Widely known as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” due to the wildly successful Dos Equis advertising campaign, Jonathan Goldsmith has become a pop culture icon on the order of the Marlboro Man. However, behind those classic scenes of him freeing a grizzly bear from a trap, boating with Miss Universe, or arm wrestling Fidel Castro, Jonathan is a prolific actor, an accomplished businessman, and a capable outdoorsman. This charming, bronzed and bearded gentleman has led a private life nearly as daringly as his onscreen alter ego.
What exactly makes him so interesting? For starters, the consummate “man’s man” with the salt-and-pepper mane resides on a 50-foot sailboat docked in Marina Del Rey, California. Twice, he has come to the aid of a person in dire need of assistance. First, while hiking during a snowstorm, he encountered a stranger nearly stricken with hypothermia. On that occasion, he cared for the man overnight until help could be summoned in the morning. The other time, he rescued a girl drowning at the beach.
Born in New York City, Jonathan was raised by a mother who was a model, and a father who taught gym. He attended both Boston University and New York University before pursuing acting classes at The Living Theater. After moving to Los Angeles in his early 20’s, he was forced to pick up odd jobs as an industrial waste truck driver and a painter in order to make ends meet. All Goldsmith’s hard work and dedication paid off when he landed his first guest role on “Perry Mason.”
Since then, Jonathan has starred in over 300 television shows including “Charlie’s Angels,” “Knight Rider,” and “MacGyver.” He starred alongside Burt Lancaster in the 1978 drama “GO TELL THE SPARTANS,” which chronicled a unit of American military advisors in Vietnam. Ironically enough, the polished man who seems to be invincible, in a James Bond sort of way, was often killed on screen. Electrocuted, shot, chopped, hung, machine-gunned and actually ground by someone impersonating a nun, Goldsmith tended to be in roles where he was either killing people or being killed.
In 2006, he auditioned for and won the role of The Most Interesting Man in the World, using his own personal experiences to help create the character: a cross between Ernest Hemingway, Bill Murray, Burt Reynolds, Royal Tenenbaum and Don Draper. The South American accent he dons when he delivers the remarkable pitch line “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis” was inspired by Jonathan’s very dear friend, Fernando Lamas. In fact, it was Goldsmith who spread Lamas’ ashes when he passed away in 1982. It is a subtle tribute to a friend, and as the Dos Equis campaign sprints into its 8th year it can be seen and heard everywhere—from international television commercials, to print ads, to billboards.
Aside from his acting and business careers, Jonathan also supports and is involved with various charities, including The Morris Animal Foundation and the Mines Advisory Group. The Morris Animal Foundation is a nonprofit organization that invests in science that advances veterinary medicine for companion animals, horses and wildlife helping more species in more places than any other group in the world. He also works to save endangered Siberian tigers. But who would expect less from a world traveler whose “beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s body.”
The Mines Advisory Group takes a humanitarian approach to landmine action assisting people affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance in communities worldwide. He recently went on a USO Handshake Tour, too, bringing a touch of home to military families and troops deployed overseas in Guantanamo Bay.
Jonathan harbors a passion for the outdoors, whether sailing, hiking, fishing or camping. While he has never “punched a magician” and his blood doesn’t smell like cologne as does his character’s, he undeniably leads a life more interesting than most. Whether lounging on his sailboat in the sunshine or hard at work on his career, The Most Interesting Man in the World rarely experiences an uninteresting moment!
Kam Williams: Hi Jonathan. How are you?
Jonathan Goldsmith: Enjoying the spring. It feels real good here in Southern Vermont, believe me! How are you?
KW: I’m fine, thanks. Your cousin David Roth told me you’re a good dude and that he enjoyed visiting you in Vermont last year. He just asked me to say “hi” for him and to ask you how your shoulder’s doing.
JG: [Laughs] Tell him I’m fine. He’s a good guy.
KW: I’ll be mixing my questions in with some sent in by fans. “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan also knows you. He admires how you show up every year for a very noble cause, the Los Angeles Mission's annual Thanksgiving Dinner where they close off the streets and feed thousands of homeless men and women.
JG: That’s nice of Jimmy to say. I’ve done it a few times, but not every year.
KW: He asks: How did you ever get this gig as The Most Interesting Man in the World?
JG: It was normal audition, a cattle call with about 500 people there. I didn’t think I was right for the role at all, because most of the other fellows were or looked Latino. So, I had no idea whatsoever and knew nothing about it.
KW: Jimmy’s also wondering whether you had any idea it would be so successful?
JG: None. [Chuckles] I was just hoping the ads would at least last one cycle
KW: Well, The Most Interesting Man in the World commercials have been going through cycle after cycle since they began in 2007. Do people expect you to live up to your billing when they meet you in public?
JG: I don’t know whether they have any expectations, but they always ask me what are the similarities and differences between me and the character. I think they often make assumptions about what my life must be like, and it’s definitely a little bit different from his.
KW: How many Dos Equis radio and TV commercials are you in?
JG: I have no idea.
KW: Do they make new ones each year?
JG: Oh, yes. We shoot the main ones that are going to run on TV once a year in California. The internet stuff is shot periodically, and mostly in New York.
KW: Is there an image clause in your contract with Dos Equis? I’m sure they don’t want to risk any harm to the character you’re so closely identified with?
JG: Sure, there are certain things I can and can’t do.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You’ve enjoyed an enduring career on the stage, on film and on TV. But have you found yourself typecast as The Most Interesting Man in the World since becoming the pitchman for Dos Equis beer?
JG: Not completely. But, without getting into specifics, I’d say I am so closely identified with the character that I am sure it’s limited me at times in the way they look at me.
KW: Harriet also asks: Is it a tough transition from “The Most Interesting Man in the World” to just an ordinary guy when you go home at night?
JG: No, not really. It’s a nice transition. I don’t think I could live his life all the time. [Chuckles] I take refuge in the tranquility of my home. I’m very similar to him in many ways; in other ways, not at all. I seek silence and the aesthetic experience. I love the solitude of nature which I much prefer to some of the things you may see in the commercials. Nature re-energizes me. I’m not into a crowded bar scene, although I still thoroughly enjoy doing the commercials, and that atmosphere. They’re fun, but that’s not where I live. I’m looking out at a mountain. I see nothing but nature outside of my house. That’s very much to my taste.
KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks: Have you ever been tempted to do an Old Spice commercial?
KW: Film director Ray Hirschman was wondering whether any production company has approached you to play The Most Interesting Man in the World on a TV series?
JG: Yes, I’ve been approached lots of times. But I can’t do that, obviously.
KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: What type of woman does The Most Interesting Man in the World like?
JG: I’m very diversified in my tastes. I have found women of all different types extremely attractive, even those that are not conventionally beautiful. A certain spark… a certain sense of humor… a certain intelligence… can all be very attractive. I’m attracted to all different types of women.
KW: Trinidadian Aaron Moyne has a slightly different question: Who would you say is The Most Interesting Woman in the World?
JG: Oh, boy… That’s a very interesting question. I’m not sure. It would have to be a composite. The humanism of one… The spiritualism of the other… The absolute beauty and intelligence of somebody else… I’m not much for absolutes.
KW: Director/Producer Larry Greenberg asks: Jonathan, who do you think is the second most interesting man in the world?
JG: Often when I’m asked for an autograph, I’ll sign it, “You are the second most interesting man in the world.” [Laughs] Let’s see… There’s a barefoot black kid who lives on an island I used to sail my boat to who’s extremely interesting. I spent some wonderful days with him.
KW: What island is he from?
JG: I’m not sure. I sail from Venezuela all the way through to Miami. But he was a whisperer to nature. He was so spiritual that it was infectious and it was beautiful.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: You’re seen doing a lot in those Dos Equis commercials. What is your favorite sport in real life?
JG: It would be fishing.
KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says he’s a fan of Dos Equis and asks: Which do you prefer Dos Equis Amber or Lager, and from a bottle or the tap?
JG: Definitely from the bottle. And when it comes to Amber versus Lager, I use a lot of beer in cooking. Amber in the winter, and Lager in the summer. So, it’s seasonal.
KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Do you think The Most Interesting Man in the World should engage in some socially-beneficial activities?
JG: Grace, The Most Interesting Man in the World is extremely engaged in philanthropic activities. I do a lot of things that you would be pleased with, I’m sure.
KW: Grace was also wondering whether The Most Interesting Man in the World moniker might cut two ways, since some people, at the psychological level, probably prefer a vulnerable pitchman rather than a super macho figure like yours or the Marlboro Man.
JG: I have no idea. It’s a matter of taste, isn’t it?
KW: I read that you’re into fashion. Who is your favorite clothes designer?
JG: First of all, I’m not into fashion, although people think that I am, for some reason. My taste is eclectic. I tend to go for Orvis, Land’s End or Timberland. I’m more comfortable in a good pair of jeans and a nice Merino wool shirt than a tuxedo. I appreciate fashion, but it’s just not where my head is.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
JG: I just finished “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, which is terrific. And I’m now reading “Warriors of God” about the rise of Hezbollah. These are great questions, Kam.
KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
JG: To hang in.
KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
JG: Yeah, I would say a loneliness that caused me to be a searcher, a seeker.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
JG: I see a guy that I like. I see a guy that I wish more people were like as far as loyalty and integrity were concerned. And I see a guy with a bigger nose than I wish I had. [Chuckles]
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
JG: For God, if there is one, and I think there is, to change the hearts and minds of men.
KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited?
JG: My father would be #1… My Uncle Mike… One of the first guests would be Jackie Robinson. Also Martin Luther King… Mahatma Gandhi… Jesus… and Pope Francis. I think he’s really cool. I’m crazy about Shimon Peres. He’s a very dignified gentleman. Also, a wonderful psychiatrist named Frederic Wertham. You should look him up, Kam. You’d find him interesting. He carried on a war with the comic book industry 60 years ago because he felt that exposure to violence was detrimental to a child’s proper development. And he’s 100% right. He defended kids who got into trouble. We became very good friends.
KW: Do you mind if I ask you a few more questions? I know I’m going way past the time allotted.
JG: Of course! Please do. I’m enjoying this conversation more than I can tell you. Take your time. You sound like the kind of guy I’d like to have beer with.
KW: I’d be honored, thanks. What makes The Most Interesting Man in the World so captivating? Is it that he’s so wise, well-rounded and adventurous, while most people fail to reach their full potential?
JG: It is something to ponder. I wonder what happens to memory. Where does that energy, in my case, 76 years of memory go? How can it be so important and so vivid in one’s life and then, what, evaporate? I don’t know. I recently reread “Man’s Unconquerable Mind” by Gilbert Highet. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0231020163/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20
It had a profound effect upon me when I was in college. His thesis is that we die having utilized only about a tenth of our brain power because of stigmas. I think most people’s lives are empty. They’re leading those proverbial quiet lives of desperation. In the box… Never stepping out… Being insecure… Playing it safe and never allowing themselves to be vulnerable or to go through that process of exploration and extension of self. Never really experiencing the life experience… So, we have these capabilities that go undeveloped.
KW: How does someone become interesting?
JG: I think that before you can become interesting, you have to be interested in things.
KW: Unfortunately, Millennials seem so absorbed with their cell phones that they’re not inclined to cultivate that natural childlike curiosity about the real world.
JG: I believe that computers can be a double-edged sword. Children don’t read as much nowadays. They get answers without having to understand the process. That’s not knowledge. Real awareness comes through application and through energy expended. Kids don’t do that anymore. I don’t think we’re deepening our awareness. It’s very sad and upsetting to me to see what’s happening with youngsters. They’ve become so materialistic and consumer-oriented.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
JG: Being held by my grandmother in our apartment overlooking Van Cortlandt Park on a warm fall day when the leaves were changing. I know I was just about 2 because we moved from there soon thereafter. My grandmother held me against her voluminous breasts in an old colored quilt. I watched the cars drive by as the sun streamed through the window pane. It’s a gorgeous memory, and my earliest.
KW: Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. What high school did you attend? DeWitt Clinton or James Monroe?
JG: No, but my father actually taught at both of those schools. My parents divorced when I was young, and I attended 22 different schools.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
JG: Yesterday, when I was fishing with my buddy.
KW: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home and the person we see in the TV commercials?
JG: My clothing. [LOL]
KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
JG: to be able to change the hearts and minds of men.
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
JG: Charisma. That’s not necessarily true. How about sincerity? Or intelligence? It’s hard for me to reduce it to one word. It’s probably a composite of qualities. As we speak, I’m looking at a picture of President Obama who I happen to adore. I’ve met him a few times, and was actually a guest at Camp David for his surprise birthday party thrown by his oldest friends. Forget your politics, he is extremely intelligent, and very engaging one-to-one. I had the same experience meeting Judy Garland and I was an unemployed actor at the time. She spoke to me as if no one else was in the room. Joan Fontaine, one of the most beautiful women in the world, was the same way. Such sophistication, intelligence and kindness! We made friends, and maintained that friendship.
KW: Well, thanks for the time, Jonathan, and stay thirsty, my friend.
JG: It’s been a pleasure. Let’s stay in touch Kam. I really mean that. For a guy who hates talking on the phone, we just spent an hour, and it wasn’t enough.
To see Jonathan Goldsmith as The Most Interesting Man in the World in Dos Equis commercials, click here.