During the 1950s age in cinema, Gene Kelly offered a different kind of leading man. He wasn’t bruising on the waterfront, or cruising without a cause, but instead leaping on street lamps in a perfectly tailored suit, all with incredible athleticism. Kelly’s accomplishments shot holes through the dated notion that dance was a “women’s art," bridging the gap between musicality and masculinity. He made it his life’s work to educate audiences that, while from the seats it may seem like a breeze, the fact is most professional dancers are just as physically fit as anyone playing in the Super Bowl.
Ryan Gosling came to learn that as he trained vigorously for his role in La La Land, a picture that pays homage to those classics that starred Kelly. “It was a great opportunity to get to try to make the films that I had grown up watching,” says Gosling, who pulls triple duty by singing and playing piano in addition to dancing. “There was a lot of work to do in this film, but it was one of the most fulfilling pre-production periods I had ever had.”
During his preparation for the film, Gosling worked with his longtime trainer Arin Babaian to help build a well-rounded and diverse regime that would help him pull it off. “I used our days to build up his legs, core, and back,” says Babaian. “Those were the elements that were going to allow him to carry his own bodyweight and have complete control over his movements. If you are going to be picking people up over your head, you had better be pretty strong.” The two re-created the overhead lifts that would involve Gosling’s costar Emma Stone with dumbbells and Olympic bars.
Gosling, also preparing for his leading role in Blade Runner 2049, had already been in the process of adding muscle, but the dance elements in La La Land called for special attention. Babaian needed a new supplement to help perfect the actor’s posture and improve flexibility. They found their answer in Pilates. “Once I had tired him out with squats and pull-ups, we brought in the Pilates table,” he says. “That helped us really improve his spine stability and postural strength.”
But in the end, what really helped them accomplish their goals was Gosling’s fierce dedication to the role. The actor always showed up ready to train, despite his packed production days. “He was doing dance lessons with the choreographer, piano lessons, training with me, and that was all before he was needed on set,” says Babaian. “But he showed up ready to work every time.”
Here's how Gosling got in dancing shape for La La Land:
Foam Roller: 5 minutes (hitting major muscle groups)
Perform circuits with minimal rests between. The weight used on lifts should be challenging, but comfortable enough not to compromise form.
First Circuit: 5 Rounds
- Run: 1/4 mile
- Deadlift: 5 reps
- Power Clean: 5 reps
- Front Squat: 5 reps
- Push Press: 5 reps
- Back Squat: 5 reps
Second Circuit: 3 Rounds
- Hanging Leg Raises: 10 reps
- Sit Ups: 20 reps
- Pilates Reformer: 5 minutes
“I suggest everyone try a Pilates class with a trained instructor,” says Babaian. “It is a great addition to your training regime.”