LOS ANGELES (AP) — Long before he played a skinhead in "The Believer," a drug-addicted junior high school teacher in "Half Nelson" or a misfit who’s in love with a blow-up doll in "Lars and the Real Girl," Ryan Gosling had a far simpler, more wholesome role. He was a member of "The Mickey Mouse Club."
Back in the early ‘90s, when he was only 11, Gosling spent a couple years singing and dancing alongside some other performers who would go on to achieve a bit of their own fame. A YouTube search provides video evidence of this: There’s Gosling crooning some non-threatening love song, dressed in baggy clothes with way too much product in his hair.
Now 30, he’s considered one of the most intense, fearless actors of his generation, having earned an Oscar nomination for 2006’s "Half Nelson" and now a Golden Globe nomination for "Blue Valentine." The raw, heartbreaking drama, which co-stars Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple whose marriage is collapsing, opens this week. But hey, that’s as good an opportunity as any to revisit the perky, early careers of the five most famous ex-Mouseketeers:
• Britney Spears: Famous, infamous ... it’s all the same thing when it comes to Britney Spears. Teen pop phenomenon, tabloid queen, twice-divorced mother of two — well, actually, one of the marriages was annulled after just 55 hours — there just isn’t enough time or space here to discuss the full breadth of Spears’ tumultuous career. She’s been an international superstar, one of the highest-selling artists in the world, and a total mess. She could have had whatever she wanted, but so often it’s seemed as if she couldn’t do anything right. Her first starring movie role post-Mouseketeers, "Crossroads," was a joke. But she’s redeemed herself somewhat with bit parts on popular TV shows such as "How I Met Your Mother" and "Glee."
• Justin Timberlake: He can sing. He can dance. He can act. He writes and produces songs and designs clothing. He’s bringing sexy back. He dates strong, gorgeous women. He hosts celebrity charity golf tournaments. He even pokes fun at his own pretty-boy image on "Saturday Night Live." Is there anything JT can’t do? Timberlake went from "The Mickey Mouse Club" to the boy band ‘N Sync to a hugely successful solo career and beyond. Charismatic as hell, he’s shown off his own acting skills in films including "Alpha Dog" and "Black Snake Moan," and he’s excellent as Napster co-founder Sean Parker in the year’s best film (according to yours truly), "The Social Network."
• Christina Aguilera: Her acting career is a bit more fledgling by comparison. Aguilera made her dubious film debut in this year’s cliched campfest "Burlesque" as a small-town girl with big dreams and an even bigger voice. Hey, at least she has the looks to pull off those dramatic, revealing outfits — and, of course, the pipes to blow away an enormous auditorium. That massive voice has been on formidable display from her earliest days, from "Star Search" and "The Mickey Mouse Club" to multiple Grammy Awards and No. 1 hits. But if we’re being honest, her performance in the "Dirrty" video, using her naughty Xtina persona, is her most convincing on-screen work to date.
• Keri Russell: Even back in 1993, she had that trademark mane of long, gorgeous curls. Long before she became a pop-culture sensation on TV’s "Felicity," Russell was a part of the same Mouseketeer cast that launched Spears, Timberlake, Aguilera and Gosling, as well as Timberlake’s ‘N Sync bandmate JC Chasez. She’s gone on to amass an eclectic body of work on television and in film: Beyond J.J. Abrams’ "Felicity," which made her a star and earned her a Golden Globe, she’s brought her natural beauty and infinite likability to such varied films as "Waitress," ‘’The Upside of Anger," ‘’Mission: Impossible III" and the musical "August Rush."
• Annette Funicello: The original superstar Mouseketeer, she was the picture of wholesome adorableness during the show’s primary run in the 1950s, and she’s maintained that sunny persona throughout her life. Just try picturing her without those mouse ears and that sweater with her name emblazoned across the chest. She went on to star in several Disney pictures, including "The Shaggy Dog" and "Babes in Toyland." But she most famously appeared alongside Frankie Avalon in all those beach movies of the early 1960s, along with recording several top-40 pop singles. Now 68 and battling multiple sclerosis, Funicello has founded The Annette Funicello Teddy Bear Company, with proceeds from sales going to raise money to fight neurological disorders.