SXSW 2015: Gosling, del Toro share affinity for 'esoteric' films -- and Disneyland

On paper, they make for somewhat of an odd couple. One, an acclaimed Mexican director obsessed with science fiction; the other a hunky movie star from Canada who has served as the inspiration for embarrassing memes.

But Guillermo del Toro and Ryan Gosling have more in common than you might think. First, they’re both obsessed with Disneyland. Paparazzi spotted them there last month, gleefully steering the theme park’s “Cars” ride.

“We are united by a very strange love of Disneyland,” Del Toro acknowledged at the South by Southwest film festival on Friday, where he moderated a discussion with Gosling about the actor’s directorial debut.

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But they also share the same “esoteric” taste in film: “We love some twisted, weird, strange stuff,” the director said.

According to critics who first saw Gosling’s film, “Lost River,” at Cannes last May, his movie is definitely bizarre. The movie -- which will play in the U.S. for the first time in Austin on Saturday -- follows a single mother (Christina Hendricks) trying to hold it together in her economically depressed neighborhood. While her son (newcomer Iain De Caestecker) starts stealing to make ends meet, she takes a gig at a nightclub where her moral boundaries are tested.

Even though reviews out of Cannes were brutal, Del Toro is clearly a fan of the film and spoke passionately about its merits on Friday.

“I admire the movie,” he said. “I consider it a great movie -- but an even more extraordinary first movie.”

Dozens of fans were turned away from the packed conversation at the Austin Convention Center, where the two filmmakers were in conversation for about an hour. Del Toro stuck mostly to “Lost River,” but also spent time ribbing Gosling about his public persona, repeatedly bringing up the popular "Hey Girl" meme.

“Have you ever said that?” Del Toro asked.

“I’ve never said it,” Gosling insisted, obviously embarrassed. “I understand if you’re in a movie and say something like ‘I’ll be back.’ Then you gotta own it. But I never said this. I only heard about it because some guy on the street came up to me and said, ‘Hey girl.’”

“Someone recorded that now,” Del Toro kidded, “and now that’s the meme.”

And then Gosling literally dropped his microphone.

Del Toro has earned his right to give Gosling grief, as the pair said their friendship goes back to well before Gosling even began filming “Lost River.” When the movie started to come together, the 34-year-old met with Del Toro, 50, to show off images he’d taken in Detroit for inspiration. Del Toro responded to the photos as well as the fact that a “guy with an actor trajectory” was deciding not to make a movie that was obviously “commercial and sellable.”

“I felt like the wizard had given me my sword and my shield and let me go off on my quest,” Gosling said of Del Toro’s motivation.

In writing the film, Gosling said he drew inspiration from his experience growing up with a single mother in Canada, where all men felt like “wolves” to him.

“I remember walking with my mother, and guys would whistle at her and cars would circle and it was very predatory,” he recalled. “Especially when you’re a young kid and you feel like if something went sideways you couldn’t do anything about it.”

The idea of having an underwater city in “Lost River” also came from Gosling’s childhood. When he was a boy, he said, he found out that a river he lived near had been man-made and contained sunken towns within it.

“It scared the … out of me,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I had been swimming and there may have been a roof or a streetlight. I didn’t even want to take a bath if that’s where the water was coming from. I forgot about that, and when I saw where I wanted to film -- not to make a cheesy metaphor -- but that memory flooded in.”

Though he has no plans to abandon acting -- he just wrapped the 1970s crime flick “Nice Guys” with Russell Crowe -- it doesn’t appear bad reviews have scared Gosling off of directing.

“But you do more acting as a director than you do as an actor,” he acknowledged. “Cause we’re always acting confident, even if everything’s going south.”

So, Del Toro asked, would he do it again?

“Yeah, goddamnit.”

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