Voight, Jon 1938-

views updated May 29 2018

Voight, Jon 1938-


Birth name, Jonathan Vincent Voight; born December 29, 1938, in Yonkers, NY; son of Elmer (a professional golfer) and Barbara (maiden name, Camp) Voight; married Lauri Peters (an actress), 1962 (divorced, 1967); married Marcheline Bertrand (an actress and model), December 12, 1971 (divorced, 1978); children: (second marriage) James Haven (a filmmaker), Angelina Jolie (an actress). Education: Catholic University of America, B.F.A., 1960; trained for the stage with Sanford Meisner at Neighborhood Playhouse, 1960-64, and with Samantha Harper.


Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-1825.


Actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. American Teacher Awards, 1990, cohost; worked as narrator of fundraising video for the Huntington Youth Shelter, Huntington Beach, CA; participated in annual Chabad Telethon for ten years.

Awards, Honors:

Theatre World Award, 1967, for That Summer—That Fall; Academy Award nomination, New York Film Critics Circle Award, National Society of Film Critics Award, and Los Angeles Film Critics Award, all best actor, Film Award, most promising newcomer to leading film roles, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1969, Golden Globe Award, best new male star of the year in a film, Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor—drama, Golden Laurel Award, male new face, Producers Guild of America, 1970, all for Midnight Cowboy; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor—drama, 1973, for Deliverance; Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Cannes International Film Festival Award, New York Film Critics Circle Award, National Board of Review Award, and Los Angeles Film Critics Award, all best actor, 1978, Golden Globe Award, best motion picture actor—drama, 1980, all for Coming Home; Golden Globe Award nomination, best actor, 1980, for The Champ; ShoWest Award, male star of the year, National Association of Theatre Owners, 1979; Golden Globe Award, best actor in a dramatic film, Academy Award nomination, best actor, and London Film Critics Award nomination, 1986, all for Runaway Train; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, 1992, CableACE Award, best actor in a movie or miniseries, 1993, both for The Last of His Tribe; Francois Truffaut Award, Giffoni Film Festival, 1995; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture, 1998, for The Rainmaker; Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, favorite villain, 1999, for Enemy of the State; Career Achievement Award, National Board of Review, 2001; Academy Award nomination, best actor in a supporting role, Critics Choice Award nomination, best supporting actor, Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best supporting actor, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a supporting role, 2002, all for Ali; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or movie, 2002, for Uprising; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a male actor, 2005, for The Five People You Meet in Heaven; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or movie, 2006, for Pope John Paul II.


Film Appearances:

(Film debut) Frank and False Frank, Fearless Frank (also known as Frank's Greatest Adventure), American International, 1967.

Curly Bill Brocius, Clanton Man, Hour of the Gun, United Artists, 1967.

Joe Buck, Midnight Cowboy, United Artists, 1969.

Russ, Out of It, United Artists, 1969.

First Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder, Catch-22, Filmways, 1970.

"A," The Revolutionary, United Artists, 1970.

Ed Gentry, Deliverance, Warner Bros., 1972.

The Dangerous World ofDeliverance’, 1972.

Vic Bealer, The All-American Boy, Warner Bros., 1973.

Pat Conroy, Conrack, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1974.

Peter Miller, The Odessa File (also known as Die Akte Odessa and Der Fall Odessa), Columbia, 1974.

Walter Tschantz, End of the Game (also known as Getting Away with Murder, Murder on the Bridge, Assassinio sul ponte, and Der Richter und sein henker), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1976.

Joe Buck, America at the Movies, 1976.

Luke Martin, Coming Home (also known as Hemkomsten), United Artists, 1978.

Billy Flynn, The Champ, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1979.

Alex Kovac, Lookin' to Get Out, Paramount, 1982.

J. P. Tannen, Table for Five, Warner Bros., 1983.

Himself, Sanford Meisner—The American Theatre's Best Kept Secret (documentary), Columbia, 1984.

Oscar "Manny" Manheim, Runaway Train, Cannon, 1985.

Jack Chismore, Desert Bloom, Columbia, 1986.

Retour, 1987.

James/Edward, Eternity, Academy Entertainment, 1990.

Peter Willcox, Rainbow Warrior (also known as The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior), Signet Video, 1994.

Nate, Heat, Warner Bros., 1995.

Jim Phelps, Mission: Impossible (also known as Mission Impossible), Paramount, 1996.

John Wright, Rosewood, Warner Bros., 1997.

Paul Sarone, Anaconda, Columbia TriStar, 1997.

Blind man, U-Turn (also known as Stray Dogs), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1997.

General Adam Woodward, Most Wanted, New Line Cinema, 1997.

Leo F. Drummond, The Rainmaker (also known as John Grisham's The Rainmaker), Paramount, 1997.

Lieutenant Palladino, Boys Will Be Boys, A-Pix Entertainment, 1997.

Thomas Brian Reynolds, NSA Deputy Director of Operations, Enemy of the State, Buena Vista, 1998.

Inspector Ned Kenny, The General (also known as I Once Had a Life), Sony Pictures Classics, 1998.

Coach Bud Kilmer, Varsity Blues, Paramount, 1999.

Michel Le Grande, A Dog of Flanders, Warner Bros., 1999.

Presenter, The Prince and the Surfer, 1999.

A Constant Forge, 2000.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor (also known as Pearl Harbour), Buena Vista, 2001.

Lord Richard Croft, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (also known as Tomb Raider), Paramount, 2001.

Himself, A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes, 2001.

(Cameo) Larry Zoolander, Zoolander, Paramount, 2001.

Howard Cosell, Ali, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2001.

Hamilton Cage, Unleashed, 2001.

Marion "Mr. Sir" Sevillo, Holes, Buena Vista, 2003.

Hamilton Cage, The Karate Dog, Manga, 2004.

Senator Thomas Jordan, The Manchurian Candidate, Paramount, 2004.

Bill Biscane/Kane, SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Sony, 2004.

Patrick Gates, National Treasure, Buena Vista, 2004.

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?), LSL, 2006.

Olhar Estrangeiro, Riofilmes, 2006.

Luke Martin, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, 2006.

Jacob Samuelson, September Dawn, Eagle, 2006.

Adolph Rupp, Glory Road, Buena Vista, 2006.

Dr. Crazx, The Legend of Simon Conjurer, Crystal Sky, 2006.

Defense Secretary John Keller, Transformers (also known as Transformers: The IMAX Experience), Paramount, 2007.

Principal Dimly, Bratz, Lions Gate, 2007.

Patrick Gates, National Treasure: Book of Secrets (also known as National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets), Buena Vista, 2007.

Pablo, Kihou, 2008.

No Subtitles Necessary: The Story of Laszlo and Vilmos, NC, 2008.

Clarkworld, Film Pharm, 2008.

Film Producer:

Lookin' to Get Out, Paramount, 1982.

Table for Five, Warner Bros., 1983.

Film Co-Executive Producer:

Baby Geniuses, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1999.

Film Executive Producer:

Unleashed, 2001.

Karate Dog, 2004.

Television Appearances; Series:

Family Edition, syndicated, 1992.

The View, ABC, 2004, 2005, 2007.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Captain Woodrow F. Call, Return to Lonesome Dove, CBS, 1993.

Noah, Noah's Ark (also known as Arche Noah-Das groesste abenteuer der menschheit), NBC, 1999.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Dr. Robert Gale, Chernobyl: The Final Warning (also known as Final Warning, The Chernobyl Story, and The Dr. Robert Gale Story), TNT, 1991.

Alfred Kroeber, The Last of His Tribe (also known as Ishi and The Last Free Indian), HBO, 1992.

Yarik, the tin soldier, The Tin Soldier, Showtime, 1995.

Ry Weston, Convict Cowboy, Showtime, 1995.

Jack Killoran, The Fixer, Showtime, 1998.

Second String, 2000.

General Stroop, Uprising, 2001.

Siggy, Jack and the Beanstalk the Real Story, 2001.

Billy Rowles, Jasper, Texas, 2003.

Edward "Eddie", The Five People You Meet in Heaven, 2004.

Pope John Paul II/Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II (also known as Giovanni Paolo II and Jan Pawell II), 2005.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Steven Downing, "The Prisoner," Gunsmoke, CBS, 1962.

"Alive and Still a Second Lieutenant," Naked City, ABC, 1963.

"The Brother Killers," The Defenders, CBS, 1963.

Cory, "Prairie Wolfer," Gunsmoke, CBS, 1964.

"Kwimpers of New Jersey," Summer Fun, 1966.

Tetter Karlgren, "The Newcomers," Gunsmoke, CBS, 1966.

"A Sleep of Prisoners," N.E.T. Playhouse, National Educational Television (now PBS), 1966.

Captain Holtke, "Graveyard," 12 O'Clock High, ABC, 1966.

Peter Wicklow, "The Rebels," Coronet Blue, CBS, 1967.

"The Bomber," N.Y.P.D., ABC, 1967.

"Without Honor," Cimarron Strip, CBS, 1968.

"The Prisoner," Gunsmoke, CBS, 1969.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1972, 1973.

The Mike Douglas Show, syndicated, 1974 and 1979.

Himself, "The Mom and Pop Store," Seinfeld, NBC, 1994.

"Filmen Mission Impossible," Nyhetsmorgon, 1996.

Late Show with David Letterman (also known as Letterman and The Late Show), CBS, 1997.

The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1997.

"The Oscars," Dennis Miller Live, HBO, 1999.

"Cheryl Ladd," Intimate Protrait, Lifetime, 1999.

"Jane Fonda," E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2000.

The Big Breakfast, 2001.

"Filmen Pearl Harbor," Nyhetsmorgon, 2001.

"Ali," HBO First Look, HBO, 2001.

"The First Six years," Everybody Loves Raymond (also known as Raymond), CBS, 2002.

"Dustin Hoffman," Bravo Profiles, Bravo, 2002.

"Jennifer Lopez," Intimate Portrait, Lifetime, 2002.

Listen Up! … Charles Barkley with Ernie Johnson (also known as Listen Up!), TNT, 2002.

"Filmen ‘Ali (DVD premiar)’," Nyhetsmorgon, 2004.

The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, 2004.

The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, CBS, 2004.

The Graham Norton Effect, Comedy Channel, 2004.

The Tony Danza Show, syndicated, 2004, 2005.

Sunday Morning Shootout, AMC, 2004.

Live with Regis and Kelly, syndicated, 2004, 2007.

Billy Flynn, "Child Stars II: Growing Up Hollywood," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2005.

Corazon de …, 2005, 2006.

"Lemony Snicket's," Only in L.A., 2005.

"Family Business," I Married a Princess, Lifetime, 2005.

Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2006.

"Inside the Academy Awards," Sunday Morning Shootout, AMC, 2006.

"From Soul Train to Tony Orlando," In the Mix (also known as In the Cutz), Urban America, 2006.

Entertainment (also known as ET, ET Weekend, Entertainment This Week and This Week in Entertainment), syndicated, 2007.

Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC, 2007.

Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2007.

"Transformers: Their War. Our World," HBO First Look, HBO, 2007.

"Movies," TV Land Confidential (also known as TV Land Confidential: The Untold Stories), TV Land, 2007.

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, CBS, 2007.

The Big Story, Fox News, 2008.

Also appeared in four episodes of The Directors, Encore.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Sixty Years of Seduction, ABC, 1981.

The Barbour Report, ABC, 1986.

Welcome Home, HBO, 1987.

Unauthorized Biography: Jane Fonda, syndicated, 1988.

Happy Birthday, Bugs: 50 Looney Years (also known as Hollywood Celebrates Bugs Bunny's 50th Birthday), CBS, 1990.

"Sanford Meisner: The Theatre's Best Kept Secret," American Masters, PBS, 1990.

"Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter's Journey," American Masters, PBS, 1992.

Farm Aid '99, Country Music Television, 1999.

A Salute to Dustin Hoffman (also known as The 27th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award: A Salute to Dustin Hoffman), ABC, 1999.

Host, An All-Star Tribute to Johnny Cash, 1999.

Host, The Genocide Factor, 2000.

Storyteller, Britney Spears Live from Las Vegas, HBO, 2001.

Journey to the Screen: The Making of "Pearl Harbor," Black Entertainment Television, 2001.

Howard Cosell, The Making of "Ali," 2001.

Muhammad Ali's All-Star 60th Birthday Celebration!, CBS, 2002.

Screen Tests of the Stars, ITV, 2002.

A Decade Under the Influence (documentary), Independent Film Channel, 2003.

101 Biggest Celebrity Oops, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.

Biography Special: The Fondas, Arts and Entertainment, 2004.

American Idol: The Phenomenon, Fox, 2004.

AFI's 100 Years … 100 Movie Quotes: America's Greatest Quips, Comebacks and Catchphrases, CBS, 2004.

Jonathan Demme and the Making of "Manchurian Candidate," 2004.

The 100 Greatest Family Films, Channel 4, 2005.

Tribeca Film Festival Presents: Live from the Red Carpet, NBC, 2006.

Brando, TCM, 2007.

Also appeared in The Dwarf.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

(Uncredited) Presenter, The 42nd Annual Academy Awards, 1970.

Presenter, The 47th Annual Academy Awards, NBC, 1975.

Presenter, The 50th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1978.

Presenter, The 54th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1982.

The 43rd Annual Golden Globe Awards, 1986.

The 58th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1986.

The 15th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1989.

"The Walt Disney Company Presents the American Teacher Awards," The Magical World of Disney, Disney Channel, 1990.

The 16th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1990.

The 50th Annual Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1993.

Presenter, Family Film Awards, CBS, 1996.

Presenter, The Screen Actors Guild Awards, NBC, 1997.

Presenter, The 24th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1998.

The 70th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1998.

Prism Awards 2000, syndicated, 2000.

The 74th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2002.

The 75th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2003.

Young Hollywood Awards, AMC, 2003.

The Orange British Academy Film Awards, BBC, 2004.

Presenter, The 10th Annual Critic's Choice Award, The WB, 2005.

The 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, NBC, 2006.

Television Work; Movies:

Director, The Tin Soldier, Showtime, 1995.

Executive producer, The Fixer, Showtime, 1998.

Executive producer, The Princess and the Barrio Boy, 2000.

Stage Appearances:

(Stage debut) O Oysters Revue, Village Gate Theatre, New York City, 1961.

(Broadway debut) Rolf Gruber, The Sound of Music, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 1961.

Rodolpho, A View from the Bridge, Sheridan Square Playhouse, New York City, 1965.

Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, National Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, CA, 1966.

Ariel, The Tempest, National Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe Theatre, 1966.

Thurio, Two Gentlemen of Verona, National Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe Theatre, 1966.

Steve, That Summer—That Fall, Helen Hayes Theatre, New York City, 1967.

The Dwarfs, Theatre Company of Boston, Boston, MA, 1967.

Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, then Studio Arena, Buffalo, NY, both 1973.

Title role, Hamlet, Levin Theatre, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 1976.

Trigorin, The Sea Gull, Lyceum Theatre, New York City, 1992-93.

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?, New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco, CA, 1999-2000.

Also appeared in two seasons of summer theatre productions at Winooski, VT.

Stage Work:

Coproducer, The Hashish Club, Bijou Theatre, New York City, 1975.



Oscar's Greatest Moments, 1992.

The Celebrity Guide to Entertaining, 1993.

"Midnight Cowboy" Revisited, 1994.

Resistance, 2001.

Coming Back Home, 2002.

Hal Ashby: A Man Out of Time, 2002.

Sex at 24 Frames Per Second, 2003.

Behind the Scenes at the Michael Jackson Trial, 2005.

"National Treasure" on Location, 2005.

The Making of "Heat," 2005.

The Making of "Enemy of the State," 2006.

After Midnight: Reflecting on a Classic 35 Years Later, 2006.

Midnight Cowboy: Celebrating Schlesinger, 2006.

Midnight Cowboy: Controversy and Acclaim, 2006.

Deliverance: The Beginning, 2007.

Deliverance: The Journey, 2007.

Deliverance: Betraying the River, 2007.

Deliverance: Delivered, 2007.

Our World, 2007.



(With Al Schwartz) Lookin' to Get Out, Paramount, 1982.

(With others) Eternity, Academy Entertainment, 1990.



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, St. James Press, 1996.


People Weekly, April 28, 1997, p. 20.

Time, October 27, 1997, p. 131.

Voight, Jon

views updated May 29 2018


Nationality: American. Born: Yonkers, New York, 29 December 1938; brother of songwriter Wes Voight (Chip Taylor). Education: Attended Archbishop Stepinac High School, White Plains, New York; Catholic University, Washington, D.C.; studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse under Sanford Meisner, 1960–64. Family: Married 1) Lauri Peters, 1962 (divorced 1967); 2) Marcheline Bertrand, 1971 (divorced 1978), children: James, and the actress Angelina Jolie. Career: Made his Broadway debut in a replacement role in The Sound of Music, early 1960s; had a major role in an off-Broadway production of A View from the Bridge, and acted in the San Diego Shakespeare Festival, 1965; appeared on Broadway with Irene Papas in That Summer—That Fall, and made his film debut in Fearless Frank, 1967; appeared in the TV mini-series Return to Lonesome Dove, 1993; made his directing debut with the TV movie Tin Soldier, 1995. Awards: Best Actor British Academy Award, National Society of Film Critics Best Actor, New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor, Most Promising Newcomer-Male Golden Globe, for Midnight Cowboy, 1969; Best Actor Academy Award, Cannes Film Festival Best Actor, New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Actor, National Board of Review Best Actor, Best Motion Picture Actor-Drama Golden Globe, for Coming Home, 1978; Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama Golden Globe, for Runaway Train, 1985. Agent: Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


Fearless Frank (Frank's Greatest Adventure) (Kaufman) (title role); Hour of the Gun (John Sturges) (as Curly Bill Brocius)


Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger) (as Joe Buck); Out of It (Williams) (as Russ)


The Revolutionary (Williams) (as A); Catch-22 (Mike Nichols) (as Milo Minderbinder)


Deliverance (Boorman) (as Ed Gentry)


The All-American Boy (Eastman) (as Vic Bealer)


Conrack (Ritt) (as Pat Conroy); The Odessa File (Neame) (as Peter Miller)


Der Richter und sein Henker (End of the Game; Murder on the Bridge; Getting Away with Murder) (Schell) (as Walter Tschanz)


Coming Home (Ashby) (as Luke Martin)


The Champ (Zeffirelli) (as Billy Flynn)


Lookin' to Get Out (Ashby) (as Alex Kovac, + co-sc)


Table for Five (Lieberman) (as J. P. Tannen)


Runaway Train (Konchalovsky) (as Manny)


Desert Bloom (Corr) (as Jack Chismore)


Eternity (Paul) (as James/Edward, + sc)


Chernobyl: The Final Warning (Page—for TV) (as Dr. Robert Gale)


The Last of His Tribe (Hook—for TV) (as Prof. Alfred Kroeber)


The Rainbow Warrior (Tuchner) (as Peter Willcox)


Convict Cowboy (Holcomb—for TV) (as Ry Weston); Heat (Michael Mann) (as Nate)


Mission Impossible (De Palma) (as Jim Phelps); Rosewood (Singleton) (as John Wright)


Anaconda (Llosa) (as Paul Sarone); U Turn (Stone) (as Blind Man); Most Wanted (Hogan) (as General Adam Woodward); The Rainmaker (Coppola) (as Leo F. Drummond)


The Fixer (Carner—for TV) (as Jack Killoran, exec pr); The General (I Once Had a Life) (Boorman) (as Ned Kenny); Enemy of the State (Scott) (as Thomas Brian Reynolds).


Varsity Blues (Robbins) (as Coach Bud Kilmer); Noah's Ark (John Irwin—for TV) (as title role); A Dog of Flanders (Brodie) (as Michel La Grande)

Film as Actor and Director:


Tin Soldier (for TV) (as Yarik)


By VOIGHT: article—

"Jon Voight: To Act or Not to Act," interview with S. Miles, in Interview (New York), October 1974.

"Isn't It Romantic?" in Movieline (Escondido), May 1997.

"Devilish Angelina," in Interview (New York), June 1997.

On VOIGHT: articles—

McGillivray, David, "Jon Voight," in Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1972.

Current Biography 1974, New York, 1974.

Jerome, Jim, "For Single Father Jon Voight, Table for Five Is a Story Close to His Own Painful Experience," in People Weekly (New York), 11 April 1983.

Stark, Jon, "Jon Voight Thanks God for Putting Him Back on the Oscar Track with a Rousing Return in Runaway Train," in People Weekly (New York), 24 March 1986.

Gorkachov, V., "Jon Voight: To Russia with Love," in Soviet Film (Moscow), December 1988.

Eby, D., "Anaconda,' in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), vol. 28, no. 11, 1997.

Stars (Mariembourg), no. 29, 1997.

* * *

Jon Voight is a multitalented (but too-little-used) actor whose career is a study in schizophrenia. In the role that solidified his stardom, he played a boyishly naive, inexperienced character who is constantly victimized; as he reached middle-age, his best parts came as slick corporate villains and grizzled, all-too-experienced heavies, intimidating outlaws one would cross the street to avoid. In between came his most likable character: an Everyman war survivor whose time in battle has at once crippled his body but sharpened his mind, and his sensitivities.

Voight won his initial celebrity in Midnight Cowboy, one of the defining films of the late-1960s-early 1970s, playing the ingenuous Texas stud Joe Buck, opposite Dustin Hoffman's Ratso Rizzo. Joe Buck comes to New York thinking he effortlessly will earn wads of money selling himself to wealthy middle-aged ladies who will be taken by his cowboy charm. Instead, he ends up befriending the tubercular Ratso, with whom he shares a frosty room in a condemned building. His sexual contacts are just as often with men and boys as women. As a hustler, Joe Buck is an abysmal failure. At the finale, Ratso—who is his lone friend—dies, and Joe Buck's future remains uncertain.

Among Voight's most vividly-etched post-Midnight Cowboy roles have been characters totally unlike Joe Buck: heavies who either are psychotic to a spine-rattling degree (the prison escapee in Runaway Train, in which he offers an electrifying performance), or simply intimidating (Robert De Niro's criminal contact in Heat, followed by the conniving, murderous National Security Agency official in Enemy of the State, the amoral, well-recompensed lawyer in The Rainmaker, and the redneck football coach in Varsity Blues). At their worst, the latter characters are stereotypical heavies. Still, they are necessary elements to their stories, and Voight does a first-class job of making them appropriately smarmy. Not all of his work has been letter-perfect, however; in Anaconda, he gives an over-the-top performance as a slimy, loony snake trapper. With the exception of Runaway Train, Voight's roles in all these films are supporting. Even when his character is upstanding, and on the right side of the law—in The General, he plays a cop who is determined to nab Brendan Gleeson's elusive working-class criminal—his role is a secondary one.

The part that links his Midnight Cowboy and Enemy of the State/Rainmaker/Varsity Blues celluloid personalities is the one for which Voight won an Oscar: Luke Martin, the sensitive, perceptive, paraplegic Vietnam veteran in Coming Home. Luke is a young American who went off to a war his country had no business fighting. For his trouble, he will be spending the rest of his days in a wheelchair. But harsh real-life experience has not hardened him. Unlike too many other celluloid Vietnam veterans, he is neither psycho criminal nor ne'er-do-well. Despite his plight, Luke Martin demands no pity—and he has become an eloquent antiwar activist. His reward: Jane Fonda, whom he wins from gung-ho marine officer Bruce Dern. Voight's knowing, sympathetic performance makes Luke the kind of guy with whom one might want to share a beer, or pass the hours deep in conversation.

Voight has had several other solid roles in noteworthy films (one of the unfortunates who sets out on what will be a harrowing backwoods canoe trip, in Deliverance; the common-sense teacher fighting racism and ignorance in the backwards black school, in Conrack). Still, his celluloid output has been spotty; since his screen debut in 1967, he has appeared in a little over three dozen films and made-for-television features. For this reason alone, Voight's career cannot be considered at the level of Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, or Robert De Niro, his fellow Oscar-winners who also won renown in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

And at the turn of the twenty-first century, it even might be argued that Voight is best-known not for his own work but as the father of star-on-the-rise (and newly minted Oscar winner) Angelina Jolie.

—Rob Edelman

Voight, Jon

views updated May 11 2018


(b. 29 December 1938 in Yonkers, New York), actor who became a star in his first major film, Midnight Cowboy (1969), which expressed the angst and social rebellion that permeated much of American society at the end of the 1960s.

Voight was the second son of Elmer Voight, a professional golfer at the Sunningdale Golf Club in Westchester County, and Barbara Camp. As a child Voight had a talent for doing impersonations and learned much from his father, who greatly enjoyed participating in routines, telling fairy stories and creating spy scenarios. To this day Voight's genius is inextricably tied up with character roles rather than starring ones. Voight was mentored in dramatics by Father Bernard McMahon at Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York, from which he graduated in 1956. One of Voight's roles during his high school years was that of an eighty-year-old German playboy. His success revealed his enormous potential as an actor.

Voight began college in 1956 at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Once again a priestly inter-vention, this time from Father Gilbert Hartke, saw to it that Voight focused on drama. Upon graduating with a B.F.A. in 1960, Voight was determined to pursue a career in acting. He went to New York City and studied for the next four years with Stanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Parental support allowed Voight the time and resources to concentrate on learning how to act.

During the 1960s Voight had a varied apprenticeship on the stage and screen. He had a small part in the hugely successful Broadway production of The Sound of Music, then a major role in Arthur Miller's View from the Bridge. In 1967 Voight received a Theatre World Award for a starring role in That Summer—That Fall, Frank Gilroy's adaptation of Phèdre. Although the play only ran for twelve performances, Voight's performance was well received by critics.

Voight was always eager to try new roles. He played the lead in Romeo and Juliet (1966) and Ariel in The Tempest (1966), appeared in seven television shows (including the Westerns Gunsmoke and Cimarron Strip), then found himself in an educational television production of a Howard Pinter play called The Dwarfs (1967).

In 1966 Voight read the screenplay for The Midnight Cowboy, by James Leo Herlihy. He was desperate to win the role of Joe Buck, the handsome, boyish drifter from Texas who heads for New York convinced that his cowboy persona will transform him into a high-class gigolo. He campaigned energetically with the film's producer, Jerome Hellman, and its director, John Schlesinger, to win the role.

When United Artists released Midnight Cowboy in 1969, the movie enjoyed spectacular box-office success despite nude scenes and other bold content that caused it to receive an X rating. This was eventually downgraded to R. The story follows the unglamorous, dismal, and often hopeless odyssey of two homeless hobos who somehow become close companions. The film critic Tim Dirks sees the story as a modern version of John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men. Midnight Cowboy, for some, was a morality tale fitfully placed in an ugly and depersonalized metropolis. The film critic Leonard Maltin argues that Voight's role of the male prostitute and hustler helped define the sensitive, as opposed to macho, male character for American movie audiences in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Voight's six-foot, three-inch build, plus the muscle he acquired as he trained for the Joe Buck role, allowed him to adroitly carry off the appearance of a Texan peacock. Clad in a fringed leather jacket, a flamboyant Stetson hat, and shiny cowboy boots, Buck is full of fanciful dreams as he departs Texas and heads north to make his fortune.

Voight earned only $17,000 for his Joe Buck role (costar Dustin Hoffman reportedly earned $700,000), but critics uniformly applauded his performance. The film earned three Oscars, one each for best adapted screenplay, best director, and best picture. Voight was nominated for the best actor Oscar and received a New York Film Critic's Award and a National Society of Film Critics Award, both for best actor.

Voight's post–Midnight Cowboy career entails his selection of a series of roles that reprise the character Joe Buck. Searching for a denouement and hoping to find meaning or salvation in a cluttered and uneven cultural landscape, Voight's characters are seldom one-dimensional heroic figures. In Catch 22 (1970) Voight played Milo Minderbinder, a scheming provisions officer who makes a fortune by selling "chocolate-covered cotton." Two years later Voight was the sensitive, cerebral man caught unawares and exposed in John Boorman's harrowing outdoor adventure Deliverance (1972). To carry off the role of Ed Gentry, Voight mastered a series of stunts, including riding a canoe through whitewater, climbing a slippery cliff, and shooting a bow and arrow. Vincent Canby, in his review, praises Voight's portrayal of a "thoughtful, self-satisfied businessman who rather surprisingly meets the challenge of the wilderness." In Conrack (1974) Voight played a school-teacher who deeply affects African-American pupils on an isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. Then, with Coming Home (1978), a drama about the effects of the Vietnam War, Voight, once again the sensitive and compassionate man, transforms from driven warrior to paralyzed soldier. The film secured for Voight a 1979 Oscar for best actor and awards from the New York Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics, and the Cannes Film Festival.

In 1985 Voight's portrayal of a brutal escaped convict in Runaway Train earned him his third Academy Award nomination. In a 1992 Home Box Office (HBO) special, Last of His Tribe, Voight explored the issue of land rights for Native Americans. Other especially interesting Voight performances have been an Irish policeman in The General (1998) and the demonic football coach in Varsity Blues (1999). In Pearl Harbor (2001) Voight's depiction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was mesmerizing. He followed with a priceless, pitch-perfect rendering of broadcaster Howard Cosell in Ali (2001), which earned him a fourth Academy Award nomination.

Voight's 1962 marriage to the actor Lauri Peters ended in divorce in 1967. His 1971 marriage to the actor Marche-line Bertrand also ended in divorce. He had two children with Bertrand. One is the film director James Haven Voight; the other is the actress Angelina Jolie.

Voight's intriguing depiction of Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy was much more than artful caricature. The challenged and flawed character of Buck, desperately trying to make sense of a topsy-turvy world, epitomized the changing moral landscape of the 1960s.

Current Biography (1974) contains a full and richly textured profile of Voight. The World Almanac Who's Who of Film (1987), Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia (1995), and Earl Blackwell's Celebrity Register (1998) have short entries on Voight. Vincent Canby's review of Deliverance is in the New York Times (31 July 1972). The same writer discusses Hollywood Vietnam movies in the New York Times (19 Feb. 1978). Tim Dirks's review of Midnight Cowboy is extensive—see <www.filmsite.org> and <www.greatestfilms.org>.

Scott A. G. M. Crawford