Jeff Goldblum


With Jeff Goldblum I try to follow the three essentials of Shelley Interview Technique to the letter. First, get the Savoy’s room service to bring up a bottle of Piper Heidsieck champagne. Second, drink it. Third, fall in love with my subject. Easy.


What’s the question you are asked most in these situations, Jeff ?
“That’s it ! That’s the very question !”
Jeff Goldblum lights up as if he’s never enjoyed any question, or any thing, so much in his life.

Any memorably stupid questions ?
“Only the one you’re afraid to ask !”

You mean, The Last Question, the one in any interview that has to be worked up to, in case the subject walks out ?
“That’s it ! The Last Question ! Let’s have it. Let’s have it first !”
Er, well, how sane are you ? What’s wrong with you Jeff ?
“Phew. Well, yeah. I dunno. That’s quite a Last Question, Jim, I have to tell you… Am I in full control ? What do you mean ?”
People describe you as ‘loopy’, ‘weird’, ‘unbalanced.’ You often play strange, erratic characters and make it look as if you understand them…
“I don’t think of myself as weird or loopy. I, er, ah, um, like characters who are…unconventional. I like the, ah, ah, opportunity in acting of playing those, um, characters, where you can break out of normal, um, ah, civil and social behaviour, in order to express something in your soul or something that’s more authentically ‘you’ in your imaginative self. I’m as much seduced by that part of the world that says, ‘Be cool, don’t let anyone know your troubles or that your life’s tough for you.’ But being an actor – a good actor, anyway – means you have to reveal yourself in the event of, in the state of, struggle. Doing something that maybe you can’t win at, that maybe you’re no good at, that could be humiliating or embarrassing and undignified, that shows you in a very uncool way. In every uncool way anybody ever heard of. But… But you can get an experience of life and of yourself that’s juicy, and what could be better than that ? So, generally I’m as sane as anyone.”


In the room are a happily camp wig-maker, a made-up make-up artist called Morag, a Sicilian waiter exiled in London, an inebriated interviewer occasionally exiled in Italy, and a bemused, amused, shrewd actor. Goldblum is confused but excited, right ?
“Right ! It’s getting like a French salon scene in here.”

The Sicilian waiter has the champagne but he hasn’t got the point: “I don’t know what’s going on here ?”

“Right !” grins Goldblum. “Who does ! Right, Jim ? Absolutely crazy, haha !”

The day before the interview, Goldblum had read The Catcher In The Rye for the first time in his life and shot a scene in The Tall Guy for the last time in his life.

Directed by Mel Smith, Goldblum plays an unambitious American actor, stumbling towards falling in love, finding employment in a Shake ‘n’ Vac commercial and playing straight man to Rowan Atkinson.
“It’s mainly about me finding myself, haha. I spend the whole picture, er, struggling, er, ah, with myself and with this girl (played by Emma Thompson), to have the, ah, courage to love her.”

Are we the same, the British and the Americans ?
“We’re basically the same, yeah. Decent people. But then, ah, ah, you say ‘boot’ and I say, ah, um ‘trunk’. You say ‘bonnet’ and I say, ah, ah, ‘hood’. Jumper, sweater. You say ‘tomato’, I say, ah, ah…”

It transpires that Mel Smith neglected to explain to his leading man the true horrific significance of the famed Shake ‘n’ Vac ad. I try.
“Really ? Really ? ! My God…” says Goldblum’s voice on the tape.


Goldblum was born and raised in a small Pittsburgh steel town. His late father was a doctor and his mother an arts lover who would take her children to galleries, ballet, theatre, at every opportunity.

“At school I felt kind of alien, yeah, I guess so. I was tall. I felt that I met other kids who I felt were like me and my sister and my brother, interested in the arts, in music. Looking back, I can see there was a reason for it and I wouldn’t want to be different from what I am, but I was unhappy sometimes, yeah. Certainly less, ah, confident than I am now, about who I am.”

At 17, he moved his secret dream into reality and began studying acting at the New York Neighbourhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner (“a Zen Master”).

He quickly got a lead in The Two Gentlemen Of Verona on Broadway and got his first film break from Michael Winner, playing a rapist in Death Wish.

The story goes that his second break came when he was performing the matinee of a comic revue on Broadway called El Grande De Coca Cola, when director Robert Altman ducked in from a snowstorm, and subsequently cast Goldblum as a boy-wonder executive in California Split and a mysterious biker/magician in Nashville. This was followed by a scene-stealing cameo (“I’ve forgotten my mantra”) in Annie Hall, and Transylvania 6-5000, The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and others. Then leads in Landis’ Into The Night, The Big Chill, The Fly, and Altman’s Beyond Therapy.

Less notable early roles include The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai and Ernie Kovacs: Between The Laughter. Is there anything embarrassing lying around, an old Starsky & Hutch episode or anything ?
“Nothing I’m really tormented about. I was in fact in an old episode of Starsky & Hutch. I played a movie director. No, really ! The boys investigate murders on Stage 19. David Soul poses as an actor. Uh, haha, and they solve the murder !”

More recently, Vibes, with Cyndi Lauper and the great Peter Falk, was a financial disaster at the US box office. But Julian Temple’s forthcoming musical comedy Earth Girls Are Easy has already attracted some rave reviews – Goldblum plays a randy alien who falls for his real-life wife, Geena Davis.

Goldblum lives in a Spanish house in West Hollywood, where he also teaches acting, keeping just on the fringe of what he calls “the game side” of Hollywood.
“I’m serious about it because it’s a tough and serious game and there’s a lot of competition for good parts. It’s funny and, ah, yucky and frustrating sometimes, like a tough game. You can be in it and not in it, and know that it’s not something that you like to care about. I don’t think that much about fame.”

What’s your favourite line about acting ?
“Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”

Can you learn to be an actor ?
“I think you either are an actor or you aren’t. But if you are an actor, you can learn to develop it. If you’re a dancer you know, when they put music on, it’s in you. Exactly like acting. If it’s in you, if you come alive under imaginary circumstances, as if the circumstances were real, then you’re an actor. My teaching is to show them an experimental understanding, nothing academic or theoretical. I think acting’s instinctive and emotional and temperamental.”

Is it fun or serious ?
“Exactly. Both. Serious fun. It’s playing a game as if it was serious.”

Is The Fly the most open you’ve felt in a role ?
“I keep trying to do that more and more. The Fly was a juicy part. I worked very hard trying to be a fly.”

Did The Fly have a lasting effect on you ?
“Gee… I don’t know… Yeah. But I don’t know if I can name it…”

Did it make you uneasy, about being secure, being mortal ?
“No, not in that way. Not anxious, no. I don’t think so. It wasn’t really enjoyable, no.”

Do you feel empathy now with flies ?

If someone goes to splat one, do you stop them ?
“No. I was very interested in the love story in that movie and the life and death issues. The hard work of working out what the fly would be, etcetera, how it behaved, that was the only fun about it. I looked at one fly in a plastic bag for a week, that’s all. It died.”

Do flies have a soul ?
“Er, well…mmmm, ah…ah, what do you mean ? What do you think ?”

Maybe you made it look possible.
“Do you think we do ?”

Well, are they aware of happiness and unhappiness, as some animals evidently are ?
“Gosh…mmmmmm. Doubt it. Possible. Good question.”

Moving to Beyond Therapy (which, I didn’t confess, is unwatchably awful, Goldblum apart), do you know much about therapy ?
“Yes, ah, yeah, I’ve had psychotherapy. The film has a different viewpoint on the subject than I do, actually. I don’t think it’s the craziest thing in the world. I’ve had good experiences and I continue to go when I can. I sure do ! He’s just a guy to talk to, like a confessor, yeah, a buddy. Somebody you can talk to without having to reciprocate interest in him. Entirely truthful, summing up the things that are on my mind, things I care about. I enjoy it.”

Sam Goldwyn once said: “Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist needs their head examined.”
Goldblum’s not entirely sure if he wants to laugh at this. “Huh-huh, yeah, ah… I think it’s a shame that over in Britain it would be thought of as unusual. There are bad therapists of course. The fear of it is irrational. I find it very therapeutic and helpful.”

Do you ever act out situations in public, mess around with them ?
“As a game ? Oh yeah. Act out my part when people don’t know I’m acting, sure. Yeah. Ah, when my sister and I used to go to art classes at Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, I used to wait for a lift home by going up to people and pretending I knew them. ‘Oh it’s you ! How are you ? What are you doing here ? My God, how long’s it been ? A year ? Ten years ! ?’ Yeah, that was, ah, fun.”


You’re erratic, Jeff, er, impulsive, ridiculous.. Did you ever do something really rash – jump into the river off Waterloo Bridge, anything madly rash ?
“In acting or in life ? In life ? Ah, I don’t know. Wait ! Wait ! I got married ! In Vegas ! The only night in my life I’ve ever been in Las Vegas. We went for a weekend, Geena and I, had dinner to celebrate my birthday and said, ‘What ? Do you want to get married or what ?’ I said, ‘Hey, do you want to get married’ and Geena said, ‘Yes, let’s go.’ Went right over there and then. It was sexy.”

She’s a very sexy woman, your wife.
“I think so too ! We met on the set of this film Transylvania 6-5000. Love at first sight !”

So what do you like about your life, Jeff ?
“God ! God, where can I start ? Can’t you see ? All over… I, ah, mean, er… a whole lot of things, there are people all over the world that are not eating, they’re starving. So anything up from that is very lucky… and ah, fortunate. I, ah, I have work I care about that I really want to do, that I’m passionate about. I have a wife who is wonderful in every way imaginable. I’m crazy about her and she seems keen on me. I have a great sister, a terrific artist, my family, I’m in a great hotel here… I spend my time working or painting, reading. I’ve got the next film lined up in Madrid (Dream Of A Mad Monkey), I don’t feel frustrated about not directing or anything like that. No, I’ve no burning desire to direct.”

I can’t wait, Jeff, to see you nude in your next film.
“Well, you just do it and concentrate on the imaginary circumstances. Do it as if it were totally private and act as if it’s not true.”

How can you tell the difference between being shy and awkward about chatting up someone or doing a nude scene, and being a good actor who knows how to act chatting up someone and doing a nude scene. Which is really you ?
“Acting can lose that barrier, that’s true. Acting, ah, ah, made me the person I am ! Acting can intensify life and be a very freeing experience. I think I’d have been a different person if I wasn’t an actor.”

What sort of person might you have been ?
“Gee, I don’t know, but I might have been, ah, cool.”