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15 January 2020

A day in the life of Jeff Goldblum

The actor on therapy, eggs and aerial gymnastics.

By Kate Mossman

Jeff Goldblum is married to an Olympic gymnast. At ten, Emilie Livingston moved to Novogorsk near Moscow to train, without her family. (“One thing about the Russians, they have no mercy,” she later said.) At 16, she won the gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the Pan American games. She excels in ribbon and ball work, and in aerial silks, for which she had a rig set up in the garden. “Her workouts are radical, as you can imagine, and impressive,” says her husband, sitting close on a sofa in a BBC dressing room, pipe cleaner thin in black. He has a habit of tipping his head back and pausing during his rapid speech, as though catching pepper in his nose.

Goldblum’s daily routine is as punishing as his wife’s. He rises at 5am to do 45 minutes of cardio and weight resistance during her parallel work-out: “I’m glad to do it, and I feel not-good if I don’t do it.” He then embarks on what he describes as his “workload of piano”; he’s had a piano in every house he’s lived in and has just released his second jazz album with his band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. As a child he’d forget to practise, and each week, before his lesson, he would hope his teacher had been involved in a car accident. But as an adult,  practising became more pleasurable. “The discipline/freedom part goes like this: putting a little time in, making it a habit in some way, the daily stuff, and that’s how I’ve lived.” The same goes for his acting. Goldblum trained with the New York theatre guru Sanford Meisner, whose techniques focused on the “reality of doing”. Forty-five years of movies followed: The FlyIndependence DayJurassic Park. He has the script for Jurassic World 3 and is already running lines, although it doesn’t start filming till June. In the past, he’d cram – “I would say: cancel all my everything else” – but that is “very painful”, he says, compared to the little-by-little approach. After he finishes piano practice, at 7.30 each morning, Goldblum makes eggs for his two young sons.

At 67, he must be exhausted by the time the day starts. “Well, I go to bed early. The key is, go to bed early. Yes, yes!” he says, plucking at the air with long fingers. He is in bed by 9pm with Netflix. He and Livingston recently watched Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief in 15-minute instalments and he is currently watching Ken Burns’s documentary on country music whenever she brushes her teeth, because it’s not her kind of thing. Goldblum, who was previously married to the actresses Patricia Gaul and Geena Davis, calls his new routine of early bed and early start his “nine to five”.

When Livingston, then still his girlfriend, suggested they have a “ba-ba-baby” (he closes his eyes and affects a stutter) he took the idea to his “lady therapist”, Lu Katzman, whom he’d known for a couple of decades. They talked through his doubts. “Relationships would come and go,” he explains, “and I would still be averse to a relationship that has finished and kids that linger.” He discovered that Livingston, 30 years younger, would also like to be married – “and I’m a little over weddings”. But his therapist suggested it might enhance his life, so married they were. Katzman even officiated the ceremony, held at the Chateau Marmont – better than some professional popping up, he says, as they do at funerals, pretending to have known you your whole life when they’ve spoken to you once. “That always skeeves me out.”

Goldblum still puts colour in the cheeks of women of all ages. In person, you experience the force of his unusual physical ease – a kind of rubbery closeness which, if anything, breaks down sexual tension, and turns him into a powerfully touchy-feely, metrosexual being: within seconds we are sniffing each other’s wrists and comparing colognes. As a father, he can no longer get away with what he calls his “superficial enchantment”. His sons are two and four: “The kind of person you are needs to be cleaned up, if there’s any cleaning to do, or investigated.” He is an entire complex of ticks and idiosyncrasies in the flesh; unique and exaggerated almost like a mime. Sanford Meisner’s influence still feeds into his conversation. Meisner eschewed method acting for emotions created in the moment – he’d give his students a line, and challenge them not to speak it until compelled to do so – even if the prompt was Meisner himself pinching their arm or slipping his hand into a blouse. Goldblum knows how to improvise, “use myself” more, he says, but Meisner said it takes 20 years of continual work before you can call yourself an actor, and you get the sense that the long game kept him on edge for two decades: “I felt somehow insecure or unprepared or unqualified.” 

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He is grateful to his parents for “having supplied exactly what I needed to create my life” – encouragement in his work, and an unhealthy entanglement from which he had to find a way to flee. He was raised in Pittsburgh by a doctor father and a mother who ran a kitchen appliances firm. Both his elder brothers are now dead. One died aged 23, when Goldblum was 19: “He was a kind of Hemingway, a self-styled Hemingway. Travelling around and keeping a journal in Casablanca, Morocco, Agadir. Got something quick and [clicks his fingers] perished.” The other passed away at 60; as a youth he’d been sent to therapy for being gay. Looking at his brothers, he saw dependence – “not having their own stock, their own ideas, their own way” – and moved, at 17, to begin the business of finding oneself, whatever that is, through acting.

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“In life, you have to edit or hide or present appropriately,” he concludes. “In acting, everything is includable: the only thing that wins is the truth, and it’s not a court of law – there are no repercussions except in your nervous system. What we’re after is honest expression, even while you’re lying and making stuff up.” 

Jeff Goldblum’s album “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This” is out now on Decca

This article appears in the 15 Jan 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Why the left keeps losing