With all his suave idiosyncrasies, Jeff Goldblum is a perfect match for the meticulous designs and beautifully-sculpted artifice of Wes Anderson’s world.
The pair collaborated on “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004) and again on “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a (mostly) ’30s-set continental European farce with serious overtones that is inspired by the writings of Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig and opens in theaters Friday.
Goldblum, 61, plays the stern Deputy Kovacs, lawyer to a family grappling with a hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes) over an inheritance.
amNewYork spoke with the actor about an experience he described as “sculpting the clay” with Anderson and more.
Wes Anderson is one of the few filmmakers with such a distinctive stamp on his work that you can immediately tell a movie is his. How does that apply to acting in one?
Well, it’s essentially the same [as anything else]. It’s something made up, interesting and good but yeah, he’s very particular and enjoyable. If you’ve talked to him and met him, he’s a very not only important and serious artist, but a very sweet and inspiringly generous fella. And very particular in the way he works.
What is particular about it?
It’s like taking a course, a little Wes Anderson course for me. I’m always thrilled to be a student and happy to get anything out of these projects like that. And boy, with him, he’s such a brilliant artist that that’s enjoyable to be around and inspiring.
The movie isn’t just set in the ’30s. It feels like a classical film from the period.
He had done research and had inspirations for this movie that you may have heard about. And he had, where we all stayed in Görlitz, Germany, a room with this stack of DVDs of old movies that I should have seen by this time, but hadn’t, that were inspirations for this movie — “Grand Hotel,” some [Ernst] Lubitsch things, “To Be or Not to Be,” I’d never seen, “Shop Around the Corner,” “Mortal Storm,” mmm what else, [Ingmar] Bergman’s “The Silence,” so I watched all those things and the Stefan Zweig novel, I read a bit of. So that’s interesting.
What sets apart Anderson’s pre-production process?
The script is so specific and meticulously finished in its rendering. That’s a little uncommon, and then I got together with him pre-production, we were able to go over my scenes and work in a very kind of delightful way. I showed him what I was doing and we talked about what I was thinking and feeling.
How about shaping the character’s appearance?
He’s got a rendering of the character and how it looks, a beautiful drawing already, and then you get together with Milena Canonero, the brilliant costume person who worked with [Stanley] Kubrick, and they do something very unusual and he’s very hands on and he’s there and he’s seeing what they’re trying on you and then they’re going to make something, so that’s particular.
Even Deputy Kovacs’ glasses are very specific.
You’ve got a guy with a trey of glasses and in fact nothing was exactly right based on his pictures, so I said, “I’m going to go back to L.A., I’ve got a vintage collection,” and I found them in fact. So I got them and I wore them and I’ve got them in my closet, this kind of actual ’30s glasses.
What about the shooting experience itself?
In a way that reminded me of Robert Altman — he makes the shooting experience an art project in itself. Everybody’s living together and has dinner together. He has a chef that comes in.
Sounds like a pretty ideal experience. Is it hard to move on to other projects?
He’s spectacular, you’re right. It’s as ideal and peachy as you can imagine. Different people have different strengths and gifts. I’m always happy to surf with and collaborate with all sorts of people.
Tell me more about staying in the hotel with the cast and crew.
Wes had a chef, a friend come in, and make something for everybody every night. It was a lovely hotel that we had taken over. That cast, you know, some of them would come and go. I was there for six weeks. Ralph was there all the time. Saoirse Ronan a lot. Tony Revolori. But then, you know, Tilda Swinton came in and out. And I had never met her before. It was spectacular. I loved talking to her and Edward Norton — I’d never spent much time with, that was spectacular; Jason Schwartzman is spectacularly fun. Owen Wilson, spectacularly fun. So you know, what a group. They spent different amounts of time there, but it was spectacular.
When people come up to you on the street, is “Jurassic Park” the first movie they mention?
That was of course widely seen and “Independence Day,” too. A lot of people talk about “The Fly” and “The Big Chill” was admired. Oftentimes, people will go, “Hey, you know what I liked you in,” and they think they’ve got something that’s off the beaten track and mention one or two other things.
Listen to this ridiculous sampling of Goldblum’s laugh in “Jurassic Park”