I recently got the chance to talk to Jeff Goldenberg about his role in ‘Another Earth’. Here, Jeff talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Jeff. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Another Earth’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The story revolves around the lives of two people who become inextricably connected on the night that scientists discover a twin planet orbiting around the far side of the sun.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play Dr. Charles Mochrie, NASA’s chief astronomer. He is being interviewed at a press conference along with several colleagues, a few who openly take issue with the significance of the new planet’s discovery, some even suggesting that it’s not a planet at all but some sort of space-time anomaly. The feud becomes rather vituperative at one point, but I wind up having the last word, and it sets the course of Brit Marling’s character from that point on.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Mike Cahill and Hunter Gray, one of the producers, were both familiar with my work and they called me in for an audition. I guess they liked what they saw and that was that.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Based on the title and log line of the picture, I think the average moviegoer might assume that this is a straight sci-fi film. In fact, it’s more of a love story/redemption tale with the sci-fi element of the discovery of a twin Earth as the backdrop. That said, it is a key element of the picture, in terms of metaphysics, astronomy and time travel, but Mike and Brit, as director and writers, have utilized them in such a way as to make a very believable, relatable and personal scenario out of something so monumental. Unlike most sci-fi, ‘Another Earth’ is a deeply emotional, thought-provoking character-driven piece.
The film stars William Mapother, Brit Marling, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, DJ Flava, Meggan Lennon and AJ Diana – with Mike Cahill onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any scenes with William or Brit. Mike though was terrific to work with. He not only directed but he shot the picture as well. One of these tasks would be demanding enough, especially since I believe this was his feature directorial debut. He obviously had a clear vision of what he wanted and I think he succeeded.
I do have one anecdote to tell. The scenes I shot were scheduled for the last day of principal photography, so by that time everyone was a bit fried due to the incredible stress of shooting what had been a very tight and demanding schedule of long days. I come in, fresh as a daisy, grab my coffee and danish and start to chat up Mike. After exchanging pleasantries, the first words out of my mouth are, ‘You know Mike, this film reminds me of ‘Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun’. Mike goes absolutely ashen, as does Hunter and the rest of the crew who had been within earshot. After a few minutes of nervously explaining the plot, that it was from Gerry & Sylvia Anderson of ‘Thunderbirds’ Supermarination-fame and that it was released in 1969 and that it’s nothing in tone like this, and so forth, he finally relaxes and we set up to shoot the scene. Yipes.
Let’s talk a bit about you Jeff. What made you want to get into the world of film in the first place?
I’ve been acting since I was a kid in grade school (back in the Plestocene Era) all the way through college. I studied theatre at Brooklyn College with some great teachers including Marge Linney and the brilliant Leah K. Friedman, and worked with some very talented classmates, among them some guy named Jimmy Smits. A friend who had graduated ahead of me was accepted to NYU’s Tisch Graduate Film Institute, so naturally he put me into his productions. I played everything from a sleazy porn director (as opposed to a non-sleazy porn director) to a 90-year-old millionaire recluse in full body makeup. I was hooked. I hung out at NYU and wound up acting and working on many other students’ films. In fact, I was there so much that everyone, teachers included, assumed I was a student. And that’s how I got a $75,000 film school education for free.
By the time my friend was gearing up to shoot his thesis, he said instead of wasting $10,000 bucks on a short film that will never be seen, why don’t we raise $1,000,000 and shoot a feature? ‘Brilliant’, I say. ‘Let’s do it!’ Long story short, we somehow convinced a Broadway producer to convince her husband to produce the picture. And that’s how ‘Deathmask’ with Farley Granger and Danny Aiello came to the screen. All I can say about it are two things. One, it was an absolutely priceless learning experience and two, if you ever see it. whatever you like about it is my work. The rest is not my fault.
After that, I wrote a number of screenplays, a few which have made it to the big and small screens. I have also worked as a story editor for two film legends; Dino DeLaurentiis and Al Ruddy, who is one of the nicest and funniest people I’ve ever had the chance to work with.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Don’t. This is a murderous way to try to make a living. Notice I said ‘try’. Talk about the 1%, you are in maybe the 0.5% if you are lucky enough to be making a steady, decent income. In all seriousness if you must work in show business at least have some sort of alternate way to provide for yourself and prepare for your future – (yes, it is coming despite what the Mayans say). Even if you do “make it”, whatever that may mean, people get burned out. Most of the people I know who were working in our industry 10 years ago are now no longer part of it. There are many reasons why show business is in the shape it’s in, but that is a subject in and of itself. Suffice it to say, someone very near and dear to me with over 30 years in Hollywood is writing his memoirs and they are entitled “Happy Go F**k Yourself”. I think that says it all. Was that too depressing? Okay, never mind.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Paddy Chayefsky, Groucho Marx and my Uncle Harry. The first two are obvious. I never met my uncle. He was killed in the Pacific in WW2 and I have always wanted to know him.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things could you not live without?
Air, water… and the corned beef from Ben’s Best in Rego Park, and pizza from DiFara’s in Brooklyn. Yeah, those are four things. Sue me.
What is your favourite food and drink?
Jeez, I am a foodie and love to cook and enjoy so many things. I suppose if I had to boil it down (no pun intended) there’s nothing like relaxing with a very good bottle of wine, some nice “raw and ripe” cheese and a loaf of bread. Two thirds of the Rubayat of Omar Khayyam! It’s so basic yet completely satisfying. Then again, see the answer to the previous question.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’m polishing a just-completed script and finishing the treatment and outline for another. The former is a redemption story/caper film that’s set in the world of harness racing and the latter is a rather dark fantasy Christmas tale.
Thanks for the interview!