Jon Voight is a veteran actor whose career has spanned decades and extended to awards wins in the form of an Academy Award and multiple Golden Globes. Having starred in a variety of roles, the father of Angelina Jolie now takes on what is a rather personal and warming role as Gus in the heartwarming drama, Surviving The Wild. We spoke with the actor about the movie, the emerging young star he works alongside and what awards season movies have caught his attention…
Surviving The Wild is very much a film that evokes memories in terms of family and family members. Would you say Gus reminded you of any fond memories or members of your own family?
My father, like most fathers, to his children was an icon and he was a wonderful teacher of life. He had a wonderful sense of humour and everything that he taught us he brought back to the dinner at night. He was just a magical guy and when I read this piece it reminded me of him, and that made it a fun character for me to play and gave me a lot of good feeling about the film.
Gus is quite playful in some of his statements and interactions with Shaun – was that all built into the script or did you have room for some of your own changes?
I play with all the scripts that I do and refine little bits but this was written by a guy named Mark Hefti and the first draft came as a whole in a certain sense. I didn’t have to change too much. Essentially the ingredients were there from the start.
With regards to your co-star Aidan Cullen, he is essentially the backbone of the movie. How was it working with him?
He was a remarkable find for us. Like with young Ricky Schroder [The Champ], I look to try and steer these talented young actors away from mis-teachings. You have to give them the real medicine in what real life on screen is. Aidan simply had all these ingredients when he came in for a read. He is very, very intelligent and very nice, as well as very witty and we became buddies very quickly.
Looking back at all of the actors you’ve worked with and the icons you looked up to in the past, would you say he reminds you of anyone in particular?
The kind of guy Aidan is, my father’s favourite actor was Spencer Tracy, and I think this boy has all the ingredients. It’s a high compliment of course, but he has that ability at this moment in time and I hope he can go on to great things as he has that talent.
As well as the Gus/Shaun relationship, very much a key character in the film is the beautiful location. Can you explain more about where it was shot and why it proved to be such a wonderful place to capture on screen?
The film was shot in Kentucky and they found these locations that were extraordinary. There are these limestone cliffs that are very much present in the film and they are spectacular. Then you had waterfalls and caves that have never been explored on film before, mainly because they were really hard to get to! We would sometimes need to take the filming equipment up a ski lift but it was all worth it.
Away from the film, it’s obviously awards season at the moment and as an actor who was won an Academy Award and copious Golden Globes, do you still keep an eye on those films being tipped for success? And are there are any specific films you are drawn to this year?
Sure I do. One of the films that deeply impressed me is the film of my daughter [Angelina Jolie] called First They Killed My Mother. It’s a film done completely in the Cambodian language and the story is very compelling, and the acting is spectacular. I have a great love for that and I’m glad it’s getting some attention. I also thought The Florida Project was quite remarkable and it’s great that it is getting so much attentions. It’s an exciting time of year as it puts focus on excellence.
Finally, could you describe how it feels to have won an Oscar?
It’s a childhood dream, obviously. To make that legacy is magnificent. I think for everybody it’s the same; that wonderful feeling not only to be an actor, but to also be attributed in the film world with that legacy.
You can read our review of Surviving The Wild here.