What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was seven or eight, my dad told me, “The key to making it is to find something you love to do.” He was a doctor, but when he was young he wanted to be an actor. I think he was amused by me. Each morning I would write on the steamy shower door, “Please, God, let me be an actor,” and I would rub it off so that nobody would see it. One day we had company at our house, and when I got home from acting school, my dad noticed how excited I was and said, “Yeah, this kid is stimulated.” He had never said that before. I knew he was proud.
You’ve worked with legendary directors like Robert Altman and Steven Spielberg. How do you collaborate with the greats?
I’ve always felt like a happy student. I want to know how I can best serve the material. From the time I get the job, I work like crazy. You really have to trust that these directors will take care of you, and when you do, there’s a certain creative energy that comes from it.
You left Pittsburgh for New York at 17. What was NYC like in the early ’70s?
The environment was so exciting to me, but I didn’t get to unwrap the whole city. It’s not like I ever went to Studio 54 or anything. I was extremely poor, and I was a very conscientious student. I would wake up early each morning to do yoga — a new thing back then — and walk from my apartment to the Neighborhood Playhouse.
What led you to practicing yoga? Do you still do it?
It was a part of those acting classes I took in Pittsburgh. I was in search of the unseen, the theatrical, and the miraculous. I still meditate and do a stretching exercise that I learned through those early experiences.
What role does religion play in your life?
I’m leaning more toward the scientific these days. I think that everything Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson say is true. But on the other hand, there’s a poetic side of life that deals with the deepest questions of being human. Science answers a lot of things, but it might not be able to address some of the other aspects. So maybe there’s a balance. In any case, I’m open to all of it.
What should every man know about women? What have you learned?
Well, I’m certainly no expert about that, but I am currently in a very happy marriage. I will say that I think interactions and relationships of all kinds fall under the creative umbrella. Trust yourself and let nature take its course. There is something in the cosmos that connects you with them and can make you infinitely curious about their mystery and beauty.
You became a father later in life. How did having a son change you?
It gets you cleaned up and makes you think more urgently about all the half-baked ideas you need to get serious about, because you’re now responsible for this very receptive person. Also, I started taking baths again. I’m in there with him and my wife every night.
What’s the best way to grow older?
I like this idea of honoring nature, not masking it. You know, the flower blooms, the flower dwindles, and that’s what we do. Enjoy it. The wilting side of it can be beautiful, too. You wouldn’t take a flower and do surgery on it or paint it or put a pair of Spanx on it.
What role should vanity play in a person’s life?
I really don’t know. I do want to look good, so that’s conventional vanity, probably. It’s not entirely unenjoyable, but when it becomes burdensome or takes away from something else, I hope I’ll know it.
Jeff Goldblum will reprise his role as computer expert David Levinson in this summer’s Independence Day: Resurgence.