An Interview with Jon Voight – By Jordan Garren & Brian Morton

 When you get an email that asks if your little independent magazine would like to chance to talk to an Oscar winning actor, I have to admit, my first reaction was, “Are we being Punk’d!?”  But, when we looked under the couch and in the closet, no Ashton Kutcher, no Alan Funt and no hidden cameras, that’s when it dawned on us…This Is Real!! Jon’s people contacted our people to see if we’d like to chat with him about his new movie ‘The Legend Of Simon Conjurer’ and when you get the chance to chat with someone who’s been in the business as long as Mr. Voight, you have your people call back right away. Well, if we had people that’s what might have happened, actually our editor (the fearless Duane) called Jordan and I and said, ‘hey, Jon Voight would like to talk about his new movie and I want you guys to talk to him.’ So, with all that said, Jordan and I got on the phone and called up an Oscar winning actor for a calm chat…well, calm on his side, maybe.

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RC – Mr. Voight, how are you?

JV – I’m good lads how are you?

RC – This is big, you’re an Oscar winning actor and we’d like to thank you. Tell us a little about the movie, there’s been a lot of secrecy about this. Who’s the director, he’s listed on the poster and the website as just Q. Mark.

JV – Well, I’ll tell you who he is. His name is Stuart Paul, he’s an interesting guy, listen, this fella is the most interesting man I’ve ever met and he’s the person I most admire and I must tell you, I know a lot of great people. This guy is the top of the list and he’s the person I go to. I feel very privileged to have him in my life that I can go to him and ask him about different things. Whenever I have a question, which is every day, about lots of things, about the world situation, about different problems people are having, questions that I have about my own life, stuff like that, I always ask Stewie and he always gives me an interesting answer, something I couldn’t have expected and usually it puts me on track, he’s like a compass for me. And he’s also my best buddy, which means we have a lot of fun, we laugh a lot and all of this. Anyway, he’s been writing screenplays and he’s had an interesting life, a very challenging last ten years of his life, and he wrote this screenplay after all this time of wrestling with real challenges and I was interested to read if, of course, and I was quite taken with it, I thought it was terrific and then there was a role in it, that was an amazing kind of role, which I thought maybe I could play, I said, Stewie I can play this role, so also it might help him get the picture made, of course, and all of that. But I’m always amazed to be part of his thoughts and his stories and his intentions, which are quite ambitious. Anyway, that’s how I got into this and now I’m trying to do my best to make sure that people know it’s out there. Here’s a simple story for you two guys, the simple line of the film, is that there’s ten dysfunctional people who are following a kind of magical teacher and their paths cross with a kind of a murder plot which they have to solve. My character is kind of a dangerous, Pulitzer prize winning psychiatrist/novelist who is extremely negative and all his negativity has made him very popular and I’m a bit of a villain of the picture.

RC – So, it’s a murder mystery?

JV – Yeah, it’s a murder mystery but it’s full of other things. Let me read from a flyer that we put out, and it’s kind of interesting. (reading from the flyer) “This movie will provoke the metaphysical mind and may be a way to tap into ones own healing process” and that’s the most interesting line of the whole flyer. What could it possibly be? What it is, is a very whimsical form, a fable form that contains a lot of information. It’s a very complex piece, and it has a happy ending too, it has a very positive, hopeful ending after many twists and turns. It’s really something, it’s completely original, you’ll never see anything like it, and it’s really an amazing piece full of things that you’ll want to see.

RC – Your character in the movie, Dr. Crazx (pronounced Cray-zacks), is described as the ‘dark side of humanity’, did you base him on any real life characters?

JV – Just between you and I, I thought when I first read it, that this is not far from the truth because the more negative a person gets, especially in this time when people are criticizing everybody and trying to make fun of everybody, they become very popular. So, if you think of who that might be, those characters, you might think that that might be Dr. Crazx in a sense. In other words, I didn’t base it on one specific person, I kind of invented the guy but he’s related to many people today. And what’s fun too, if you want to go the website for The Legend Of Simon Conjurer and find some of the books of Dr. Crazx.

RC – We found those!

JV – They’re amazing, aren’t they? The books are hilarious!

RC – There’s a cover blurb on one of them from Saddam Hussein!

JV – (laughing) Yeah, it says looks where it got me, Saddam Hussein! He’s one of Crazx’s big fans. This movie is full of fun.

RC – How difficult is it to act under all the prosthetics in this movie?

JV – Well, you know, they call actors players. And in a real sense, that’s what we are, we’re playing, you know? So, to put on a funny nose and a big fat suit is kind of fun. You see what it makes you feel like. You do all the other acting work and then the make up does a little something for you too, so you just play around with things and see how it comes out. With the make up, I have such fierce expressions in this movie that I can’t recognize myself in this and I don’t know if anybody else can either!

RC – When we watched the trailer, we wondered if that was really Jon Voight. Is it harder for you to go into a movie like The Legend Of Simon Conjurer and create a role, like Dr. Crazx from the ground up as opposed to playing an already familiar character, as you’ve done in movies like Ali (where you played Howard Cosell) or Pearl Harbor (where you played FDR)?

JV – With Howard Cosell or Roosevelt or other guys that I’ve played, you have to pay attention to how they behave, the detail of how they move and talk. And there’s something of their spirit as well. You have this role model that you really have to pay close attention to. When you’re not encumbered by that demand, sometimes you can be successful, like the character I played in Heat was very very successful, very specific and I used a couple of people for that but no one would know it, even the people themselves wouldn’t know it, because it was a combination of different people and it came out looking a certain way. But I feel it’s much more demanding to play a guy that everybody knows like the Pope, you know, because it is very specific and people know him and you’d better deliver.

RC – Dr. Crazx is chocolate obsessed and pretty frenzied in the clip of the movie that we saw…

JV – Yeah, he’s a wack job!

RC – Did you come up with the chocolate obsession of Dr. Crazx’s?

JV – No, it’s all in the script, my friend, Stuart, who doesn’t allow his name to be used on the film because he had this idea that he’s tired of the vanity of Hollywood and he said, I’m not gonna put my name anywhere, the hell with it, you know. And he stuck to it, once he got that idea, he as delighted with himself and he said, that’s it, I’ll make a statement against all this nonsense and vanity and I won’t put my name anywhere. Then I asked him, Stewie, can I use your name and he said, No I don’t want anybody talking about me. I said, well look, it’s all over the documentary, you can’t hide that! And he said, yeah but I didn’t make the documentary. So I said, yeah, you didn’t make me either, let me use your name. So he said, Jon you can do whatever you want, so I’ve been so relieved and happy to be able to say his name, you know, so I’m saying it everywhere, (laughing) Stuart Paul, Stuart Paul, Stuart Paul!

RC – So, the secrets finally out and you’re telling us.

JV – Because he’s the greatest and I want people to know who he is. But I understand his statement too, that he doesn’t want to be a participant in all this Hollywood nonsense. We all worked on it together and if we all did the best we can it’s one thing, but if everyone’s looking for credit, you know, it becomes something else.

RC – We read that Skyler Shaye, who plays Lulu in the film, is your goddaughter and that you’re her main acting coach. Is it harder working with someone you’re that close with personally?

JV – She is my goddaughter and working with her, it’s just sweet. Obviously we care for each other and we take care of each other and we do the best we can, so no, it’s easier. It’s always easier to act with someone you care about and know very well. Listen, it’s fun to meet new people and work with new people that you haven’t worked with, as well.

RC – She’s a young actress on the way up, are you helping her avoid any mistakes that you might’ve made early on in your own career?

JV – I’ll tell you one thing about Skyler, she’s not a spoiled kid, she’s got her feet on the ground, she likes people, she’s very healthy, she stays away from the Hollywood nonsense, she loves boys, but she gets a lot of advice.

RC – (laughs) But she’s got a tough godfather who’s watching out for her, right?

JV – You know, here’s what I think. In this day and age, if you look at the media everyone’s jumping in bed with everybody else and it becomes the popular game. Who’s in bed with whom and all that stuff and that’s not healthy. These kids that are jumping from one person to another, that’s not the way to go, you know. And people who take care of themselves and are careful about who they are with and don’t jump right into bed with someone, they’re looked down upon among their peers. And in society, you have to have some character in order to withstand that nonsense. I feel that that’s a tragic turn of events, this idea that everybody has to be jumping around with everybody else and not respecting each other, then they can’t respect themselves. It’s a big malaise in society, if you want my opinion and obviously you do want my opinion, because you’re listening to me. But anyway, that’s my strong feeling, I think it’s a bit of a disaster, really. So, Skyler’s not in that game, she’s got a wonderful family that surrounds her, she’s got a great grandmother who gives her terrific advice and none of them are prissy or anything like that, they’re real balanced people who have a lot of fun, but they take care of their baby, boy!

 RC – We’re big fans of your movies, but it seems to us that you like to play the villain.

JV – Well, I have been offered, in the past few years, several parts in that genre but I have a little of a mix of everything, but I think I broke into that with Runaway Train people saw another side of me so they knew I could play different things. By the way, when I say thank you very much and all of that, I’m amazed at the performance myself, I mean, when I’m good, I’m amazed but when I’m no good, I know exactly where that came from!

RC – What draws you to a role, do you look for something specific in a role, is it the overall script, what is it?

JV – Everything that I’m given is a bit of a challenge, I start with a clean table every time I start working. Every role’s an adventure and I don’t know for sure how it’s gonna turn out when I begin. So, whittle away at it, you know, that kind of thing, putting a puzzle together, then finding something exciting and then maybe discarding that in favor of something else, you know, it’s like making some kind of a soup, you have to taste it every time you put a new ingredient in to see it it’ll fly. With Simon Conjurer, I hope that this piece will find a home and people will get excited about it and ask for more pieces from this visionary guy, this amazing fellow, my pal, Stuart. I’m really interested in seeing more and more of his stuff, you know, he’s got about eight screenplays that he’s finished and he’s always working on one more, so I want to get him to work, I’d like to see these pieces done!

RC – Is this the first thing that Stuart’s done?

JV – It’s not the first thing he’s done, he did a couple of films for about a dime many years ago on his own. He just put these things together and they were very interesting pieces. Then he had many things happen to him in his life and he kind of walked away from it a little bit and he had some great challenges and he’s a righteous guy and he fights everything right down to the wire, he doesn’t ever give up. He went through a lot of difficult passages and then he started writing again and The Legend Of Simon Conjurer is the first thing he wrote coming out of those difficulties and it’s a mature and interesting piece derived from his life experience and it has a very hopeful message by the way too.

RC – Is the character of Simon based on Stuart then?

JV – You know these are intriguing things, I’d love you guys to see the movie and then come back and ask that very question, it’s a very good question, how much of this is based on this guy, Stuart, because Simon Conjurer, the magical teacher in the piece is very much like Stuart. But the movie is told in a fantasy way with much magic, but there’s just as much magic in Stewie as far as I’m concerned, he’s really an amazing fellow. If people go to see this film and want to ask questions about him I certainly would be available to answer them, even though I don’t think you’d be able to drag Stewie in front of anybody to talk. He’d never talk about himself, he’s like a Salinger type of guy, but, on the other hand, anybody who ever meets him is always delighted to find that he’s full of fun and he’s such a warm and embracing guy and takes care of people and cares for people, you know, he’s just a wonderful guy to be with. He just keeps himself away from the crowd and out of the spotlight.

RC – Will this movie see a wider theatrical release?

JV – It will, but we have to get it successful here (in New York) first, then we’ll build it slowly out. Right now, we’re focusing on this one theatre and this one town just to open it and make people aware of it. I’m kind of watching plans grow in my own
imagination, like I’ve been jumping around meeting college students while I’m in New York here, and those have been interesting interactions because they’re interested in what I know about the film business but also many other things and I’m able to talk to them about Simon Conjurer and introduce that to them as well, and the movie itself opens the door for many important questions as well, so I’ve had a good time with that. I’ve also had camera crews following me around as well just in case I say something intelligent or something that I can pass on through other media, like the net or something like that, so if we need other publicity we can send some of these recordings of these speeches so that people will become aware of what’s going on.

RC – We have a ton of questions, some of which don’t pertain to The Legend Of Simon Conjurer.

JV – I’m sure you do! I’m sure you have other lives.

RC – Well, we have to know about Transformers: The Movie.

JV – Okay! Transformers: The Movie, I was told about it, I said I would do it. I play the Secretary Of Defense, but I had no idea what the movie was going to be about, you know, how they would employ all the characters and stuff like that, but I made the deal anyway because I thought it was interesting. I thought that it had a lot of interesting stuff and people want to see this movie, so we have to make this well and make a good movie out of it, so I threw in. With that done, after we made the deal, then I said that I’d like to see the script. So, they delivered the script to me with a guy who waited for me to read it! And then he took it back because they want to protect it, they don’t want anyone to know what it’s about, how the characters are used, it’s such a big deal the plot is very important to them. And I understood that and I like that, it’s kind of fun for me. But I thought that was cool and I read the script and I had some notes, but now I’m about ready to work, I do have the final script and I’m ready to contribute to this thing. I can tell you this, I think it will be very satisfying to the people who are fans of the Transformers, the characters are well placed in the story, they’re very interesting and, I think, the tale is a very good one, so we’ll just see how it all works out.

RC – Usually, it seems, in this kind of big budget special effects movie the plot seems to suffer.

JV – It’s always pretty interesting. The question now is whether we can make our parts, the human parts, as interesting as the rest of the plot line, to see if we can come up to it, in style or whatever to make the piece as it should be. Shia LeBeouf is in it, he plays one of the real leading characters and I read that part and I know he’s going to be great in that part, so I think they’ve got all the right ingredients, so we’ll just have to see.

RC – You began in the theatre, would you recommend that path to people coming up in the business now as opposed to strictly film acting?

JV – I always think it’s very good for any person who’s interested in any aspect of our business to just follow any opportunity that presents itself. Just work and see where it goes, the main thing to avoid is waiting around for someone to discover you, don’t wait around, go after every opportunity. If somebody comes your way and asks you to do something, generally the answer is going to be yes and you try this and you try that. Certainly theatre is healthy and it’s a great place to learn many things, but film acting is a little different than theatre acting and you have to go to work learning that process as well. Are either of you guys actors?

RC – No we both have day jobs, but we’re both writers for Rogue Cinema.

JV – You’re writers, you’re journalists, you’re literary guys, you’re people who carry messages, you think about putting things in the proper way in the right words and that’s great stuff!

RC – We hope so.

JV – And if you follow that who knows what you might eventually do, right now you’re doing a job. Right now you’re the man, you’re gonna bring this information to many people. You’re the man, you’ve got to bring your whole self to it. All your higher thoughts, you just have to be the person you expect yourself to be.

RC – That may be the first time anyone told us that we had ‘higher thoughts’.

JV – I’m sure you do though, you guys sound like you’re pretty well balanced guys. You’ve got a good sense of humor, a good sense of fun and that always indicates that you have some balance.

RC – We’ve always thought that having a sense of humor about everything was very important.

JV – You bet! It’s a very sad thing, I can think of a lot of problems that we have in life and lacking a sense of humor would be a great deficiency. I don’t know how I get by without mine.

 RC – So you’re telling us that you’re not a Dr. Crazx type in real life.

JV – No, he’s crazy and he really has no sense of humor. He’s a bizarre guy. When he laughs…worry!

RC – (laughing) So he is the villain of The Legend Of Simon Conjurer then?

JV – Yeah, pretty much he is, yeah. I’m sure Stewie wouldn’t like me to say that to keep the suspense, but I don’t worry about it.

RC – It does seem pretty obvious from the trailer and the clips at the web site. We’ve heard a lot of your movies described as ‘social cause’ movies, do you look for that kind of a message in your films?

JV – I look for moral clarity in a piece. I’m a high minded kind of a guy and I think if you tell a story it always says something, so you better make sure that you can live with what you’re saying to people. I have young children in my family and I would never tell them a lie and I wouldn’t want to paint a picture that would be destructive for them so I must know that that’s my responsibility in films as well. You’ve got to tell people stories that are good stories that they can grow from and enjoy and all of that.

RC – And that’s probably important now, since you just became a grandfather. Congratulations, by the way.

JV – Thank you very much, thank you.

RC – That’s got to be very exciting for you.

JV – You know, I don’t even know if I’ve really come to grips with it yet. It’s an amazing thing, it’s like having your own children, it’s unbelievable, it’s a miracle, so this is wonderful. I know that Angelina and Brad must be just in heaven right now, it must be the most wonderful time for them. Much love to them, my love is always with them.

RC – One last question, if we may, we read at imdb.com, that in 1975 you were offered the role of Matt Hooper (the Richard Dreyfus part) in Jaws and you turned it down.

JV – Boy, I would’ve jumped at that! No, I wasn’t ever offered it. I was offered another part in another Speilberg movie, it was the part of a sheriff on the road somewhere in a movie with Goldie Hawn, but that was the only role I was ever offered by Speilberg, until right now with Transformers which he’s producing. So this is actually the first time I’ve been offered a role by Steven.

RC – Any roles that you were offered that you look back now and wish you had taken?

JV – You know, it surprising, because I did turn down a number of things, early on I was very picky, but there’s nothing I regret at all. I went after a few roles that were great roles and I didn’t get them. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and Schindler’s List, I had very good taste, but those roles were done by the people who should’ve done them, they were all great performances.

RC – Well, thank you for your time, sir. Good luck with the premiere of The Legend Of Simon Conjurer, we look forward to seeing it.

JV – Thank you, and yes, you need to check it out and let people know that they will never have seen something like this. It’s a totally new piece and that reason by itself to see it, but there’s lots in it. People are saying that people aren’t making movies about anything and I say that The Legend Of Simon Conjurer is completely the answer to that, it’s really about a lot of things. And it’s done in a playful way, so you know that nobody’s gonna get hurt, so go check it out!

RC – We will, thanks again, Mr. Voight.

JV – Thanks guys, talk to you soon.

Now, if you get the idea from that that Jon Voight’s a little excited about The Legend Of Simon Conjurer, then you might not even understand that the excitement seems to bubble right out of the phone. This truly seems to be a labor of love for him and it’s a movie that we’re really looking forward to seeing. Our thanks again to Mr. Voight for giving us the time, the pleasure was definitely all ours, it’s not every day that we get to talk to an Oscar winning actor. And let’s all go out there and support this original movie, to take a look at the trailer and learn more about Jon’s character, Dr. Crazx jump over to The Legend Of Simon Conjurer, it’s a movie that seems designed for cult status and it’s one that both Jordan and I will be rushing out to see when it gets to our towns.