When it was first announced that Greta Gerwig would be directing a live-action Barbie movie, Ryan Gosling was perhaps not the first name that came to people’s minds when they thought of an actor who could play Ken. Margot Robbie playing Barbie, particularly as she is one of the producers of the film, made sense. But Gosling starring in a hyper-pink movie after all of his action star, brooding-type roles? Shocker. But also genius. And we have his daughters to thank for his role in Barbie, at least in a very small way. Because he saw the way they played with their dolls and decided he wanted to give Ken, so often the afterthought, a voice.
Gosling sat down for an interview with GQ about his upcoming role, his first since 2022’s The Gray Man, as the ever affable, empty-headed Ken. A doll whose entire job has been “Beach,” as he points out, and who never thought to question his own existence until his girlfriend Barbie decided to leave Barbie Land. The role is a real departure for Gosling, and it was one he chose in part because he liked the idea of working with a cast of women in a female-driven movie. Also in part because his daughters, 6-year-old Amada and 7-year-old Esmerelda, both of whom he shares with partner Eva Mendes, were less than kind to their own Ken doll.
“I did see him, like, face down in the mud outside one day, next to a squished lemon and it was like, ‘This guy’s story does need to be told,’ you know?” Gosling told GQ.
And so he became Ken. A man who travels everywhere with yellow roller skates, owns a personalized jumpsuit, is a whiz at choreographed dance numbers, and comfortably identifies as “And Ken.”
Gosling’s daughters are also the reason he largely stepped away from Hollywood until last year, choosing instead to spend as much time with them as he can. He and Mendes have been staying home and raising their daughters without a nanny, although his mother came to help the couple with homeschooling during the Covid-19 lockdown, and he has been enjoying that time with them. Even if they could have been a bit kinder to Ken.
His daughters might not be showing their Ken doll loads of respect, but his partner has become a big fan of his role. Mendes has worn a Barbie t-shirt with Gosling’s face as Ken to show her support, because she clearly gets it.
Ken does need to have his story told. And thank goodness Gosling felt sympathy for his daughter’s doll face down in the mud. Because he’s just the man to do it.
Barbie premieres in theaters on July 21.