Art Bell Radio Interview
ART BELL: Hello Jon.
JON VOIGHT: Hey Art, how are you?
ART BELL: I'm just fine.
JON VOIGHT: Why do people say, "How are you" so readily, huh? I really mean it, how are you? (Laughs)
ART BELL: Well thank you. I've taken to answering that one on the air by saying, 'Well a little pain in my left elbow. Some arthritis down my right knee', that stops them for awhile.
You were raised in Yonkers, huh?
JON VOIGHT: Yes I was, do you know anything about Yonkers?
ART BELL: I saw a movie.
JON VOIGHT: That's it, huh?
ART BELL: 'Lost in Yonkers', did you ever see that movie?
JON VOIGHT: Neil Simon, yeah.
ART BELL: Mercedes Ruehl as Bella, what a part that was!
JON VOIGHT: Yeah
ART BELL: She was really excellent.
ART BELL: The power just went off and knocked me off, it was doing it last night and now it's doing it again tonight! Anyway, great to have you. You executive produced a movie I guess? 'Baby Geniuses'.
JON VOIGHT: Yeah Art, this film, being an exectutive producer in this case, meant that I encouraged my partner and friend, Steven Paul, to do this film that he'd come up with the idea for when he was shopping about six years ago. He was with a group of young people and there were a couple of babies who were in little strollers, and they were parked next to each other, and they didn't know each other. The adults went about taking things off the racks, trying things on and having conversation about what matched what, and all this stuff and he noticed, my friend noticed, that the two babies became aware of each other and made some kind of communication, and then it seemed like they were having a conversation of some sort. And when the shopping journey was over upstairs, and the adults went their ways, the two babies were separated and he saw that there was a lack of understanding that these babies had made some kind of connection, and the babies reached for each other as they parted around the corners, you know? So he thought about that and he came back and talked to me and he said, 'Jon the most amazing thing, I was watching these little babies', and he hadn't had babies, I have a couple of children who are now in their twenties, but anyone who has children knows that babies have their own world and that it's quite an amazing, rich one and we seem to be outside it, we adults seem to be outside it in a certain way. And he said, 'I bet those babies were having the most amazing conversation about everything, and maybe that's the thing, maybe babies know everything and we just haven't broken the code.
ART BELL: Oh there's a million ways to look at this. There are people that believe that babies in the womb are receiving communication already, but there's all kinds of research and I want to take you out on a limb here Jon, but there's a lot of research...
JON VOIGHT: See how happily I go Art.
ART BELL: Well I don't know. This does take you out on a limb. There's a lot of research now showing that very small children tend to have spontaneous remembrance of what appears to be a prior life, and they have this very early, one, two and three years of age. They've said the most remarkable things, many of them confirmed and said as an adult almost, so there's a lot of things that I think we don't know about children. Then they tend to get conditioned out of that by society that's stamping us all into a mold.
JON VOIGHT: Well this is the subject matter, to some degree, it's the premise at least, of that idea that they cross over when they're about two years old. I have since learned that in Tibet they believe that children are all the information of the universe up to the point where they start talking. So there is some kind of verification of that imaginative idea, you know? So it was a rich idea and my participation was when he told me the story, he said, 'We should do a film about that'. I said, 'Do it'. That was it, then a couple of years later he came to a point where he was involved in preparing a film, and then he had this need to do computer graphics to make the babies talk. So he had to have a software that would do this very complex thing with a baby which is much more complicated than making animals speak, or whatever, because the amount of expressions and muscles that are at work in a little child's face or a human's face is quite extraordinary.
ART BELL: Does it portray the infants talking as adults in language we understand?
JON VOIGHT: Yeah, so we understand it. There's a moment in the film where they're talking baby talk, and then you kind of break into their world and you hear what they're really saying. So it's the fun of that. It's a comic idea but's it's also fun. It's an adventure story, it's a comedy, but it also has this little aspect of truth that almost every parent knows in a certain way. When my babies were small, they were trying to communicate with their Mom and I in many different ways. I remember my daughter, Angelina, before she could walk, was dressed to go out to a little outing, and had a terrible tantrum. We couldn't figure out what it quite was, until she pulled me, and she couldn't really walk as I said, she was just about able to walk, and she pulled me back to the dresser and I looked at the dresser and I said, 'Maybe she wants to change her clothes'. I opened the drawer to where the clothes were, and I lifted her to look at the clothes, and she picked out the clothes. I changed her into those clothes and then she was perfectly happy. So it was amazing, cus' she's always been like that, she know exactly what she wants to wear and do, so it's just a matter of finding out what that is.
ART BELL: It is amazing. Now in the movie, as a producer, the infants were how old? Two years?
JON VOIGHT: Yeah, some of them under two years.
ART BELL: So you didn't really have to get them to act, as it were, and obviously they weren't going to act, but I guess you had to get them animated in some way or another. So I can almost see someone off to the side going, 'Goo goo Gaa gaa!'
JON VOIGHT: Well it was like a game and one thing we did with the children, which was part of my encouragement, my helping in the film, was to make the set completely oriented toward the children. So it really was a baby set and everybody who was working on it was focusing on the children. All the grips and camera people, all the actors as well, were there to focus on the children. And it was a much more beautiful set, by the way, because there were no egos involved and no subplots to the behavior. Everybody was much available and very spontaneous, and looking to catch those moments of the children. The children were required to act. There was a very funny incident where the babies, and all the babies were twins, because the amount of work hours that were allowed for a little baby were limited...
ART BELL: And the number of hours you have to work to make a movie are unlimited aren't they?.
JON VOIGHT: Yes (Laughing). You know too much Art! Remarkably the boy who was the lead has to play twins, and we found triplets...
ART BELL: Oh no kidding?!.
JON VOIGHT: ...to play that role in Canada.
ART BELL: She's right around the clock nearly!
JON VOIGHT: ...lovely kids, triplets. And the Mom initially said, 'Well you see this boy here, he'll give you the most, he's going be the most active fellow. He'll follow direction a little bit or know what you're talking about. This next boy will be also helpful to some degree, but this little fella here, he won't be much help, unfortunately. And what happened when they had acting to do, real acting of some sort, kind of an imitation of something or whatever, something was demanded specific to the film, they would try the first boy for an hour, then the second boy for an hour and then the third kid who's not supposed to do anything, got up and did it! (Laughing) It was amazing.
ART BELL: He actually, at two years old you would instruct him?
JON VOIGHT: Our little ace in the hole. Yes, but not really instruct, I mean it was play.
ART BELL: So how do you do that?.
JON VOIGHT: You just play with the babies. You do imitations and the babies imitate you back. And they got the hang of it, they started to get the idea of it, and they enjoyed it. There were two times during the film where the lead baby, one of these triplets, was supposed to cry. And no one wanted to make the babies cry, and at one point Kathleen Turner said to the boy, 'That's it for today, we go home now, no more', and he started to cry and they said, 'Roll the camera!', and they got it, 'cause he didn't want to go home.
ART BELL: So in other words, you got it handled without small electric shocks or anything?
JON VOIGHT: (Laughing) Yes! That would have been your way I know Art, but put that aside.
ART BELL: That's a heck of an endeavor to take on. You've got a gigantic background, but I don't read anything in your background that would tell me why you would do this movie.
JON VOIGHT: Well actually as I said I'm just the executive producer, and that's kind of a protective force in a certain sense. I'm overseeing like a Godfather on the picture in a sense. But my real love for children is well-known, and it's an interesting picture. Adults like the picture and young people like the picture, who are dating, 'cause it makes them want to have babies, so we have to be careful. They should put some kind of a warning...but the little ones know it's for them, and what it does, it has many areas of entertainment in it. It is as I said a comedy, it's an adventure, and it's a very lovely family movie, but what it does for the little ones, is it empowers them. It makes them feel not vulnerable in this world today, when so much of the media is telling them that they are vulnerable, and they're living in a threatening universe.
ART BELL: Did they know they were the center of attention? Did they begin to get little baby stage egos? Were they clutching their SAG cards as they left?
JON VOIGHT: (Laughing) This description of the set would be from the same guy that invented the shocks, you know what I mean? It's the same mentality...of course not ART!
ART BELL: That's me (Laughing).
JON VOIGHT: The babies knew they were loved.
ART BELL: I hear that your a fan of Dr. Michio Kaku.
JON VOIGHT: Yes I am. I have a friend who's a big, big fan of yours.
ART BELL: Oh.?
JON VOIGHT: A wonderful dear friend of mine, one of my best friends in all the world and his name if Hank. I think one of your friends, if I read your book properly, was named Hank, well this is my Hank and he's a big, big fan of yours. I heard about 'Hyperspace' through you...
ART BELL: Hi Hank. Thank you.
JON VOIGHT: ...from Hank listening to you and then he recommended it to me, and it's quite extraordinary.
ART BELL: Oh Dr. Kaku, have you heard him on the air?
JON VOIGHT: I have not, no.
ART BELL: Within the last few days we did a repeat show of his. He is an extraordinary person, one of our nation's greatest theoretical physicists. He believes some pretty interesting things, like, he says obviously, with all the suns out there and the planets we now know that surround them, there is life. No question about it, and there are various levels of civilization, and we are type zero, Jon, according to Dr. Kaku.
JON VOIGHT: They've gotta get us up to a type ten.
ART BELL: Well, type zero uses coal, oil and resources of the planet to do what they want to do. By the time you get to be a type one, you're using the power of your own sun to accomplish what you want. Now, here's the thing, not too many type zero planets, after the discovery of element 92, survive the experience. A very tiny percentage actually. Most of them, he theorizes, blow themselves to smithereens. First, what do you think about us?
JON VOIGHT: Well I think we're in that critical zone, aren't we? As the Doctor says, we're in that area where our technology is advanced of our ability to deal with it maturely, and so we have to catch up in some way. So, we're in a very critical period and I think that we all sense that. If we just have all this possiblity for destruction and all this technology, and we know that beyond some of this technology, are the answers to many other questions.
ART BELL: Oh yes.
JON VOIGHT: ...so if we can just get beyond the destructive period of threat, we can get on the way to many things. So, I sense that this time period is very critical.
ART BELL: I'll tell you, even in our children, we see the same dichotomy. For example, we have 'Baby Geniuses', I've had guests that talk about the millennial child, the millennium child, the child that is smarter in many spiritual ways than those that have come before. But we also have to opposite, we have children killing children, and not seemingly caring about other children. Children that almost seem without souls, blank staring children. So we have these two groups and you've got to wonder which is going to prevail.
JON VOIGHT: Yeah, I'm an optimist, and I have a great love for the children and I try with all my best, to try to leave a little something for the kids. I'm very concerned about the raising of children. When you see children, someone said that 'If you needed evidence that God wanted man to be happy, you just need to watch children', at play, little babies, 'cause they only want happiness. They're delighted with the smallest attentions of things, and that's true. I think if we feed these wonderful, learning machines, which they are, all the love in the world, I think we have the hope of righteous generations of very strong character and who will be likewise loving to their young. But we have, unfortunately still, people who are being raised daily in areas of great poverty and with great abuse, and so this is the danger.
ART BELL: Well, Jon you know there's a big argument about the effect of television, motion pictures on our young people, you've done a lot of both. And some of them have been, not exactly cake walks. I mean 'Deliverance', 'The Odessa File', 'Catch-22', a lot of these very serious roles. What is your view of the affect of Hollywood and television on young people?
JON VOIGHT: Well I think that we all effect each other, don't we? We're all responsible and we take that responsibility, free society, some are guilty but all are responsible. So, I feel very strongly about the responsibility of the media, because I think it is a tremendous magnifying force. Storytellers are always very important in every community from the beginning of time, and now we have all of this very extraordinary equipment, computer graphics now that can tell stories in such a vivid manner. And if we use it wisely and well, we can do wonderful things. And if we use if irresponsibly, of course, we could create damage. So I think it's a very good focus of discussion.
ART BELL: Well you've got to make movies and do television that get ratings, or in that case movies that make x number of millions of dollars. You've gotta do that so...
JON VOIGHT: Yeah, that's the battle. With movies we've moved in from an area of, it used to be the only visual show on the block, and then television came along and took a lot of that focus. There was a concern for a time that movies would decline and become extinct. Of course that hasn't happened, but what has happened is that movies have become much more muscular, in a way, where the commercial trappings have to be so extreme. You have to do something unusual, something that people cannot get on their television sets at home. So some of that is just to make something more spectacular in a positive way, and sometimes it's just a cheap manufactured way of getting audience. Sensational or violent, you know something grotesque.
ART BELL: What is the rating of 'Baby Geniuses'?
JON VOIGHT: Oh I would assume its for everybody in the world.
ART BELL: I mean G? PG?
JON VOIGHT: Yes I think it's for general audiences.
ART BELL: That's excellent. You know there just aren't that many movies made for general audiences anymore. In fact, many of them that otherwise would have been, throw in a scene to make sure they get bumped up.
JON VOIGHT: Maybe so. I think that it's a complicated thing. I made a movie that was X-rated which was, 'Midnight Cowboy', but the power of it's statement in terms of compassion and the expression of truth, and standing in people's shoes who are needy and without certain equipment to face life was a statement that was very high-minded, a highly moral statement. I'm a person who wants to express things in an authentic and true fashion, and if I'm made a mistake by getting too graphic at certain times, well maybe I have, but it's always been in the pursuit of some deeper truth.
ART BELL: Well there was 'Coming Home', that was certainly very high-minded.
JON VOIGHT: Yeah. Well we tried for that stuff. Humans are going to make mistakes, but the striving should be of a certain level and I feel a great responsibility, and I try to pass that responsibility out to the ones coming up too. Be wise about what you choose, and it is a battle because you're trying to do things that people will pay their money to see, so you can make these films that cost quite a lot of money. I don't think of commerce as a bad word, the people who are dealing with commerce in our communities aer very valuable. You have to people who can keep a budget and know how to anticipate trends and financial situations, and aren't afraid to deal in those matters. Our society would fall apart if we didn't have people who were business minded, and had the fun of that or able to play with that area in a creative fashion and provide jobs for folks.
ART BELL: And so as an executive producer you sort of moved in between the world a little bit, didn't you?
JON VOIGHT: A little bit. I must tell you, I'm not a very talented business person, although I have some savvy I'm not totally without information. There are those people whose great love is to answer those great economic problems, and be creative in that area. I'm not one of those people that spend my time thinking about that, but there are people who do it. I'm grateful for those people who can do that.
ART BELL: I was just going to say, we must have them
JON VOIGHT: Yeah. Like talking to people who are in the accounting departments, or responsible for making deals that will keep things going on a proper keel. I've met tremendous people in that arena, really great people. And I've met some people who are not so great too, I've met some thieves as well. In every area of endeavor I've met remarkable people. I think that all of us came to our potential in doing what we deeply enjoy and get the greatest reward from. For instance yourself Art, the fact that as a little boy you just loved to play with radios, and were a ham operator in the machinery of it all, and this magic of being able to listen to people across the world...
ART BELL: You know you seem to know more about me than you should!
JON VOIGHT: (Laughing) Everybody does. You talk too much! You know what I'm saying, that's your love and your gradual growth toward the form that you have found to communicate has kind of been an even graph, hasn't it?
ART BELL: Yes. I was actually going to ask you the same question about your early years, with 'Midnight Cowboy' for example, and kind of the curve of growth of your career and obviously your spiritual growth along with that in the way you think about things. That's kind of how it's always been, huh?
JON VOIGHT: I know very well that I've been blessed, that's for sure. I've been blessed from the beginning, I've had a remarkable set of parents who I didn't perhaps fully appreciate or understand when I was young. As I look back I can see that I'm a lot like my Mom, who was contiuously active, never let a problem overwhelm her. Always took on responsibilities and problems daily and with great joy, rolled up her sleeves, was a very strong woman with tremendous endurance. And my Dad was a very magical, philosophic, playful guy, very charming guy who loved kids and loved us kids, the three boys he had, and was a golf professional. So I had these two guys and I see myself as entirely a separate entity in many ways, but then I'm very grateful for some of the genes that passed, because I can see how that affected me enormously.
ART BELL: Were your parents strict?
JON VOIGHT: I know that yours were...
ART BELL: Yes they were.
JON VOIGHT: My mother was a general, but a very benign general and when we were young we used to tease her unmercifully. We had a lot of fun with her. For instance, my Mother was not a great cook. She's not one of those people who lived to eat, she was one of those people that ate to live. I remember she had these cube steaks, she'd thaw them out at a certain point of the day, and then she'd get the Birdseye peas out and potatoes...
ART BELL: My Mom too.
JON VOIGHT: ...every day we had the same thing everytime we ate! To me, I was so happy to get those meals, I never knew that there were other tastes in the world.
ART BELL: You mean there are other people who have variety? Oh my God!
JON VOIGHT: I'm telling you, when I want into boot camp in the service, I actually went back for seconds and thirds! People thought I was out of my mind (Laughing).
ART BELL: That's another thing that radically changes your life, what were you in?
JON VOIGHT: I was in the reserves, but I did my active duty in Fort Dix and I was in the army.
ART BELL: And I was Air Force down in San Antone, had boot camp. I recall, as I'm sure you do, that just very few days into it you're saying, 'Oh my God what have I done?'
JON VOIGHT: I have always had a sense of humor that got me through things, but this time my sense of humor got me in nothing but trouble! (Laughing)
ART BELL: They don't train you for senses of humor at all, but it does give you a discipline that lasts with you for the rest of your life, and in certain areas of your life.
JON VOIGHT: I think it's certainly a challenge, and I know that you had this idea that it weeds out the weak ones, that's the intention of it all and that's true.
ART BELL: Somebody from San Diego would like to ask you two Michio Kaku-like questions.
JON VOIGHT: I don't know if I'm an expert on Michio Kaku, but I can certainly answer a question if it's in English.
ART BELL: If the universe is everything, and scientists say the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?
JON VOIGHT: Just the posing of that question, you've gotta give very high marks for. I think that this universe, Michio Kaku talks about parallel universes, and that gets a lot of relief, because scientists are saying that the physical universe is expanding and it's either going to become too cold to hold existence, or it's going to burn up. If it starts retracting at a certain point it will burn up, if it continues expanding it will become such a cold place.
ART BELL: Sure. As everything expands away from everything else, our sun...
JON VOIGHT: Eventually there'll be no warmth in the universe entirely. Of course when we're in this realm, I really don't know what I'm talking about, but that hasn't stopped me before! So, what I'm thinking really is these parallel universes, from my understanding, when we talk about the ingredients of this universe, we're talking usually about the physical something, relating everything to the physical, the atomic structure and all of that. What I'm talking about, what other dimensions could there be? Then I think of words like conscience or the aspect of love, then I say that's not measurable in our terms, but we know those things exist, so perhaps those are aspects that can be universes unto themselves. Some other kind of dimension or thought, so if there are ten parallel universes, when this one goes, if we have ways to get to those other universes, which he actually talks about. There is a possibility of moving into this other vibration or aspect. It's quite interesting. He is amazing, this fellow, because he seems to be able to look at us from a perpective in our own position in time, and he can point to where we are and say, 'We're here'.
ART BELL: You are right. You know Jon we're out of time, that's how fast an hour goes.
JON VOIGHT: Can you imagine? Well I tell you, it's been a pleasure.
ART BELL: Can I have you back sometime?
JON VOIGHT: I'd love to talk to you again Art. I wish you the very best and I know that everybody in my office is talking about you all the time, and you're affecting many people's lives in a positive way, and I'm very grateful for you.
ART BELL: Thank you my friend and good night.
Transcript of the Art Bell Radio show- "Coast to Coast" featuring Jon Voight
April 2, 1999