- Legendary actor Jeff Goldblum talked to Business Insider about voicing a character in the stop-motion animated movie, “Isle of Dogs,” which marks his third time working with director Wes Anderson.
- Goldblum also opened up about why he believes he still hasn’t delivered his career-best work yet.
It kind of makes sense that one of the most unique directors working today would want to work with one of the most unique actors.
“Isle of Dogs” (in select theatres Friday) marks the third time Wes Anderson has used Jeff Goldblum to masterful perfection. In “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004), he had Goldblum play Bill Murray’s nemesis with the incredible charm that has become one of Goldblum’s memorable on-screen traits. Ten years later in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014), Anderson gave him a very different role as an attorney who gets in over his head. And now with the stop-motion animated “Isle of Dogs,” Goldblum voices the dog Duke, who along with his canine friends helps a boy trying to track down his lost dog (Duke also loves to gossip whenever possible).
Working with Anderson is just the latest achievement for the legendary actor, who has literally done it all on screen – from playing a fly (“The Fly”), to saving the world (“Independence Day”), to running from dinosaurs (“Jurassic Park”), to even getting in on the Marvel craze (“Thor: Ragnarok”).
Goldblum talked to Business Insider about working once again with Anderson, the movie from his past he doesn’t mind watching if it’s on TV, why he loved his wardrobe in “Buckaroo Banzai,” and why he thinks he’s just on the threshold of doing his all-time best work.
Jason Guerrasio: I’ve heard that you did all your lines for “Isle of Dogs” over the phone, is that true?
Jeff Goldblum: Yes. Well, Wes was on the phone, I was in a recording studio in Los Angeles because schedule-wise I wasn’t able to join Bill Murray and Bob Balaban and Ed Norton and Bryan Cranston, who were all together in a New York Studio. So I had to do this long distance, which I loved because I was sort of able to have Wes just to myself. He’s a wonderful actor’s director.
Guerrasio: If you did do it over the phone it wouldn’t have been a first because Ryan Reynolds did a few lines over the phone for “Deadpool” that were needed during post. Same with Will Arnett for “Lego Batman Movie.”
Goldblum: Well, these days I guess the technology is such that you can record something over the phone and tweak it into something very presentable.
Guerrasio: So it is safe to say this was the easiest movie you’ve done?
Goldblum: [Laughs] Well, there was no getting up every day early. It was short. But I’m working with Wes, even if it’s a couple of hours over the phone, I thought about it as much as I could and tried to put as much into it as I could.
Guerrasio: What kind of direction did you want from him? Did you want visuals to prep?
Goldblum: Well, I’ll take anything I can get. But this is my third movie with him, so you feel safe and anything he wanted to give me was enough. But originally he gave me the script and some photographs, some drawings that were the inspiration. And that was all. We didn’t talk about the overall message and themes of the movie because he doesn’t need to. We just talked about the character. But now that I’ve seen it a few times I start to go, wow, I guess I didn’t need to know it but I’m so struck by the theme of us dogs being so committed and devoted to this kid.
Guerrasio: Was what you saw on screen completely different from what you imagined it would be when you were recording the lines?
Goldblum: While I was preparing for it I was thinking, “How can I make this good?” I spent time looking at my dog, and a little bit more, and a little bit more. But having seen it now it was amazing and what these stop-motion animators have done. Not only are they blocking the scene and other things we didn’t have to think about doing, but every line is accompanied by the correct depiction of what we’re feeling, a subtle naturalistic performance.
Guerrasio: It sounds like a fun gig. A couple of hours and then hand it over to these guys who have to spend years crafting it.
Goldblum: Could you imagine? [Laughs] I do a little voice for a few hours and they work for three years.
Guerrasio: Now let’s go to the other side of the spectrum. At this point in your career, are you still interested in doing a role that’s very costume heavy, like “The Fly,” having to spend hours and hours in a chair before shooting.
Goldblum: I’m nothing if not a hard worker and if it’s worth it. These days I’m as picky as ever and I have somehow the freedom to pick and I wouldn’t work so hard just for the novelty of having a job, it would have to be with people I’m excited about and a story and a character I’m excited about. But they’re around so yeah, I would jump into anything.
Guerrasio: I’m sure you get many offers to do many things, is it nice to have the freedom to be selective and not have to worry about where the next job is coming?
Goldblum: It is nice. I like it. I feel I’m on the threshold of my best stuff. I feel I’m trying to get better and I’m getting a little better all the time, and I seem to be getting a variety of things. I have “Jurassic World” coming up, and the Jodie Foster movie called “Hotel Artemis,” a very different character for me. And I just did a movie called “The Mountain” with Rick Alverson, he’s the director who did “Entertainment” and “The Comedy.”
Guerrasio: Very different projects and roles. You have a career full of them. But what’s the movie of yours you’ll stop everything and watch a little if it comes on TV?
Goldblum: It’s funny, I watch them when they first come out because I’m curious what we did, but I’m critical of my early stuff. Like I said, I’m trying to improve. But let me see, let me see, what comes on that I really like? Well, Wes’ movies. Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. IIIII dddooooonnnn’ttt kknnnoooow – I guess “The Fly” if it comes on. I’ll watch a moment of that.
Guerrasio: Let me give you mine. I love you in “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.“
Goldblum: Thank you.
Guerrasio: Do you get that one a lot?
Goldblum: Well, yes, people come up to me and say that. I like that movie. I actually watched it again because I did an interview about cult movies. I was very happy to see it again. I like that movie.
Guerrasio: I love the scene where your character, Dr. Sidney “New Jersey” Zweibel, is introduced. Wearing that incredible Western get up.
Goldblum: Well, like I say in that scene, “Geez, I thought we were going to go on the road,” or something like that.
Guerrasio: He thought he was going to play with Buckaroo’s band.
Goldblum: Yeah. He wasn’t ready for what was about to happen. They had a very good costume person. And I was in “Silverado,” but I didn’t have anything like woolly chaps and a great big hat.
Guerrasio: It’s an amazing look.
Goldblum: Yeah. I liked it.
Guerrasio: Now you were still coming up in the business at the time that movie came out. A sequel was teased in the end credits, did you think you were in a franchise? You probably thought you were going to at least get another paycheck playing this character.
Goldblum: Well, I think [director] W.D. Richter and Earl Mac Rauch, who wrote it, they had a lot up their sleeve. They had more things to show. I think it just didn’t do well enough in theatres. But I’ve never been particularly careerist and I’m no kind of business man, I’ve always done this as a wild-hearted romantic creative adventure and I was plenty satisfied with what we’d done with that movie. I don’t think I even paid attention to how it did. In those days, in fact, I don’t even think there were opening weekend box office news like it is now. I don’t think franchise was a term used yet. But no, I don’t think I counted on anything past that movie. [Laughs]
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