Ryan Gosling -- Dark Horse Of The Oscars

Ryan Gosling is not your typical movie star. His home on the grim streets of downtown Los Angeles seems miles away from the glitz and glam of Hollywood, not mere minutes. Gosling has also shirked the big budget spotlight for most of his career. With the exception of 2004's "The Notebook," Gosling's focus has been on small films that received little attention.

Until now.

'Half Nelson'

Last year, Gosling starred in a tiny picture called "Half Nelson," the story of a drug addicted inner city junior high teacher who manages to keep his two worlds separate until a student catches him getting high after school.

After much critical praise for his performance, Gosling now finds himself in an unlikely position -- the dark horse Oscar candidate for best actor.

Growing up in Canada, his career began innocuously enough. "I just sort of found myself doing it," he says of acting. "It's just something I've just been doing for a really long time and it's something that I think ... benefits me as a person to do it."

Of course, he quickly "found" himself in the company of some of the biggest soon-to-be celebrities when he got his first gig working on the new Mickey Mouse Club along with Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera.

It Started With A Girl

"Everything that ever happened started with a girl," Gosling begins the story of his early success. "And when I was a kid, I had a crush on this girl and she was doing a lip synching contest … I didn't know what to do in the contest so I just basically, you know, like did this move where I would grope myself. I was so small, my body was so tiny, that it was so weird that people loved it."

Next thing he knew, he had caught the attention of a Canadian talent show and soon landed an audition at the Mickey Mouse Club, but his routine remained the same.

"When I got there and they hired me, they realized that I was a one trick pony -- all I did was grope myself and I didn't know how to do anything else … so, I got on that show and once they realized that was all I could do, I didn't work very much on the show."

Gosling spent much of his early career starring in teen television shows like "Are You Afraid Of The Dark" and "Goosebumps," eventually landing a starring role in a short-lived series "Young Hercules."

And while he grew up on television, Gosling has tried to avoid the fate that often befalls child actors. "I try and make decisions from the same place that I always have, and those things [the glamour of the industry] … were never part of my life and I don't feel are now."

Giving Credit

For his current role, Gosling gives much of the credit to his young co-star. "Shareeka Epps -- she's one of the best actresses I've ever worked with … If [she] hadn't been in this movie, I wouldn't be talking to you."

Ultimately, despite Hollywood success and an Oscar nod, Gosling's focus remains on the stories.

"Look, I've done big movies and small movies and it's not something I think about when I'm picking projects. I don't discriminate against budgets, it doesn't really matter to me how much something costs as much as it's about the character, or it's about the story, or the filmmaker or the actors I'm going to work with, you know?"

Gosling backs up his words in his latest project, a film about the conflict in northern Uganda. "My hope is that [I can] put people in the shoes of these kids so that you have to go through it with them, because I think that if they can go through it, we should go through it with them … if we're not going to do anything about it."

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