From Neon-Clad Rollerblading to the Oscars 2024: Ryan Gosling’s Ken-tastic Barbie Journey

Ryan Gosling felt the Kenergy from the moment he stepped on to the Oscars red carpet, earning what we’re told were some of the loudest screams for anyone there. And moments into Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue, he and his very own Barbie, Margot Robbie, were congratulated on winning the most important award of all: “the genetic lottery.” But the moment he and everyone else was waiting for, of course, was the live performance of “I’m Just Ken.”

He started his performance from in the seats, located directly behind a giggling Robbie and wearing, of course, a bedazzled pink suit. Mark Ronson, the actual nominee for the song, had his own pink shirt going as he played guitar. Once Gosling made his way onstage, he was joined by a posse of cowboy-hat-wearing Kens, joining them in perfect choreography. A few beats later, the Kens from the film—Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, and Scott Evans among them— took the stage as well. Though the production was not quite as elaborate as what you see in the movie, there was a distinct Busby Berkeley vibe to the whole thing, with the Barbie head cutouts and perfectly arranged cowboy hats. 

For the grand finale, it was time for the women to get in on the game—Gosling stepped down to the audience, while Slash played guitar, to hand the mic over to Greta Gerwig, Robbie, America Ferrera, and even Emma Stone for a sing-along. It was an Oscar moment to remember on every possible level. 

When plans for a movie about Barbie were first announced, the intrigue was definitely there, but so was a heaping dose of skepticism. Even when Robbie and Gosling were officially cast as Barbie and Ken, and with Oscar nominee Gerwig directing her own script cowritten with Noah Baumbach, the filmgoing world couldn’t decide what to make of a live-action movie about an iconic plastic doll and her surfer dude sidekick.

But then came photos from the set of the very colorful and familiar costumes and what even looked like potential action sequences. That was followed by the no-holds-barred press tour, during which the A-list ensemble, and Gosling in particular, were clearly delighted to be leaning into the fun, frivolity, and Kenergy of it all—including the presumed uselessness of Ken in general.

“My kids were my introduction to [Barbie],” he told People at the time. “I think they’re confused as to why I would want to play Ken. They have no use for Ken.”

When critics and audiences finally got their eyes on what Robbie, Gosling, and writer-director Gerwig had pulled off, it was clear they had all made something special—and with eight Oscar nominations for Barbie, Hollywood largely agreed. Vanity Fair’s own Rebecca Ford called Gosling’s Ken the actor’s “best performance yet.”

“Ryan is the most comedically gifted actor I have ever worked with. He really is,” Robbie said of Gosling. “He’s known for his dramatic acting, and rightly so. But he is unbelievably gifted with comedy, and I ruined most of his takes because I was laughing through all of it.”

Since the film’s release last July, it has racked up a slew of major awards, including what VF’s David Canfield noted was “a perfect record of best-picture, directing, and acting nominations from the likes of the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and industry guilds (PGA, DGA, SAG).” (Yes, even despite those infamous Oscar subs for Robbie and Gerwig). Gosling was nominated on his own as a supporting actor, of course, but was also a key player in the “I’m Just Ken” mock rock anthem, for which songwriters Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt were nominated.

Through it all, Gosling has been gracious and sometimes surprised by just how well-received his emo, white-fur-coat-wearing, almost-villain comedic character has been. He also didn’t shy away from publicly supporting his director and his costar when Gerwig and Robbie were left out from the director and actress categories (though both were still nominees, for Gerwig’s script and Robbie’s work as a producer).

“I am extremely honored to be nominated by my colleagues alongside such remarkable artists in a year of so many great films. And I never thought I’d being saying this, but I’m also incredibly honored and proud that it’s for portraying a plastic doll named Ken,” Gosling said in a statement after nominations were announced. “But there is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no Barbie movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally-celebrated film. No recognition would be possible for anyone on the film without their talent, grit, and genius. To say that I’m disappointed that they are not nominated in their respective categories would be an understatement.”

That Gosling’s Kenergetic journey has now concluded on the Oscars stage, thanks to a highly anticipated performance of “I’m Just Ken,” is just icing on his Mojo Dojo Casa House cake.

Join us on the Vanity Fair Oscar Party red carpet.

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