The Tao of Jeff Goldblum

Image: Illustration by David Wexner
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In 1993’s Jurassic Park, a scientist uses an ancient mosquito preserved in amber to pull dinosaurs back from extinction. Ian Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum’s character, explains: “Life will not be contained… Life finds a way.”

And so it is with Goldblum’s recent resurrection as a Hollywood giant.

With a string of roles in recent movies, a new National Geographic show dedicated to his quirky personality, and even a giant, bare-chested statue of him reclining in London, Goldblum is having a major moment.

You probably remember Goldblum as a quirky hero of the big screen in the late 1980s and 1990s, as charismatic in artsy films such as The Fly and Earth Girls Are Easy as in blockbusters such as Independence Day and Jurassic Park. He has remained beloved, but in the mid-1990s, the actor’s career took a gentle turn toward character roles and TV show guest appearances.

Now, his years of preservation in the amber of aging Hollywood celebrity are over. The actor has resurfaced, more popular than ever before. And when you think about it, his renaissance makes perfect sense. Like the reincarnated dinosaurs of Spielberg’s film, Jeff Goldblum hasn’t changed—but the world certainly has.

The Goldblum-issance is in full bloom

National Geographic just announced a television show called The Curiosity of Jeff Goldblum, which relies entirely upon the actor’s inexhaustible charm, rather than any particularly compelling premise. The 12-episode series will explore “ordinary” items–toilet paper, balloons, cereal, and the like–and test the theory Goldblum can make literally anything interesting.

Meanwhile, at Comic-Con in San Diego earlier this month, the American toy company Mattel rolled out its Jurassic Park line, with six-inch Ian Malcolm figurines (which unfortunately look more like roided-up and slightly disfigured Pierce Brosnans than Jeff) at its center.

Elsewhere, the actor’s larger-than-life presence has been literalized. A 25-foot, 330-pound statue of Goldblum appeared last month to gaze soulfully at tourists and Instagrammers near London’s Tower Bridge.

Giant Goldblum
Jurassic Jeff.

The actor’s side hustle as a musician is even on the upswing. Goldblum has played classical and jazz piano since grade school, and had been recently performing as part of the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. But this year, at age 65, Goldblum was signed by Decca Records to release his first ever jazz album.

Riding a wave of nostalgia

Since his breakthrough role in David Cronenberg’s The Fly in 1986, Goldblum has played the nerd hero—or nerd villain—in countless genre movies. Our current cinematic landscape is uncannily similar to his starting one, as 1980s sci-fi remakes have become some of Hollywood’s biggest films—from Blade Runner to Ghostbusters, the endless prequels to Star Wars, and countless others.

The nostalgia business model has been highly profitable for producers. And as the movie ecosystem has been swept over by a wave of 1980s nostalgia, Goldblum has truly surfed it like a pro.

For starters, the fan favorite actor has been one of a few of the original stars to actually come back for the remakes–Independence Day: Resurgence in 2016, and this year’s Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom. Alien Covenant revitalized the Alien series in 2017, but Tom Skerritt and Sigourney Weaver, who starred in the 1979 original, did not make it onto the screen. Nor did Mad Max: Fury Road afford Mel Gibson the chance to ride forever shiny and chrome.

Jeff Goldblum
Golblum was recently honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Image: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Being present in remakes hardly explains the cult of Goldblum’s second coming though. Harrison Ford’s roles in recent the Star Wars and Blade Runner didn’t have British GQ calling him the“coolest guy in Hollywood.” Screen time is helpful to Goldblum’s comeback, but clearly it’s not the only factor.

It also doesn’t hurt that Goldberg is one of a dwindling number of male Hollywood stars of his era that has not been brought low by accusations of sexual impropriety. (Not yet, at least.) The MeToo era has poked serious holes in our 1980s nostalgia by forcing us to realize that the oft-romanticized past was actually incredible problematic. Not sexually assaulting people is an awfully low bar to set, but we’re now in a place where it distinguishes male actors from many of their peers.

As powerful men are toppled by their troubling histories, Jeff Goldblum has distinguished himself by showing basic sensitivity to women and feminism, and support for #MeToo and Times Up. Two divorces and a propensity to date much younger women remind us that the man is no saint. But his exuberant sexuality and equal-opportunity flirtatiousness seems to come with some basic level of self-awareness.

The actor copped to being a flirt in an interview with GQ, but then went on to say: “Never would I want to do anything that is disrespectful or diminishing and I am more aware of that now than ever. I hope I have always amplified people’s enjoyment rather than abused it.”

An elusive influencer

As celebrities’ social media accounts go, Goldblum’s are honestly pretty bad—but that’s the point. Goldblum is on Twitter, but he doesn’t quite present as human there:

Indeed, in an age where stars talk about every aspect of their lives, he is an intriguing alien. Goldblum’s Instagram and Twitter accounts don’t reveal the foods he eats or the exercises he does, and he often appears more interested in asking how his followers are doing than telling them what he is up to. His rare ability to engage with fans while still maintaining his relative inaccessibility creates an aura of far-off stardom without the pretentiousness that normally accompanies such a trait.

Goldblum isn’t “just like us” or “relatable.” He is something closer to his character in Thor: Ragnarok, the Grandmaster (who director Taika Waititi refused to paint blue for fear it would conceal Goldblum’s presence). He’s likeable, potentially immortal, and definitively weird.

Jeff Goldblum in Thor
The Grandmaster.
Image: Disney/Marvel

Still here

In 2016, Goldblum felt the need to give us this update:

Now, just two years later, we don’t need him to tell us he’s still here. We know it. He’s everywhere.