First Man.” But at its essence, the film is about one person doing the unthinkable and reaching the unknown, much like Ken escaping Barbie Land and voyaging into the real world. Gosling is also the “First Man” to play Ken in a live-action feature film. Dare we say Gosling’s Ken and Robbie’s Barbie are our Adam and Eve of blockbusters in 2022? It’s one small step for cinema, one giant leap for a plastic doll.
For all the details on “Barbie,” click here.