Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we ask actors for memories about roles that defined their careers. The catch: They don't know beforehand what roles we'll ask them to talk about.
The actor: Adam Goldberg, co-star of the new relationship drama 2 Days In Paris, possibly best-known for his roles in Dazed And Confused, Saving Private Ryan, and as the star of The Hebrew Hammer. Goldberg has also written and directed his own films, Scotch And Milk and I Love Your Work.
2 Days In Paris (2007) — "Jack"
Adam Goldberg: Weeping with my pants down around my ankles and my penis hanging out. I'm just free-associating here. I'm just doing this as though I was in Freudian psychotherapy.
The A.V. Club: What was Julie Delpy like as a director?
AG: I really do think that memory kind of encapsulates it.
Dazed And Confused (1993)—"Mike Newhouse"
AG: Weeping, though not with my pants down around my ankles, after being hit in the beer-bust scene.
AVC: We can get a little more expansive with these. It doesn't have to be just a single image.
AG: Damn, I really would've preferred it that way. A single memory? Probably that night. That night was, at the time, the most cathartic I've had as an actor up to that point, I think. At least, you know, on film.
AVC: Why was it cathartic?
AG: It was one of those what-you-would-always-do-in-that-situation-but-never-actually-do, but-you-can-do-it-on-film sort of things. Not dissimilar to many of the things I say in 2 Days In Paris. It was like getting to do something that you fantasize about doing, but you're not ballsy enough to do in real life.
The Hebrew Hammer (2003)—"Mordechai Jefferson Carver"
AG: Sticking a banana in my Speedo. Actually, putting a condom on the banana in the Speedo to give it more of a head shape. The guy's supposed to be really well-endowed and had to be in a Speedo, so I just grabbed a banana from craft services. For some reason—there is actually some logical production explanation for this, but I'm not sure what it is—the sound woman had some condoms on her, so we put the condom over the banana. I think it was actually to keep it from oozing, but it ended up making it more realistic-appearing.
AVC: Was somebody in charge of banana-size continuity?
AG: It was a low-budget film. Normally there'd be several people on banana-wrangling, but in this case, we didn't even have trailers.
Zodiac (2006)—"Duffy Jennings"
AG: Zodiac. Wow. Lots of takes. Lots of takes. Lots and lots and lots of takes. I worked very briefly on it, so the only recollection I really have is doing whatever it is you see me doing in that movie, hundreds of times. Working with the ghost of Stanley Kubrick, basically.
The Salton Sea (2002)—"Kujo"
AG: Doing research by going to a very sketchy Narcotics Anonymous meeting, I believe, in Long Beach. Which I was ambivalent about, because I didn't… These guys have real, serious narcotics problems in a fairly confessional setting. These meetings are open, so anybody could go. Of course, I didn't speak. But I was afraid that my cover would be revealed, and that I would get the shit kicked out of me in the parking lot. But informative nonetheless. That was one of those things where I didn't do that much in the film, but I got really interested in the research element. I became obsessed with this famous documentary about this kid from Portland or Seattle. Streetwise.
AVC: Do you normally do a lot of research for your roles?
AG: It depends. I'll do work, but it all depends on how much actual clinical, encyclopedic research I need to do. I didn't know much about that world, that sort of speed-freak world. So I felt like it necessitated that.
Scotch And Milk (1998)—"Jim"
AG: That's just one long, protracted three-year memory. It's hard to come up with one memory; it was all very exciting. I remember feeling like I was an island—though we were principally shooting for four weeks, it felt like months and months and months, like the whole world must have just stopped while I was doing this. And once it was done, I think I suffered a little post-traumatic stress re-entering the real world. It felt a little uneasy to me. [Laughs.] I was doing everything I had always wanted to be doing, and to be doing that for that brief period of time was, although incredibly stressful, also incredibly euphoric. I was directing an ex-girlfriend at the time, so it was a very personal piece. It's interesting that so many years later, I'm being directed by an ex-girlfriend [Delpy], which seems to be a recurring theme in my oeuvre.
AVC: What was it like directing yourself?
AG: Fairly intuitive. I don't want to do it any more, just because I don't see… At the time, acting just felt like an extension of that, of the filmmaking process. It was a matter of convenience, in a sense. It was easier to direct myself than find somebody to play a thinly veiled version of myself. It was one less role—and a major role—to direct. On a practical level, it made sense to me, but I have no interest in doing that in the future. The world seems very separate in making movies: the directing and the acting in them have almost nothing to do with each other.
AVC: You did later direct yourself in Running With The Bulls. What was that like?
AG: That was this bizarre, quasi-pseudo-autobiographical-documentary thing I did for the Independent Film Channel. It was a road trip I took with my co-writer from I Love Your Work to Chicago, the idea being that IFC wouldn't pay for me to run with the actual bulls [in Pamplona, Spain], in addition to the fact that I'd be terrified of doing it. So we decided to go to Chicago to run with the Chicago Bulls, only to learn that they were in the off-season. So it ends up just being an exploration of those issues which haunt or interest me. Ultimately, I end up interviewing this couple, very good friends of mine in Chicago, about how they managed to stay together for as many years as they have. On a kind of horrifyingly ironic note, that friend ended up getting killed in a car crash a year later. If you watch it now, it's incredibly haunting and disturbing because of what ended up happening. So there you go. Nice and cheery.
How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days (2003)—"Tony"
AG: God, what do I remember from that? The hotel bar, really. I don't remember much. Making some money.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)—"Pvt. Stanley Mellish"
AG: I did that, obviously, only for the money. [Laughs.] Okay, not that one. I suppose I mostly remember my death scene. Pretty much any time I'm beat up, or I beat up somebody, or I get killed, it ends up being a fairly memorable experience. That, again, was one of those cathartic things, dealing with an issue I tend to have a lot of problems wrapping my head around—that being mortality. It was definitely a really exciting day, a kind of fulfilling experience. Mainly I just remember being incredibly tired. The lines began to blur between what was real and what wasn't, which I think was certainly part of the idea of sticking us in a boot camp, and directly into shooting without a break. But it felt like a very noble experience, and you have very few of those. At least, I've had very few of those experiences, where you feel like you're really doing something important on a much larger scale than to satisfy your own creative needs and pocketbook.
Entourage (2006-2007)—"Nick Rubenstein"
AG: Entourage is fun. It's strangely sort of chaotic, I guess because it's television. It's more like doing an independent movie, which is ironic, given how much money it actually costs to make a TV show. It's very fast-paced and frenetic, which I suppose, in the case of the character I play, sort of lends itself to that. But it's a lot of fun. I enjoy doing it.
The $treet (2000-2001)—"Evan Mitchell"
AG: The $treet bound up a whole bunch of issues for me, because it was something I wanted to do because I really liked the script an awful lot. I wanted to move to New York, and it was an excuse to move to New York. Somewhere between shooting the pilot and going to do the series, I had a meeting with [David] Fincher—he in essence asked me if I wanted to be in Panic Room, in the part that Jared Leto ultimately ended up playing, and I couldn't do it because there was no way to do this TV show and a Fincher movie. And Fincher was—and still remains—a hero of mine. So it was eating me up inside the entire time I was shooting the show, which ultimately was cancelled after only five or six episodes. It broke my previous record of being on a series that got cancelled after 19—and I'd break it again on Head Cases, which was cancelled after two. It was very conflicting, because on one hand, I actually had quite a lot of fun doing it and got along really well with everybody. And then on another level, I'll always find some reason to feel like I should be somewhere else when I'm doing whatever it is I'm doing.
AVC: Are there other specific roles that haunt you—roles that you didn't get or couldn't take for some reason?
AG: Well, there's a zillion roles I couldn't get, but those, you don't ever think of again. Or I don't, anyway. You just can't. That was one of those situations that happens very rarely. It was just one of those things, and it happened to be with a guy whose films, I think, are really unlike the films that modern American filmmakers are making. I couldn't believe it.
Mr. Saturday Night (1992)—Eugene Gimbel
AG: That was my first movie, I guess. Whatever I ended up saying in the movie, I believe, was cut out. I think there was a reaction shot left in. But the experience at the time—I was 21, and I was genuinely excited in a way that I don't think I was for very much after that, because I was filled with that sort of naïve conviction that once the ball started rolling, there'd be no stopping it, and this business would be a cinch, and all these other things. It was my first real job. I mean, I had done some TV stuff, but it was within the first 18 months of having started working.
AG: [Laughs.] Joey. [Laughs.] Those guys I really liked. I liked Matt [LeBlanc] and Drea [de Matteo], all those guys, a lot, so it was just kind of a laugh.
Déjà Vu (2006)—"Denny"
AG: A surprisingly collaborative experience, which I had very little expectation of, at least going in initially to meet [director] Tony Scott, who ends up being one of these guys who… I think it's an important lesson. You assume that these guys who are elder statesmen, in a sense, who are such visionaries, are just going to move you to your tape mark and pull your strings and then call "cut." But he solicited quite a lot of actor input, and there was a lot of scientific stuff that I became very, very involved in. I became really immersed in all this quantum-physics stuff, at least as much as my brain could process, which is fairly limited. My brain is a sieve when it comes to languages and science. And math. Anything exercising any sort of non-verbal skill. And I really enjoyed it. I was surprised, and Val [Kilmer] and I had a really nice time together. He's a hoot, so we were sort of like the bad kids on the set.
AVC: When you look back at random, what role of yours stands out most? What jumps out at you first?
AG: There's absolutely no question that it's Dazed And Confused. I think of that as being my first real movie. Up until that point, I would get a job. It could be speaking barely—or not speaking, in the case of Designing Women—doing these little parts, and then I'd go back to my job at the bookstore. Dazed And Confused sort of drew that line in the sand, where even though I didn't really make any money, I knew I could never go back into the bookstore, because it would seem strange. Beyond that sort of superficial, practical effect, I always feel bad for people who didn't have a first experience like that. I did that film with these kids, and a lot of them, it was their first time on location. It was definitely a fun movie, but it operated on so many levels, because there was the life outside the movie. It's this really abbreviated, condensed, high-octane equivalent of the college experience I essentially never had. And on another level, I think we all really felt that we were part of an incredibly unusual creative process, because it was a collaborative effort, and we were taken really seriously by Rich [Linklater]. He's one of those guys that for years, I wished was directing everything I'd been in. And it's sort of bittersweet, because it's the thing that breaks your professional hymen, and you're always trying to recapture that spirit. But the nature of the business doesn't normally allow for such a creative atmosphere in what was essentially a studio movie.