By the time Jane Fonda and screenwriter Waldo Salt were putting together their movie about Vietnam, Voight needed to work if he were ever to crack Hollywood again. It was in his favor that he had worked with veterans, as well as Tom Hayden. "I proposed Jon for the film," Hayden said. "I argued for Jon. I don't even think he knows this. I thought that Jon had the idea in his guts, and that he was hungry for this oppurtunity. I thought he had this unusual passion about the war that was linked to the problem of communicating about the war." Solving those problems with Jon, Jane Fonda says, "was an intense, serious, complicated process... which I find quite irresistible." She laughed. "Our work methods are quite different. He is cerebral. He intellectualizes a lot, and I go much more instinctively, more spontaneous combustion. It was always productive. I ended up loving him a lot."
Voight's house, in the Hollywood hills, is unpretentious and comfortable, with sofas for really sitting and talking, and a cluttered kitchen table that invites long conversations. Unlike most film heroes, Voight is as tall and thinner that you expect him to be. He is thoughtful when he talks about his work, often shifting positions in his chair as he struggles out loud to answer a question. He is candid about himself, perhaps even indiscriminate. But, he says, being spontaneous is more important to him than the chagrin he occasionally suffers as a result. As we talk, moving from year to year and role to role, his characters pay brief visits, crossing his features, transforming his voice. He doesn't seem to notice when Luke Martin shows up, or The Champ's Billy Flynn. Or Joe Black from Midnight Cowboy. I don't mention it. The characters leave. I'm back with Jon Voight.
He was born December 29, 1938, to Elmer and Barbara Voight in Yonkers, New York. He was the second of three sons. "I think that because I'm a middle child," Jon says, "probably what I've been doing all my life is trying to bring two divergent attitudes together." His older brother, Barry, is a geologist and, his brothers agree, "the brilliant one." His younger brother, whose professional name is Chip Taylor, is a singer/songwriter/producer best known for writing Wild Thing. Chip and Jon are partners in a New York recording studio, and Jon is now talking about producing records with his brother.
Their father, who was killed in an accident six years ago, is still a most beloved figure in Jon's life. At home, he was a live wire, a ham, a storyteller. The profound rapport they shared - Jon's production company is named for him - is carried on in his relationship to his children: son Jamie, 5, and daughter Angelina, 3.