It ain’t easy being Ryan Gosling. In 2011, the 31-year-old Canadian-born actor had leading roles in the political thriller “The Ides of March,” the romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” the arthouse action film “Drive” and the Funny or Die original short “Drunk History Christmas,” which he starred in alongside Eva Mendes and Jim Carrey. That’s all in addition to his role as one of the two members of indie-rock band Dead Man’s Bones.

Jacob Axelrad

Basically, the guy gets around. Yet I’m happy to say he has not as of yet (fingers crossed on this one) fallen prey to the Jude Law/James Franco trap. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one when you go to the theater and all of a sudden every movie showing has Jude Law featured in it in some way. As Chris Rock noted in 2005 during his monologue at the 77th Academy Awards, if Law wasn’t on screen, he was probably on the set, making cupcakes for the cast and crew.

More recently, it took James Franco the span of approximately one year to go from Hollywood’s it-actor, starring in “127 Hours” in 2010 to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” — a fine movie, mind you, but a far cry from the shadow he’d cast only 12 months prior.

What makes Gosling different? What prevents him from becoming the butt of pop-culture jokes, as Franco so quickly became after he phoned in one of the more bizarre Oscar-hosting jobs I’ve seen in my 20 years of existence? Both Gosling and Franco bounce from blockbuster to blockbuster, lending their names to multiple high-grossing films in a single year. Both hold artistic professions outside of acting — in his spare time, Franco moonlights as a short-story writer and enjoys hosting gallery openings at modern art museums as “Franco,” his fictional alter ego from the soap opera “General Hospital.”

OK, OK, I think it’s starting to become clear why the former gets taken seriously as a movie star and the latter kind of makes us (or at least me) go, “Wait, what? Why is James Franco doing that?”

It’s because Gosling, unlike Franco, shifts genres and paves his own path through the trenches of Hollywood, making moves that feel honest as opposed to trite attempts to stand out, like the kid at the back of the classroom waving his arms and shouting to show how special he is. He can play reclusive like the best of them, making no pictures between ’07 and ’10. Then, all of a sudden, he comes out with “Blue Valentine” — a film that portrays the disintegration of a marriage in ways so real and moving they compete with the plays of Henrik Ibsen and Arthur Miller, and far surpass the attempts of Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes in 2008’s underwhelming “Revolutionary Road.”

To be a movie star — as in, you simply gotta see him or her regardless of what they may be starring in — you need to embody a certain joie de vivre; it simply comes with the territory. The movie star owns whatever part they’re playing, be it a biopic of a historical figure (see Ben Kingsley in “Gandhi” or Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”) or a slacker comedy (see also, Ben Kingsley in “The Wackness”). Watching Gosling counsel Steve Carell on matters of the heart and become enraptured with Emma Stone in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” a B-level movie, it’s clear he’s enjoying himself. And we enjoy his performance, if only because we know it’s genuine. And it’s a sincerity he keeps with him time and again, even as a befuddled simpleton waiting for Santa to deliver presents in a five-minute comedic short.

Is this too much to ask? Is it too much to request that actors show up, read their lines and do the job they love as opposed to falling prey to the public spotlight? Let’s not forget that in the expression “movie star,” “movie” comes first.

Now, Nicolas Cage, a once-legitimately-decent actor, has reprised his role as Johnny Blaze in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” the sequel to the 2007 train wreck of a movie. Blame it on age. Blame it on the IRS. Blame it on the alcohol. I blame it on good old Cage succumbing to the allure of his own name. It’s just too tempting to see the words “starring Nicolas Cage” for him to pass up a project that will most definitely suck.

I don’t want this to read as some sort of attack on Nicolas Cage or action stars in general for that matter. It’s a call for actors to have fun with what they get paid to do. I like Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible” because, despite the commercialization of the brand, it’s still a brand bigger than Cruise himself. And that’s what I go to see: actors working in service for the movie, not the other way around.

So for now, I’ll look to Mr. Gosling’s next foray into comedy, drama or action. Whatever it may be, it’ll be the work that comes first, the way it should be.

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