Esquire, Jun 2016
What I’ve Learned – Jeff Goldblum, Actor, 63
Photo by Steve Schofield
I’m 63 and I feel I’m on the threshold of the most delicious part of life. You’re not going to hear me squawk.
Less stuff, that’s my motto. Divest and simplify. I don’t like it when people on the TV say, ‘hey how about this new thing?’ I give most of my stuff away.
The best way to get things moving is to accept where you are. Ride the horse in the direction in which it’s going.
Life is full of happy coincidences. I just had my first child, Charlie Ocean, and he was born on the 4th of July while we were shooting Independence Day: Resurgence! I hope he likes fireworks.
My thinking on traditional religion is in line with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. I prefer science. Nobody knows what happens when we die. I don’t think we meet our parents, we become ghosts or anything. And as for the 72 virgins, forget it!
The past doesn’t even exist in some way, nor does the future. The current moment is what’s real. It’s who we are. So ‘gee, what happened to that 25c burger?’ is not the point.
This Nest app is really something. You set up a camera at home, and now I can see my boy at all times, and I can talk to him too. Constant surveillance, I know. But, hey, if he’s got nothing to hide, he’s got nothing to worry about.
Life’s easier being tall. At high school I could navigate the jungle of self-defence. And now, I can go into a shop and buy something off the rack. There was a time the sleeves wouldn’t be long enough, but now wrists and ankles are considered a presentable part of the body. It’s a trend I welcome.
I’ve never been interested in money. I don’t like fancy things, and the accumulation of great wealth isn’t something I esteem. Someone just sent me a three-minute commercial for Donald Trump’s private plane and he had all this gold-plated stuff in it. And it made me feel quite sick.
I think who we really are is beyond gender. Beyond being a man or a woman. And anyway aren’t we discovering that we’re all a bit of everything?
Being 33 years older than your wife is less of an issue than you might think. I’ve taken care of myself, we work out together, so that’s fine. But there are some cultural references that go amiss, especially since she’s a gymnast so she spent a lot of time training in Russia. I asked her once, ‘hey, if I was one of the Beatles, which one would I be?’ And she said, ‘Rex Harrison.’
The most important part of a hotel room is the pillow. I like the cheaper, harder kind, not those feathery, fluffy ones, but I’m still searching for the perfect pillow. It’s sleep training – very important!
The hour that I spent this morning, playing the piano and singing, I swear was the best I’d ever done. And with relationships, I don’t think I was ready to have Charlie, much before I did. So yes, I’m a later bloomer, in all sorts of areas. But I’m very interested in enthused in things for that reason.
You can take the wrong turn in life. I’ve seen people get grouchier with age, more entrenched and restricted. But on the other hand, I’ve seen older people who get kind of like a garden inside, they get richer, more in possession of themselves. You just have to pick the right path. And I think you need to be sincerely interested in it and to make it a daily habit.
To become good at anything you have to invest sincerely. My teacher Sandy Meisner used to say that you can’t even consider yourself an actor until you’ve worked at it for 20 years. Then you can say you have the innards of an actor. It’s true of the piano too and relationships – why not?
I think health is the extent to which you don’t avoid sadness or rejection or crisis – you move through it. It’s like that movie Ordinary People. Donald Sutherland’s character grieves for his son and comes out the other side. But Mary Tyler Moore doesn’t. She’s becomes brittle and lost and ultimately incapable of having a relationship. Boy, it’s easier said than done.
I cheated once at Charades. We were making The Big Chill, and we were all having a good time, and I thought it’d be fun if I got a little illegal advantage. So I looked. And Jo Beth Williams, a wonderful actress, she caught me and was so white hot outraged that it not only pierced me at the time, but I’ve never cheated since.
My dreams are full of frightening things. People are always chasing me, or I’m in prison, or I’m on a movie set and I’m being disregarded or rejected or something. Last night, some AD was holding me under water until I could barely breathe.
All stories end. There’s something fleeting about all form. This table here is crumbling, if you look at it for long enough. The planet will go. The sun will go out. That’s the story of the universe, and we’re a part of it.