Interview: Adam Goldberg on His New Film (Untitled), Static Art World Culture, and Kicking the Bucket
Posted on Saturday, November 7th, 2009 by Hunter Stephenson
When it comes to a working actor who humorously perfects the modern guy as a hip scepter for perpetual thought and frazzled irritation, Adam Goldberg holds the key to today’s conflicted kingdom. Like his characters dating back to a break out role in Dazed and Confused and on to an ace performance in 2007’s 2 Days in Paris (a rare romantic comedy that is meaningful and tolerable), part of Goldberg’s charm seems channeled via friendly reluctance. He continues to mine such neurotic territory playing the lead in (Untitled), a surprisingly accessible quasi-satire of the contemporary New York art world.
Portraying a struggling artist named Adrian Jacobs who composes abstract atonal music—and weighs suicide at age 30 for the sake of integrity—Goldberg captures, often in silence, the nagging doubts and petty contradictions of a personality burdened by the mythical qualifiers for “real art” and the “true artist.” Standing in face of this absorbed ethos is Adrian’s brother, who rakes in tons of dough and a thick coat of normalcy with abysmal paintings sold to tasteless lobbies all over the world. (Untitled) features a romantic subplot that’s distracting and predictable, but watching Goldberg maintain composure alongside absurd (and absurdly rich) artists, especially a hustler played by the Vinnie Jones, will ring true throughout any metropolitan art scene. Goldberg talked with /Film about his opinions on the character, his fabled performance as The Hebrew Hammer, and what he’s been up to at home, and totally content, in Los Angeles.
Hunter Stephenson: Hi Adam. What surprised me most about (Untitled) is that it doesn’t pander directly to New York audiences. It’s more accessible, almost like a mainstream movie that skewers an elitist niche. Would you agree with that? And are you surprised by how few comedies have examined the art world?
Adam Goldberg: Yeah, a few people have compared it to Art School Confidential, but I guess there aren’t many films about the art world. And obviously, it’s set in New York for practical reasons because that’s the most symbolic place, but it didn’t really even need to take place contemporarily. It’s really has an anywhere-anytime sort of vibe, because it’s about these loftier ideas, like “What is art?” and “What is music?” And, you know, what is the value of something and how things are valued. So, it’s definitely not indigenous to New York culture. A lot of the music my character makes in the film is actually based on what people were doing in the late ’60s and early ’70s, which is funny because my character fancies himself being on the cutting edge and new school. But it’s hardly revolutionary.