Never one to repeat himself, Jeff Goldblum thrives on taking risks. Though he’s been seen in many mainstream films, the actor returns to the theater and takes on independent films that take him to places he has never been before.
His latest film is “Adam Resurrected” which follows the story of Adam Stein, a charismatic patient at a mental institution for Holocaust survivors in Israel, 1961. He reads minds and confounds his doctors, lead by Nathan Gross.
Before the war, in Berlin, Adam was an entertainer – cabaret impresario, circus owner, magician, musician – loved by audiences and Nazis alike until he finds himself in a concentration camp, confronted by Commandant Klein. Adam survives the camp by becoming the Commandant’s “dog”, entertaining him while his wife and daughter are sent off to die.
Years later we find him at the Institute. One day, Adam smells something, hears a sound. “Who brought a dog in here?” he asks Gross. Gross denies there is a dog but Adam finds him–a young boy raised in a basement on a chain. Adam and the boy see and recognize each other as dogs–and their journey begins.
“Adam Resurrected” is the story of a man who once was a dog who meets a dog who once was a boy. Goldblum talked exclusively to Paul Fischer about the challenges of doing a film of such sheer complexity.
Question: Paul Schrader told me that this was a role you were born to play. Do you agree with that? And how do you feel about that?
Goldblum: Well, it’s awful nice of him to say that. And because that was his idea, that’s how I wound up doing it. He really lobbied to have me do it. And thank goodness. Well, I guess I can see the things that I might have been right for. But it was a great privilege to try to do it. And – you know, the movie had been – they’d been trying to make the movie for a while. And Charlie Chaplin wanted to do the part. Orson Welles wanted to do the part and make the movie. And I’m just thrilled that it got to me. And I had a year to prepare with it and work with Paul on it.
Question: Tell me what the preparation was to get into this character. How hard was it to get into the skin of this character? Or the challenges that you faced.
Goldblum: The challenges to prepare for it? Well, luckily, I had it for a year before I did it. And I immersed myself in that year in preparing for it. I teach acting for the last 20 years, whenever I’m not working. I’m always interested in experimenting with how you do things, and craft. And it felt like on this one, that I wanted to learn the most of it early on, like a play. Which I did. And I had my students kind of apprentice me. I have a place in my backyard, a little acting space. And they would come every day and play the other parts. And I would have run-throughs of it with my students and different people. And I’d have run-throughs of it. And that was the beginning of it. And then I went to Israel– I’d never been to Israel before– and met with Paul, and we went over it. And I started to take violin lessons, and played violin every day. Started to work with dialogue people. Went to Germany for the first time, to Berlin, and spent a month there and worked on things. Talked to survivors in Los Angeles and Israel and Europe. Went to a concentration camp in Poland called Majdanek, which was supposedly the most intact one, and had a very powerful experience there. Worked with dog people, you know? Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer got together with me, and we went through the script. And I started to develop all aspects of things having to do with dogs. And then just looked at as many documentaries of the Holocaust as I could, and fictional movies. And talked to Michael Berenbaum, the guy who designed the Holocaust Museum in Washington. He consulted on Sophie’s Choice. And we went through the script together.
Question: Have you prepared this much for a role ever?
Goldblum: No, I haven’t. I’m usually conscientious, and as soon as I get the part, I figure that’s when I need to start working on preparing it. But I’d never had something for a year before I did it, really. And thank goodness for this one, because I’ve never had a part that was quite as demanding and challenging.
Question: How hard is it to leave a part like this behind at the end of the day?
Goldblum: Well, while I was doing it, for that whole year and for the three months that I did it, it was very emotional, too. And then even after, I knew I was going to have to loop – do some ADR, do some sound. Kind of act it again, the better part of several months later. And we did some re-shooting, several months after that. So I knew I had to keep it alive in me all during that time, and I did. And I got a rough cut of the movie before we did that ADR, and had a daily run-through of it like that, and would go through the whole thing. And then finally, really, after seeing it with several audiences, do I finally sort of feel like I could take a breath, and let it out. But it was life-changing, really. And I think I learned a lot during that year, although scratching the surface on all those events. And people spend their whole lives studying about – but I have a deeper feeling for people who go through things like that. You know? And the movie is about some spiritual things that interested me, too, that really changed me.
Question: Like what, for example?
Goldblum: Well, you know, this character, in a horribly, most horrific and dramatic way, goes through loss. Loses everything. You know, his career, his home, his family. His abilities, his health. And the people he loves. But we all go through things like that. You know, in one way or another. And it either diminishes you, or some say it’s an opportunity for asking yourself, ” Who am I?” in a deeper way. And this character finds himself in the middle of the desert, and realizes himself, I think, finally, through the love of this boy. That who he is is something apart from all the trappings of form that have come and gone. And finds a real source of peace, perhaps, and creativity and love. Those are – I love that whole aspect of the movie.
Question: Do you think doing a movie this give you a very different perspective on the way you approach acting, and the film industry? On acting as a tool for you? I mean, given the amount of work that you did. Does it change the way you approach acting?
Goldblum: Oh, yeah. Yes. It was a creative challenge. And yeah I mean, it was so adventurous and risky, and challenging. That just the muscles to get through it, I think, have equipped me in a different way. And then – yeah. When we went into it, I could tell – you know, my approach to things emotional and sort of in preparation – it just taught me a lot.
Question: Will it be hard for you to find something as challenging as this to do in the future? I mean, I can’t imagine you going back and doing a mainstream Hollywood movie after doing something like this.
Goldblum: I think so. I’m doing now – since I did that, I did this play in London called Speed-the-Plow, the David Mamet show with Kevin Spacey, a brilliant actor. We ran for three months in London. And that’s – I think that’s a wonderful play. But it was commercially successful. And now I’m doing this part on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, which is very kind of mainstream. But I’m enjoying it no end, though. There are very smart people on it, very smart writers, directors, and great actors. And I’m enjoying it no end.
Question: Would you do another Jurassic Park?
Goldblum: It depends on the script, you know? And the director. I loved working with Spielberg those couple of times, and I would relish doing anything with him. I had a great time on those. And in fact, on those, even though they were very popular, the way Steven approached it felt like in some ways – with the actors, the acting – kind of an independent, adventurous way.
Question: What are you doing next, do you know, Jeff?
Goldblum: Next? Well, I’m doing Law and Order for the next – the whole season. We shoot until late April, in New York.
Question: Who do you play in that?
Goldblum: I play a detective. You know that Criminal Intent show? They alternate. One week is Vincent D’Onofrio, heading this detective team. And then the other week had been Chris Noth. And the character I played took over for him at the police station. So, I’m a detective. I’m a homicide detective named Zach Nichols.
Question: Is it fun to do TV? Are you enjoying that?
Goldblum: I am, a whole lot. Like I say they’re really smart, and just sort of develop character over a course of time. It feels very creative and challenging. I like, in a way, not having all that much time to prepare for scripts to come in. You have to be instinctive, and not think too much about it. It’s really fun.