Photos: Dylan Coulter
Getting an insight into a typical day for Jeff Goldblum – he who radiates charm, whose wink could stop a raging velociraptor dead in its tracks, the man who finds joy in shaking the dressing into his salad, in prising the dress shoes from his tired feet and in plucking the hairs from inside his nose – is an overwhelming experience. Even the most benign, polite anecdotes come punctuated with Goldblum’s own little moments of whimsy – tiny ooh, oh? ums, so often lost in his own thoughts he’ll gladly take your hand and let you teeter through them with him.
He woke at seven o’clock, he says in his rich, glossy timbre of a voice, after a night in with his wife, Emilie Livingston (always the full name, “did you know she was an Olympic gymnast?”). Jeff Goldblum gave a light stretch then washed his face with cold water (“which I like to do these days”) then went downstairs in the house he’s owned for 30 years to check on his overnight oats. Have you ever wondered what Jeff Goldblum puts in his porridge? Just goats milk. Sometimes he’ll add fresh berries but he likes to save those for his two-year-old son, Charlie Ocean, in case he wants them with his pancakes. When it’s Charlie’s turn for breakfast, Jeff Goldblum will sit himself down at his son’s small, kidney-shaped table and they’ll have pancakes together, and his long limbs look so ridiculous as he hunches down that the infant will laugh until he nearly chokes on his pancakes. This routine happens every single morning.
“I won’t bore you with all the details,” the 64-year-old actor says, raising an eyebrow to signal that yes, he gets the irony. Charlie Ocean washes down his pancakes with water served in a little-person carafe and, to stop his curly hair from getting in the way of his scoffing, Goldblum, who compares him to “a young Bob Dylan”, will bunch it up in a scrunchie. “He’s a wordsmith, a soundsmith, really, a poet already. Instead of ‘Dada’, he’ll say ‘Daydah’ at me, you know? ‘Daa-dee-dooh’, it’s really, umm, oh, it’s really very good.”
Then there’s a routine they do in the car where Goldblum, who knows his son likes the windows up, not down, thank you very much, pretends not to hear him, keeping the window down and the wind gale-force whipping through his boy’s fine locks, and it all sounds like life as Jeff Goldblum is an unbridled, relentless grin-fest – a never-ending carousel of laughter and joy and endorphins pumping through your body. How does someone – even a rich, good-looking, successful someone – operate like that on a basic human level without becoming delirious?
“Use what exists,” he says, switching his rafter-wafting theatrical voice for a softer one. It’s the same advice he gives me now, for eternal happiness, as he does later, for renovating a home, but it’s advice from Jeff Goldblum nonetheless. And who wouldn’t want life advice from Jeff Goldblum?
Goldblum started on his nose and ears the moment he finished his workout. “I did cardio, on the treadmill in our gym, and she – Emilie Livingston – she was doing a, a, oh, ahh, an exuberant, masterful, athletic sort of workout, as an Olympian does.”
He taps his nostril. “The things I do are very specific. What I like to do – I’m very good at it – I get these tiny scissors, and I won’t let anybody else do it, because I’m good, I know exactly what I want to do.” Then there’s the tweezing around his ears, those barely visible white ear-hairs. Goldblum is tracing a perfectly manicured fingernail around the top of his ear. “I enjoy it, truly I do, it’s very satisfying. The longer hairs are fine, but the short ones, the ones that are just sprouting? You need to dig a little bit, and it will reveal itself, like a crocus, coming up in spring. That feeling of excavating is just marvellous.”
He tried one of those Turkish barbers, and it was, in his words, “atmospheric, evocative,” – but it wasn’t for him. “I know every corner of myself far better,” he explains.
All afternoon, Goldblum has been playing in front of the camera. At one point, air-pianoing along to the Erroll Garner album on the speakers, other times pretending to be a German ski instructor trying to seduce a married woman. “Where is your husband?” he says, to nobody. “Perhaps we have a hot chocolate by ourselves, get to know each other, ya?” Then, an outfit change, and he’s slow-dancing with an invisible woman, murmuring sweet nothings in nobody’s ear. Making the tsk tsk tsk of a hi-hat. Stroking his chin like a villain. He is never not ricocheting around the room, at one point briefly disappearing to get coffee (he heard Dustin Hoffman was in the building) and telling the barista she looks like Christina Applegate, but with dark hair. “Did you used to be blonde?” (She did.)
We’re sitting in his dressing room while Goldblum eats a salad. “I am easily pleased, but I am thrilled, really thrilled with this salad.” There’s soup, too, hot when it was ordered two hours ago. I tell him that now he’s got gazpacho, which causes him, hunched over his salad, to widen his eyes in joy. “You got me gazpacho? Tremendous!” He pries it open and has a spoonful, and it’s really very delicious, apparently. It doesn’t matter that it’s just hot soup gone cold. Not when he looks this happy.
Someone staying in the same Hollywood home for 30 years sounds so un-Hollywood that I have to ask him about it. Unsurprisingly, he just really loves his house. “I’m really not consumerist,” he says, “I don’t need anything grand. Often I’ll go into a store, have a look around and proclaim, ‘Everything in this store validates the decisions I have already made,’ and leave.”
I ask him whether he’d like to live in an ugly building with a gorgeous view, or a gorgeous building with an ugly view – and it causes him to take off his thick frames, set them down beside him, and have a good, long think (punctuated by more of his mellifluous thinking-out-louds).
“Oh, a would-you-rather? I love that. OK, so here’s… here’s what I think. My sister? She’s my model for aesthetic wisdom – she’s a painter. And she once said to me: ‘The view can be overvalued.’ I bet it’s real nice to see the Eiffel Tower out of your window, but day after day, maybe it would be uninspiring. However, an ugly view… what are we looking at? I’m thinking… indistinctive. Ugly, aesthetically displeasing but not horrific. Or do we mean uninspiring?” His glasses are back on and he’s searching me.
After some deliberation, he says, “I would rather have a place that was interesting to me.” I tell him you can change everything about your ugly house – add a shelf, paint the bathroom, knock through a wall – but you can’t change an ugly view. “Now you’re thinking like a riddlemaster,” he says, wagging one of his long, tanned fingers at me.
Goldblum gets a kick out of the #JeffGoldblum hashtag on Instagram. “I like to browse it, at my wife’s bemusement and contempt,” he says. He shows me a man who has a tattoo of Goldblum just above a tattoo of Louis Armstrong. “Isn’t that a nice pairing? I thought it was kind of nifty, the jazz fan that I am.”
I start to wonder when – or even if – Goldblum ever feels sad. Because it’s great to sit in the company of someone so upbeat, who will sing (actually sing!) the virtues of the $10 kale caesar salad they’ve been given for lunch. There’s no awkward silences, no clenched teeth, no questions or avenues that hang heavy in the room. It’s not just a question of how he remains so cheery – but when does he get angry?
“You know, I have, ah, gifts of fury that I can call on in my so-called creative life. I’m obsessed with the news, I have political convictions that keep me positively boiling. So it’s not as if I’m just floating in tepid water all the time. But!” he says, so loud I actually flinch, “I don’t relish chaos, and difficulty and unpleasantness. I’ll pick my fights, sure. And I’m more brave these days, in confronting something challenging. But having said that, alas, most days I am a pretty cheerful character. Shall I tell you why? Because I’m grateful, and I practise attention to gratitude. So even when things, ah, hey! Remember: it’s just good to be alive. Even if you’re just alive. I think it’s miraculously delicious to be alive.”
That’s not to say he isn’t outspoken – he is, to a point. “I go through periods, and people ask me more and more these days,” he says. “Privately I like to talk about it – I campaigned for Hillary Clinton, so publicly. I share my enthusiasm about her. And of course, I’m concerned about Him. But honestly, I try to be careful with how I discuss this sort of thing in my life. Not because I’m talking to you. It’s more… what can I say in my position to be effective? I’m just sitting waiting for this Russian investigation to kick in, too. It’s fun to grumble just for its own sake, and get overly obsessed with the entertainment of it. It’s so enmeshed in a form of dark and cheap entertainment, so for me, I am trying to not just consume that unconsciously. I have to be positive. I can’t just keep watching.”
He does watch the news every morning though, while he’s playing his 45 minutes of piano in the guest house – that’s where he is sent each morning to play piano, so as not to wake the rest of the house up (he has another son, River Joe, born in April). It’s a shame, because he has a lovely grand piano in the main house… but no. Not in the morning.
He has to get going soon; he needs to put Charlie Ocean and River Joe to bed, get changed and whizz back out to East Hollywood. Because it’s Wednesday. And on Wednesday nights, schedule allowing, although it nearly always does – Jeff Goldblum headlines his own freestyle jazz night at an upmarket dinner club. It explains the scat singing earlier, and it explains the jazz playing on his shoot. He’s going to take the trilby with him, you know, because it just, ah, oh, it just feels right. Last question, but before I can ask it, he’s answering a question that doesn’t exist yet.
“I have received a world of education from those around me, so here’s something, knowing you’re very deep like that. We’ve already touched on it. Use what exists. Use. What. Exists. That’s a mysterious little oyster that I want you to take with you. Unwrap it, apply it to many things. It can take you far.”
Thor: Ragnarok is in at cinemas nationwide from 24 October