Hollywood’s Unsung Scene-Stealer

For the Lasting Love of Quirk

Source Getty

Why you should care

Because Jeff Goldblum may not be as big a name as Brad Pitt, but he has been around since the ’70s. And he is back, big time, on the big screen.

It’s hard to say if some famous people are more prone to Internet death hoaxes than others, but if any adorably weird movie actor seemed likely to perish by falling from a New Zealand cliff and then to interrupt Stephen Colbert’s eulogy for him with the news that in fact he’d done no such thing, it was Jeff Goldblum. 

Scene from the movie the Fly, jeff has heavy makeup as a FLY

Jeff in a scene from the movie, The Fly.

That was five years ago. Today, he lives! Goldblum has two movies in theaters right now. You’ll spot him as a bumptious, decadently Bohemian author in Roger Michell’s Le Week-End; as a virtuous, Freud-bearded attorney in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel; and as an insouciant scene-stealer in either case. 

It makes particular sense for Goldblum to be in a film made by Anderson. For starters, he has already been in one, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). More to the point, Goldblum, like Anderson, enjoys immediate recognition for his idiosyncrasies, which seem as exasperating to some viewers as they are beguiling to others. It’s not for nothing that his debut, in 1974’s Death Wish , was as “Freak #1.” 

Since then he’s built a motion-picture menagerie of galvanizers and brainy eccentrics. On TV, no other actor would qualify to play both the proprietor of a doily shop (or, rather, shoppe) in Portlandia  and a tag-teamer with Vincent D’Onofrio on the scary-smart detective squad in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Movies seem more and more retrospectively inconceivable without Goldblum’s contributions, from the failed yet prophetic young poet in the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to the rationalization apologist in 1983’s The Big Chill, to the told-ya-so chaos theorist in 1993’s Jurassic Park —  and several variants thereof, including a video game in which he tells players to turn the game off and go outside. In David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of The Fly , Goldblum got more pathos than you might expect from accidentally turning himself into a putrid man-bug hybrid. But of course this was the same impressive fuel-efficiency that had powered his indelible six-word cameo way back in 1977’s Annie Hall, as a guy on the phone with his guru at that flaky L.A. party, saying, “Hey, yeah, I forgot my mantra.” 

Sure, he’s always more or less a version of himself, but that doesn’t mean the world can ever get enough of him (as was illustrated recently on Reddit). Still, “no one will miss Jeff Goldblum more than me,” the freshly resurrected artiste told Colbert in 2009. “He was not only a friend and a mentor, but, uh, he was also me.”

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