Ryan Gosling called me like 8 weeks before we started shooting and said ‘Hey D. Let’s have the most tattoos in movie history in this one.’ I said ‘Okay. You want tattoos.’ He said ‘Yeah. And, I want a face tattoo.’ I said ‘Sure you want a face tattoo? That’s really permanent.’ He says ‘Yeah. And, it’s gonna be a dagger and it’s gonna be dripping blood.’ And I said ‘If I was your parent I’d say don’t get a face tattoo. You’re gonna regret it. But, you’re a big boy. You do whatever you wanna do.’
Flash-forward 8 weeks later, we’re shooting, first day of shooting. Ryan comes up to me at lunch and says ‘Hey D. I think I went too far with the face tattoo. I think we should reshoot all the stuff we did.’ And, I said ‘That’s what happens with the face tattoo. You regret it, and now you’re stuck with it. We’re not gonna reshoot anything. You’re gonna live with it for the rest of this movie.’ What it created in him was this shame. He was ashamed of himself. He had a regret and walked into every scene with that regret.
There’s a moment when he goes into this church and he sees his family. He sees Mahershala Ali, Eva Mendes, and Tony Pizza who plays the baby getting baptized, and the whole city of Schenectady is there watching this baptism. And, here we’re doing this shot of Ryan who’s trapped in a corner, he’s a marked man. He can’t fit in. And… he just broke down. Ryan broke down. As his friend I wanted to stop the filming, give my friend a hug. But, it was also what the process had done. He didn’t know where it came from. It just came. I like filming behavior. I’m working with some of the greatest actors of all-time in this movie and they’ll do fine without my process. They proved it time and time again. But, for my process I like setting it up, so they don’t have to act, so they just have to behave. - Derek Cianfrance (x)