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Ryan Gosling turns tough guy for thriller "Drive"

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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ryan Gosling may be one of Hollywood's hottest leading men and a heartthrob at that, but he doesn't shy away from tough-guy violence. In fact, he finds it suits him sometimes as in his newest film, "Drive."

In the film that opens in theaters on Friday, Gosling plays a Hollywood stuntman who becomes embroiled in a heist gone wrong. The high-octane thriller also has a John Hughes-inspired, sentimental young romance between Gosling and his co-star, Carey Mulligan.

"I always wanted to make a violent John Hughes movie. I love John Hughes movies, I love "Pretty in Pink" but I always thought if there were head-smashing in it, it'd be the perfect movie," Gosling told Reuters.

The 30 year-old actor was nominated for an Oscar in 2007's "Half Nelson" playing a drug-addicted school teacher, and he has won over critics, fans and Hollywood players with performances in a wide range of independent film dramas such as "Blue Valentine" and "Lars and the Real Girl."

Yet, Gosling said it was hard finding a filmmaker with a shared vision for the romantic thriller "Drive," until he ran into Dutch director Nicolas Winding Refn whose credits include the "Pusher" crime dramas and "Bronson," about prisoner who assumes the personality of movie action hero Charles Bronson.

In "Drive," Refn avoids Hollywood glitz and portrays a dark side to the City of Angels in this thriller.

"I saw Nicholas' work and I knew that he would have the same sensibility," said Gosling.

DRIVEN TO LOVE

Gosling's character, known simply as the mysterious 'Driver,' is a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver for anyone who wants to hire his driving services and his intricate knowledge of Los Angeles' back streets.

Leading a largely transient and solitary life, the Driver finds himself drawn to his neighbor Irene (played by Carey Mulligan), a mother-of-one whose husband is in prison.

When Irene's husband Standard (played by Oscar Isaac) is released from jail, the Driver decides to help ex-con clear his debts. But events take a wrong turn and the Driver finds himself in danger.

Throughout "Drive," Gosling conveys most of his character's feelings and emotions through pensive gazes, as his character is given very little dialogue.

"I don't think you need all this talking in movies. Sometimes it's easier to get the point across if you're not saying something," said Gosling. "For me anyway, it (dialogue) gets in the way. so it was a real relief to just take that out, and people can just watch it and make their own assessments of what they think the characters are going through."

The film premiered at the Cannes film festival in May where Refn was named best director, and critics have so far been favorable. The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy calls Gosling's performance a "bid to enter the iconic ranks of tough, self-possessed American screen actors -- Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin."

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)