Jeff Goldblum won’t stop pacing.
We’re at the Crosby Street Hotel and he’s pulled a tiny blue Fitbit out of his blazer. “My goal is 4,000 steps a day,” he says while ping-ponging between the room’s window and a back table. The effects of shooting Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel don’t seem to have worn off him yet, as he’s still dressed the part of a whimsical, vaguely nostalgic character, debonair in a powder blue suit, red bowtie, and vintage glasses.
Yet, it’s not what you’d see his character, Deputy Kovacs, wear. Anderson’s latest creation for Goldblum—who was also featured in the director’s 2004 film, The Life Aquatic—is a lawyer with a grim disposition and a Sigmund Freud beard who works for a wealthy family of greedy and venomous siblings. They’re determined to put an end to M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and take back the invaluable painting he inherited from their late matriarch—a plan which Kovacs, a strict man of the law, is not on board with.
The film uses M. Gustave—an etiquette-obsessed concierge who would make Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson look slovenly—as a symbol for “a glimmer of civilization in the barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity.” Goldblum, himself looking prim with a porcelain saucer and teacup in hand, says he found this “wildly touching.”
“I like that gentility, you know?” he says. “Contribution and service as a shield and weapon against coarseness and brutality.”
Like most of Anderson’s films, Grand Budapest Hotel, which takes place at a once-great hotel in the fictional European country of Zubrowka sometime between World Wars I and II, is steeped in yearning for days gone by. But it’s also his most meticulous, lushly envisioned work. Goldblum calls it testament to an artist “at the height of his powers” and consumed by filmmaking.
“He’s devoted to it,” Goldblum says. “He spends his life like Jimi Hendrix with a guitar or Michael Jordan with a basketball. He spends his life making beautiful things.”
Goldblum is less kind on himself (“I’m a well-known nincompoop”), but he at least says he’s flexible—a critical skill for working with Anderson, who is infamous for making his actors adhere to a “challenging, demanding, and specific” vision.
“He had this thing called an animatic version of the movie, which was an animated version of the whole movie in which he planned all the shots and cuts in a scene and did all the voices. He did all the voices!” Goldblum says. “There are actors who don’t like to hear that, but I always feel like I make something my own. It’s nice to hear the orchestration and what he’s after. He’s very precise and sort of theatrical in the storytelling and the characterization, but he also wants you to fill it up with something personal and authentic.”
Anderson went to pains to make his actors felt like a part of the story, including reserving an entire, actual hotel in Gurlitz, Germany (a “little fairytale, enchanted town”), for the entire cast. When describing his time there with costars including Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Murray, Goldblum says impossibly quaint things like, “We would walk sometimes across a bridge right near the hotel and go to Poland for lunch.”
“My room was down the hall from Willem [Dafoe’s], kind of right next door to his,” he continues. “I had a piano—I take a piano wherever I go—and I’d play and sing all day long, incessantly. His wife played guitar and we would hang out. I’m sure it drove him crazy.”
They had planned dinners together every night and ate guinea fowl, duck and other “interesting” dishes. When asked what dessert was like, Goldblum simply pauses, wide-eyed, in reverie.
Goldblum’s proud of his recent work—he mentions his next release, Le Week-End, more than once—but he’s also open to revisiting the past. He recently revealed that he’s in talks to reprise the role of David Levinson in Roland Emmerich’s sequel to Independence Day. Which, of course, brings up another famous Goldblum movie that’s getting a sequel soon.
“I hear about [Jurassic World], people tell me about it, but I only hear about it from people who say, ‘Have you heard about it?’” Goldblum says with a smile. “Nobody’s called me that I know of. I’ll be the first in line to see it. I don’t know if Steven Spielberg is directing—I don’t think he is—but I was very happy with the two [Jurassic Park and The Lost World] I did.”
But it’s only inevitable until Hollywood cranks out a reboot, right?
“I haven’t thought about it for a second,” he says. “A reboot, like another version with someone playing Ian Malcolm? Maybe there should be a young Ian Malcolm. Who would it be?”
The answer is obvious.
“Justin Bieber, probably,” he says. “The best version of the young me is Justin Bieber.”