We, Ah, Talked to Jeff Goldblum and, Uh, It Was Excellent
The reverse-character actor mmms, uhs, and oohs about Thor: Ragnarok, Jurassic Park, Isle of Dogs, jazz, meeting Quavo from Migos and stealing donuts.
Photo via Instagram
One time, Jeff Goldblum gave me his glasses to wear at a bar. It was 2015—a simpler time with less chaos, more theory—and we were at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Angeles, where he hosts an ongoing jazz night with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, a show that’s part ivory-tickling, part audience-flirting, and all Goldblum eccentricity. The windows to Goldblum’s soul and infinite wisdom were a classic black pair of Tom Fords, but in that moment they became collateral for my phone. When Jeff Goldblum asks if he can read anyone’s text messages dramatically on stage, you say yes. Which is how Goldblum turned my entire conversation on ice cream into suspenseful Shakespearean dialogue for the crowd, ending with a rapt “Mmmm! Tastes like freedom.”
At 65, Goldblum’s never-ending license to Goldblum is exactly that taste of freedom. We’re at the height of The Jeff Goldblum Renaissance, a world where the seasoned reverse-character actor regularly steps into past iconic roles including Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm, Super Bowl-sized commercials including a T. Rex chase, or movies whose characters become him. Such was the case for Goldblum’s turn as the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok , the downright silliest Marvel movie that owes a debt to both Taika Waititi’s let-loose direction and Goldblum’s improv charm. With Thor out on Blu-ray and everywhere digital now, plus roles in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to come, I had to catch up with Goldblum over the phone to talk about how much damn fun he’s having.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Goldblumisms remain.
VICE: We’ve actually met once at Rockwell after a Mildred Snitzer Orchestra show! You know your jazz piano. How are your musical pursuits going?
Jeff Goldblum: No kidding! I love being at Rockwell. They’re going well. When I’m not working, I’m there every week on Wednesday night. We played that Arroyo Seco festival last year here in LA and we’re doing it again this year. We’re enjoying ourselves! It’s a lot of fun. Come back again!
I saw on your Instagram you had a rendezvous with Quavo from Migos earlier this year . Would you be open to a Goldblum-Migos collab in the future?
I loved meeting him! We were shopping and we started to talk and took some pictures together and I, I, I was very thrilled to meet him. Mhm. Oh my gosh, I’d be thrilled to do any, any little thing with him and them. Yeah that would be a lot of fun. It could go anywhere! That’s a great idea [laughs].
What bands have you been into lately?
You know, I’m still catching up on some old jazz stuff—the kind of stuff we like to play—but I still had never heard this version that I found yesterday of Thelonious Monk playing “Caravan,” a song I enjoy playing. Boy, seeing him do it is, uh, is really something. And Willie Bobo, I’ve just been turned on to him. He’s from a while ago but there’s this song “Fried Neckbones,” [singing] friiiied neckbones, handsome home frieees… it’s very catchy. I give my two-and-a-half-year-old son a bath every night and I was singing it to him. He thought it was very catchy too.
Amazing. That’s Charlie Ocean right?
Yeah that’s Charlie Ocean! And then our other son [with wife Emilie Livingston, a Canadian aerialist, actress, and former Olympian] who’s now 11 months old is River Joe.
Any musical streaks in either of them yet?
I’ve always sat at the piano these last couple years with Charlie Ocean and he kinda bangs around. But I must say, River Joe, when I play or we put on music, boy he’s just standing up at this point, but he rocks to the music and bounces up and down. He seems to really like it so maybe he’s musical. I’d like to play with them.
In Thor: Ragnarok , from that first blast of Led Zeppelin onwards, it’s clear that this isn’t a sadboy superhero movie. How fun was it to make?
It was spectacularly fun. Taika Waititi is one of the main reasons. He’s a brilliant kind of genius musically, directorially, he’s a wonderful actor, I’ve enjoyed his movies before, and this one particularly, What We Do in the Shadows , where he improvised the whole thing. He [directed and wrote for] the show Flight of the Conchords which I was a big fan of. We improvised a lot in the movie and it was just so much fun.
What were some of your favourite improv detours as the Grandmaster?
We did a million things at every opportunity. Before we broke down the scene, we would do ten ideas that weren’t in the script that Waititi had, ten ideas that I had. He gave me a piano that wasn’t in the script that I played around with during some of the scenes. If you get that DVD, you’ll see a couple of deleted and extended scenes that I remember having a great time in. There’s one with Chris Hemsworth [who plays Thor] where I’m fighting off some bats pestering us around the castle, that was fun. There’s a whole other ten-minute segment where you follow me and my new roommate here on earth who’s a fellow named Darryl, a regular, regular guy. Taika directed that after the movie and it’s amusing. I loved doing all that.
What hero would you want to be roommates with if you had the chance?
As my roommate! Well, let me see, let me see… the Hulk turns out to be a very kind of, sometimes dangerous, but very soulful, deep-feeling, sweet-touching fellow. Thor himself of course, living with him would be a wonderful, uh, adventure and rousingly sweet time. Loki is a complicated, interesting, brilliant, delightful fellow. You’d have to steer clear of his mischief and troublesome… character… quirks. And then Hela! She’s very powerful. As dangerous as she is, she’s wildly enchanting and magical. I’d like to spend a lot of time around her. Valkyrie is wonderful. Between all of them, I’d say me, Valkyrie, and Hela would do well in an apartment together.
Like Big Brother style.
Or Three’s Company [laughs].
The Grandmaster, for all his villainous ways and gadgets, doesn’t really show off any powers of his own. What superpower would you want to have in life?
Mmm! Mmm-mmm-mmm… well I’d certainly like to be stretchy man where I could reach around a corner and extend my arm and grab that donut off of the windowsill next door. I sure would like to fly. I’d like to be invisible. That would sometimes be fun. Mmm… how about those three?
You could even be an invisible, flying stretchy man so no donut would escape you.
What what what? Ooh yes, I could have all three, oh boy there’d be no stopping me!
You’d be ruthless. There’d be a donut crisis on earth.
[ Laughs] I know, I’d go crazy.
Let’s talk about the hero you’re returning to soon in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom . How do you feel about Funko’s sexy Ian Malcolm figure that came out recently?
I love that doll. People make funny versions of that moment in [the first Jurassic Park] with me recovering from my leg injury and, uh, getting a breath of fresh air with my shirt undone. I’d like to have that around. It was fun doing Jurassic World. Anything in Mr. Spielberg’s orbit is ennobling and fun and creatively-focused and enhancing. J.A. Bayona was a wonderful director on that. And then I did the Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dogs, which I’m excited about too.
You have your own dog, Woody . Did you draw any inspiration from him for your role as Duke in Isle of Dogs ?
Oh yes, yes, I draw inspiration from Woody all the time. He’s present, and attentive, and in the moment, and athletic—he can do things that I can never imagine doing—and loving, and patient, and sweet, yeah, yeah. I aspire to be all the things that he is.
Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok is on Blu-ray and digital now, Isle of Dogs is in theatres March 23, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom comes out June 22.
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