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What does Jeff Goldblum have in common with Dr Ian Malcolm, the silver-tongued, occasionally bare-chested mathematician he’s been playing for almost three decades in the Jurassic Park movies? For a start, they wear the same boots. The 69-year-old actor waggles his feet out from under our breakfast table at the Sunset Tower in Hollywood so I can admire the Saint Laurents he brought along from the latest instalment, Jurassic World Dominion. ‘I’ve broken these in,’ he recalls telling the costume department, explaining why he was putting them out of a job. ‘It makes me feel a whole different way if they’re new. I think Malcolm is broken in. He has a broken-in, uh, body experience.’
The same could be said of Goldblum, supremely at ease with himself and cutting a rakish figure this morning in an all-black ensemble topped with a wide-brimmed felt hat and those chunky Jeff-brand Jacques Marie Mage glasses. Their similarities extend well beyond a shared wardrobe. In 1993’s Jurassic Park, Richard Attenborough’s Dr John Hammond affectionately described Malcolm as suffering from a ‘deplorable excess of personality’ and Goldblum similarly bubbles over with effervescent charisma. He greets waiters and fellow diners like old friends. Even the menu thrills him. ‘I’d say the huevos rancheros might be entertaining,’ he purrs, as if the eggs might leap off the plate and start tap dancing. ‘And I think not unhealthy! What else do I need? Do you have fresh squeezed orange juice? Pulpy, that’s what I like. Otherwise I’m opposed to it.’
This infectious joie de vivre has made Goldblum a compelling presence on our screens for close to half a century. Born in a suburb of Pittsburgh in 1952, he won his first film role in 1974 playing a street thug who unwisely terrorises Charles Bronson’s family in vigilante thriller Death Wish. Small roles in Robert Altman’s Nashville and a single, memorable line in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (‘I forgot my mantra’) followed before he became a leading man in 1986, cast by David Cronenberg as the eccentric scientist who manages to accidentally turn himself into an insect in The Fly. In the Nineties he enjoyed serious box office success while helping save the world in both Jurassic Park and Independence Day. More recently he’s become a fixture in Wes Anderson’s revolving cast in films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and even found his way into the Marvel Universe in Thor: Ragnarok. He credits this to meeting a kindred spirit in director Taika Waititi. ‘We’re both bushy tailed,’ Goldblum says of the New Zealander. ‘We both enjoy life and enjoy ourselves on set.’
It was the original Jurassic Park that gave Goldblum his first taste of blockbuster movie-making, although he very nearly didn’t make the cut. Shortly after being cast he was invited to meet Steven Spielberg for the first time and the director promptly informed him the script was being rewritten and the character of Malcolm was out. Goldblum quickly put his charm to good use. ‘I said: I’ll tell you, I think that character might be able to add some spice,’ he recalls. ‘I think somebody with that sensibility and a specialty in chaos theory and unintended consequences has a very particular thing to contribute, and thank goodness it wound up as it did.’
Now, 29 years on, Jurassic World Dominion sees Goldblum reunite with original stars Sam Neill and Laura Dern (‘I’d be remiss if I didn’t, at this point, take off my hat,’ he lifts his hat, ‘to the great Laura Dern and the great Sam Neill, two of our great screen artists and sterling individuals’). They’re thrown into an ensemble along with Jurassic World’s Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard and newcomers like DeWanda Wise. ‘It was a Cobb salad,’ trills Goldblum. ‘It was a melange and we mixed ourselves up into a swirl.’
Production began in February 2020 before being forced on to hiatus a month later for reasons you probably recall. Filming resumed that July with the cast securely ‘bubbled’ inside the Langley Hotel in Buckinghamshire, the first major film production to do so. The Covid protocols producers scrabbled to pull together have gone on to become the industry standard, but at the time whispers from the set were so chaotic they inspired Judd Apatow to make The Bubble. Goldblum is at pains to insist the production didn’t actually descend to such levels of farce. ‘Sweet Judd Apatow took that as a springboard, I suppose,’ he says, ‘But besides being London-ish, and dinosaur-infused, it wasn’t anything like that.’
By way of proof, Goldblum pulls up the cast and crew WhatsApp group. ‘I shouldn’t show you this, but we’re still talking to each other in a very secret collective thing,’ he says conspiratorially while locating a group picture of them all inside the Langley, wearing matching red T-shirts saying ‘Viva la bubble’. ‘There’s Laura. There’s Chris Pratt. There’s Sam…’ he points out. ‘There’s my groomer, David Cox, who was there the whole time to do my hair and make-up.’
Goldblum has always been a well-dressed man but recently he’s graduated to fully fledged fashion icon. In January this year he flew to Milan to walk the runway for Prada with Kyle MacLachlan. ‘I’d never been to a fashion show before except once,’ he says. ‘Decades ago, I was invited by Giorgio Armani’s people to sit on their front row between Claudia Cardinale and Sophia Loren. A dream come true! What happened to my life?’
His life doesn’t sound too bad. Before Milan he was in Spain filming Wes Anderson’s forthcoming romantic comedy Asteroid City, which meant he got to stay in a bubble meticulously designed by Wes Anderson. ‘We were in a little bubbled-up hotel that he had found and curated,’ he says wistfully. ‘Every molecule around his radius is full of style and beauty.’
If there were any benefit to the Jurassic World Dominion bubble, it was that it gave Goldblum plenty of opportunity to sprinkle a few more Goldblum-isms into the script. ‘I’m not angling for the last word or anything,’ he says, ‘but I do want to contribute if there’s anything we can do to make it interesting, or tasty, or just season it up a little bit.’ These aren’t ad libs exactly. Instead, he would arrive on set and pitch his contributions to director Colin Trevorrow and scene-partners like Chris Pratt. ‘I’d say: “This tickles me”, and I’d have about 10 of those. They’d say: “You can’t say that, or that, maybe that, definitely not that.”’ In one scene, Goldblum wanted Malcolm to ask Pratt’s character how he had managed to bond so effectively with dinosaurs. ‘I go: “Well, you’ve gotta be careful. I had a dog once and we got so bonded he humped my leg and I wound up with a callus on my shin.”’ Trevorrow approved. ‘He goes, “Okay, it’s out of left field,” but it was to his taste and Chris Pratt’s taste so they voted for that one.’
Credit for inspiring that particular line can probably go to a ginger standard poodle named Woody. Goldblum had the same breed as a child and decided to get another with his wife, Emilie Livingston, a Canadian Olympic gymnast 30 years his junior, as a way of thinking about whether they could handle children. ‘We had that dog, kind of intentionally, as a little test,’ says Goldblum. ‘It worked out well.’ They now have two sons, who are five and six, and neither has yet been inside a movie theatre. Goldblum thinks it’s time they had their first big-screen T-Rex experience. ‘I showed them Jurassic Park, the first one and the second one, and they made it through that,’ he says. ‘I have a free Sunday coming up so we’ll take them in the daytime. Do you think it’s gonna be too scary?’
He means the dinosaurs, of course, although for adults the scariest thing about Jurassic World Dominion will probably be just how plausible it is that a handful of rich idiots unleash untold disaster on the planet while myopically pursuing their own bottom lines. As well as delivering the sort of roller-coaster thrills designed to lure us into actually going back out to cinemas, the film works as a pretty enjoyable metaphor for having let corporate interests decide the future of humanity. The villain of the piece is the evil tech CEO of clue-is-in-the-name genetics corporation Biosyn. ‘We’re racing toward the extinction of our species,’ Malcolm tells a youthful audience gathered to see him on the company’s Google-esque campus. ‘We not only lack dominion over nature. We’re subordinate to it.’
For Goldblum, the message is that we need to be better stewards of our own planet before we start setting up shop anywhere else. ‘Elon Musk would suggest that we go colonise Mars,’ he says. ‘I don’t know as much as he does, but my feeling is: Shame. Shame. Why would any other planet, if they had a say in it, accept our admittance after what we’ve done to this planet? We’ve done many lovely things, and maybe we can pat ourselves on the back for painting this painting and one thing or another, but can we not spend a little energy seeing if we can clean up this mess? Yes, we want to survive, but maybe that’s what we’re meant to do. Sit in our own mess. Reap the consequences.’
Goldblum has seen how terrifying nature can be. Back in September 1992, during the filming of Jurassic Park, the island of Kauai was hit by Hurricane Iniki, the most powerful hurricane to hit Hawaii in recorded history, with winds of 145 mph. It killed six people and caused $3bn worth of damage. Goldblum was with Spielberg and 130 cast and crew as they sheltered inside a hotel, including Attenborough, who slept through the whole thing and later told Spielberg: ‘Dear boy, I survived the blitz!’
Goldblum has never forgotten those hours inside the hotel waiting for the storm to pass. ‘It gave us a real experience of what facing life and death might mean,’ he remembers. ‘I’ve never before or since been in a hurricane, but the primal disturbance and excitation that brought about in me is unlike anything else… maybe facing a dinosaur close up, you know? That was something.’
He couldn’t help but be reminded of the experience when stuck with Neill and Dern once again in another hotel, all those years later, looking out at another disaster. ‘While I hope we’re not a bad luck linchpin, it happened that when we got together this time we were again in the middle of another horrific and tragic time when so many people lost their lives,’ he says. ‘Hopefully dealing with this virus can bring us together, and bring out our best ideas, best thinking and best empathetic sense of brother-sisterhood.’ Time to get our boots dirty, then, even if they are Saint Laurents.
Jurassic World Dominion’ is out on 10 Jun