Ryan Gosling: What Makes The Star Who Has Driven Fans To Obsession Tick?

01/11/2013 at 10:00 AM EST

Ryan Gosling in PEOPLE: Inside the Obsession
Ryan Gosling
Hey girl, sometimes dreams do come true.

Last fall, officials at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin hoped to entice Ryan Gosling to attend a charity fundraiser by posting an open invitation in the form of the flirty "Hey Girl" Internet meme that riffs on his don't-you-wish-he-was-your-hipster-boyfriend reputation.

The day of the event, Gosling shocked organizers by turning up – with Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbender, his costars in the untitled Terrence Malick film shooting in town.

Gosling happily mingled, took photos with a long line of excited parents and kids, and at one point, he "paid $50 for a $1 glow-in-the-dark cotton candy," says Anne Adams, executive director of the school's foundation. "He insisted on learning the sign for please and thank you so he could properly show his appreciation to the child. He deserves every one of those 'hey girls!' "





And so the perennial Sexiest Man Alive-in-Waiting (hmm, someone should get on that) continues to perfect the art of Being Ryan Gosling. In the past year, the 32-year-old actor cheered on his mom at her college graduation, doted on his dog George and homeless pups at an Austin pet rescue group, honed his blogworthy biceps via Muay Thai kickboxing, and worked on four films, including the new thriller Gangster Squad.

But the guy who makes both double-breasted suits and tank tops look cool still struggles to wear the sex symbol thing lightly.

"You just try not to think about it, and you take advantage of the fact that you have these opportunities that you can control – who you work with and what you make," Gosling told PEOPLE at the Jan. 7 Gangster Squad premiere in Los Angeles.

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