“He understood something about religion”: Ryan Gosling’s Controversial Jewish Neo-Nazi Role Was Defended by Director After Barbie Star’s Traumatic Childhood Became Public

Ryan Gosling's Controversial Jewish Neo-Nazi Role Was Defended by Director After Barbie Star's Traumatic Childhood Became Public

Ryan Gosling is an actor who has left the world star-struck with most of his on-screen portrayals. The 42-year-old talent has time and again astonished critics with his charismatic, enigmatic, and diverse character depictions. Without question, Ryan Gosling has become one of Hollywood’s most recognized faces in recent years and is someone who is associated with notions of acclaim, stardom, and glamour.

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Ryan Gosling calls himself "Creepy Cookie Guy"
Famous actor Ryan Gosling

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However, the journey to reach the stature he now enjoys has not been the easiest. Several reports and interviews allude to and detail the struggles the actor had to encounter during his formative years. According to one of the directors who’s had the pleasure of working with him, the La La Land star’s strict Mormon upbringing helped Gosling land a controversial yet critically acclaimed role that marked a huge milestone in his acting career.

Ryan Gosling’s Devastating Childhood

Ryan Gosling
Barbie star Ryan Gosling lived through a challenging past

Growing up, Ryan Gosling‘s childhood years were shaped by occurrences of bullying and experiences of loneliness alongside difficulties in learning and dealing with authority. School, as an institution, was something that the actor particularly detested. “I couldn’t read…I couldn’t absorb any of the information, so I caused trouble,” the actor once told Entertainment Weekly. The talent also had to face suspension after an incident in which he brought steak knives to school and threw them at the students.


This led to him being evaluated for ADHD. However, Gosling stated in an interview with the Evening Standard that he was never formally diagnosed with it.

The actor’s familial circumstances were equally straining. Reports claim that the star felt emotionally burdened after his parents divorced when he was only a teenager, around 13 years old. Dysfunctional household affairs may have had an impact on the actor as well since Canadian court documents revealed the grotesque reality behind the separation of Gosling’s parents and detailed accusations of domestic abuse on both ends.

Ryan Gosling in The Notebook (2004).
Ryan Gosling in The Notebook (2004).

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The actor stated the following to The Telegraph, to paint a picture of his childhood, “I was doing crazy things because I felt claustrophobic and panicky.” The environment that Gosling had to live in was suffocating. It compelled the actor into wanting to grow up quickly and lead an independent life. To quote him, “It was more that I just wanted to be a man, have a job, a real place, date girls, and get on with it.” 


Reflecting on his religious upbringing, which dictated several aspects of his family’s life, Ryan Gosling affirmed the following:

“We were brought up pretty religious. My mother admits it: She says, you were raised by a religious zealot. She’s different now, but at the time, it was a part of everything – what they ate, how they thought…”

The actor did not identify with Mormonism despite being surrounded by a family of devout Mormons. Instead, he was encouraged by his mother to find his own reality; his own truth. Despite not associating himself with the faith, the Blade Runner 2049 talent did take away significant learnings from it. Years later, Ryan Gosling would find himself landing a role in Henry Bean’s polarizing film, The Believer, owing to his Mormon background.


Ryan Gosling’s Complex Upbringing Led Director Henry Bean To Cast Him

Ryan Gosling in The Believer (2001)
Ryan Gosling in The Believer (2001)

Gosling has starred in several mesmerizing and profound endeavors. However, arguably his most controversial role (depicting a Jewish Neo-Nazi) belonged to a 2001 drama film, titled The Believer. Written and directed by Henry Bean, the rousing narrative dealt with sensitive and polarizing themes, such as anti-Semitism and extremism. The film attained several accolades and earned the leading actor praises for his electrifying performance.

In an interview, Henry Bean revealed the reason why he strayed away from casting a Jewish actor and instead, chose Ryan Gosling for the role:


“The main thing was, he [Ryan Gosling] knew what religion was. I thought, ‘I have to cast a Jewish kid,’ but I found that when I auditioned, Jewish kids didn’t know much more than anybody else. Ryan understood something about religion. Mormonism is very demanding, and it isolates you the way Judaism isolates you. And he got all that.”

On a separate occasion, it was implied that Bean thought that Ryan Gosling’s formative years possessed the complexity that made him an appealing contender as the leading actor of the 2001 film. Gosling himself stated, “Henry loves the dark horse.”

Ryan Gosling Ken
Ryan Gosling as Ken

Read also: “My parents were more Mormon than I was”: Barbie Star Ryan Gosling Was Raised by a “Religious Zealot”, Hated His Childhood


While many had several qualms about the actor’s portrayal of the contentious character, it ended up being an intense pursuit that challenged the Hollywood sensation’s acting abilities. The Gray Man alum’s career was ultimately shaped by this powerful performance, allowing him to demonstrate his talent and garner the respect of critics.

The Notebook star’s heartbreakingly tragic past brought forth experiences that were unbearable and traumatic. However, his formative years ultimately led him to recognize his passion for entertainment. Today, the actor is recognized as one of the most talented and versatile stalwarts of the Hollywood industry. And there’s simply no stopping the phenomenon that is Ryan Gosling.


Source: The Things


Written by Debdipta Bhattacharya

Debdipta Bhattacharya is a content writer at FandomWire, where she has written more than 500 articles on various topics of interest. She possesses a sincere passion for popular culture, anime, film production, and the evolving world of YouTube and streaming culture which has allowed her to be a devoted and well-informed writer. Debdipta holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. She has honed her skills and expertise in content writing with over two years of experience and strives to learn and grow daily.