From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Given that in the past year alone Ryan Gosling has portrayed everything from a getaway driver with a murderous streak to a lovesick playboy, it's not surprising that the man himself has as many personalities as starring roles. There's Urban Cool Ryan, the downtown Manhattanite who smoothly turns heads walking his dog George and breaks up the occasional street fight. There's Quirky L.A. Ryan, who wears boots to his tap-dancing lessons and recorded an album with his self-described "spooky doo-wop" band Dead Man's Bones. There's Kid-at-Heart Ryan, the former Mouseketeer who's obsessed with ghost stories, Disneyland and the Shel Silverstein children's fable The Giving Tree. And then there's Dreamy Boyfriend Ryan, the gentleman who treats Eva Mendes, his girlfriend of almost five months, to moonlit walks in Paris and bagels at New York City's venerable Katz's Deli. "Ryan is an incredibly sweet boyfriend," says a source who knows him well. "He has such good manners." It doesn't hurt that the 31-year-old Canadian-bred actor also loves kids, adores his mom and "makes you laugh all day," says Carey Mulligan, his costar in last fall's sleeper hit Drive. "People love him."

These days, though, Gosling only has eyes for Mendes, 37, whom he met last summer on the set of their upcoming drama The Place Beyond the Pines. "Ryan loves that Eva isn't prissy," says the close source. "She's like a dude. Guys die over her." In a clear sign of how seriously things have progressed between the pair, Gosling recently opted to ring in the New Year with Mendes and his other leading lady, mom Donna, with all three catching a movie together. Both stars were raised by single moms and, just like Mendes, Ryan is "very close to his mom," says the source. "It's important that his girlfriends get along with her."

Not only has Mendes passed the critical "mom test" but she's also game to share some of her boyfriend's more eccentric interests. In November Gosling flew to Paris to join Mendes, who was working on the indie film Holly Motors, and the pair turned the city's cemeteries and catacombs into a lover's paradise. "She is incredibly beautiful and obviously likes him," says an observer who saw them at the famed Pere Lachaise cemetery. "They laugh together and share some weird fascination for the macabre. It's a good fit." But it's not all gravestones and grand gestures-like the single rose Gosling bought Mendes at the Eiffel Tower. Gosling and Mendes first bonded over beer and bowling last August on the Schenectady, N.Y., set of Pines. "You could tell they were smitten," says Blaise Lawyer, a manager at Boulevard Bowl in Schenectady. When Mendes scored a series of strikes, "Ryan high-fived her," he says. "They were flirting."

Intensely curious and surprisingly sentimental, Gosling-who has dated Sandra Bullock, Rachel McAdams and Blake Lively (see box)-"likes interesting girls," says his friend. Mendes, who was born in Miami and raised in the L.A. suburbs, broke out in 2001's Training Day and flaunted her curves in seductive Calvin Klein ads. She ended a nine-year relationship with music producer George Augusto in '11 and stepped out briefly with Jason Sudeikis before falling for Gosling. "She's ambitious," says public-relations manager Steve Valentine, for whom Mendes worked as an assistant in the early '90s. "Whatever she wants, she goes after it and gets it."

While Mendes was desk-side, Gosling was cracking one-liners on The Mickey Mouse Club alongside future stars Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. "He wasn't one of the cool kids," says a source who knew him then. "All the girls ignored him because he was a dweeb."

He's come a long way since then, evolving into a formidable actor who scored his first Oscar nod at age 26. (He has two Golden Globe noms this year, for Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Ides of March.) Still, he proudly maintains his inner child. "Sometimes I think that the one thing I love most about being an adult," he told Esquire, "is the right to buy candy whenever and wherever you want."

Currently at work in L.A. on the action film Only God Forgives, eventually, Gosling has said, he'd like to add doting dad to his repertoire. "I'll make movies until I make babies," he told Britain's The Times in September. (Mendes herself has expressed ambivalence about having kids.) For now, though, he seems content to enjoy his role as Eva's boyfriend. "She's very independent, and Ryan is too," says the friend. "Things are going really well."

  • Contributors:
  • Aili Nahas/Los Angeles,
  • Jennifer Garcia/Los Angeles,
  • Sara Hammel/Los Angeles,
  • Peter Mikelbank/Paris,
  • K.C. Baker/New York,
  • Alicia Dennis/Austin.