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(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Actor Jeff Goldblum gave a press conference yesterday at the Bar Cochva restaurant in Jerusalem to announce that his next film, an adaptation of Yoram Kaniuk's novel, Adam Resurrected, would be shot in Israel. But the actor was accompanied by such a distinguished group that even his movie star persona and unique presence did not dominate the event.
Goldblum, familiar to audiences from dozens of films including The Big Chill, Jurassic Park, Independence Day and The Fly, sat alongside director/ screenwriter Paul Schrader, best known for his screenplay of Taxi Driver and films he has directed such as Affliction and Patty Hearst. Also present was Yoram Kaniuk, who in addition to Adam Resurrected has written books including The Last Jew and Commander of the Exodus, and producer Ehud Bleiberg, who has made movies around the world as well as in Israel, and recently produced Frozen Days. The four men are collaborating on the film version of Adam Resurrected, and most questions focused on the upcoming movie, which is set to start shooting in Haifa, Tel Aviv and desert locations next March.
When Goldblum was asked a typical movie-star question - what famous line from his films do fans repeat to him when they recognize him in public - he seemed almost embarrassed as he answered, "They say different things, but a lot of the time it's 'I forgot my mantra,'" from his bit part in Annie Hall. "But I'm always happy when people come up to me," he said.
Goldblum said he was "wildly drawn" to the script of Adam Resurrected - which Schrader described as "the story of a man who was once a dog who meets a dog who was once a boy" and admitted was "difficult to adapt." A more conventional description of the book is that it tells the story of a former circus clown who entertained other Jews at a concentration camp on the way to the gas chambers, then finds himself struggling with his sanity in an asylum in the Negev. "People will label this a Holocaust story, because people in the media like easy labels," Schrader said, expressing hope that the story would be seen for the complex tale that it is. The director, who was raised in a strict Calvinist household and never saw a movie till he was 18, said he insisted that the movie be filmed on location in Europe and Israel. He first visited Israel in the late Eighties while doing research for The Last Temptation of Christ, the Martin Scorsese film that was eventually made elsewhere, and said he was "disappointed it wasn't shot here. In the end, it came down to money."
Goldblum, who said he was excited he would be working in Israel, spoke of how much he was enjoying his first visit here, which began last week just in time for the opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival. Asked why he had never visited before, he said, "I'm bad, I'm just bad," and smiled his trademark, slightly crazed smile.
Schrader said he always thought the actor was "born to play the part" of Adam in his next film, and never considered anyone else for the role. "The character is an entertainer, a ring master, the sort of cavalier character Jeff does so well,"Schrader said, and also praised Goldblum's physicality and comic persona. After reading the novel, Goldblum phoned Kaniuk and told him he was studying violin in order to play the hero, who is a musician. "I said, 'You should also learn to bark,'" said Kaniuk. "And then he barked into the phone for about ten minutes." Asked how he planned to depict the canine characters on screen, Schrader said he didn't know, but promised, "It won't be CGI [computer generated imagery]."
After Goldblum spoke enthusiastically of his itinerary over the past few days - including visits to Jerusalem's Old City and Yad Vashem - Kaniuk courted controversy by saying in curmudgeonly fashion that Yad Vashem had become "the Israeli Disneyland" where visitors to Israel are dragged. Producer Bleiberg quickly spoke up to emphasize that no one had dragged Goldblum there, and the actor insisted that he had found his visit interesting.
Bleiberg emphasized that "there was no reason not to shoot here," so Israelis can look forward to seeing a lot more of the always entertaining Jeff Goldblum next spring.