Jon Voight on women’s intuition, psychedelic Studebakers, and the stuffed pony that got away
On women’s intuition, psychedelic Studebakers, and the stuffed pony that got away
interviewed by Steven Russell
What adventure most changed your life?
Right after I did Catch-22 a friend of mine told me about this young lady he’d met, this radiant princess. I called her up, and her lovely voice matched all the things he’d been saying, so I made a date. I drove this classic Jaguar I hoped would impress her, and we had raspberries and cream at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I was quite taken with her, and in the conversation I said, “You know, I could have two children with you.” The words just came out of my mouth. But she didn’t blink, and neither did I. Sure enough, I had two children with that gal, Marcheline Bertrand.
What one thing should every man know about women?
There’s something real in women’s intuition. It’s an accurate signpost for decision making, but it usually bumps up against man’s logic. So we have to put ego aside and listen to them.
What was your first car?
A black Ford Fairlane. It was simple, but I liked it. I still like anything that works. I have to tell you a story about my father. He was a golf professional at a country club and a revered fellow. He had no vanity. Everybody else at the club had “the car.” My father had this very cheap used Studebaker. It was white, but he’d spray paint over rust spots with yellow, red, pink, whatever he found in the garage. So it was a strange-looking vehicle. I remember he would get in it and say, “Okay, son. People wonder why I have this car. It doesn’t seem to be up to certain standards, right? But I love this car, and I’ll tell you why.” He’d press the gas pedal twice and then say, “Now I’m just going to turn the key. I’m not going to put my foot on the gas,” and it popped to life, right? It was so quiet you could hardly hear it. He’d say, “That’s good, Becky,” and he’d pat the car. He’d say, “You see, I don’t have to worry about this car. Every morning it starts just like that. And it purrs.” He’d do this whole thing, and it was so magical, his description of the pleasure he found in it. You started looking at other cars that were supposedly better and just scoff at them. You much preferred to be with my father in his.
What song do you have to hear once a week?
“Climb Every Mountain” is a beautiful statement of philosophy. Critics may think The Sound of Music is saccharine, but I think it’s profound. The message, that we can’t accommodate evil, is just as important today.
What’s the best cure for heartbreak?
Sometimes a little heartbreak is a lesson, and the best thing to do is just learn the lesson.
Do you have a recurring dream?
When I was a child I had these wonderful dreams that, if I concentrated, I could fly into high areas of beautiful rooms. When I saw Tomb Raider, and Angie was bouncing around the ceiling, it reminded me of that.
What’s your biggest regret?
My divorce and all its ramifications on the family.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I got as a child stays with me. My dad attributed everything to Confucius, and he’d say, “Confucius say it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” I don’t know that I’ve always followed that, but I’ve always admired it.
What’s the best advice you ever gave?
If I do a scene with an actor who doesn’t have much experience, I say, “I tell you what we’re going to do: You just listen to me, and then you respond. We don’t have to do any acting.” And that’s good advice because you shouldn’t see the acting. As I look back, that has produced several very nice moments in films.
What’s your greatest vice?
I used to have a problem with lust, but I don’t anymore. As I get older, the blood gets tamer.
What’s the most cherished possession you ever lost?
I had this stuffed pony when I was a little kid, and I was just athletic enough to throw it on top of a building. I felt terrible. When it rained, I would think about how it was raining on my pony. That’s probably why I have stuffed animals around the house for kids. Not many people share my excitement for stuffed animals.
What one experience do you want to have before you die?
I’d like to work with my son Jamie, and Angie again, in a movie. The three of us together. That would be nice.
Voight, 69, stars in Pride and Glory, out now, and Four Christmases, Nov. 26.
This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Men’s Journal.