After a spate of steely roles, from getaway driver to gangster hunter, Ryan Gosling is ready to show his softer side in a classic Hollywood biopic — and heading back to the halcyon days of classic Hollywood to do it.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gosling is set to produce and most likely star in a film about the life of Busby Berkeley, the iconic choreographer from the golden age of cinema.
And if you’re scratching your head right now and saying, “Good for Ryan Gosling, but what the hell is a Busby Berkeley?” don’t you fret: we’ve got the essential skinny on the Depression-era icon, and why he’s so interesting to your favorite A-list dreamboat.
After a stint as a field artillery lieutenant during World War I, Berkeley returned to his family roots in showbiz and became famous for choreographing elaborate, massive, and militaristic dance numbers for the outsized musical movies of the 1930s and 40s.
His specialty: using an overhead camera to create a kaleidoscopic effect as the dancers moved their limbs and changed formation, a technique which he pioneered and that’s still being used today.
Zac Efron Owes Busby, Big Time
As does the entire cast of “Glee,” for that matter. Without Berkeley to lead the way, “High School Musical” hero Troy Bolton would never have gotten his head in the game to the thud of rhythmic dribbling — and even more horrifying, Will and Emma would have had to get engaged without the benefit of an Esther Williams-style synchro swim to set the romantic mood.
Busby’s Legacy Is Everywhere
Miss Piggy and her pool full of chorus girls? Thank you, Busby. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” acid trip fantasy featuring singing, dancing dishware? All about the Busby. And let us not forget that without Busby, the best scene ever from “The Big Lebowski” would never have come to pass.
Four Words: Drama Queen Ladies’ Man
Busby Berkeley’s relationship with women — both theoretically and in personal practice — was anything but uneventful. In addition to being married six times (six! times!), Berkeley’s penchant for lovingly panning the camera beneath the crotches of his chorus girls revealed, er, a particular breed of attitude toward those of the female persuasion.
He also butted heads with more than one megastar, most notably Judy Garland in the 1943 film “Girl Crazy.” Their conflict was so intense that he was ultimately ejected from the production — but not before he shot the incredible finale number, “I’ve Got Rhythm,” featuring a cowboy orchestra, a horde of tap-dancing pioneer women, and an emaciated, crazy-eyed Garland, who was going through a nasty divorce and battling addiction to amphetamines during the film.
In short: old-school Hollywood scandal, elaborate surrealist dance numbers, copious grody womanizing, and an enduring legacy nearly a century old! It’s no surprise that Ryan Gosling is aching to tell this story, or to play its starring role.