Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Always a Scientist Never an Action Hero: Jeff Goldblum and the Art of Type Casting

I've always been strangely interested in Jeff Goldblum. This began at a young age when I somehow falsely came to the conclusion that because Jeff Goldblum went to college with my 2nd cousin, it meant that he was related to us. A movie star related to moi? Yeah I told all my friends and let's just say that their lives are better believing that small fact, so why take that away from them? Anyways, when we think of Jeff Goldblum we immediately imagine someone smart, bumbling, eccentric and usually Jewish. He is consistently given roles that portray these qualities and it's funny to me that he's not done a lot to break out of that mold. I've discovered through careful research that this is because he enjoys being the smart character and figuring out things before the other characters. More power to him I suppose, but I thought since it's Wednesday and I hate Wednesday that I would cheer myself up with a post devoted to the man of science himself.

So where can we really say these eccentric scientific qualities came from? Roles that Goldblum had in movies like Annie Hall and The Sentinel, weren't necessarily science oriented. In fact, in both instances he had like a whopping 2 lines probably so I guess we can rule those movies out as causes. However when watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers the other night, I did start seeing trace amounts of the future typical Jeff Goldblum.
Maybe because Invasion of the Body Snatchers has largely to do with science and Jeff Goldblum's bumbling quasi hysteric character of Jack spoke with nervous, eccentric tones- the two concepts somehow got meshed together. Kind of like an teleportation experiment gone wrong!

Which brings us to the biggest offender or cause of Goldblum's ultimately scientific oriented career, Cronenberg's The Fly, which resulted in one of everyone's favorite scientists/fly hybrid, Brundlefly.

This is what I think is key. Generally people type casted as scientists have that smart quality about them, people with strange unnameable accents, or German people. Jeff Goldblum however is just a nut and doesn't necessarily possess that inherent smart quality. Seth Brundle on the other hand, possessed such a strange combination of eccentric smarts, and nerdy/cool charisma, that he came to represent a very different and unconventional scientist.
One that would no doubt carry on for some time throughout his career. Seth Brundle was so utterly excited about his teleportation device that he went so far as to use himself as an experiment,
which we all know did not work out so well.

The failed results however, instituted a hyper, uber psyched Seth Brundle, which once again tipped the scientist scales a little more, and giving birth to a scientist that wasn't perfect, but also one that was entertaining.

Jeff Goldblum's career as a scientist develops further into a few of my favorite guilty pleasures. Independence Day, Jurassic Park, and even a movie like Earth Girls Are Easy- where Goldblum plays the smart, and intelligent fuzzy alien Mac.
In most of these sorts of movies, you will never see Goldblum constantly donning a lab coat, or even spending all his time in the laboratory. Rather, he has that different, unconventional edge to him. In Jurassic Park, he wears a sweet jacket and uses strange eccentric methods to explain theories- plus he hits on people.
Independence Day has Goldblum turning into a low brow scientist- who quietly translates the alien signal and delivers the message personally to the President- and later even volunteers to ride in an alien spaceship to disarm the mother ship!!
He's the strangest scientist I've ever seen and although he is usually right, his ways of getting there are so eccentric and wild you can't help but laugh at poor bumbling Jeff Goldblum!

So it's pretty safe to say here that I've figured out the Jeff Goldblum type casting pattern. Like most people who are consistently type casted, the main cause can usually be traced back to a single break through role. For Goldblum this was of course his role of Seth Brundle in The Fly. These days Jeff plays a detective on Law & Order Criminal Intent which I have not seen (I like to stick to SVU but only when Emmy Doomas is watching it!), but I'd imagine he still withholds some of those silly scientist qualities. The key fact here is that the unique form of scientist that Jeff Goldblum became in The Fly, was indeed the blue print for future scientist roles, which both causes us to laugh and sigh each time we watch a movie where Jeff Goldblum has something smart and wacky to say. I'm still waiting for his career changing role, perhaps he'll be a superhero at some point. We can only wait in embarrassed anticipation.


forestofthedead said...

Love the guy. Would love to see him as a superhero. Hint, hint, Hollywood.

B-Sol said...

He might make a great Elongated Man, come to think of it!

Matt-suzaka said...

I wish he would do some more relevant film work with quality directors no matter the role. He was big shit back in the day and I loved seeing him in the films he did. I don't think I've seen him in anything since Independence Day, a movie I hate with a passion.