The Secrets To Living Well, According To Jeff Goldblum - Men's Health Magazine Australia

The Secrets To Living Well, According To Jeff Goldblum

Hollywood’s favourite eccentric reveals how approaching life with humour and honesty can make you weirdly happy.

“Errh, eeereeeeh”. Jeff Goldblum is making a noise that sounds a little like a labouring early-2000s dial-up connection, as he searches for a succinct answer to what I had assumed was a straight-forward question. The problem is that for Goldblum there’s no such thing.

For him, any given topic or question has so many possible answers, so many sentences that might be uttered, so many memories that might be recalled, so many joyful experiences that might be revisited. 

The noise he makes is possibly the first undeniable “Goldblumism” I’ve managed to elicit from him today, as I wait for one of Hollywood’s most famously enigmatic stars to reveal his favourite meal.

“Oh, I love food so much and I’m not picky,” says Goldblum finally, closing his eyes as he runs a clawed hand through his unruly salt and pepper locks. “I think even as a kid, I wasn’t. Sorry, but I like everything. Oh my gosh. Well, I love breakfast and this morning I had some scrambled eggs and Tabasco sauce and some raw onions. And some orange juice. It was just great. But last night, oh my gosh, we went to this restaurant and I really enjoyed this Italian salad, which was like the antipasto salad, including salami and cheese with some Italian dressing. And then I had some spaghetti Bolognese. Man, that was good. It was so hot when it first hit the table. And it reminded me of my mum’s…  she used to make this spaghetti Bolognese in a big green bowl. I sure liked that.”

This delightfully meandering, thoroughly whimsical answer is vintage Goldblum. The 69-year-old father of two teeters on the precipice of self-caricature without ever succumbing to it. In Goldblum’s world, life is too rich, too complex to limit yourself to definitive answers. He’s made his name by embracing all aspects of his personality: strengths, flaws, foibles and, yes, eccentricities, deploying them sans a script (or an editor!). He’s made weirdness his calling card and become beloved for it.

“I aspire to being honest and authentic,” he tells me on a Zoom call from his home in LA. “I’m not trying to fool anybody.”

JEFF GOLDBLUM

Goldblum has brought this same search for truth to the cavalcade of oddball characters he’s portrayed on screen. After small parts in Death Wish and Invasion of The Body Snatchers in the ’70s, he broke out as a manipulative journalist in The Big Chill in 1983, before playing mad scientist Seth Brundle in The Fly, carrying a fly around in a paper bag as part of his prep. Since then, he’s pinballed between indie fare, like Igby Goes Down and blockbusters, such as Independence Day, Thor: Ragnarok and, of course, the Jurassic franchise to which he returns this June in Jurassic World Dominion. There he plays scientist Dr Ian Malcolm, a role he describes as pulling on “an old, rugged boot”. 

That same description might fit Goldblum himself one day but not today, for he’s aging at a rather glacial pace – he’s more like a pair of classic, well-maintained cowboy boots you pick up at a flea market. Indeed, with his seasoned, rakish looks and lanky frame, he’s become something of a high-end clothes horse of late, taking to the catwalk at Milan Fashion Week earlier this year. At the same time, his made-for-memes personality and exuberant mannerisms frequently translate into online gold. Aside from acting, Goldblum’s other great love is jazz piano. He practises every day and plays each Wednesday night at the Rockwell Club in LA. He became a first-time father at 63 and now has two young boys, Charlie and River, with his third wife, Emilie, a former Olympic gymnast. In the public imagination he occupies a space somewhere between Bill Murray and Nicolas Cage. 

If it sounds like a singular, charmed life, it’s not one devoid of lessons. Here, one of Hollywood’s true originals reveals his secrets to living well – though, he warns with a smile, “Everybody shouldn’t aspire to being Jeff Goldblum”. Nor should you attempt, as the adage goes, to be the best version of yourself. Just be yourself, he says. Drop the act, in other words. 

Maximise your morning

“I get up very early because our kids need to be off to school by a quarter of eight, so we’re cooking breakfast for them at 6:30. And at seven o’clock, I start going over piano with them. They both study piano and I’m the designated facilitator for their rehearsals. But before that I’ve got to get my own workout in at the gym and my own piano work done. So, there’s a lot to do. I like to get the routine things done early on. That way I can be as free as a bird for as much of the day as possible.”

Be grateful

“I tell you I’m lucky. I’ve had a plateful of lucky experiences in my life and I was just thinking the other day that if I was peevish in one way or another about one thing or another, it would be petty. It would legitimately come under the petty category. I think I should be thanking my lucky stars every day, which I try to do. I am full of gratitude. But I do enjoy myself. I’ve been lucky enough to be an actor, which I was always crazy about. It’s the serious business of play and I’m a playful sort.”

Don’t try to fool anyone, especially your kids

“In the real world, there are challenges and disturbances of one kind or another. And if you have kids, you know that it’s a rollercoaster of challenges. But I do find
that besides other things, including communication and firmness here and there, humour isn’t a bad thing to season into the mix. We have Charlie and River. Charlie was writing in a book the other day and he wrote, ‘Dada is a brave and happy person’. So even though they see me in my most vulnerable moments, they have an impression that I’m happy-go-lucky.”

Be honest

“I had good acting teachers early on and I still consider myself a student in trying to get better. Part of trying to make made-up situations credible is to imbue them with a kind of authenticity. The actors I admire, they’re truth seekers. If you’re trying to be a good actor, you have to know yourself and not be a phony person. I mean, acting is full of fabrication, anyway. You’re a liar and you’re lying all over the place! So, the good acting teachers told me, ‘Hey, figure out what’s true within that’. I think I’ve gotten better at it. I think I’ve gotten better at just being open and free and trustful of who I am and then presenting that. Relationships seem to work better with that approach. So, that’s what I aspire to. Even in a situation like this, that some might consider an opportunity for some kind of performance or a presentation of yourself that is contrived to be a certain way, my approach is, well, just tell the truth. Just be honest and be yourself. And if that isn’t interesting enough, then there you go.”

Don’t let the haters get you down

“I have home movies of me as a baby, where my two older brothers are trying to torment me with a hairbrush. I was unflappable. I was happy and I didn’t let it get to me.”

Find your tribe

“Growing up things did get complicated for me in school and with family things. And then puberty came on and I was kind of a different kid in the group. But then I found another group, who wanted to be actors in summer camp. And then
I burst, just burst with ecstasy. And I developed this obsession with acting and this group that I now considered myself to be part of. I was still in Pittsburgh but after that I was dying to get out and go to New York and be an actor.”

JEFF GOLDBLUM

Discipline pays off

“I took piano lessons early on and I was a bad student. I would not practise. I didn’t know the joys and the fruitfulness of discipline yet – how getting the less immediately satisfying work done can pay off later. What helped me was getting introduced to jazz pieces. I loved them so much and that’s when I sat down and was like, I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get this, but I really need to learn this. And that sort of informed my acting. I realised a scene may not be fun right now, but I’ve got to figure out how to put in the work so that I can be free and get that moment of enjoyment and elation later. I had this assistant [on Jurassic World Dominion], Stephen Knight, and every day, whether I was shooting or not, we would go over the whole script, my whole part. And as I worked on it, I kept getting ideas here and there. And I would write them down so I didn’t forget. Most of them would be irrelevant, just part of the process of aligning myself with the material. But sure enough, a couple of things that I suggested got put in the film. I think keeping your eye on the ball and doing everything thoroughly, results in the most free, joyful rendering of whatever it is you’re doing, music, acting or anything else.”

 Go to bed earlier

“I’m not too far away from the line that everybody follows where everything’s going to collapse very, very soon. But I think you can do yourself a little favour here and there if you cut out smoking, try to eat sensibly and exercise is probably a good idea. I’ll tell you, sleep is a good idea. Last night, I went to bed just 15 minutes earlier, when my body said that’s enough, you’re tired. Don’t try to keep yourself up after this, even though the clock says you’re allowed to, go to sleep right now. And I did. And I got, like, nine hours’ sleep. And I tell you, I’d be a different person right now if I’d had six or seven hours. I’d not be as youthful, vigorous and bushy-tailed a character.”

Keep active

I like athletics. I picked up a tennis racquet last week with the kids and I’d be doing that all the time if I could. But the thing that I’m able to do and really fit into
a routine with everything else going on, is lifting weights. We have a gym set up here and when I’m on the road I find something. I’ve done bodybuilding stuff where you split the program. One day is legs, the other day is chest. And I’ve worked hard at it. These days, I start with some treadmill and do some cardio and warm things up and then do a circuit of free weights and machines that gets every part of the body, all the muscle groups. And I do it in this way, really quite quickly, where I really enjoy it. I do that and finish up with some more cardio and stretching. I do that every day. And then, if I can get my steps, I get my steps.”

Use what exists

“My acting teacher, Sandy Meisner, said that. It means, find something in the moment, in the space around you. If you’re talented enough, you’ll find the perfect thing, that’s meant for you. Use it creatively. Likewise, everything inside of you
is just what you need. Use what exists.” 

Jurassic World Dominion is in cinemas June 9.

Ben Jhoty

By Ben Jhoty

Ben Jhoty, Men’s Health’s Head of Content, attempts to honour the brand’s health-conscious, aspirational ethos on weekdays while living marginally larger on weekends. A new father, when he’s not rocking an infant to sleep, he tries to get to the gym, shoot hoops and binge on streaming shows.

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