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Opportunity knocks constantly at actor’s door

From ‘problem child,’ to Oscar nominee, he’s made big leaps

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Opportunity, it appears, is Ryan Gosling's favorite word.

Understandable; he's had a lot of it.

From being a kid who couldn't stay in school to a 'tween-age stint on "The Mickey Mouse Club," to gaining an Oscar nomination for his performance in "Half-Nelson," the 26-year-old Canadian knows how to latch on to a good prospect. (He's dating another hot young Ontarian, Rachel McAdams, from his popular love story "The Notebook.") But Gosling won't do anything to get ahead, as his eclectic resume of mostly low-budget, indie film roles attests.

"Fracture," which opened Friday, is one of Gosling's better-financed productions. In it, he plays an L.A. prosecutor who thinks he's got an airtight case against a guy who murdered his wife. But the perp, played by Anthony Hopkins, proves as crafty a villain as Hannibal Lecter.

It was an opportunity Gosling couldn't pass up.

Question: How have things changed for you in the past year?

Answer: I get asked that question a lot more (he laughs). I have more opportunities than I used to. But with that comes a certain responsibility, I think, to do the most with those opportunities that you can. When you're just starting out, any opportunity you get, you take; it's your only one, it's an easy choice. When you have more of them, then you really have to think about which one is going to take you down the road that you want to go down.

Question: Did the Academy Award nomination surprise you?

Answer: I'm still surprised. I don't really understand how that happened. I mean, we didn't have much money to campaign for it.

But it was so encouraging for all of us, because it meant that you could make a movie this size and it was judged on its emotional value and not just its monetary value.

Question: And with Forest Whitaker nailing every award in sight, I guess you didn't feel the kind of pressure nominees usually do.

Answer: Yeah, absolutely. I never had to worry about having to say anything. I'd just go, collect the gift bag, enjoy the food, smile for the camera. It was easy.

Question: You play such a cocky guy in "Fracture."

Answer: Sorry about that; it's kind of annoying.

Question: Nothing to apologize for. Just wondering if you can personally relate to such a character.

Answer: I think I have good qualities in me as well as really unattractive qualities. The thing about acting is that you indulge in them. You just get to go completely into them and not be judgmental about them. In some ways, you get to exercise them and, maybe, exhaust them or something. I mean, I was sick of me by the end of this movie!

Question: You have some very powerful, scary interplay with Anthony Hopkins in the movie. Was he intimidating to work with?

Answer: Anthony hates it when you take something too seriously. And I'm the biggest victim of that; I can take myself and everything way too seriously. He will start barking like a dog, and everything he does is so good that it sounds like a dog. On "Elephant Man," he thought everyone was being so pretentious that he started meowing like a cat. But no one could tell, so for an hour he had everybody looking all over the set for a cat.

I have a lot of great stories like that. He's everything you would hope for. He's always there if you want to talk to him about anything. And he's a fascinating guy to watch, because he's constantly creating. Never stops; he's painting, writing, directing, composing.

Never stops.

Question: You wrote and want to direct your own movie about child soldiers in Africa. You've gone to the continent several times — why the interest?

Answer: I, for myself, needed to know that what I was hearing was true. It's a great thing about this job that you have the luxury to go to places like this and have access to people who have made this their life's work. These people are real heroes, and I get to learn from them and spend time with them. Then I'm also given a platform to talk about those experiences. Some people find that irritating. But if you see those things and you're given an opportunity to talk about them, you have to.

Question: Does that mean more to you than this show-business stuff?

Answer: I feel really lucky to be able to go from extreme to extreme. It helps me to find some kind of middle ground. I was in Uganda and, two days later, I was sitting at the Academy Awards. It's not about either one of them being more satisfying.

It's about giving me a kind of perspective that I feel lucky to have.

Question: Sounds like you've come a long way from when you were a kid who people thought had a learning disability.

Answer: I don't have ADD, and I don't think I had anything really specific. It just wasn't working for me. It wasn't entirely the school's fault — I was a problematic kid anyway. I was always in trouble, causing trouble. It was a combination of things.

Question: So now that things have changed, what's your next career move?

Answer: I've never been very good at doing that. I've never been able to plan even a few projects ahead, because I just don't know how I'm going to feel after the movie I just made and if I'm still going to be in that place to want to do the next one.