Interview

Sophie Monks Kaufman

Illustration

Lola Beltrán

Jeff Goldblum: ‘Finding out our relationship to the universe – that would be something’

Independence Day: Resurgence sees Jeff Goldblum return as Earth’s lone voice of interplanetary reason.

Jeff Goldblum is a character comedian and a cerebral sex symbol. At 6’4” and with matchstick limbs, he is like an elegant Basil Fawlty, or a charismatic preying mantis. He is also an infamous flirt. At a press junket for Jurassic Park, he literally charmed the shoes off broadsheet journalist, Sabine Durrant.

Now, aged 63, his powers remain. He has a way of wrapping his mind around ideas, expressing nuances of opinion before winding down with a purring chuckle. It makes you happily helpless when he offers the stroke of a respectful compliment. It’s inevitable that the conversation turns towards intimate matters, such as having close relationships and how acting can displace the urge to play away. At least to begin with, we have connected to discuss Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence – the first sequel the director has ever put his name to.

Goldblum reprises the role that he first played 20 years ago in Independence Day, that of ex-scientist, David Levinson. This time around, when the aliens approach, there is no Will Smith to offer a gung-ho helping hand, but instead a new support cast of patriotic upstarts that includes Maika Monroe, Liam Hemsworth and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Rising from the wreckage and brushing themselves down, the denizens of Earth have wisely chosen to sink some time and resource into making sure they’re prepared were this to ever happen again. They have been taking advantage of the alien technology that they laid to waste in ’96. Yet, the aliens, too, have been prepping for another skirmish – can the planet survive the same shit twice?

LWLies: Independence Day: Resurgence sees you reprising your role from the original film, where you were the only one who knew that were are not alone in the universe. Is that something you believe?

Goldblum: You know I’m an actor? I’m not the best person to ask. I’m interested in the question, and I look to the scientists and the Neil deGrasse Tysons and Carl Sagans of the world. I followed them a little bit through the years. Recently, I googled the head of SETI [Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence], which is the organisation that listens for… them. They say we’ve never been contacted but – the conventional wisdom is – because of the size of the universe there’s a likelihood that there are other kinds of life out there. Recently, I read something by this guy who heads up SETI who said that because of our extended reach and listening reception, he predicts that in the next 20 years, we might be in contact with somebody. What do you think of that?

Would you like that?

It’s not something that I’m obsessed with, or wake up every day thinking, ‘Gee, here’s what I’m missing from my day. I wish I could talk to somebody who lives on another planet or in another galaxy.’ But I’m sure that would be a landmark event in the human species and would be absolutely fascinating and would inspire a million questions and hopefully a growth spurt of some kind. All these questions of: what is the universe? Who are we? Where are we? What’s our relationship to the universe? That would be really something. Of course, here on this planet, it would be nice to make contact with all kinds of people, and be in healthy and intimate but fully effective communication and communion with all other human species, not to mention all the other forms of life on our planet. We’ve got a long way to go before we contact all of them, right?

So you don’t wake up wishing for alien contact, but what do you wake up wishing for?

Well, I just had my first child – me and my wife, Emilie. Generously, this lovely production gave me a week in the schedule. I made my way from Albuquerque, where we were shooting, back to LA, and it happened on the 4th of July that Charlie Ocean Goldblum was born. How about that? So, in the morning, I love to wake up and see him and maybe help feed him and change his diaper and spend the day with him and give him a bath later that night. All three of us get in a big bathtub – that couldn’t be more fun, we sing to him and hear him sing and watch him play. When I’m not working I play in a jazz group called the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. If you’re ever in Los Angeles, please come to Rockwell, where we currently have a residency. We play every Wednesday night. So I look forward to – not only practising and playing my piano and singing every day at home, but then getting together once a week and playing with those guys.

Does this mean that acting is down the list of priorities?

No, I love acting. I’m working on something now that I’m not supposed to talk about. I did another little thing with Wes Anderson that I loved working on. I like working on acting every day. I did a couple of shows. I don’t know if they came out in the UK. I did something on Portlandia. I enjoyed that and I just did an episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the Tina Fey show, that I liked doing. I have a very good time acting these days.

How do you stay balanced with so much on the go?

I don’t know. Let me see. Well, I’m just lucky that I’ve got several areas of passionate interest and involvement. I don’t know. Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. I’m just lucky, but balance is one of the things that I aspire to. Sometimes, I’m not so balanced but I try everyday to do something that exercises my human kind of balance.

Any tips?

I’d have to get to know you first of all. I’m not so much an advisor and more a humble student than anything. I’d have to know you personally and know your balance challenges before I could weigh in. I might have an idea or two. Let me see, let me see. Hmmm. Wear a scarf. Watch out for your neck getting chilled and… what else? Portion control.

That’s a really good one. Thank you.

I have to do it myself because if I open a bag of popcorn, for instance, jeez, it’s hard not to eat that whole damn bag. I have to just exercise a little discipline and go, ‘Well, just a little bit of this now will be fine and dandy.’

You said that you’d have to know me to give me tips. How well can we know anyone?

When you’ve got someone you’re interested in or all the people that you have different relationships with – whether you work with them or are married to them – it’s a daily challenge and opportunity and adventure to contact them. How well? I’m sure there are always infinite ways you could go. There’s probably no finish line or peak on that mountain, but you can always attempt to look in their eyes more deeply, open yourself up more fully and get more specifically interested in them and take a journey.

Are there dangers in that?

Are there dangers in that? Well, I think the greater danger is to not go on the journey, to avoid that. Therein lies the real danger. It can be messy. It can be upsetting. It can be frightening, but I think your connection with other people is certainly one of the ways in which you can maximise this delicious and mysterious opportunity of being here. Don’t you agree?

I’m thinking about how there are more interesting people than we will ever be able to know, and it’s a possibility that in getting to know one person well, you might endanger what you have with a person you already know.

Ohh, wait a minute, I think you’re talking about… I think I heard a lot of that. I think I get the gist of it, ha ha ha ha. If you have this arrangement with one person, relationship-wise, you mean getting to know another person too well could violate that, betray that other relationship?

Correct.

Oh, that’s what you’re talking about. Well, now, this is a more meat and potatoes, y’know, issue. Sure. But that’s case-by-case and it’s a very personal thing, isn’t it? Why, are you involved in some dilemma like this yourself?

No, I just like thought experiments.

Thought experiments! Yes, yes. Yes, yes. Well, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes, so you have to keep your wits about you, probably, and be discriminating and discreet while you’re going on this headlong adventure. You can be childlike without being childish. You can be freewheeling and free and in full possession of your play without losing your sense of adult discipline. What do you think of that?

Yes. Also, imagination. You can imagine anything as long as you don’t do it.

Well, acting is this chosen field of mine. It has something to do with imagination and it can satisfy you, yes. You can live things out in your imagination and have some kind of satisfaction without actually doing them. I think that’s true. In my experience, that’s right. That’s right.

Would you recommend acting to your son as a job?

I would share my passion for it and the fun that I’ve had and the challenges of it and the pitfalls of it, but I would be much more interested in seeing and learning what he’s interested in naturally. That would be fascinating to me and it certainly wouldn’t have to be… No, I wouldn’t recommend acting over anything else. I would just take my cue from him.

So, you like to listen?

I do like to listen. Yes, I do. I think I can say. ‘Yes’.

Independence Day: Resurgence opens 23 June.

Tags: Jeff Goldblum Liam Hemsworth Roland Emmerich

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