My week: Julie Delpy
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Need to cast an "intense, funny, Jewish" guy? Adam Goldberg's your man, with short roles in everything from Friends to Saving Private Ryan. So is he finally about to steal the show, asks John Patterson
Saturday September 1, 2007
Adam Goldberg opens his front door, shirtless and looking half-asleep. The first words out of his mouth are these:
"'Adam Goldberg opens his front door, shirtless and looking half-asleep.'"
"See? I got your first paragraph for you right there."
For a guy who's played his fair share of speccy weaklings and knock-kneed nerds, Goldberg (whom I've known for a few years) is looking uncharacteristically beefy today, biceps pumped and pecs covered in eclectic tattoos - but yes, he does look a tad woozy.
"I haven't been to the dentist in four years," he says, pulling on a T-shirt in the kitchen - his cigarette never leaving his mouth, if memory serves. "So I've been having some really vigorous cleanings. I felt like I was in A Clockwork Orange. I even took a picture." He shows it to me on his Blackberry: Adam in the chair, a ghastly rictus-causing plastic apparatus in his mouth, giving the lens a full-strength Malcolm McDowell eyeball-party.
Anyway, there are consequences this morning, in his house in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the Capitol Records building: "I can't have Coke, or anything red, or tea for another 24 hours. The not-having-tea thing is just fucking brutal, so I'm really cloudy now. But British readers are gonna love anything I say about tea anyway, right?"
He gulps down a couple of aspirin with a glass of water.
"Oh, by the way, if you can perhaps make mention to your readers that these are Excedrin and not, like, crack tablets, that would be great."
I ruminate aloud on the slanders I shall in fact write: "Throughout the interview he pops the OxyContin like Smarties..."
He stands up and announces loudly, "I am now going to take my first, uh, movement of the morning... And I want that in print, too."
You know Adam Goldberg, even if you think you don't. At 36 years old, he's Mr Ubiquitous, Kid Zelig. "Sorta-Famous," to use a John Waters formulation. Famous enough to have people occasionally approach him and scream in his face, "Private Ryan was fuckin' shite!" as one enormous ex-pat Irish drunk did recently, silencing an entire bar. "And then he comes back later and says, 'I just made 20 bucks off my buddy for doing that... yer MAGIC!' And that was the end of that particular evening out."
If Goldberg's name isn't familiar to you, a search of his credits will turn up a dozen things you've seen him in. In Ryan, he's the Jewish infantryman stabbed to death while Jeremy Davies cowers outside, and he's the sensitive kid in Dazed And Confused who punches the bully and earns a beating for it. "I never got to do that in real life. Like, just cold-cock the fucker. It was one of the greatest nights of my life!"
On TV he was Chandler's explosive roommate for a while in Friends (he gives good angry - "I do have a short fuse," he claims, though I've never witnessed it - as well as finely-nuanced nerditude). And if you pay heed to one of the feverish discussion boards on his IMDB page, "HE RUINED 'JOEY'!"
You've seen him in toothsome guest-star roles on My Name Is Earl, Entourage, Law And Order, The Practice, in studio movies like A Beautiful Mind, EdTV, and Zodiac, and indies like Salton Sea and the Orthodox Judaism-meets-Blaxploitation spoof, The Hebrew Hammer. He's also written, scored and directed two features of his own, Scotch And Milk, from 1998, and the more self-reflexive I Love Your Work, in which his friend Giovannni Ribisi plays a middlingly famous actor based on Goldberg himself.
Just out is 2 Days In Paris, written - with Goldberg's interpolations - and directed by one of his ex-girlfriends, Julie Delpy. He's the fish-out-of-water American boyfriend who arrives in Paris, armed with not a syllable of French, to encounter scruffy, anarchistic in-laws to be, a throng of Delpy's ex-boyfriends, and an agonising moment with an orally misplaced rectal thermometer.
He'd been to Paris before on furloughs from the Private Ryan shoot. "It met completely all my romantic expectations, but it was only a couple of days each time, so the sensation was easy to preserve." This time he hid out in his hotel more. Travel and tourism, he says, have a limited appeal: "I feel like this Kerouac of the mind, because real road trips made me carsick. But Kerouac wasn't even in the driving seat. He was a passenger, plus he lived with his mother and wrote about things. So in fact, I CAN relate to Kerouac. It's Neal Cassidy I can't relate to. I live more observationally, I guess."
What's it like being directed by your ex?
"Well, in Scotch And Milk I directed MY ex-girlfriend. I always get a lot of shit about being self-reflexive, but that "meta-" stuff, in film-making, has always been appealing to me. Of the films I was responding to when I was 15, top of the list is Stardust Memories. And why would I be able to relate to that movie, at that age, except to say that it touched something in me? And Henry Jaglom's Always, where he made a movie with his ex-wife about their marriage. I don't remember the movie, but I found that idea really intriguing: thinly veiled autobiography, adding one more element - a camera - and being one degree away from the actual experience. I even ended up, before I Love Your Work, writing this script called NeoRealism, about a guy editing a movie that was about the filming of his first movie, a movie like Scotch And Milk, in which he acted with his ex-girlfriend. Never made it, thank God."
Goldberg has pretty much the career he wants; he keeps busy, but acting gives him the freedom and finance to do other things - writing, direction, music - that he enjoys just as much. "I'm just a guy who works, but when you're doing press it always appears like there's something else that you want to do more."
The celeb-watchers always say "When will Adam Goldberg's career finally turn the corner?"
"I'm assuming they mean... become Ben Stiller or someone at that level. And sure, I'd love to have that kind of money, but not that kind of lifestyle. Not only would it confuse the living shit out of me creatively, but that level of constant attention would completely freak me out." Simplistic comparisons are often drawn with Woody Allen, perhaps because Goldberg delivers sweet, funny Jewish neurotics when called upon to do so. Spielberg's notes on his Private Ryan audition were, "Intense, funny, Jewish," - essentially the shorthand version of his output. Goldberg admits to having no shortage of anxieties and has consulted therapists in his day. He prefers his own semidetached take: "Jew-ish."
"I consider myself Jewish by proxy, through my dad, while my mother was raised Catholic. But her maiden name, which is German, is Goebel - really: G-O-E-B-E-L."
So you've got family on both sides of that fight?
"Exactly! When I was in Berlin earlier this year, I wanted to figure out who our German relatives were, but it was just too much to wrap my head around."
The post-dental fuzz still has Goldberg in its grip.
"Man, what is WRONG with me?"
You're neurotic! And "Jew-ish"
"Oh, just say I was drunk. '11.30 in the morning, Adam Goldberg stumbles to the door, bleary-eyed...'"
· 2 Days In Paris is out now
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