Jeff Gold­blum

IS JEFF GOLD­BLUM THE MOST CHARM­ING PER­SON ON EARTH? BY THE END OF OUR 25-MINUTE IN­TER­VIEW, the cel­e­brated ac­tor has sung to me not once, but twice; asked me to “tap him on the shoul­der,” hop­ing that we “meet in the flesh”; and urged me to give “a big hug and a kiss to ev­ery­one in Canada.” Be­fore I’ve asked a sin­gle ques­tion, the 66-year-old is al­ready ask­ing me about my life — specif­i­cally, whether I’ve ever been to Los An­ge­les, where he lives with his wife and two chil­dren and where he’s been play­ing weekly jazz nights with his band, the Mil­dred Snitzer Or­ches­tra, for three decades. Recorded live from L.A.’s Rock­well Ta­ble and Stage, Gold­blum’s forth­com­ing al­bum, The Capi­tol Stu­dios Ses­sions, cap­tures a night full of playful im­pro­vi­sa­tions and guest singers.

Why do you live where you do?

I al­ways wanted to be an ac­tor, and that caused me to move from Pitts­burgh to New York City to study. That’s when I fell into do­ing Broad­way and then a movie or two. Robert Alt­man saw me in a play and put me in Cal­i­for­nia Split; that was the first time I ever saw Los An­ge­les, to be in a movie with El­liott Gould and Ge­orge Se­gal. Af­ter that, an agent said, “Come on out to Los An­ge­les and we’ll show you around,” then I never left.

What has been your most mem­o­rable or in­spi­ra­tional gig and why?

In the mid-’70s, I moved to Cal­i­for­nia, and at the Roxy I saw Gil Scot­tHeron, and Ste­vie Won­der sat in with him on the drums dur­ing a song or two. I still re­mem­ber that as be­ing strik­ing, be­cause I grew up lov­ing Ste­vie Won­der. I think I played that record of his, For Once in My Life, over and over and over again, un­til I wore out the grooves.

What have been your ca­reer highs and lows?

I feel like I’m get­ting bet­ter. I’m

on the thresh­old of my best work, act­ing-wise. These things I’ve done re­cently — [Rick Alver­son’s] The Moun­tain, the three Wes Anderson movies I’ve been lucky to be in, The Life Aquatic, The Grand Bu­dapest Ho­tel and now Isle of Dogs this past year — these have been big highs. I’ve worked with great peo­ple along the way: Steven Spiel­berg, David Cro­nen­berg, Robert Alt­man, Phil Kauf­man — great di­rec­tors and ac­tors. I’ve been very lucky. Lows, let me see; [to him­self] low, low, low. Noth­ing springs im­me­di­ately to mind; I think we’re all re­spon­si­ble not for the cards we’re dealt, but for turn­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence from one thing to an­other.

What’s the mean­est thing ever said to you be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter a gig?

My very first movie was Death Wish, and Michael Win­ner was a Bri­tish di­rec­tor known for scream­ing at peo­ple and be­ing very mean. I was do­ing my first cam­era re­hearsal for the first shot in the first movie I’d ever done, and I was skulk­ing up the stairs in the movie, along with a cou­ple of other bad guys, and Win­ner yelled at the top of his lungs, in front of ev­ery­body, “Gold­blum! Start! Act­ing! Noooow!” Harsh, and I was burn­ing with hu­mil­i­a­tion. Of course, later, I re­al­ized that it wasn’t the worst piece of di­rec­tion. It’s not rocket sci­ence; “start act­ing now” is pretty good. At the time, it felt pretty mean.

What should ev­ery­one shut up about?

They should shut up about shut­ting other peo­ple up when they’re singing. In­stead of an agreed-upon cy­cle of shame that peo­ple seem will­ing to en­gage in, say­ing, “Oh, keep your day job,” or mak­ing a joke about it, peo­ple should re­strain them­selves from sham­ing peo­ple out of their singing. Ev­ery­body, no mat­ter how they sing, has the right to sing. The beauty is in the joy you get out of it; it’s your birthright to sing. No­body should shut any­body else down when they’re singing.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?

[Singing, to the tune of “Oh Christ­mas Tree”] “Oh Caanadaaa, oh Canadaaa,” I think of the na­tional an­them, be­cause of­ten-times at a gig I’ll ask, “Does any­one know an an­them that isn’t the United States?” and peo­ple will sing that, and sing it proudly.

How do you spoil your­self?

My dad, who was a doc­tor, grew up rather poor when he was young. Into his adult life, when I was a kid, I re­mem­ber him us­ing soap — we had cakes of soap — and he would use the soap down to the very nub. Then, he had a lit­tle con­trap­tion that would take all the nubs of soap and put them to­gether and meld them into a new bar of soap. It was very eco­nom­i­cal, and prob­a­bly very right and cor­rect — but I do a very lux­u­ri­ous thing these days. The nubs get small enough that it’s not en­joy­able for me — I like a big cake of soap — so I throw it away. I go with a new, big cake of soap.

What has been your strangest celebrity en­counter?

Well, peo­ple are mostly de­light­ful when they come up to me, but some­thing they of­ten say is “I look just like you!” This is a wide range of peo­ple! But I al­ways say the same thing: “Well that’s flat­ter­ing to me! I wish I looked like you.”

Who would be your ideal din­ner guest, liv­ing or dead, and what would you serve them?

I love sci­en­tists. Stephen Hawking has a new book com­ing out, and he says some provoca­tive and won­der­ful and in­spir­ing things about the cos­mos, and about right think­ing. I would serve him a smoothie. I made a very nice smoothie this morn­ing. So I would serve a smoothie, which is drink­able through a straw; we have a nice, you know, en­vi­ron­men­tally cor­rect straw in a golden colour.

What song would you like to have played at your fu­neral?

That’s a very good ques­tion. Uhhh, [he semi-sings, find­ing a note], uhhh… It goes like this: [Mr. Gold­blum sings 37 full sec­onds of the pop­u­lar 1934 song “For All We Know” over the phone].

“Ev­ery­body, no mat­ter how they sing, It’s your birthright.”

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