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,
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)
Tin Soldier (for TV) (as Yarik)
"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.
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.
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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.