Interview: Ryan Gosling on Greta Gerwig, Barbie and timeless style as he partners with TAG Heuer
As luxury watch brand TAG Heuer celebrates 60 years of the iconic Carrera, actor Ryan Gosling tells Tempus why creative collaboration is his ultimate goal
The night has just begun in London, and Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer – along with special guest actor Ryan Gosling – is hosting the premiere of its brand-new campaign to celebrate 60 years of its iconic Carrera timepiece. Soho’s Outernet entertainment district has been transformed into a vintage theatre space, where champagne flows freely as guests sway to a live band performing a pitch-perfect rendition of Billy Ocean’s ‘Red Light Means Danger’. The curtains draw back to reveal an impressive cinema screen, and The Chase for Carrera begins.
The TAG Heuer Carrera was first launched in 1963 and named for the short-lived Carrera Panamerica rally – the most dangerous racing event in the world. It was an instant hit with motoring enthusiasts and collectors alike, thanks to its sleek design and high legibility. An icon of cool, the new 2023 Carrera Chronograph pays clear homage to its design roots, with functionality and legibility still the driving concepts behind the anniversary update.
“There’s a straight line of design from 1963 to today. We’ve really distilled down what makes the Carrera special,” says TAG Heuer’s heritage director Nicholas Biebuyck.
But the next-generation Carrera collection – which includes a range of Dates in vibrant dial colours and a Chronograph Tourbillon, powered by the brand’s powerful Calibre TH20-00 or the TH20-09 movement for the tourbillon– isn’t the only evolution for the brand. To mark the milestone, TAG Heuer partnered with Golden Globe-winning actor Ryan Gosling on a short action-comedy film, The Chase for Carrera.
TAG Heuer CEO Frédéric Arnault says: “The movie we’re launching with Ryan is exceptional; a first in the luxury industry,” he says. “It is a brand statement for us but it’s also a proper Ryan Gosling movie, with real cinematographic quality, and helmed by one of the best directors out there.”
In the film – which Ryan helped to create – the actor plays himself, on the set of a TAG Heuer Carrera commercial directed by David Leitch. The pair shot the film in Sydney during a short break from filming their upcoming movie, The Fall Guy. It’s all very meta – until Ryan embarks on a high-speed car chase in an attempt to keep his favourite watch, pursued by his prop master Tammy, played by Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer.
“There are a lot of Easter eggs relating to the history of the Carrera in the movie,” Ryan tells us just hours before the premiere. The actor first became an ambassador for TAG Heuer in 2022, but his first brush with the Carrera was 12 years earlier, while filming his breakout blockbuster, Drive (2011).
“In my film Drive, I wanted a watch that I could put on the steering wheel – so that it suggested the character only trusted his own watch, since time was of the essence in his job,” he says. “I learnt that that was something that Jack Heuer had done too, not quite put it on the steering wheel, but using his own timepiece during races because it was the only one that he trusted. That, for me, was an unexpected connection.”
Since his breakout role, Ryan has wowed fans in the likes of La La Land (2016), Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and in teasers for the much-anticipated Barbie (released 21 July), as well as becoming father to daughters Esmerelda, eight, and seven-year-old Amada, with partner, actor Eva Mendes.
Here, Ryan tells Tempus about collaboration, innovation and the importance of personal style…
Ryan, in The Chase for Carrera we see you literally racing towards your goals – on and off set. What drives you in this way?
That [ethos] is one of the reasons why I wanted to work with TAG Heuer. When it became an opportunity for me, it was the right time. Because I have kids now, I think about time differently. I’m just more aware of the time that we have together. It’s nice, I think, to have a physical reminder of that, because there are so many things trying to take your time. All of that is a way to try and be reminded of the present and embrace the future.
What it was like to have creative input in a campaign like this?
[TAG Heuer] is so versatile, and they’ve found a way to have each one of our campaigns mirror the tone and aesthetic of every film that I’ve been working on when the campaign comes around. They’re all very different from each other, and this one’s the most ambitious yet.
I was shooting an action-comedy in Sydney when there was time to film this campaign. [TAG Heuer] completely embraced the idea of making this campaign match that [action-comedy] tone. And because David Leitch and I were making a movie about making a movie, it made sense to have this be a commercial about making a commercial. So, we were able to apply the same sensibility and strategy that we were on our film to this. It all felt very organic and effortless.
Frédéric told us to ask you about the humour within the campaign. Was having a comedic tone important?
Well, now I’d like to ask Frédéric what I should answer – can we get him on the phone?
[David and I] were making an action-comedy at the time, so that’s the kind of place we were in. And I think it speaks to the versatility of TAG Heuer that they were willing to have this become an action-comedy piece. It feels very unique, to me. I don’t know many other luxury brands that are that versatile, and willing to shift gears so dramatically. It felt organic.
You’re similarly versatile in your cinematic roles, which span from Drive to La La Land and now Barbie. How do you choose your characters and projects?
I think it’s so much about the filmmaker and being on the same page as the filmmaker. With Drive, I just had a real understanding of the film that Nick [Nicolas Winding Refn] wanted to make. We spent a lot of time talking about it, just driving around LA and listening to music, and he was like, ‘This is what the movie should feel like. It should feel like this.’ And so, even more than the story, we had this mutual experience that was a touchstone for the film. It makes it easy when a filmmaker can communicate that to you, because then you know what you’re making and how to help.
And with Greta [Gerwig], she’s just so brilliant, and her vision for Barbie is so special and unique. She’s just somebody that I wanted to go to work for.
One thing your characters often have in common is a truly excellent wardrobe. Have you had any favourites?
I think the Ken wardrobe [from Barbie] – there’s a lot of really interesting things to come from that, in terms of the wardrobe. It just doesn’t work on me, personally. Somehow it works for him. I was not allowed to keep anything – not even the rollerblades. They’re hard to hide.
Interestingly, your character in The Gray Man (2022) wore a Carrera watch. How does a timepiece help to develop your character?
Yeah, it’s interesting because, before I was aware of it, there’s always a moment on a film, when you’re prepping, that a prop person comes to you with a big case of watches and says, ‘What watch does your character wear?’ And it wasn’t until that idea was introduced to me that I really thought about how a watch can communicate something about the character.
Ever since then, I’ve tried to utilise that. When I did Half Nelson (2006), for instance, I was playing a [drug-addicted] teacher, and we made a calculator watch with an actual piece of elastic as the band. Just like that, it becomes something – maybe [the audience] notices it, maybe they don’t – that says something about who you’re playing.
What was it about TAG Heuer that first drew you to the brand?
The watches are very elegant – I genuinely love the product. I think it matches my aesthetic and style. It’s a great collaboration; I always feel that they allow me to contribute creatively.
When you began working with TAG Heuer, Frédéric mentioned that you could design your own timepiece. Can we expect a reveal soon?
We’re working on it!
All images courtesy of The Chase for Carrera