At Cannes Lions, the ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Thor: Ragnorok’ star shares his approach to commercial work, why he’s killing it on Instagram, and more.
When you meet Jeff Goldblum in person, the very first thing, the VERY first thing you notice is just how JEFF GOLDBLUM he is. The tone, the cadence, the smile, the twinkle in his eye, the volcanically-loud-yet-still-definitely-pulling-it-off shirt. It’s all there.
“Jeff BE-errr, Jeff BE-errrr, yes yes yes, hello, very nice to meet YOU, hello.”
Goldblum is at the Cannes Creativity festival to appear in a session called “The Future of Entertainment” with Stéphane Xiberras, chief creative officer and president of BETC Paris. When someone coined the phrase “Never meet your heroes,” they were not talking about Goldblum. Which is why fashion site The Cut obsessively covers his Instagram feed or when his wife tests out a jet-lag face mask and posts it online.
Brands know this, too. Just last month, Apartments.com rolled out a new campaign starring Goldblum, directed by Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi.
He’s done commercials here and there throughout his career. In 2014, he starred in what is indisputably the greatest lightbulb ad ever made—or ever to be made—directed by Tim & Eric for GE.
When it comes to picking projects, Goldblum says he treats it the same as any acting project.
“Through my stomach and my heart,” he says, sitting in the Havas Media Cafe, ad company Havas Worldwide’s encampment along Cannes’ Croissette. “Just like a product, just like a movie, if I’m eager to feel passionate about the overall theme and message. I don’t want to promote or do a commercial for something I don’t agree with.
“The other part is the creative, which is all subjective. The Apartments.com, I like those clients, I like what they’re doing, and I think it’s of service. But it was Taika Waititi who directed the last ads, who directed Thor: Ragnorok, with whom I may work again. I suggested getting him, and we obviously had a rapport, and the work is a product of that relationship. It’s the same with movies.”
His next film is The Mountain, directed by Rick Alverson, which premieres in France next week and in America next month. He plays a lobotomist in 1954.
“It’s all acting to me. Can we do something fun? Is it funny to me? Is it interesting to me? Is it substantive to me? It’s all subjective,” says Goldblum.
One of his most memorable commercial experiences was the time Steve Jobs reached out to ask if he’d star in a new campaign for the iMac.
“Steve Jobs called me at home. He was trying to do this cycle of commercials for the iMac. They had Chiat Day, and who was the guy that came to my house and said, ‘Here’s what I think we should do’?”
“Yeah. And I said, Here’s what I think we could do better, or here’s my sweet spot—if you put a 30- or 60-second clock up there, tell me just before I go what the idea is, and then I’ll improvise.”
Goldblum’s Instagram account is the Goldblummiest. The loudest of shirts, and a ton of Jeff Goldblum fan art. But he says he was neither quick nor eager to join social media. He first noticed it was a thing while filming 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence, and director Roland Emmerich had a guy on set shooting photos and short videos for social.
“Eventually we started trying things here and there,” says Goldblum. “Then I got this stylist, who’s responsible for dressing me up. We do it together. He works for GQ. He’ll take a picture, we’ll pick one, talk about a caption, and that’s what we’ve done. Since then, followers have come. I like to take pictures, get dressed, and gussied up.”
The perfect ad according to Jeff Goldblum is one that may or may not have anything to do with the product, but everything to do with capturing and holding his attention.
“I’m struck by things that have to do with my taste. I saw an ad where it’s oblique, obtuse, it’s tangential, you’re not only not saying, ‘Here, buy this,’ but you’re left asking, ‘What was that about?’ It had nothing to do with the product,” he says. “Look, I know nothing about it, but I would say you’re making little movies. For my eyes, I’d say, hey, that’s a movie I’m struck by and then find out who made it or what they were advertising. That’s about it. I really don’t want to get sold to. I’m sales averse.”
The culture of the hard sell is not one that agrees with Goldblum. He uses a scene from the Coen Brothers’ Netflix film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. In it, Liam Neeson plays a traveling show producer, and he has to pick between a brilliant actor reading poems and Shakespearean monologues, or a live chicken dancing on a hot stove. The latter gathers the crowd.
“I won’t ruin the end, but that’s about going where the eyeballs are, but the question is, what are you losing in the process? What have you lost at the expense of the sales credo, the most eyeballs and attention-whoring credo?”
The halls of Cannes Lions may not be the best place to answer that question.
But at least Goldblum is here asking it.
This article first appeared in www.fastcompany.com
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