Anyone who’s ever seen Jurassic Park will remember the screen chemistry between central actors Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. What you might not have known is that, not long after making the classic blockbuster, the pair became a real-life couple.
Goldblum and Dern dated for four years, even being engaged for a time, before breaking up in 1997. Despite the fame of both actors in that time, between their meeting on Jurassic Park and their split following the shoot of ’97 sequel The Lost World, Goldblum and Dern managed to keep their romance largely out of the public eye.
Jeff Goldblum was born October 22, 1952, and Laura Dern (child of famed actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd) was born February 10, 1967. Despite the 15-year age gap, both actors broke into movies around the same time, Goldblum debuting aged 21 as an anonymous thug in 1974’s Death Wish, whilst a very young Dern had minor roles in 1973’s movie White Lightning and 1974’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.
What’s more, both had major breakthroughs in 1986, Goldblum playing the lead in The Fly and Dern taking a key supporting role in Blue Velvet. These films helped make Goldblum and Dern two of the most acclaimed new actors of the era, but their paths never crossed in their early years, and back then neither seemed likely to headline a blockbuster.
Off-camera, both enjoyed romances with other Hollywood figures. Goldblum tied the knot with two of his co-stars: from 1980 to 1985, he was married to Patricia Gaul, whom he acted alongside in The Big Chill and Silverado. Next, Goldblum began dating Geena Davis after they met on the horror comedy Transylvania 6-5000. Goldblum and Davis then made The Fly together, married in 1987, and co-starred a third time in 1988’s Earth Girls are Easy before divorcing in 1990.
Dern’s first prominent Hollywood boyfriend was Treat Williams; they met on 1984’s Smooth Talk and dated for a year (despite the fact that she was 17 at the time, whilst Williams was 32). She later dated her Blue Velvet co-star Kyle MacLachlan, then film director Renny Harlin (who would, coincidentally, go on to marry Goldblum’s ex, Geena Davis). Dern also briefly dated Nicolas Cage, her co-star in 1991’s Wild at Heart.
It was Cage, in fact, who convinced Dern to accept a role she initially had doubts about: Dr Ellie Satler in the film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park. Dern recalls, “I said to him, ‘Nic, they want to put me on the phone with Steven Spielberg, but they want to talk to me about a dinosaur movie.’ And he was like, ‘You are doing a dinosaur movie! No one can ever say no to a dinosaur movie!'”
Dern duly signed on as Satler, alongside Goldblum as Ian Malcolm, Sam Neill as Alan Grant and the late, great Richard Attenborough as John Hammond. Shooting Jurassic Park proved to be an intense bonding experience – particularly when, on the final day of filming, the Hawaii location was hit by Hurricane Iniki. Dern recalls Neill remarking, “You know, I think we might die, Laura.”
The cast and crew took shelter in their hotel until the storm passed. This experience, Dern explains, cemented the bond between cast and crew. “You go through something like that and it changes everything. Steven and Jeff and Sam became my family.”
In the case of Dern and Goldblum, the bond was a little more than friendly. By all accounts things remained platonic between the two during production, but by the time Jurassic Park opened and became the biggest blockbuster ever at that time, things changed. On June 18, 1993, just nine days after the film opened, the Chicago Tribune ran a story revealing that Goldblum and Dern were an item.
Goldblum was the more outspoken of the two regarding their romance, admitting he “was struck, I’d been a big fan of hers. I think she’s an amazing actress, and a spectacular person. I was struck from the beginning. But after the movie we realised we liked each other.” Dern kept comparatively tight-lipped on the matter, remarking in another interview at the time, “we were friends on the movie… now we’re dating, and it’s great.”
Although they rarely made headlines, Dern and Goldblum remained an item for several years; it was reported in the final days of 1995 that they got engaged on Christmas Day of that year (although other reports have suggested it was Christmas 1994). The couple’s slow movement on arranging a wedding was remarked upon; Goldblum told an interviewer in July 1996, “It’s been a while now, but we’re kind of luxuriating in this time. We don’t feel rushed. There seem to be many delightful challenges to explore.”
Somewhere along the way, something changed. In September of 1996, filming began on Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World, for which Goldblum was the only key cast member to return (cameos from Attenborough and child actors Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello notwithstanding). Author Michael Crichton stated he declined to bring back Dern’s Dr Satler and Neill’s Dr Grant but retained Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm “because he is the ‘ironic commentator’ on the action…I could do without the others, but not [Malcolm].”
During or shortly after the shoot for The Lost World, Dern and Goldblum parted ways. Goldblum admitted as much in a June 1997 interview promoting the Jurassic sequel, telling The New York Times that he and Dern were “not traditionally together right now. I respect her, adore her acting, adore her as a person. Relationships are challenging, aren’t they?”
After their split, Dern stressed that things remained friendly between herself and Goldblum, stating, “I know in my heart that Jeff is going to be in my life forever, and I’ve never said that about any other man… if he’s not my husband, he’ll be my best friend. We’ve worked diligently at making sure we understand why it can work and why it can’t work, based on our choices….I really love this man. But I analyze everything endlessly, and unfortunately for Jeff, that means relationships too.”
The former couple could still be found flirting publicly not long after breaking up, once in full view of an Entertainment Weekly reporter. The split seemed amicable, something that could not be said of Dern’s subsequent split from Billy Bob Thornton, who in 1999 abruptly left her for Angelina Jolie without a word.
22 years after their split, Goldblum and Dern reunited along with Sam Neill to film Jurassic World Dominion, the third instalment in the Jurassic Park sequel series. This was the first time all three had appeared in another film in the series: after Goldblum alone appeared in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Neill took the lead in Jurassic Park III (the first film not based on a Michael Crichton novel), in which Dern had a cameo.
When Dominion started filming in early 2020, the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect. Rather than production shutting down, as happened on many other films and TV shows did at the time, filming continued as planned with the cast and crew co-habiting in a bubble. As Dern explains, “We lived together. We made food together. We figured out what made us scared. We went through the presidential election together. It was a huge time.”
Today, the fact that Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum were previously an item seems so widely forgotten that it is rarely mentioned in interviews or articles. Dern married musician Ben Harper in 2005, and they had two children together before divorcing in 2013; she has since dated musician/actor Common and basketball player Baron Davis.
Goldblum, meanwhile, tied the knot a third time in 2014, with dancer and former Olympic gymnast Emilie Livingston. Still together, they also have two children, with Goldblum becoming a father for the first time aged 62.
Even though their romance didn’t work out, Dern and Goldblum are still fond of one another. Goldblum admits the main reason he signed on for Jurassic World Dominion was “to be with Sam and Laura again… they changed my life, I’d be a different person if I’d never met them. They’re great artists, and great people.”