Something was amiss, but trying to figure out the truth was like attempting to catch sand with a butterfly net. It all began when I initiated my usual truth-digging measures in writing a piece about the storied relationship between Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake. What did people know about them? I went to Twitter.
In the early ’90s, Timberlake and Gosling became friends. Chums. Amigos. They were part of the Mickey Mouse Club along with several other notables like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. In fact, they were on the show during the same exact years (1993-1995), serving as one of the last troupes to perform before it was cancelled off the Disney Channel in 1996. Never mind that it’s slightly disturbing to watch pre-teens sing and writhe to Jodeci — you can see their chemistry was unmistakable.
(The supposed friends seemed like just that, but there was something nefarious bubbling underneath the surface between these two. In order to get closer to the truth, I had to get closer to JT and The Gos: I slipped into an oversized pair of pajamas…it felt right.)
Ryan and Justin were more than just co-stars and singing partners. Timberlake spoke to Ellen about their adventures.
We used to do terrible things. We thought we were so cool. Looking back on them, they weren’t as bad as I thought they were at the time. We stole a golf cart. And we were like, ‘Yeah, man. We’re stealing a golf cart!’ We drove into MGM Studios, which is totally illegal, by the way. I was like, ‘What do you want to do, thug?’ And Ryan was like, ‘I don’t know, cuz.’ Because that’s definitely how we talked.
During one season of the Disney variety show, Timberlake’s mother actually adopted Gosling, and the two lived together in the states while Gosling’s mother went back to Canada. They were one-time brothers.
(I started to doubt my suspicions, a dangerous thing in political journalism. The two seem to have a true bond forged. Wait, what was this?)
Jimmy Fallon: Dude, I was just talking to [Ryan] Gosling about that. Did Gosling really live on your couch when he was a kid?
Justin Timberlake: So, he tried to make it seem like he was bohemian even back then?
Jimmy Fallon: Definitely, man. He said he was struggling, and you helped him out.
Justin Timberlake: Ryan’s mom had to stay back in Canada and my mom was his guardian for a year so he could come down and be on the show. But Gosling got his own bed. He didn’t sleep on the couch. He said that?
(A lie! One purported by Gosling of all people! It was a thin thread, but a thread nonetheless. I decided to pull on it.)
Following their stint on MMC, Timberlake and Gosling would excel in their chosen fields. Gosling — described by JT as one of “the greatest actors of our generation” — has been nominated for four Golden Globes and one Academy Award since his breakout performance in 2007’s Half Nelson. Timberlake fell into success a bit sooner as part of NSYNC, a hugely successful boy band. Since breaking off into his own singles career, he’s been named “Pop Star of the Year” by Rolling Stone, one of the 100 “Most Influential People” by Time, and he’s won nine Grammys and four Emmys. Both incredibly successful, but Timberlake? Ehh…just a bit more. Enough to warrant some jealousy, perhaps?
(There wasn’t enough to go on. Sure, there was the lie that Gosling told about sleeping on JT’s couch, which pointed to some inconsistencies in their story. There was a motive for possible jealousy in reference to their career trajectories. I dug deeper, rifling through my stacks of notes, interviews, and bios.)
In the same Ellen interview conducted with Timberlake, when asked about he and Ryan’s relationship now, he said, “He’s working a lot. It’s hard to keep up with him.”
In a 2013 interview, Gosling, when asked if he still keeps up with Timberlake, said, “Not really. I see him around, but it’s like anything where you’re friends with somebody in elementary school or something. How many friends do you still have from elementary school?”
(Just elementary school friends? Weren’t they brothers? Dissension! It was palpable, but why the rift? I was almost at the truth, and I was fingering it like a screwdriver stuck too far underneath a car. And then, I found it.)
Did you see it? Not the part where Gosling supposedly lied about playing spin the bottle with only Britney Spears, because Ellen could easily be misconstruing Gosling’s comments, but the part about who she did kiss: Justin Timberlake. But, did Spears really mean anything to Gosling during their formative years?
“Britney was a sweetheart,” Gosling said to the Sunday Times Style magazine in 2013. “She lived right above me, the girl next door. The little girl I used to play basketball and spin the bottle with.”
Britney, Ryan’s former “sweetheart,” and his “girl next door.” Is she the reason that Gosling and Timberlake don’t keep tabs on each other? We all know that Timberlake and Britney ended up together. It appears the combination of JT’s extreme success (don’t tell me that Gosling doesn’t care about success) coupled with “winning the girl” proved too much for their relationship to continue. I posit that Britney is the reason Gosling referred to Timberlake as an “elementary school friend” when they had been brothers at one point. The reason for Gosling’s slights of truth. The reason for the lie that is the legacy of JT and The Gos.
Of course, only Britney, Justin, and Ryan know for sure…