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Summer Splash

An Engaging Enigma

Jeff Goldblum, who's back for another bout with dinosaurs in 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park,' talks about life and love.

May 22, 1997|STEVEN SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Even without his Tyrannosaurus rex co-stars from "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (which opens tonight with sneak screenings starting at 10), Jeff Goldblum can bring plenty of drama to a simple conversation. His eyes can fix on a point somewhere above your shoulder, as if he's spotting a prehistoric intruder; his voice drops to a near-inaudible whisper before sailing up to a top-register giggly squeal.

Words tumble out in praise of his co-stars and many passions, sprinkled with Goldblum's trademark pauses. Language truly slows down when the subject of his on-off relationship with Laura Dern is broached. But even then, Goldblum, 46, remains the engaging paradox viewers expect from "Jurassic" and "Independence Day": a lanky, almost alien life form with a very human sense of the absurd.

Question: First question. Do we get to the dinosaurs any sooner this time?

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Answer: [laughs] We do. [Screenwriter] David Koepp tells a story about a fan letter he got from a kid--"Nice movie, Mr. Koepp, but please, this time, skip the boring part, get to the dinosaurs quicker!" And David kept that letter on his desk as he was writing. I think the characters are plenty interesting . . . [pause] with dramatically conflicting agendas . . . but there are more dinosaurs. A mixture of wondrous and highly dangerous dinosaurs. And more dinosaur-people encounters and, as we know, the people . . . don't . . . do well.

I think this one might be a little darker in tone. Janusz Kaminsky ["Schindler's List"] shot it. . . . Musically there's not gonna be [sings to the tune of John Williams' stately "Jurassic Park" theme] "Ohhh boy, look at this. . . ." This time there's no park, no electrified fences, no sense of order.

Q: After the real hurricane that hit the set the last time, you said you experienced "an unstoppable natural occurrence of power and primal magic."

A: Did I say that? Wow!

Q: Anything like that when you went back to Hawaii for "Lost World"?

A: This time I was the designated cast member who took part in this Hawaiian ritual, blessing the set, that I didn't know about. . . . [Steven Spielberg's] done it every time he's been over there, to bring in the good spirits. There was a native Hawaiian couple dressed, er, very native . . . , wearing some plant life. We were shooting near some old Hawaiian burial grounds. They gave me a bowl of water to symbolize . . . something. . . . They did some singing and we did some sprinkling.

Q: And last time this happened, you got a hurricane.

A: This time, there was some bad weather that stopped us from doing a scene . . . right . . . where . . . we did this blessing, in fact! [laughs] But we made some changes in the scene, and I think it came out better. So maybe the problems were the blessing.

Q: I heard David Koepp did some of the directing in L.A. for a couple of days while Spielberg watched on a monitor from his home in New York.

A: Steven's a devoted family man. . . . He has . . . what, seven children and a wife, and he had to be in New York. So he had a hookup. . . . We had him on a TV screen. . . . There'd be a little camera pointed at us so he could see us. And I think he had playback so he could see the shot being set up.

Q: Wasn't that a bit strange?

A: It's strange! Heh heh heh. . . . But it was fine. He has a collection of old toys, and for this camera pointed on him, he would set up little shots. . . . He'd do creative things with the camera and a toy car. His son has Legos, and Steven started to build something with them. He was just lost in this while we were waiting, not needing him. I was so impressed.

He doesn't see dailies. He says, "Oh no, I'll come the first day, for celebratory purposes. But I know what I have." He storyboards, then leaves a whole element for the invention of the day. [Some days] we haven't rehearsed, we haven't read it through. . . . He'll say, "Let's start rolling film on it." I felt more par-ti-ci-pa-tory, thanks to him.

Q: You've said your father was an influence on the character of Ian Malcolm. . . .

A: He was a doctor, an internist, so he was scientifically oriented.

Q: And he'd sometimes draw intestines on napkins?

A: Yeah! All the time. Whatever the question, we'd always seem to be answered with another demonstration of the intestines! "Here's the stomach, of course. . . . Here's the small intestine."

Q: Even though you're a man of science and technology on the screen, you're not actually a computer person. Do you own one?

A: Well, I have one. . . . I've been given. . . . [whispers] It's in a box! [laughs] It's laziness, it's my nature. . . . Am I missing out on anything?

Q: Well, for starters, the Web sites devoted to you. I recently found the "Shrine to Jeff Goldblum" or "Jeff Goldblum, my reason for living," which begins, "I love Jeff Goldblum more than life itself."

A: Jesus God. . . .

Q: "I can't get through a day without watching him in a movie." How does that make you feel?

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