Aspiring Canadian actor Ryan Gosling auditions at an open call in Montreal for the revival of Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club. He wins a two-year spot, moves to Orlando, and dances backup for Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake (left). "Christina had the same voice then as she does now. Nothing I was doing was on that level," he recalls to Entertainment Weekly. "But I had the greatest two years ever. I walked around...riding Space Mountain and puking my brains out. It was awesome." When the show is cancelled, he returns home to Ontario.
At 17, Gosling drops out of school and moves to L.A. He quickly lands an agent and the title role of the short-lived Fox series Young Hercules (right). "Initially, I did the series because it was fun," he tells the Vancouver Sun in 2002. "But then I started to care too much about it, and it wasn't fun any more...I wanted to do films, have more time to sit with a character and to try to play different characters. So I just said, 'No more television.'"
After making his feature debut with Denzel Washington and Hayden Panettiere in Disney's Remember the Titans, Gosling earns critical praise for portraying a Jewish neo-Nazi leader in The Believer (left). The film wins the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, yet is barely distributed in theaters because of its violent nature. "Things changed for me," he tells the New York Times. "I felt I had a place I could put the things I had inside of me into."
Gosling scores a mild box office success – $32 million – starring as one half of the teen-prodigy, serial-killing duo in the psychological thriller Murder by Numbers. Sandra Bullock (right) plays the detective hot on his trail onscreen. Off screen, with 16 years between them, the costars date for over a year.
Gosling stars in the film adaptation of the Nicholas Spark's novel The Notebook with Rachel McAdams. The lost-and-found love story captivates audiences, making $115 million worldwide. Gosling's catapulted into hot, leading-man status. "I just think: he's 23, he might as well be 63 years old," the film's director Nick Cassavetes tells the New York Times. "He's like one of those freaks, he kind of gets it. He's honest, that's really what you want out of an actor."
Gosling and The Notebook costar Rachel McAdams win the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss. Their reenactment of the kiss on stage (right) solidifies their status as a real-life couple. They both shun Hollywood's spotlight and keep quiet about their relationship. However, McAdams does tells Elle: "He's very brave. I don't think he sees the point [in making a movie] unless he can find out what he's made of every time. He just doesn't back off."
Despite achieving commercial success with The Notebook, Gosling opts to play a drug-addicted, junior high school teacher in the controversial drama Half Nelson. With only an estimated $1 million budget, the film earns rave reviews and a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the 26-year-old. While favorite Forest Whitaker takes home the award, Gosling wins the Film Independent Spirit Award and jokes, "Forest asked me to win for him tonight. He said he's exhausted."
Gosling stars opposite Anthony Hopkins in the murder thriller Fracture, which grosses $39 million at the box office. He plays a L.A. district attorney whose career depends on convicting Hopkins for the perfect murder of his adulterous wife. "I'd have to remind myself, 'You have a character to play. Stop watching him,'" Gosling tells EW. "I was trying to take apart how Anthony does it, trying to dismantle his talent and understand it. And I never could."
After months of "are they or aren't they," the usually quiet actor confirms the end of his two-year relationship with McAdams to GQ. Gosling talks about the public's reaction to the split ("A girl came up to me on the street and she almost smacked me"), but says little about the actual breakup: "The only thing I remember is we both went down swingin' and we called it a draw."
Gosling packs on the pounds and keeps the facial hair for Lars and the Real Girl, an oddball love story about one man's emotional relationship with a doll. "People will laugh when they hear the plot," Gosling tells the Denver Post. "But I want to go on record as saying it's even more romantic than The Notebook." Despite its critical praise at the Toronto Film Festival, the movie is released in limited theaters and earns less than a million dollars its opening weekend.
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