Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Saoirse Ronan and a wedding proposal mark the North American Premiere of Lost River at SXSW

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A surprise appearance from Eva Mendes and a wedding proposal helped make for a memorable Q&A at the SXSW Film Festival tonight following the North American Premiere of Ryan Gosling’s film Lost River.

Following a disappointing response to actor Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut at Cannes last year, it proved to resonate better with American audiences in its local premiere, ahead of a limited release in cinemas on April 10th, with a full house giving Gosling and his cast huge applause as they took the stage at the end of the film’s credits. Here were some of the highlights of the 15 minute Q&A that featured Director and Writer Ryan Gosling, composer Johnny Jewel with actors Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn and an unexpected appearance from Eva Mendes.

Ryan Gosling on creating the look of the film:

“I worked with one of the best cinematographers in the world, Benoît Debie, I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. We shot on film and shot with very little light and used fast lenses. We wanted the film to reflect what was beautiful about what was actually there. We tried not to affect it too much.”

Director Ryan Gosling on filming in Detroit:

“I started filming (in Detroit) on my own, going into some of those neighbourhoods… for those who don’t know that’s just one side of Detroit, there’s this whole other side that’s so exciting, it’s reinventing itself. There’s an energy there and we had such a great time filming there and working with such talented people. Of course we were only filming in the one area but it was this really inspiring place, we just wanted to work there and I can’t wait to work there again. I felt like we only scratched the surface of what’s possible there.”

Ben Mendelsohn when asked if he choreographed his own dance moves that appear in the film:

“The short answer is… not so much choreographed as just “gettin’ my thing on…”. We didn’t know we were going to do that until we got there on the day, we didn’t quite know how we were going to finish, so we started dancing. I’m glad it registered!”

Gosling on how being an actor influenced how he worked as a director:

“I wanted to work with my friends, and people that I love. And I don’t know if you can tell but I love them so much. I had worked with most of them, and there was something about them – I wanted to show what it was that I loved about them, and give them some room to do some things they mightn’t have been able to do before. While at the same time I was having this opportunity to experiment myself. The beauty of hiring and getting to work with them was that I knew that I didn’t have to direct them. They were going to take ownership of those characters and fill them out with their own ideas and experiences. And that’s when it comes to life – that’s the beauty of working with people you admire and have worked with before – and also people who are your friends.”

The cast on working with a fellow actor as the director:

Iain De Caestecker: “I can speak for myself, and I think everyone else, that we were all fans of Ryan’s work before we started…”
Eva Mendes: “…I’m a bigger fan… probably his biggest fan”

Saoirse Ronan: “It was my first time working with someone who had been an actor, and was a first time director… the thing about Ryan, not just because he’s an actor, but because he’s just this type of person, is that he was incredibly sensitive to what we needed every day. And those needs changed every single day. The story (Ryan had written) was so simple, we would fill it up with these colours and layers and he encouraged us to do that, but at the same time, knew when he needed to step forward and help a little bit, or step back. It’s an instinct that can only come from someone who is either a considerate person, or someone who has been in that sort of situation themselves. In a way it was the most I’d ever contributed to a story before, and I felt very protected by him.

Ryan Gosling on the role colour plays in the film:

“For the most part we wanted to shoot with natural light and natural colours, but we wanted to have a colour to help take it into this fantasy direction. Both Benoît (the cinematographer) and I love the colour purple, it looks great on film and you don’t see it very often. And for whatever reason, “Purple Rain” was a reference when we started working on the film. So it sort of found its way in there.”

“There was a moment where, in the edit, we were going to try voiceover. So I ordered a tape recorder on eBay because I wanted to try it on tape, and inside it was a cassette with “Deep Purple” on it, and it just felt perfect for the film. Johnny (the film’s composer) and I started geeking out on how many versions of the song there were and it became part of the fabric of the movie.”

The Q&A came to an end after a audience member emotionally proposed to her girlfriend, which Ryan Gosling supported by passing along his microphone. A nice note to end what was a fairly intense ride of a film. Stay tuned to The Iris for the full review, one on one interviews with the cast and more from SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas.