Is Ryan Gosling turning into George Clooney?
That question is, in many ways, a compliment. Who wouldn't want to be like Clooney, esteemed as an actor, loved by the ladies. Plus Gosling breaks up fights on random street corners.
But there's a less favorable Clooney trait that Gosling seems to be emulating lately.
As Hollywood wisdom has long had it, Clooney is an A-list star (and often a critics' favorite) but rarely a box-office draw. The last five movies in which he had a lead part have included only one hit ("Up in the Air"), one decent performer ("Michael Clayton") and three disappointments ("The American," "The Men Who Stare at Goats," "Leatherheads").
With a middling opening weekend for "Drive"--the dark crime drama took in $11 million on nearly 3,000 screens this weekend--it's fair to start asking if Gosling is walking down the same path.
Gosling began his mainstream career with a bang in 2004, turning a humble romantic drama, "The Notebook," into a female-driven sensation. But his last five movies follow a similar trajectory to Clooney's. Those films have included a hit ("Crazy, Stupid, Love"), two well-reviewed but modest performers ("Blue Valentine" and "Lars and the Real Girl") and two disappointments ("Fracture," "All Good Things").
These examples have to be taken in context, of course. Many of the films fit a decidedly indie profile and don't get the marketing support a Clooney picture might. And Gosling is known for taking on roles that aren't exactly commercially accessible. (To be fair to Clooney, he's also sought out challenging parts; that's one of the perks of being a star in the first place.)
Still, it's notable that even combining celebrity and acting talent --as Gosling and Clooney both do--doesn't necessarily add up to commercial success. We love seeing and hearing from actors like them, but we've yet to demonstrate we'll pay with any regularity to watch their work.
Next month will bring a rare experiment. Clooney and Gosling will each seek to open a movie-- the same movie, in fact, the political drama "The Ides of March." The film raises plenty of interesting questions about the American public's appetite for a story that could already seem familiar from cable news. But Hollywood will be asking an equally tantalizing question: Is the actors' drawing power any stronger together than it is apart?
Photo: Ryan Gosling at the premiere for "Drive" at the Toronto Film Festival. Credit: Fred Thornhill/Reuters