Ryan Gosling cast Matt Smith because he talked to aliens “like a boss” in Doctor Who

"There was an episode where he was in a car screaming at these aliens and telling them where to go. Just telling all these spaceships what was what"

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When Matt Smith was cast in Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River it was his first major film role. Since then he’s landed parts in the Terminator reboot, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and upcoming thriller Patient Zero, but it was a little-known BBC sci-fi series called Doctor Who that first brought him to Gosling’s attention. 

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“One day I was watching TV. I heard Matt Smith’s voice coming at me,” explains The Notebook and Drive actor. “It was Doctor Who and there was an episode where he was in a car screaming at these aliens and telling them where to go. Like a boss. Just telling all these spaceships what was what.

“As an actor I know that’s pretty hard to do, because I’m pretty sure those spaceships weren’t there. I thought, ‘Who is this guy?'”

Speaking at a Q&A session following a screening at London’s Curzon Soho cinema, Gosling continued, “There’s no-one like him. He’s like one of those actors from the Seventies, just themselves and nobody else. I said, ‘I have to work with that guy.’ So I tracked him down.”

It’s not easy to pinpoint a Time Lord, but when the pair eventually did end up in the same room, it didn’t exactly go to plan. “It’s the only audition where I’ve talked for a good hour about what we like: music, books, everything,” recalled Smith. “Then we started the scene, and the camera ran out so we ended up doing it on Ryan’s iPhone.” 

The film – originally titled How to Catch a Monster – generated (*cough*) mixed reviews when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. “Is it dividing people?” joked Gosling. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.

“Obviously that’s not our goal, we weren’t trying to be obscure or antagonistic. We were just trying to make something that we like, and we did. We hope that you do too. And it’s okay if you don’t. We were trying some things out. I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. It’s just a movie.”

“Just a movie” that includes a buff Matt Smith telling everyone to look at his muscles. Yes, really.

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Lost River is in UK cinemas on 10th April