Gosling, who recently signed up to direct his first feature film, the dark fantasy How to Catch a Monster, said in an interview with Associated Press that he needed to step away from his current profession for the sake of his own artistic equilibrium. "I've lost perspective on what I'm doing," he said. "I think it's good for me to take a break and reassess why I'm doing it and how I'm doing it. And I think this is probably a good way to learn about that. I need a break from myself as much as I imagine the audience does."
The news will presumably go down poorly with cinemagoers, for whom Gosling has become a much-loved cult figure. The former child star has appeared in six films in the past three years and has the Derek "Blue Valentine" Cianfrance crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines and the Nicolas Winding Refn thriller Only God Forgives still to come in 2013. Known for playing offbeat, anti-macho characters and taking supporting roles, Gosling hinted at an increasing discomfort with being asked to appear centre stage. "There's a lot of pressure to be the lead of a film," he said. "I have done it. It's not my favourite way to work." He added, cryptically: "The more opportunities I'm given, the more I learn about how easy it is to (expletive) it up. You fight for freedom and then you get it, and then you have enough rope to hang yourself. It's like trying to exercise some restraint, because I do have so much freedom."
Beyond his next two films, fans of the on-screen Gosling will have an untitled Terrence Malick drama set against the backdrop of the Austin, Texas music scene to look forward to, with the enviable cast of Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Benicio del Toro and Michael Fassbender.
The 32-year-old actor is hardly the first well-known Hollywood figure to announce a break from acting. Three-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix trumpeted his retirement to embark on a rap career four years ago in what turned out to be a performance-art hoax as part of preparations for the Casey Affleck-directed mockumentary I'm Still Here. He was back in front of the camera last year for a critically acclaimed role as a troubled second-world-war veteran in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master.
Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss also declared he was quitting the film business in 2004. The actor, then 56, told Radio Times: "I want to do something else. I'll only live once and I am 10 years out of the hospital or retirement home." Since then, Dreyfuss has appeared in five movies including the Oliver Stone George W Bush biopic W, in which he played Dick Cheney, as well as a number of TV dramas and mini-series.
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