Jeff Goldblum is everywhere. The 69-year-old Jurassic Park star has fingers in every possible pie. There are blockbuster movies and a TV series on Disney+. He has two successful jazz albums under his belt (the first was a No 1 Billboard smash), and a forthcoming music tour. On top of that he’s become a serious social-media player with over 2.2 million followers of his Instagram account, which regularly features shots of him in a series of fabulously stylish outfits and occasionally skimpy swimming shorts (the body is alarmingly lithe) while joshing next to his beloved 38-year-old wife, the former Olympic gymnast Emilie Livingston, and their sons Charlie Ocean, 6, and River Joe, 4. And that’s not even mentioning the video games (he does voice-overs), TV commercials and theater company. He is, I tell him, while contemplating his cultural ubiquity, a rapidly spreading multimedia virus.
“I know,” he says, hooting yet half-embarrassed. “And unfortunately there’s no vaccination for it yet.” He’s talking over Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. It’s ten in the morning, which is practically teatime for him (more later). The kids have gone to school and he’s in charm offensive mode. Literally the most flattering interviewee yet. Knows tons about me, from my childhood in Dublin to my kids’ ages. Says that I look like “a young Richard Gere”. Is apparently a fan of my, ahem, “film criticism and teaching”, and admits that he prepared for this interview thoroughly, “because I thought, ‘I’ve got to be in good form when I talk to Kevin.’ ”
The truth, though, is that the flattery is the truth. This is simply Goldblum’s modus operandi, honed from decades of devotion to the teachings of the acting guru Sanford Meisner, who warned him early on that to find authenticity he must first be interested. “Sandy said that you’re interesting to the extent that you’re interested,” he says, beginning a rapid-fire monologue, delivered with classic Goldblum cadences (lots of speeding, slowing and tiny micro-pauses) that initially covers the new season of his Disney+ series, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, but quickly moves on to identity, life, the universe and everything.
The series is built around Goldblum’s personality and easygoing rapport. As the title suggests, it’s a freewheeling nonfiction odyssey through the most random subjects, including denim, coffee, tattoos and dogs united only by Goldblum, fabulously attired, of course (he’s been working with a stylist since 2008) and his genuine interactions with the people he encounters. At the end of episode two, for instance, he is suddenly overcome with emotion after witnessing a street performance from a gay dance troupe in Atlanta. He turns to camera, choking on own tears, and says, “The truth is that all we really want to do here is to be with each other. That’s our job. That’s the highest and best use of this life.”
I ask him if any of that was acting, and he says no, that it was just him, being interested. “It’s me being engaged in the thing that I’m doing,” he says. “Although in the area of consciousness and identity, what is the identity of any one person, what does it mean to be a real person? But setting that aside, to the extent that maybe I am some kind of real person as you see now …”
He goes on like this, unstoppable (that answer was eight minutes long), smiling, on full Jeff dazzle, with a hint of the Zen master about him. He certainly seems to have found some life secret, and is ridiculously youthful for a man facing his 70th birthday. I’ve read before that Goldblum credits his marriage to Livingston (he has previously been married to the actresses Patricia Gaul and Geena Davis), and specifically the parenting of their two children (his first), as the key to his renewed vigor.
I ask him, baffled, what type of children are they exactly? Because parenting mine gave me thin white hair and wrinkles, not smooth skin and a fabulous silver quiff. “Well, look, I’m only six years into it now, and I could drop at any moment,” he says, chuckling. “I find that the demands they make gives me something, until they wear me out and beat me up, and then I gotta take care of myself.”
“The truth is that all we really want to do here is to be with each other. That’s our job. That’s the highest and best use of this life.”
Such as? “I’m a stickler for a good night’s sleep. We put the kids to bed at 7.30, and then Emilie and I watch a little something on TV, and I’m in bed myself by 8.30 because I get up at five o’clock every morning to feel like I’m getting all my homework done.” He describes an early routine of piano, running script lines and hitting the home gym, all before the children appear at seven. Every interaction with them, he says, good or bad, gives him “a youthful feeling instead of being stultified and congealed in older things”.
I wonder too about his social media presence and if he ever feels that he’s over-sharing. Too much personal revelation, it is said, can damage an actor’s ability to credibly inhabit fictional characters. He nods in furious agreement. “I’m sure that when Daniel Day-Lewis comes on the screen we can buy his complete immersion into another personality because he’s not all over the place and parading his personal life around,” he says. “And yes, I’ve always enjoyed revealing myself and making use of myself, but I must say that I’m also aware that when you present yourself to the public it’s not a therapy session with a confidante, and there have been things in the past with which I haven’t felt comfortable.”
Goldblum grew up in Pennsylvania, the son of a doctor father and a radio broadcaster mother who was obsessed with jazz and acting. In 1971, when he was a teenager, his older brother, Richard, died from dysentery-related kidney failure while travelling in Morocco. He’s not sure today if Richard’s death was a catalyst or as definitive as people think. “My brother died when he was 23, and I’m sure that’s in me,” he says. “But every experience is part of me, along with the humor handed down to me by my parents.”
He moved to New York at the age of 17 and began studying there under Meisner. After his Broadway debut in Two Gentlemen of Verona, he nabbed a series of supporting roles in Annie Hall, Death Wish and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, then hit blockbuster pay dirt with The Fly, Jurassic Park and Independence Day.
I ask him about that famous Goldblum cadence. He’s one of three celebrated actors, after John Wayne and Christopher Walken, who are instantly recognizable by their line delivery. Remember his famous speech in Jurassic Park? “Life breaks free, it expands through new territories. It crashes through [pause, short breath] barriers. Painfully maybe even dangerously but [pause], ah [pause], well, there it is [half-smile, lip lick] … I’m simply saying that life [pause], ah, finds a way.” Is this deliberate?
“I know what you’re talking about, and I have enjoyed through the years attempting to put aside my own characteristics,” he says. “But you can probably see, as we’re talking now, this is just me. I didn’t develop it consciously as a way to be unique. It’s just my so-called rhythms.”
There are more dinosaur flicks on the way, naturally, with next summer’s Jurassic World: Dominion, plus there are two other high-profile movies to come (“But I’m not allowed to talk about either of them”). There’s more jazz too, with a forthcoming tour from his band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
And then, of course, there’s turning 70. “That is a big one,” he says. “That is an old-sounding number to me. I’m lucky that I feel fresh as a daisy and in good shape. But it’s fleeting. We all know, in one way or another, that the end may come at any time. And that is part of the romance and the mystery of this life in this universe. I am trying to do the best that I can, and make the most out of every moment, every day. But that’s what we all should be doing all along.” He pauses, seeming just a tiny bit emotional, then adds, with inimitable Jeff Goldblum timing, “And there you go.”
Kevin Maher is the chief film critic for The Times of London