Jeff Goldblum Calls Mel Ottenberg From His Closet
We love a good Jeff Goldblum moment. It may be the sci-fi zeitgeist-grabbers like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Jurassic Park that got us hooked, but it’s the eye-popping, riotous ’fits that we really can’t resist. From deliciously campy looks in films like Silverado and The Fly to the bold patterned shirts and zebra-print pants that are his off-set uniform, Goldblum—with the help of his long-time stylist Andrew Vottero—has carved out a lane for himself as a visionary and eccentric fashion zaddy. Last week, he took his credentials to the next level on the Prada runway for the label’s Fall/Winter 2022 Menswear presentation. On an eerie, darkened catwalk that wound its way through the Deposito of the Fondazione Prada in Milan, our favorite supervillain debuted a slinky walk that had the full-time models gagging. After the show, Goldblum called our editor-in-chief Mel Ottenberg from his closet in L.A. to tell Interview how he does it.
MEL OTTENBERG: Jeff, you’re the man of the hour. Where are you right now?
JEFF GOLDBLUM: I’m at my house in the Hollywood Hills. It’s the same house that I’ve lived in for about 37 years.
OTTENBERG: Wow, Jeff, wow. How is Hollywood tonight? What’s the vibe?
GOLDBLUM: I haven’t been out, but it’s cozy in here. Emilie’s picking up the boys—they’re six and four—then we’re going to have dinner. We’re having pasta and shrimp tonight.
OTTENBERG: Delicious. I’m simply baking a potato for one. That’s my glamorous evening.
GOLDBLUM: Are you going to have anything in it? Like sour cream and chives or butter.
OTTENBERG: I’m going to have some unsalted butter and a little pepper, some roasted chicken, and maybe a salad, Jeff. It’s not pasta and shrimp, but it’s going to be fine.
GOLDBLUM: A baked potato sounds wild to me—I just love the idea. I don’t think I’ve had a baked potato in a long time.
OTTENBERG: So good. Then, I’m going to finish Search Party. I’ve got three more episodes.
GOLDBLUM: I saw all four seasons before I did it, and then I binged this latest season. Wait till you see the last two episodes…you’ll get a kick out of them.
OTTENBERG: Can’t wait. Listen, Jeff Goldblum—I love you, so this interview is biased. Don’t be worried about anything, I’m a big fan.
GOLDBLUM: Good news.
OTTENBERG: Jeff, let’s talk about the runway. You really killed it at Prada. That’s not a question. That’s a fact.
GOLDBLUM: That’s high praise, coming from you.
OTTENBERG: It’s so deserved. The swish in your walk—the arm, Jeff—it’s all about that. That’s how you snatched the trophy.
GOLDBLUM: Thanks. I was enjoying myself, I must say. Geez, what a fun opportunity. I’d never done that before. In fact, I’ve only attended two other fashion shows in my entire life. I went to an Armani show in Milan, and they seated me between Claudia Cardinale and Sophia Loren. The only other time was when Raf Simons did a collaboration with Calvin Klein. They outfitted me in a nice little satin cowboy-inspired thing, which I enjoyed.
OTTENBERG: And we all went crazy for it. Was that a turning point in the re-emergence of Jeff Goldblum, fashion zaddy?
GOLDBLUM: [Laughs] I did love that outfit, but I don’t know if that was the turning point. I think the real turning point was seven years ago, when I did a shoot for GQ, and Andrew Vottero was working on it. I was getting really gabby and chatty with him about my closet—which I’m sitting in right now by the way, and looking all at all my clothes. I said, “I would sure enjoy it if you came over and told me which jeans to throw away.” And that’s how we started working together. In the years since, we got rid of everything that was in my closet back then—maybe I have one or two things left. Everything has been replaced and built upon, and we’ve collaborated on all kinds of projects, including movies here and there. But as a student of acting, I’ve always been interested in how clothes make you feel, and how they create your so-called character. I’ve also been doing jazz shows for a few decades now, so I also enjoy the the impact of clothes when I present myself as myself.
OTTENBERG: You and Andrew Vottero clearly know what’s going on with your closet. You really lucked out finding each other.
GOLDBLUM: I think I bring something to it, and he’s definitely the expert. I’m always bright-eyed and bushy tailed when we try stuff on. But honestly, I don’t know how other people do it. There’s so much out there, and without a guide, I don’t know how you figure it out.
OTTENBERG: I often hear the complaint, “Back in the day, people took more fashion chances, and now stylists make people boring.” But that’s not the case with you two. You have a stylist who helps you dress in an interesting and memorable way. You don’t play it safe.
GOLDBLUM: I’m nothing if not open-minded. I have an appetite for new tastes and flavors.
OTTENBERG: What’s the crystal ball looking like for 2022? What are you guys thinking about?
GOLDBLUM: Well, there’s the new Jurassic Park movie to promote, and I just did something in Wes Anderson’s new movie in Spain. There will be some fun publicity to do with those.
OTTENBERG: You really pulled it at Prada. What were you going for on the runway, Jeff? What were you thinking?
GOLDBLUM: They played The Human League’s cover of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” and I’m always susceptible to music. As we all lined up, it started to do something to me. It brought back memories, and I found myself dancing around. The set, too, was so cinematic—there was some sort of 2001: A Space Odyssey-style tunnel that also did something to me. It all felt sort of romantic and very exciting.
OTTENBERG: It really was iconic. What’s Raf like?
GOLDBLUM: He was great. Ms. Prada and Raf were both great, they couldn’t have been more generous or kind to me. He was a wonderful director, and had such clear ideas about what we were going for. Both of them just exude an artful brilliance. They’re flush with creative robustness.
OTTENBERG: You always look good—you look amazing in The Fly, you look amazing Earth Girls Are Easy, you look good in all your movies. Which one has you like, “Damn, this is my peak moment”?
GOLDBLUM: I don’t think I ever say that about myself. In fact, I often go back and say, “Gee, maybe I could have done better.” But I tell you, I’m looking forward to Jurassic World: Dominion. Andrew and I did a little shopping for that one. We were inspired by the first Jurassic Park from 1993, and my character, Ian Malcolm, who is always such a rich and inspiring resource for me.
OTTENBERG: He wears great clothes.
GOLDBLUM: I don’t want to tip it, but I’m excited about that look.
OTTENBERG: Let’s go back to the beginning. What was the theme at your bar mitzvah? Mine was Marrakesh. Did they do themes back then, Jeff? Not that you’re old.
GOLDBLUM: I don’t think they did. Did Marrakech inspire your outfit?
OTTENBERG: No, but I had it in a glamorous Moroccan restaurant where you sit on couches and eat with your hands. That was my 12-year-old fantasy of Marrakesh. There was a scantily-clad belly dancer who came out, and somehow she danced for 25 minutes. My parents can confirm this. I’m this gay kid having a bar mitzvah, and this naked belly dancer was going non-stop. I was like, “Oh my god.”
GOLDBLUM: That’s trippy and fantastic. Mine was in Pittsburgh, and it was in ‘65. It was a rich and ripe time. I wore a nice blue suit, and I think I did well on my Torah reading. My mom agreed. I felt very charismatic on that day.
OTTENBERG: And a star was born. Jeff, you love zebra, you’re a zebra zaddie. Talk to me about it.
GOLDBLUM: It’s all here in my closet. I’m looking at this pair of zebra pants right now that Isabel Marant gave to me, and they’re stretchy and comfortable, even though they’re slim.
OTTENBERG: Like a rock and roll zebra jean.
OTTENBERG: We’ve seen you in them, and we hope to see you in them again. Do you follow any rules when putting together an outfit? I mean that for real. That’s not a jokey question.
GOLDBLUM: We go with what the occasion, the environment, and the assignment requires. I’m sure Andrew would be more articulate about it. Lately, I’ve been looking for fuller pants. Ms. Prada dressed me for dinner after the show in something that reminded me of my kids’ school uniforms. They go to Lycee Frances in L.A., and they’re required to wear gray pants and a hard shoe. She gave me these Prada loafers that are so comfortable and chunky, and a boxy blazer. I don’t know if I’ll dress like that all the time, but I am really digging it. In fact, I wear that around the house, when I record videos of myself playing the piano.
OTTENBERG: Wait—how tall are you?
GOLDBLUM: I am just a pinch over 6’4″.
OTTENBERG: That’s a great height for a boxy suit. I feel it hard. It’s also a really good height for crazy patterned shirts. You’ve got the lean body and the wide shoulders and the height. I’m six foot—I can’t wear that kind of thing.
GOLDBLUM: Oh, thank you. I wore all those Prada shirts on the jazz tour that we did for our last album [I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This]. That was nice of them. I was thrilled about that.
OTTENBERG: What’s the most iconic red carpet look you ever wore? It can be iconically terrible, or simply the best. Throwback, throwback, throwback.
GOLDBLUM: My mind goes to the good ones. I don’t know if I ever did anything that was truly horrible.
OTTENBERG: You always look good.
GOLDBLUM: Recently, in my new era, I wore a white Prada tuxedo. That was pretty snazzy.
OTTENBERG: Prada, Prada, Prada, Jeff. If it works, it works. So besides your outfit, which was so iconic, and your swishy walk, which was the best walk, who was your favorite in the Prada show? Which model was giving it the hardest?
GOLDBLUM: I talked to all the models, and I learned from all of them. I loved seeing them walk around backstage. Afterwards, one of them came up to me and said, ” I saw that walk, I’ve got to learn it.”
OTTENBERG: It’s the walk of 2022, Jeff, I’m calling it. I know it’s early in the year, but it’s over.
GOLDBLUM: Thank you.
OTTENBERG: Enjoy your spaghetti and shrimp. I’ll let you get out of the closet now.
GOLDBLUM: Enjoy that baked potato.