BEVERLY HILLS, California — If you think you know Ryan Gosling, think again.
The first thing you'll notice about Gosling when you see him in "Fracture," the twisting crime drama that casts him as a lawyer prosecuting unrepentant murderer Anthony Hopkins, is that the 26-year-old star has charisma to spare. Working a room like a character Cary Grant never got to play, his Willy Beachum wields small talk, jelly beans and a roguish grin as weapons for climbing the business ladder. It's yet another side of the star we've never before seen, and Gosling uses it as the jumping-off point for the well-plotted tale of a fast-rising attorney flirting with the dark side.
Clearly proud of the fact that he has plenty of tricks still hidden up his thespian sleeve, the guarded Gosling spoke with us about staring down Hannibal Lecter, out Clooney-ing George, and how you'll never know why he recently spent several weeks living in a tent.
MTV: Ryan, we've seen you as a psycho skinhead, as a sensitive guy in love, but the one thing we haven't seen you play ...
Ryan Gosling: [He laughs.] ... is a psycho skinhead in love.
MTV: ... is a smooth, outgoing guy. Usually, Hollywood sticks young leading men in lots of roles like that. So why is "Fracture" the first time we've seen you play a character like this?
Gosling: Well, I don't know how smooth this guy is, but he's certainly a different character.
MTV: At the beginning of the movie, he's a cocky guy on the fast track to the top of his profession. And that self-assurance is his weakness.
Gosling: Oh yeah. I liked him because he's supposed to be the good guy, but he's really not that good. He's a narcissistic, selfish, cocky guy, and he's OK with it — just as long as he doesn't officially become a bad guy. In this movie, he's presented with this situation: If he lets this woman die for a promotion, he's going to be someone he doesn't want to be. So he reluctantly [takes on the case], and every time he has to do the right thing, it's a pain in the ass. I thought that was interesting.
MTV: Is there a reason we've never seen you in the outgoing, leading-man roles we're used to seeing a George Clooney or Matthew McConaughey in?
Gosling: It's a challenge. It was definitely one of the reasons why I took [on "Fracture"], because it's a role I never played before. It was going to be difficult and have me develop new tools to tackle a character like that, especially when it's so well-explored.
MTV: In the past, you've called Anthony Hopkins your acting hero. What is it about his style that you see along the same lines as your own?
Gosling: Well, I wouldn't compare us. He's the greatest — he's done everything. He is the master of his craft. For someone like me, who is young and just getting started, it's important to work with the masters — and there are only a few. It really was a big opportunity to work with him.
MTV: According to Hopkins, this is only the second straightforward "bad-guy" role he's ever taken on. But he's so good at creating morally conflicted characters.
Gosling: Yeah, that's a sign of how great he is. Everyone thinks that all he plays [is villains], but he only did it once before this.
MTV: You and Hopkins have a lot of intense, toe-to-toe confrontations in this movie. Was it intimidating going up against the man who created one of the scariest villains in movie history?
Gosling: Well, first of all, I think he created a character here that is completely different than Hannibal Lecter. He based it on a guy he used to know — a scary character — he told me a story about him, and when I saw him on set, he was that guy. [He laughs.] That was really scary.
MTV: You were dying to work with him. So now, what will you remember about him?
Gosling: Working with him was fascinating — he's constantly creating. He's a painter, he's a writer, he's a director, he's a composer — he's a great actor. He just never stops.
MTV: You've been known to go to some great lengths yourself for your art. There's a rumor out there that when they were trying to track you down for "Fracture," you were living in a tent. Why?
Gosling: [He laughs.] It's a really long story. But it's true. I spent a bit of time in a tent, and I read the script in there.
Check out everything we've got on "Fracture." Visit Movies on MTV.com for more from Hollywood, including news, reviews, interviews and more. Want trailers? Visit the Trailer Park for the newest, scariest and funniest coming attractions anywhere.