My friend Izzy told me this story the other night. We were drinking after a day’s shoot, in the Capri Lounge on Pacific in Glendale. Izzy might have been telling the truth or he might have been lying through his drunken nose, but I was on set the day that Christian Bale went off, so when it comes to movie stars, I’m ready to believe anything.
Izzy said, I was working as a boom operator on Crazy, Stupid Love, that film made by Steve Carell’s Carousel Productions. There was a day when we were shooting in Beverly Hills and I knew in advance that I’d be done early, so I brought my dog along with me. The two of us were going up in the San Gabriels for a little off-the-books hunting that afternoon. I planned to leave the dog in the car but the day was so hot, I let him come inside with me.
You know my dog Ahava? He’s a Vizsla, a Hungarian hunting dog that looks sort of like a small, rust-colored Weimaramer. Vizslas make good family pets but they’re also smart in the field.
So the day begins and Ryan Gosling sees the dog and every time he has a minute, he’s over on my side of the set talking to the dog and petting him. Then after a while, Ficara has to go somewhere so he tells us all to take a break, and while I’m finding something for Ahava to eat at the catering table, this low-level AD pulls me aside.
“Gosling loves your dog,” the AD says.
“That’s great,” I say.
Then he says, “No, I mean Gosling wants the dog. He wants to buy him.”
“Buy him?” I say. “This dog is part of my family. Why not just buy one of my children, for Chrissakes?”
“You don’t want me to tell him that,” the AD says. He gives me a look.
“What, he’s going to fire me?” I say. “That’s what unions are for. Where are we, Russia?”
“It’s a small town, union or no union” the AD says. Still he’s giving me the look.
“My wife’s expecting again,” I say. “I’ve got to work. I can’t lose this gig.”
“These guys,” the AD says, “you know how they are. They want, they take. What are you going to do?”
I’m turning red. Steam is coming out of my ears. This mishugina wants my dog.
“You make him mad, he don’t do nothing now,” the AD says. “Then, you’re looking for work later and somehow there’s no work to be found, you know what I mean?”
So Gosling walks over. He’s like, Well? with the eyebrows.
“Look,” I say. “Let’s be fair, Mr. Gosling. Give me a fighting chance here. The dog and me, we’re close. So what do you say we put the dog in the middle of the set. You stand over on one side, I stand over on the other. We both call the dog. Whomever he goes to, that’s it. He goes to you, you buy him from me. He goes to me, we’re square. Is that fair or is that fair?”
Actually, it’s not fair at all, Izzy says, but what choice have I got? Gosling says the word, I won’t get near a boom for a year. I’ll be back selling solar panels
So the AD leads the dog to the middle of the set and Gosling and I take our positions. Ficara is coming back through the door, so the AD gives us the sign to hurry up.
“Get rid of that Vienna sausage,” Gosling says. I toss it behind me.
“No secret whistles or hunting commands,” he says. “We both just call him.”
So we both call the dog. The dog looks at me and he looks at Gosling, and he knows something is up. This dog is no fool, this Ahava. He sees this fremder on one side and me on the other and you can tell the wheels are turning in his head. The tail straightens out. The ears go up.
And you know what? Julianne Moore is sitting over on the set couch and Ahava just walks over to her and puts his head in her lap, and she gives him a piece of her doughnut.
Then she says to Gosling, “Lay off, Ryan. You’re making an ass of yourself.”
Gosling shakes his head, like he’s just coming to, and shrugs, and says, “I was kidding, Julianne. What am I going to do with a dog?”
So I’m taking the animal by the collar and I’m out of the room, getting Frida, you know Frida, to look after him while I’m working, and so far, no blowback. When you sum it all up, I got no beef with Gosling.”