Goldblum is the actor to call when the director wants somebody off-center

April 22, 1992|By Barry Koltnow | Barry Koltnow,Orange County Register

He's a ruthless, menacing and power-crazed drug dealer who's also a charming, witty and ambitious lawyer on the side. Who else but Jeff Goldblum would play him?

Mr. Goldblum, an acting chameleon who slips in and out of some of the strangest characters in Hollywood, is the man to call when you're looking for something a bit off-center.

"I think this one's a little different, don't you?" the actor asked with a pleading look of hope in his normally intense eyes. "I think this one's going to surprise a lot of people. He's not really as eclectic as the other characters I've played."

Yeah, right. Like we believe anybody who once played "The Fly."

In "Deep Cover," which opened last week, Mr. Goldblum plays attorney David Jason, who joins forces with an up-and-coming drug dealer who is really an undercover cop (Larry Fishburne) in a scheme to raise enough capital through drug sales to manufacture a new designer drug, which will make them wealthy.

Actually, it's Mr. Fishburne's movie -- we follow his character's torment as he tries to walk the fine line between undercover cop and criminal -- but it's Mr. Goldblum, as usual, who manages to walk off with every scene he's in.

Whether he's in the lead or playing one of the supporting roles, the tall, sometimes handsome, sometimes goofy-looking actor has a knack for stealing scenes.

"Deep Cover" is the first of four films Mr. Goldblum will steal scenes in this year. Coming soon to a theater near you: "The Favour, the Watch and the Very Big Fish" (he plays a guy who thinks he's Jesus Christ), "Fathers and Sons" and "Shooting Elizabeth."

Mr. Goldblum, 39, has wanted to be an actor since he appeared in a summer camp play just before entering the fifth grade.

In 1974, he made a brief appearance as one of the thugs who attacked Charles Bronson's family in "Death Wish." Later the same year, he got an important visitor backstage at an off-Broadway theater.

An associate of director Robert Altman ("MASH") stopped by and told him the director would like to meet him. Mr. Altman wanted Mr. Goldblum to appear in two of his movies, "California Split" and "Nashville."

Mr. Goldblum's movie career was launched.

But it wasn't until the 1983 film "The Big Chill," in which Mr. Goldblum played an obnoxious People magazine journalist, that audiences began to seek him out in films.

He has made some good movies since then ("The Right Stuff," "Silverado," "The Fly") and some bad ones ("Transylvania 6-5000," "Earth Girls Are Easy"), but all have been distinguished by an eclectic Goldblum character.

There seems to be a pattern in his career of caring more about interesting characters than about a film's commercial prospects. In fact, many of his recent films have disappeared at the box office.

"I'm afraid to say that there has been no great strategy to my career," he said, grinning apologetically. "If a role turned me on, I knew I could get passionate about it so I did it.

"I know it would be helpful if one of my movies did very well at the box office but that's never been one of my main concerns."

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