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Talking with Jeff Goldblum

By Bob Polunsky for the Midland Daily News

Jeff Goldblum is one of Hollywood's most charismatic actors.

He's proved it in thrillers and horror movies in which he's co- starred with an alien (as in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," 1978) or an oversized beast of some sort (as in "The Fly," 1986). But Goldblum always holds his own and gets top billing for it.

That's probably why director Steven Spielberg wanted him to play scientist Ian Malcolm in "The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2." Goldblum and Richard Attenborough (repeating his role of Dr. John Hammond, founder of Jurassic Park) are the only two returnees.

"I really think Steven wanted me back because I'm the conscience character in the story," Goldblum said, discounting the fact that he is also the character with the most personality in the storyline.

"In the first film I was very carefree. I just went along for the ride and was as surprised as everyone else when I saw dinosaurs up close.

"This time I'm more self-involved in the crises as well as the characters. I also spend time with my screen daughter. In the first film, we just referred to her. This time she's involved in the story."

Dr. Malcolm's daughter is playd by child star Vanessa Lee Chester, a seasoned actress for her age, as she's already played the title role in "The Little Princess" (1995) and "Harriet the Spy" (1996).

"I was at her audition," Goldblum went on.

"In fact, I was part of it. Steven told me to pretend I was a 'raptor and chase her around the room so I did, and Vanessa reacted with the same enthusiasm that she does in the finished film."

The movie is chockful of dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes. They represent the prehistoric monsters that survived after Dr. John Hammond's original Jurassic Park turned into a menace for tourists. It was founded on an island off the coast of Costa Rica and was destroyed after a T-Rex destroyed much of the landscape as well as most of the characters.

Over the next four years, word is out that "something" survived on Isla Sorna, a second island where dinosaurs were developed from DNA found in prehistoric amber. A hurricane destroyed the facility on the island, but the animals survived and are now running loose.

Once the word is out, Dr. Malcolm goes to the island to analyze the situation. So does Dr. Hammond. They bring about a half dozen paleontologists to size up the situation. It doesn't take them long to see that the island is infested with dangerousbeasts.

Special effects specialists Dennis Muren, Stan Winston and Michael Lantier worked on the first "Jurassic Park" as well as the sequel. They made no bones about the problems involved in a sequel that promised to outdo its predecessor.

"Working on the sequel was both easier and harder," Winston said at a press conference following the premiere of the film.

"The first time was hard because we weren't sure we could pull it off. This time we were more confident, but the dinosaurs had to do more things, and we had to figure out how to let them. We spent five weeks just taking about it! We also studied the behavior of today's animals to get ideas.

"We developed dinosaurs that moved faster to show that they had more power. Of course, some of the animals were CG (computer- generated). They were involved in so much action that some of the human characters had to be CG as well.

"One in particular was the baby. We used a real baby up to a point. Once the dinosaur threatened it, we used an animatronic baby with 44 points of movement. It took six men to operate that baby!"

Jeff Goldblum also referred to the CG characters when he described a scene in which a 'rapter goes after a child.

"It's a frightening scene," he said.

"Who wouldn't be frightened to see a 'raptor in their backyard? Then the monster goes after a dog -- a pit bull, no less, and you know what people say about pit bulls!"

Goldblum is obviously very proud of the film. He's also pleased that people walk up to him on the street and congratulate him on his work in the first "Jurassic Park,"

"No one recognized me after I made 'The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai' (1994) and 'The Fly' (1986). But after 'Jurassic Park' they would stop me and talk about those films. It's like 'Jurassic Park' jogged their memories. They knew they had seen mein other movies but didn't know my name until they saw 'JurassicPark.'"

I remember my first interview with Jeff Goldblum. It was in 1982 when he was working on "The Big Chill," and I, too, recognized his face but didn't know his name. I looked it up and referred to him as Jeff Goldblum, as in "plum." He corrected me, saying his name was pronounced as if it were spelled "Goldbloom." At the end of the interview he asked me if I remembered how to say his name. Thankfully, I did.

Goldblum is very closed-mouthed about his private life. He shies away from questions about Geena Davis, his one-time leading lady who later became his wife.

Neither does he discuss Laura Dern, his co-star in "Jurassic Park," and the woman he dated after divorcing Geena Davis.

But he does talk about his love for the acting profession.

"I've known that I wanted to be an actor since I was 5 years old," he said.

"My parents used to take me to the Children's Theater, and I loved it. After graduating high school, I studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner."

His training with Meisner led to a screen test for the role of the death-dealing rapist in the original "Death Wish" (1974). He got the part and hasn't stopped acting in movies since.

Off-camera he relaxes by playing the piano.

"I get together with Peter Weller and his horn, and we play jazz at various clubs. I'm dedicated to the arts, and jazz is an art form. So is piano playing. All in all, I'm a person of conviction!" he said proudly, then added a bit sheepishly: "At least, I think I am."

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