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The Grand Budapest Hotel Cast & Crew Interviews: Jeff Goldblum

jeff-goldblum-the-grand-budapest-hotel-001The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest film from writer/director Wes Anderson.  The film recounts the adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel; and Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.  The story involves a caper, a prison break, battles over family fortunes, cross-country chases, and a love affair.  It is a wild, yet delightful film (review HERE) and I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the cast and crew from the film.  The following post contains a roundtable recap of our discussion with star Jeff Goldblum.

Below is a transcription of the interview that took place, followed by the actual audio from the roundtable discussion, which is about as clear as I could make it, so enjoy either version of this interview. (Special thanks to the other press members on this panel, as some of us split up transcription duties to make the process a bit simpler.  That said, I tried to capture all the ‘Goldblumisms’ in the text.)

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[Note:  Some mild spoilers for the film concerning the fate of certain characters contained in this interview, though I would not say it ruins the story in any way.]

Q:  So what’s it like being a part of that Wes Anderson World?

JEFF GOLDBLUM: Fantastic. How long do we have?  Ok, we’ll get everything in. It’s fantastic, a real privilege. I am very proud to be a part of this movie and (Wes Anderson) is a real uh…I don’t have to reiterate, an important and serious filmmaker and artist.  So that’s great.  What actor doesn’t want to be a part of that thing?  And then he particularly is a spectacular trip.  He’s a great guy and a real artist and a real teacher.

Ten years ago, y’know Life Aquatic, so we met and he’s always full of some interesting guidance. He’s a style guide and a travel guide, y’know. He’s a location connoisseur.  We went to some restaurant in New York and I was thinking, y’know, “I like you,” and yeah, Life Aquatic happened, we stayed in touch over the past ten years and I got an e-mail…says, “I’ve written this part, Deputy Kovacks…” so it’s a big thrill.

And then, what’s it like? It’s very creative.  As you can see, I dig it, the aesthetic.  It’s very particular voice that he’s found and had from the start in a brilliant way. I’m into it.  It’s a beautiful thing.  So you go on the set and Adam Stockhausen, who’s here, production designer; they collaborate, he turns it into his vision and on that set you’ve heard that in that department store in Gorlitz, they’ve turned that into the hotel and it’s a great little installation and museum that you get to go to and I was kind of thrilled, y’know, knocked out by everything around there.

But creatively, you get this script and it’s all rendered beautifully.  That document on its own is a beautiful thing.  He’s a wordsmith and a literate black belt master.  The story is gorgeous.  From the start you can tell.  And then you get there… I was doing a movie, Le Weekend, by the way, which opens soon and I’m proud of…but I was there shooting that right when they were in pre-production, so I went over and I saw them building the set in that place and everyone getting ensconced in that place, Elaine and all the Italian artists…

And then he and I, we went over in that hotel and had a kind of rehearsal and he had renderings, beautiful drawings of all the characters, with their face on it and this idea for the costumes and look of it.  I saw that, got together with their team, we tried on many different things, jackets, and overcoats.  There was a guy with trays of vintage glasses and in fact they didn’t find the exact one there and I said, “Hey, I’m going to go back to LA before I come back here, I know some vintage eye glass people, and maybe I can take a look for myself,” and I found them. I found the glasses and showed them a picture, and they said those are the ones, bring those, so I contributed to that a little bit.

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So it’s very creative.  So at that time, we rehearsed, and I don’t know if he’s done that with many other people or if it’s his usual way, but I said, “Y’know I’ve already worked on this and I’ve worked it up,” I showed him what I was doing with those few scenes and I said, “How about this?” and he’s said,  “That’s good…now how about this, try this,” and we worked on it, talked about it and we talked in actorly ways.  I think he’s an actor’s director, one could say.  Even though he’s got this fully formed aesthetic, conviction, which you join up with, the marrying of an actor and his whimsical, theatrical vision is very enjoyable, because he wants it to be filled with something honest, truthful, soulful, substantial, etc.

[Mild Spoilers Begin]

So in rehearsal we got together and I said, “Y’know, what’s the back story? How long have I been working for this family? And what about that?” And I wanted to know the ideas for this whole world he created, as well as the situation and then finally I said in this event, in this character, in this scene with Dimitri, with Adrian Brody, it’s right what is under the surface.  I found that I was catching what was going on.  I [my character] sensed there was bad stuff afoot here and maybe we should turn in all of this to the authorities and he reacts like I’d fear and suspect might be the case and he goes “keep your mouth shut and go on.”  And that point, I think my character, for the first time, at a crossroads, eventful way, what with the political goings on and clouts and storms brewing in the continent, and in this world, and this family, I have to go, “Which side am I on…here’s what I’m gonna do; I’m gonna join the war and be a soldier for good,” and as the story goes, I am a casualty early on.

[Mild Spoilers End]

So that’s the story and we talked about that and went over it and then…this is all the answer to the same question…sorry I’m so yappy.  I’m like Alan Alda in Crimes and Misdemeanors, I’m still on the first question…the tapes’ run out…but hopefully this will help you.  So we rehearsed and then when I came back and getting on the set, where we are all staying, y’know he’s [Anderson’s] kind of Altman-esque.  I’ve worked with Robert Altman and he’s making the shooting itself, the process, an art piece of its own.  And the communal family, one of the themes in many of his movies, which he really enjoys, kind of a beautiful experience.  And it was.  And a creative experience, and a focused one.  A blissful, creative experience.

He’s [Anderson’s] the head chef in that feast and then you go to the thing and the actors, he designed it so the actors aren’t going back to traditional style trailers and da da da da da…instead you have a chef coming to make us dinner every night.  So it’s really more like a troupe and family, than some of these movies.  Some of these movies sometimes are.  And he intends it that way, and then you hang around the set and watch him working and other people working, which is good.  So finally when you get to your stuff…and he did a lot of takes on this movie, as you’ve probably heard, but in a way that’s very beautiful, and creative and enjoyable…and it’s the last chance you get to visit with this thing and making the raw material from which they come from.  So it’s a great little sculpting collaboration of him going, “Ok there’s that, how about another one about this for this section and ‘do that’ and ‘do that here’ and ‘ok try that and another one like that’ etc.” So it’s kind of like that, you get the idea?

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It’s a very unique…you should never say very unique, that’s redundant…so it’s unique and very beautiful. AND! Oh I know something you may have been interested in, but haven’t heard – In a room, that’s communal in the hotel; he’s [Anderson’s] got not only books of research of old hotels and stuff like that, but a stack of movies. Along with the Stefan Zweig novels that he talks about, but he had a stack of movies that he said were the inspiration for what we were doing here.  And I had never seen, ashamedly, Grand Hotel, To Be or Not To Be, Shop Around the Corner, Mortal Storm, Bergman’s The Silence, which takes surreal events surrounding a hotel. So you see it was all very educational and I liked that.

[Mild Spoilers Begin]

And then he made an animatic, and in our little section that he showed me early on in that rehearsal, pre-production thing, the section where Willem Dafoe is chasing me around the museum before he kills me, he said that this is taken from Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain.  There’s a section where Paul Newman is being silently chased around, stalked, in this museum.  So all of that, it helped terrifically.  It’s like I say, very actorly.  Even though you hear his voice do all the parts in the animatic, it’s creatively enflaming and actorly to try and bring yourself to and marry something from you with that vision.

[Mild Spoilers End]

Q:  Sounds like a great experience, was there any challenge to that?

GOLDBLUM:  Well I like the challenge; I like a good, meaty experience for me.  The challenge was to do what he [Anderson] needs and make it as good as he wants and as good as it can be.  An opportunity like that is challenging and it makes you alert.  A fellow like me trying to do your best and everyone else is kind of in that vein too.  What else is challenging?  Yeah, all the aspects of how this thing can work to try and skin the cat and hit the bull’s eye, is it challenging to me?  Yeah and I don’t do it lightly. He’s passionately devoting himself to the whole thing and I’m nothing if not conscientious, I must say, so I won’t bore you with it, but I’m going at it with everything I can and then the story of the character, to really get that is pretty good.  That’s good. It’s not to fall short of it, but the idea is similar to something like Brando in On the Waterfront.  You know, I’ve been going along with this family, and now I’ve come to a point when I better decide where my bread’s buttered.  And geez, I like that, it’s a big idea.

And like somebody said, his movies are full of real and big ideas, if you’re receptive to it of course.  Outside there’s this frosting on the cake that’s glorious and trippy, but on the inside it’s like a meat cake, like someone said.  So inside you get a nice helping of protein and grilled meats.

[Laughs]

Q:  How much room do you have to bring to the character yourself?

GOLDBLUM:  I like little collaborations where the other thing happens, where it’s half-baked or it’s improvised and, “Let’s develop it together and what do you want to wear? Do you have an idea?” All that. That’s fun to and I like that, but it doesn’t take anything away in fact it’s, for me, enflaming, like I say, and creatively inspiring to have somebody…that’s great.  You wanna be in a movie where your part works.  That’s the main thing.  No matter how you beat yourself working on the thing, if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work, and that’s not up to you, so it’s great when it doesn’t depend on you and leap onto something that you know, “Hey here’s a team and here’s a thing that’s gonna work, and I gotta idea, and he’s gotta idea and it’s gonna work together in a way that people haven’t seen you yet,” and that’s all delicious.  If his tastes were different, if I didn’t dig his tastes, then that would be something else, but to jump on board something that’s…where you fill in something that’s already been done, that ‘s delightful, it is really good…and then how do I describe…he’s not in any way…tight, constricted in his way of using you.  He’s not only meticulous and full-blown and knows what he wants, with a lot of passion and conviction, but he’s somehow, simultaneously free-spirited and loves actors and trusts you, appreciating you, but trusts you, and needs you to bring everything to it.  “Let’s talk about what I’m thinking and feeling underneath and putting it all out,” detailing all of that stuff, finding the glasses and all that, but it really feels like a responsible adult, actorly, creative way to meet what he’s done.

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Q:  Is part of the fun also working with a terrific cast?

GOLDBLUM:  Oh yeah, and as I was saying, he wants this kind of experience, so we were all staying in the same hotel.  Oh yeah, Edward Norton is a sort of fountain of wisdom and information, I’m always interested in craft and I kind of was interested to see how people work and for me it’s a little like lessons at school.  Ralph Fiennes was there the whole time I was there. I was there for about 6 weeks, shooting finally and watching him work, talking to him about all sorts of things that I wanted to ask him about.  Tilda Swinton I’ve never met, but she’s exquisite and it was great to meet her and talk with her.  Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, great to be around and to make something with them.  What a cast!

Q:  Do you know of the internet fame you have? Recent memes and videos…

GOLDBLUM:  Fine with me.  It’s okay.  I don’t really look for it.  People send me a thing or two and that’s okay.  I’m sure it will come and go.

Q:  When did you get the e-mail for the part and did you start working right away?

GOLDBLUM:  I should have written down the timeline exactly, but it was like a couple of months before I shot Le Weekend and before I had the experience in pre-production.  So I worked on it for a month or two, so I had learned all my lines and it was enough time to learn my lines and to work on and get ideas about it.  And then I shot Le Weekend and visited Gorlitz, and had the experience of the thing, and then it was another month I think that I went back to LA and found those glasses…worked on things more and came back.  So something like that.

Q:  What’s coming up next?

GOLDBLUM:  Le Weekend.  I also did this play at Lincoln Center, “Domesticated”, by Bruce Norris, won the Pulitzer last year, interesting stuff.  Shot a part in this movie called Mordecai with Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, and Paul Bettany, and Gwyneth Paltrow.  It’s by David Koepp, who wrote the screenplay for Jurassic Park. Then I went to Berlin and then New York, and now I’m here, and I do Conan tomorrow and Ferguson next week.  Tomorrow night I play Jazz at Rockwell in Los Feliz…All the rest of the Wednesdays this month I’m playing.  I also have a gig at Santa Anita, the horse race, where I’ve never been, for a few hours on Sunday.  So my plate is full.

And here is the audio version of this interview:

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in limited release on March 7, 2014 and will expand to more theaters during the spring.

My review for the film can be found HERE.

the other interview posts can be found HERE.

You can learn more about the film at its official website: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/thegrandbudapesthotel/

Check out the trailer for the film below:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

2 Responses to “The Grand Budapest Hotel Cast & Crew Interviews: Jeff Goldblum”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    This cracked me up!

  2. Brian White

    If I could have been a fly on the wall here like in that Breaking Bad episode 🙂