Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure. The eccentric, charismatic and undeniably fantastic actor has been bringing his own special brand of vitality to our screens for over 40 years now, starting all the way back in 1974 with Death Wish. Since then, his wide-ranging career has included roles in some of the greatest genre movies of all time, such as the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, David Cronenberg’s masterpiece The Fly, and Independence Day. He also recently joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the all-powerful Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok.
But his best-known role may be Ian Malcolm, the chaos theoretician whose warnings about introducing ancient dinosaurs into the modern world went unheeded in Steven Spielberg’s original 1993 Jurassic Park (and the Michael Crichton book on which the movie was based). Malcolm returned in Jurassic Park: The Lost World four years later, and has shown up again after two decades for a brief but memorable turn in the new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
The sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World finds authorities pondering what to do with the dinosaurs left to run wild in the ruins of the title amusement park on Isla Nublar, and when Malcolm is called to testify, he once again decries the danger and ignorance of reviving animals that have long since passed out of the natural order of things.
Directed by J.A. Bayona, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom begins and ends with the unmistakable voice of Jeff Goldblum as he intones Malcolm’s portentious words. We also got to hear that voice on the other end of the line when we grabbed Goldblum for a chat recently — and he started it off as only he can.
Jeff Goldblum: Thank you so much for doing this. It’s such a pleasure to talk to you. Your name wasn’t shortened from Don Quixote?
Den of Geek: It was not, sir.
You’ve probably heard that a million times. I’m an old cornball. I’ve proven it.
Hey, coming from you, it’s a privilege.
Well, I have a great esteem for Don Quixote and the quixotic sensibility.
Let’s talk about Ian Malcolm. He’s a little older, and he’s as wise as he’s ever been. How did you see his role in this story once it was presented to you?
Well, I was thrilled because I had good associations with everything that was done with it. Steven Spielberg, as you can imagine. But I thought this was beautifully written and sure enough, I think J.A. Bayona, who is a wonderful director, did a great job with it. Colin Trevorrow, who wrote and directed the last one, and wrote this one, we worked on it for a bit over the phone.
I got very excited about being able to play the character again and say a couple of things that can contribute to this particular current story and things that interested me anyway. You know, living in accordance with nature, the glories of science, the ills of profit agenda and greed and militarism. I was kind of excited to think about that, investigate it a little bit, and try to come up with an articulate and pithy way to say it.
I read that you had some talks with Colin and J.A. before going into this about some ideas you wanted to express?
We did. They were passionate about it. They were very interested in all those ideas. For instance, a little change, a little difference and `distinction between what Ian Malcolm may have said in the first movie, like “Science is a little bit of fault when it does things just because they can, but maybe they shouldn’t.” Something like that. We all agreed that the clearer and more relevant way to put that is that science is not in any way at fault, and that we should listen to science and the facts. That’s all to the good and quite pure. We wanted to really put the onus on it and indict grotesque political, petty agendas that have to do with greed and militarism. So we all kind of tinkered and kept hammering away at this thing, ’cause we knew we had to make it concise, but we wanted to make it a little bit eloquent, you know?
Is the preparation for you always the same whether you’re the lead in the movie or whether you’re in a few scenes? Do you kind of take the same pains to delve into where the character is coming from and what you want to say with him?
Yeah, I sure do. I was well trained early on. I had good models that made me think this was a worthwhile way for someone who might be serious to spend their lives. And something that you could devote your life to happily and nutritiously. I like the idea that it’s not the screen time that matters as much as the substance of the character and the inner life and thinking and feeling of the character.
So yeah, nothing is not conscientious, I approach everything the same. Even if I’ve got some little commercial job, I must say I try to do as well as I can, ’cause I know that the sky is the limit potentially. It seems like everything I might do has the possibility that you can bring quality to it. Certainly in this, when the part is a little smaller and you have less time to land your points and make your points, it’s especially crucial to be prepared as possible.
Did you visualize Malcolm sort of working behind the scenes all these years, trying to stop the dinosaur project from going forward in any way that he could?
That’s an interesting question. I think he’s a mysterious character, complicated, we never knew that much about him. You alluded to his personal life which seemed rich and complicated. He’s full of himself, it seems. But yes, when I imagined him, I thought yes, after the harrowing and unforgettable and probably transformational life-changing events that we saw Ian go through, that were life and death where I saw people perish and the gravity of ignorance and the grave consequences of ignorance, I think he got probably even more present and grateful and nature loving and probably worked on innovative environmental protection strategies — ways that the world, our glorious planet, can work for everyone.
I think he’s been working on the moral and ethical ways of using genetic power that might help us to cure diseases and ways that might be wise to use our knowledge and dissuade people who would otherwise use scientific accomplishment of all kinds for profit or like I say, nationalistic leverage.
Very important question however, what would the Grandmaster do with this situation?
Well, the Grandmaster as we know, if you read back in all the comic books, has more superpowers than anybody else that we’ve ever met or that’s been depicted. He can kill everybody with a blink of an eye, he cannot be killed himself, he’s immortal, he can resurrect anybody with the blink of an eye or the whisper of a thought, and fly, and do everything else that he can possibly imagine. He busies himself now with amusing games for his own amusement.
But I don’t know what he would do with a situation like this. He’d take obviously a larger context, cosmic perspective on it. I think he’d know everything there is to know about all permutations. He is a master chess player as you can imagine. So he knows every possible move and iteration of possibilities and outcomes, even chaotic outcomes. So if he was interested in anybody’s well-being, which I’m not sure is his real focus, he could advise wisely.
We saw you in Hotel Artemis earlier this month, and now Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. What’s coming up beyond that?
Well, I seem to be busy. I just came back from Japan on some of the last touring publicity wise for Isle of Dogs and I’m happy to be with Wes Anderson and his troupe of merrymaking geniuses again. Let’s see, then I did a movie called The Mountain which I just saw a rough cut of, by Rick Alverson, a wonderful director who did Entertainment. This was with me and Tye Sheridan and Udo Kier and Denis Lavant, if you know those guys, and a wonderful actress named Hannah Gross. It’s a very different kind of movie, a small adventurous movie.
Then, it looks like National Geographic. I’m talking to them, having done this show with Neil deGrasse Tyson on their network with them. Looks like they want to do something with me where I might do some shows where I’m myself and hosting some investigation into geographical and scientific world interests.
You have a musical project as well.
I made an album. You know I play this weekly gig whenever I’m not working at a place called Rockwell’s in Los Angeles with my jazz band. I play piano. We just with Decca Records made an album, made a record that may be coming out at some point pretty soon and we may be touring with them a little more. We’re playing the Arroyo Seco Festival on June 23rd, I think it is. So there’s my musical life and there’s my home life, my wonderful wife Emilie and our two boys, Charlie and River, who are three and one. So my plate is full to bursting.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out in theaters tomorrow (Friday, June 22).