Jeff Goldblum: Life in the Doghouse

April 17, 2018
In his inimitable style, the great Jeff Goldblum reflects on his work with Wes Anderson, his life as a father, and his time on the Isle of Dogs.

Your last collaboration with Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel, was a hit. How do you think this one will play?

I can only imagine. I’m certainly no… you can imagine as well as I do… I don’t know, it will be a case by case basis. To each his own taste. I love it. If I had nothing to do with this and I was just showing up, I would eat it up with a spoon. I love it to pieces. I would see it more than once. I only saw it last night for the first time. And I can’t wait to see it again. It’s edible, it’s highly edible, and a feast and a cornucopia. And rich, rich, rich… it’s delicious. Boy! He’s something. I’ll want to see it again.

I hope that people will like it. I won’t be surprised if all sorts of people love it. It certainly has genuine themes in it that are wholesome, relevant, humane and authentic. He’s a deeply decent, authentic, kind, gentle and brilliant man. He’s not putting anything over on anybody or trying to trick anybody. It’s a genuine offering, a lovely and rare offering.

You’ve been in other Wes movies. Is there one that is closer to your heart?

They’re all different in my family of enjoyable. Those couple because I was in them, and I have a special nostalgic fondness for them and closeness to them, and I know all the goings on, and I remember what I was doing on that day, and I love all the people in them. Oh, I’m a fan of every single one. I love Rushmore. I keep watching it every time I click past it. I love Jason [Schwartzman). Knowing Jason a little bit, he’s particularly delightful and the two of them working together, and Bill [Murray], knowing him a little bit – I’m starstruck with the whole outfit. And I love that movie. The Royal Tenenbaums I love. I love Fantastic Mr. Fox and I loved Moonrise Kingdom. I was very touched by it and enchanted by it. I thought that was absolutely beautiful.

Do you know Michael Chabon, the wonderful novelist? I think they’re friends. He wrote a wonderful two, three page essay about him and it appears in that coffee table book about Grand Budapest Hotel. You can get it, I found it online again. You can see it. Just look up Michael Chabon and his essay on Wes Anderson. Go read it today. It’s very eloquent and poetic about this beautiful and poetic artist. He compares him to Nabakov’s writing and this artist who makes boxes, Campbell, and goes on in a beautiful way.

I will just summarise a little bit: part of his formality and self-exposed artificiality in these little beautiful arranged frames and stories aren’t to be taken and dismissed as whimsy. But because of that device, they give you a portal into his depth and insight into the world and into the world of loss and all things of the childhood experience. It goes on like that in a way that’s very moving every time I read it. He says it way better than I can. I’ve always found him particularly enjoyable and pleasurable. He’s of course brilliant. He’s a genius. He’s an artist and a real master, who has devoted himself to this life of creative endeavours like this. A real student he is. And teacher of cinema. So he’s a great teacher.

You’re a father now – has that changed you?

Well, that’s a big question and I could talk at length about that. But the answer to that is ‘yes’. Charlie Ocean is now two and a half. And River Joe is 10 months. They’re just spectacular. They’re knockouts. I’m crazy about them. It’s enhanced my relationship with Emilie [Livingstone, Goldblum’s wife], doing it together is a great thing to do! A demanding thing, as you know, to do together. But seeing her, it’s enhanced my appreciation of her, but seeing them… you know, yes it makes you more emotional.

Will you show them Isle of Dogs?

That’s a good question. So far our approach has been to deny them, either of them, any screen time. They haven’t seen a movie, they haven’t seen a TV… in passing, maybe for a minute or two. But we’re not our devices. They have no access to a device. I think we’re doing the right thing there, but I thought about, and I’m hankering to show them movies. I love movies. I’d like to show them things.

I was just wondering the other day, I hadn’t thought about it much, I wonder what I’ll first show them. Then I thought maybe these movies – Fantastic Mr. Fox or this. I hadn’t seen it yet. Then Tilda Swinton – we were talking about that  – and she said, ‘Well my kids’ – she’s a wonderful mother and she talks a lot about her twins, a boy and girl, now 20 – ‘I showed them Buster Keaton early on.’ And then Liev Schreiber said, ‘Once you show new stuff, they’re not going to want to go back to the old stuff that moves a little slower. So first show ’em Buster Keaton and Chaplin.’ I’m getting some ideas; I’m just at the seedling stage.

Will kids get themes and layers of Isle of Dogs?

No. Well, they may better than I think. They know more than we think they know. They can intuit or absorb or receive or possess already some sophistication that conventionally we don’t ascribe to them. And the movie is a little bit about that – like in Rushmore. All these precious and capable, worthy of respect, creatures of childhood and other species…dogs. Just because we can dominate them doesn’t mean we’re superior; and doesn’t mean we can’t begin to study and consider their possibly superior or equal sensibility and consciousness and sentience in another way, like this movie with the dogs.

So maybe they would know something, but having said that, on the surface of it, my first answer was ‘no’. Even I don’t understand it. It’s too rich for me on the first viewing! What the heck is this about? I’m going to have to watch it some more; it’s very sophisticated. Like all his movies. Even though they’re whimsical and lighthearted they deal with very adult and universal themes of loss and death and ignorance and bigotry and politics.

Do you reflect much on your own career?

Yes, sure. Even with Wes now, I think back 13 years to Life Aquatic. It all goes by pretty quickly. I’m given to think about the whole thing and how it’s all happened the way it’s happened, and how I’ve been so lucky… I was wild-eyed and hearted about the prospect of doing it, this unlikely thing, making a living in, or a life in, this kind of work. Thank goodness, miraculously it’s happened or continues to happen in a way that allows me to feel like a late bloomer. I’m more interested than ever, enjoying it more than ever. I feel like my better and best stuff… I’m on the threshold of.

People love you more than ever. Are you aware of your cult following?

Ah, that’s sweet. All of it is fleeting. Especially in this culture. There’s coming and going, very fleeting. It’s fun. I’ve enjoyed that aspect of it from the start. I’ve never been one to go ‘this is an extra burden I have to bear with’. That comes with my telling stories and pretending. I’ve enjoyed it. People have always been very nice, one way or another, and it’s a very sweet thing.

I haven’t been on social media much. I’ve never tweeted and I don’t follow any Twitter account, but I’m on Instagram now and I post some things. I kinda have fun, picking a picture or two, and figuring out something fun to say, and then I go on, much to the bemusement of my wife, I go on Instagram – #JeffGoldblum – because I check to see if people have posted pictures that we take together. I like it. People draw funny pictures of me or they get tattoos of me. And then makes cups or shower curtains. So I kind of like it.

Isle of Dogs is in cinemas now. Read our review here.


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