Ryan Gosling‘s charmingly dim performance as Ken in Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” was one of the most unexpected cinematic delights of 2023. His take on the horse-loving doll who is desperate for Barbie’s attention has turned Gosling into a frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actor race. But while the actor might appreciate the absurdity of winning an Oscar for playing an unappreciated toy, he’s not mincing words about how difficult it was to get his arms around the character.
In a new interview with W Magazine, Gosling recalled his initial reactions to the prospect of playing Barbie’s universally ignored sidekick. He explained that he was drawn to the idea of taking on such an unexplored character, but understood that crafting a memorable take on the Ken doll would be one of the biggest artistic challenges of his career.
“It was the title page of the script, which said ‘Barbie and Ken,’ but ‘and Ken’ was scratched out,” Gosling said when asked about his first impressions of the character. “And the next impression was, this is the hardest part I’ll ever play. How do you approach playing a 70-year-old crotchless doll? There’s no research you can do for that. There’s no one you can shadow, no documentaries you can watch, no books written about Ken. You’re on your own.”
While the lack of established mythology about Ken provided its own set of challenges, it also gave Gosling the freedom to make the part his own. Prior to the film‘s release, Gosling laughed off fans who claimed he was too old to play the role. His reasoning was that since nobody had ever cared about the character before, there was no reason to start now.
“It is funny, this kind of clutching-your-pearls idea of, like, #notmyken. Like you ever thought about Ken before this?” Gosling said in a May 2023 interview with GQ. “And everyone was fine with that, for him to have a job that is nothing. But suddenly, it’s like, ‘No, we’ve cared about Ken this whole time.’ No, you didn’t. You never did. You never cared. Barbie never fucked with Ken. That’s the point.”