Ryan Gosling, Barbie – and Prague’s Karel Zeman Museum

Ryan Gosling left, and Margot Robbie in a scene from "Barbie"

The new movie Barbie is currently doing incredible box office around the world. And the film’s male lead Ryan Gosling has delighted many Czech fans by saying that the way Barbie was made reminded him of the work of the pioneering 1950s and 1960s director Karel Zeman. But how does Gosling know the Czech filmmaker?

Among the promotional materials for the massive hit movie Barbie is a behind-the-scenes clip about the techniques used to make it.

In the short film director Greta Gerwig says she wanted the movie to look like a diorama at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

And Hollywood star Ryan Gosling – who is winning plaudits for his depiction of Barbie’s beau Ken – makes a comparison that has delighted many Czech fans.

“It was using these old silent movie techniques. It looked like a Karel Zeman movie.”
Ryan Gosling

Karel Zeman is a legendary Czech filmmaker who combined innovative live-action techniques with animation. His movies from the 1950s and 1960s – such as Journey to the Beginning of Time and The Stolen Airship – are much loved by many Czechs to this day.

But how does Ryan Gosling know Zeman? The answer may lie with Prague’s Karel Zeman Museum, which is owned by Ondřej Beránek.

“It was two years ago when there was the shooting of the Netflix hit The Gray Man in Prague and Ryan Gosling stars in it. And together with his wife, Eva Mendes, and his children they came to the museum and actually we didn’t know about that, because they came incognito.

“We found out afterwards, when Eva Mendes posted pictures from the museum on Instagram and she wrote that they liked the visit a lot and enjoyed it, so we were very happy.

“Then we looked into our cameras at the museum and we saw that they enjoyed it a lot. Because it was during the Covid pandemic they were wearing masks, and baseball caps, so nobody noticed them and they could enjoy it just like a normal family.”

Karel Zeman | Photo: Czech Television

But how specifically did the techniques used in Barbie resemble those used by the pioneering Karel Zeman? Ondřej Beránek offers this suggestion.

“I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m very much looking forward to watching it. I’ve seen the trailers. [Ryan Gosling] talks about the transportation scene when they get from Barbie World to the real world, and this scene was made totally in 2D, with actors in these 2D dimension set-ups.

“So he talked about this scene and I’ve seen the trailers and they looked like really like Karel Zeman. For example in Invention for Destruction, his best film, he used the same scene for the transportation of people.”

From left,  Emma Mackey,  Simu Liu,  Margot Robbie,  Ryan Gosling and Kingsley Ben-Adir in a scene from "Barbie" | Photo: ČTK/AP/Uncredited

Whatever about its influences, Barbie has also been storming box offices in Czechia. On its opening weekend it drew over 100,000 viewers, a number rarely seen in this country.