Ryan Gosling stars in the title role as Leland, an introverted teen who murders his girlfriend's mentally disabled younger brother. What makes this film unique is its approach to the aftermath of the crime. Instead of focusing on why the crime occurred, "The United States of Leland" shows the teens involved in these criminal acts are indistinguishable from so-called normal teenagers.
INTERVIEW WITH RYAN GOSLING:
Whats the difference between playing a more internal character like this and a more outwardly evil guy like in Murder by Numbers?
He was just misunderstood.
All of them (laughing). Well, its very defined. I wanted to do it so badly because I felt like Leland was so different from the [other character] you were talking about. Its this kind of character thats not in movies very often - characters that are emotionally disconnected for the whole film so its a tricky thing to tap in to. I felt he was kind of interesting. It felt realistic.
How do you create an emotional arc for a character thats emotionally detached?
You know when you watch a movie and its not happening to you but you can still get invested in it? Feel emotional about it? Youre right there with them? It felt like thats what Leland was doing, but the movie was his life. You couldnt see him in the theater watching him doing that but he was in there somewhere doing that. It was important that he not try and communicate that to the audience because that didnt feel very natural. He was cut off.
Is that how you came up with the idiosyncrasy of Lelands bottom lip?
All of those things came from different places. It was real kind of a windy road to get to where we got to eventually. Basically you read the thing [and] the script was so good - I thought [it was] powerful. Theres a definite spirit there on the character, but you have to put a body on it. You have to give that body taste and clothes and how he holds himself. That person has to have a style. All of those things come out at that time.
What kind of research did you do on the juvenile system?
We went to a juvenile detention center where Matthew Hoge [the director] was a teacher. We sat in his [old class and] we judged a Christmas Talent Show there. [The inmates were] in their orange outfits, which meant they were murderers, and they kind of perform and dance and do poetry and stuff. We got a pretty intimate look at them. We had one-on-ones. But Matt, having worked there, was an authenticity to the script and we didnt have to challenge it at all. Thats just the way that it is.
How difficult has it been to find these complex roles?
Its very, very difficult. Its nice to have an opportunity to actually do them. Sometimes you have to do movies [where] youre maybe not crazy about the movie but theres something in that character you need to learn from as an actor. Its tricky and I guess you have to approach it that way as an actor. Youll never progress. Youd need to be a filmmaker to think that way. For me, I just take the character and be as honest as I can with that character. Whatever the movie is, it is. I cant control it.
Is it weird your personal life is now news?
My personal life is just that, personal. It feels very bizarre but I certainly havent experienced it. The bottom line is well finish this interview and Ill go get coffee and nobody will bat an eye. Im very fortunate in that respect right now. It helps me to do my job. The more you know about somebody I think people ruin it for themselves, you know? The audiences who want to know so much about actors they end up ruining that actors future movies because they know too much about them.
How does it feel to be ShoWests Male Star of Tomorrow?
Its very unexpected and it was very nice. Its a prediction at best.
Who are your mentors?
Well, I would say Henry Bean, the writer of The Believer. Hes kind of gift-wrapped me a career. Its the kind of movie that anyone could have done and it would have been what it is, so the opportunity to do a film like that has given me the opportunity to do the kind of films I do now.
Do you have a career goal?
To be a star! [laughter] No. Look, Ive been very fortunate so far. Ive been able to do the movies I want and I get to have a personal life. I have an ideal situation at the moment. My goal is to make a couple more movies, maintain this kind of pace and not let movies become the most important part of my life.
Interviews with Chris Klein & Jena Malone / Kevin Spacey & Matthew Hoge
"The United States of Leland" Photo Gallery
"The United States of Leland" Movie News, Credits, and Websites