Jon Voigt: Burt Reynolds, you were a true artist

This is a rush transcript from "Life, Liberty & Levin," September 9, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARK LEVIN, HOST: Hello, America. I'm Mark Levin. This Is "Life, Liberty & Levin" with the great Jon Voight. Thank you, sir.

JON VOIGHT, ACTOR: Mark, great to see you.

LEVIN: It's a pleasure to see you. Well, unfortunately, your friend Burt Reynolds passed away.


LEVIN: I remember both of you in this unbelievable movie, "Deliverance." What was he like?

VOIGHT: What can I say about this passionate fellow, my friend Burt Reynolds. Burt was - he was a dynamo. He was dangerous to me, and when I was making "Deliverance," I was a little afraid if had to get in the car with him because he was a stunt man, and he always took us right to the edge, and in some way, he lived life like that a little bit. But he was a wonderful guy to be around. He was such a joy, and I'm just going to talk to him a second. Burt, you know, I know you were such a wonderful - a true artist in every way. You have the greatest love for your craft, for your fellow peers, and, you know, you and I had a wonderful relationship. We had the greatest times. Very good talks and we're going to miss your handsome face around, and I know you're with your buddies, you're with Sammy Davis, you're with Dom DeLuise, you're with all these great guys, Johnny Carson, all your friends are going to meet you. And keep an eye on all these lovely ladies in heaven, will you? God bless you. Rest in peace, kid.

LEVIN: Any story or stories?

VOIGHT: Oh, yes. Well, Burt was - he was a scalawag, you know? We're talking about this word "pantheon," the gods of our industry. Well, he was one of the guys, and the person and the figure that you put up there is the bandit, you know? No one ever created a character quite like that. We all fell in love with the bandit, and he was a lot like that guy.

He was always teasing me. When we were doing "Deliverance," I'll tell this one little story. We were going into areas that not a human being had walked for a long time, and getting to our canoes, and sometimes we'd go down cliffs and stuff, and getting there early in the morning, this whole crew, and I remember one day we were going down this cliff face, and, you know on, a rope, about 35 feet or something like that, and everybody else was coming down.

They were dropping the camera down this area, and I looked up and then I see four chairs being dropped down for the actors. So all of this virility went out the window, you see. They were going to take care of us like Hollywood.

Now, we were sitting on rocks and stumps and stuff like that by the river with our feet in the water and yet, we had these chairs. Hollywood was still there. Anyway, so they put the chairs up. No one sat in them except Burt. Burt sat in my chair, and he sat there, and, you know, a couple of days in a row, then it became four, and I go what the heck is he doing sitting? And I was saying to myself, "Now, Jon, what are you upset about?" This chair is for anybody. We're sitting here on rocks. We don't need the chairs, you know?

I went through all this stuff, I couldn't figure out what he was doing, and finally after 10 days, I said to him, "Burt, can I ask you a question?" And he's sitting in my chair there. "Well, of course, Jon. What is it?" And I said, "You know, we've been here, we don't need anything within the woods. We're having this adventure, and yet, the chair is coming down and you sit in my chair, every day you've done it for ten days." He said, "Yes." I said, "Why?" He said, "Well, Jon, it's quite simple. When I sit in your chair, I can see my name in my chair."

And he was waiting 10 days for me to bring it up. He had that joke in his pocket. But anyways, he was like that. He was such a delight.

LEVIN: Did you keep up with him?

VOIGHT: Yes, we were close. I called him every month or so.

LEVIN: Let me ask you a question. I don't know if people know this, or at least many do, but I have noticed you have quite an affinity towards the state of Israel, it's almost central to your life. Why is that?

VOIGHT: Well, this began - this story has a beginning. My father was a golf professional in Scarsdale, New York. He had three boys, we were one year apart. The reason he had this job at Sunnydale Country Club was because these Jewish people, it was a Jewish Club, German-Jews, they came to this country, wanted to play golf, wanted to join one of the clubs and weren't allowed in the clubs.

So, you know, they didn't complain. They went around raising the money to buy land and they built the club, and because of their ingenuity and because of their flexibility and vision, my dad had this job. So I knew at a very early age the insanity of anti-Semitism. I remember in the 40s, I was born in 1938, in the 40s, I remember seeing a "Life" magazine picture of a little boy behind barbed wire, and I identified with that boy. I said, "That could be me. What are they doing to these people?"

And for - that stayed with me all my life, so I've felt a real responsibility in a certain sense to stand up against anti-Semitism, right? And in that journey, I've gotten very close to the Jewish people.

Now there's another aspect to it, and that is my father. My father was a very poor boy. He was eight years old when he caddied at this Country Club, and he was a very cute kid. White blond hair, they used to call him "Whitey." And he would tell the story on himself. He was a charming man, my dad and had a great sense of humor, and he'd tell us the story. He said how he would caddie at eight years old. He was making more money than his dad was, taking care of his family and three siblings, and at the 16th hole he would say, "You know ..." and he had this wonderful way of - he was a good actor, my dad, in some ways, although, if you put a camera on him, he became nervous and did other things, but he had this way of being, you know, and he said, "This is the 16th hole," this little boy would say, "You know, it's my birthday today."

"Oh, Whitey, is it?" And they would reach in their pocket at the end of the day, and give him a little extra money. And this is important to him. One day he said that, "It's my birthday today," and the man said to him, "Whitey, wasn't your birthday three weeks ago," so he was caught, see? But they didn't care. They understood what he was doing, they even admired his chutzpah for a little kid, you know, and they kind of embraced this young man and they taught him many things.

My father said, later on in my life, I realized that my father had been - when he was instructing somebody else, I found out some of the things that he was given as instruction by these memberships, see? By this membership of the club. They would give him words to say at the beginning of the day. "Here's three words, Whitey, and then at the end of the day, I want you to come back and put them in a sentence," or something like that. Just improving his vocabulary.

LEVIN: How old was he?

VOIGHT: Eight, nine, ten, eleven - all the way up. And he was fastened to this club. They taught him how to behave at the table. Different things. Manners, things like that. As I realized as I got older and I said, "That's pretty interesting," and it occurred to me when I was 14, I had a kind of an epiphany.

My father, who as I have said, he was an extraordinary fellow. A very charming man, very poised, pull of fun, loved children, was a great father. Great storyteller and very principled guy, too. Very strong morals, but never rigid. Playful, but strong when he needed to be. Everybody admired this guy.

And when he was 16, this membership made him a pro at the club. One of the pros, when he was 18, they made him the head pro of Sunnydale Country Club, a position which he has held until his passing when he was 63 years old. And it occurred to me when I was 14, I said, you know something? I've compared him to his siblings -- two sisters and a brother -- they were nothing like him. He was so superior in way, not to demean them. They were very nice people, but they just didn't have the same qualities he had and the grace that he had.

And I said to myself, you know something? My dad was raised in the Jewish culture. That's who he is. So ...

LEVIN: This has stuck with you.

VOIGHT: Oh, it's very moving when I talk about it.


VOIGHT: And so this idea, it stayed with me. And my friends have been extraordinary Jewish people all through my life. But I - and then I went through a crisis at a certain time of my life, and I was looking at all religions. I was raised Catholic and I am great admirer of the Catholic Church and what it gave me and the teachings in the schools that they have today are very good, they're on another level than the public schools, and the hospitals and all of this and the great people -- John Paul II, whose part I played at one point, and Mother Teresa is one of my heroes.

I have great regard for the Catholic Church, but I did a lot of investigating of all religions and I came to understand much of the Jewish history. There's a wonderful book by Paul Johnson, "History of the Jews," it's a great book.

LEVIN: Great resource, you have tears in your eyes.

VOIGHT: What's that?

LEVIN: You have tears in your eyes.

VOIGHT: Well, I think righteousness brings emotion out of me. I think people who seek truth are those who I would, you know, seek to follow. I hope I'm thought of one of those at the end of my days. But anyway, there's so many great people, and so I've looked at this history of the Jewish people and at one point I said, the greatest wonder of the world is Jewish literature with all the different -- the rabbis -- the great Einsteins of the Jewish people across the years were rabbis. They made commentary on this Bible they had.

We have, just coming up almost at the present time with the Hasidic people, when there was a need for something else in the Jewish world, where the people in Europe as part of Central Europe were bereft of the ability to read all this literature, then this fellow came along called the Baal Shem Tov and he taught them songs.

He said you simply need to be happy in your work, if you follow this, follow this, behave in a certain way, and here's some songs to remind you of the truths of things. And so right up to the present and that's why I came to the Jewish Baal Shem Tov, began a legacy that wound up in my backyard in California, the Habad, and I've made friends with these fellow. They're a fun group, really lots of fun, and they help people, and I've danced on their telethon. Danced the Hasidic dance with these guys and it became quite a deal. So anyway, that's my story with my affections for Israel.

LEVIN: Well, it's very fascinating and it explains why you go to Israel, why you do what you do, and when we come back, Jon Voight, I want to ask you another question. You used to be a liberal.

VOIGHT: Oh, yes, when did you find that out?

LEVIN: I found that out - and then you became a conservative.


LEVIN: I want to know how you became one and then how you became another.


LEVIN: Ladies and gentlemen, don't forget, each week you can watch me on Levin TV most of the week, go to and sign up and join us, or give us a call at 844 LEVIN-TV. 844-LEVIN TV. We'll be right back.

Jon Voight, you've never kept your politics quiet. You used to be a liberal, a loud, active liberal. Before I get to how you became a conservative. How did you come to liberalism?

VOIGHT: Well, it was a very destructive time, the '60s, just out of school, and I mean, think of the mantra of the '60s for the young people -- sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- what a recipe for chaos. Really destructive time in many ways, and all of this energy from the youth, you know, was going - I believe there were forces at work at that time, that were from the left. That means, Karl Marx, Communism, progressivism, which was a word that they invented to hide their communism for a while, and that stuck, and socialism.

These forces, many forces invaded that decade. Taking advantage of this disruption with the assassination of John Kennedy. We were in trauma. The country was in trauma and then we had at the end, 1968. We had the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Great people that we cared a great deal for.

So in that time, there were people who - the Vietnam War erupted in that time, and there were many folks against that war that were charismatic people, people from our industry, and as I was auditioning to get in this industry and working hard to become an actor, I fell in with that group of people, and I was swept away with the propaganda, and one of the pieces of propaganda that I bought at that time, and when you are involved in propaganda, I have to say there are no doors out of it in a certain sense because your friends are this and that and you make associations and you pass these sound bites back and forth and all of this, so I understand what's going on in Hollywood today. I understand it. I was right there, you know.

And those people are focused on their work, too. They're trying to just get a job, so it's convenient for them to be politically aligned, too. So I was one of those guys, and I believed what I had been ingesting, and one of the things was that the war in Vietnam was really our problem. That if we removed ourselves from it, that the south of Vietnam and the north of Vietnam, the communists under Ho Chi Minh would come together and embrace as brothers, as family. And I bought some of that, and I was in the streets against the war and that stuff, and then what happened?

Then the people in the streets, and by the way, you know, we never lost - our military never lost a battle in that war, and we were on the way to the defeat of the north, but the real energy that closed out that possibility was those people in the street, and they certainly weren't the majority of Americans, but they were very effective. It's like what's going on now? They have a march. They've prepared an army of people to go out and speak and make noise, and you would think, if you're watching television, this must be the American people, but it isn't.

But anyway, and they brought down the war, it came to a close, and we pulled out of Vietnam. We pulled out of Vietnam, and what happened? Was there this embrace? Was there this celebration? No. Two and a half million people were murdered in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam because of our absence, and what happened with the left when they saw that? The signature of the left, they create this chaos and horror, and they walk away. They take no responsibility for it.

That's what happened to all my buddies. They celebrated. We won the war. We won it. We won our war and there was this bloodbath. I remember Joan Baez had a little piece in the paper and it was the single voice from all of the left and she was ridiculed for it, put aside for it and thought to myself, "She's right, and we were wrong."

LEVIN: That's the turning point.

VOIGHT: That was the turning point and it took a long time because propaganda is dangerous. It gets into our system.

LEVIN: It's reinforcing.

VOIGHT: Yes, and it took me a long while to pull completely out of it, but little by little I did, and then I saw that the answer - much like Reagan when he said, you know, the Democratic Party, I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me. Well, to some degree, the same thing happened to me or anybody who's a conservative now and was at that time on the other side, because when you look at, let's say, John Kennedy's inaugural address, his inaugural address would be deemed today by the people who are in Hollywood, all my friends in the Hollywood, and the people over the country who are on the left as some radical nut from the Republican Party.

We simply have lost something along the way, but it hasn't been our own fault. We've been attacked by an insidious and I would say evil force, and I've traced that and I know a little bit about it, so I know how - I know what the battle is. The battle has been raging and it's reemerged in this century in full force. And that's what we're dealing with right now.

LEVIN: When we come back, I want to ask you about this conservatism. You're a Republican. You were a very early supporter of the current president, Donald Trump.

VOIGHT: You bet.

LEVIN: And I want to know what you saw that triggered you to be such an early supporter? We'll be right back.


LEVIN: So Jon Voight, the Vietnam War had a big impact on you. You went from being a leftist basically, to a conservative to a Trump supporter, right?

VOIGHT: Eventually, yes. Well, you know, just going back to that moment in time, I look back on that moment when I realized we were responsible for all of that - all of that bloodshed, that the people in the streets really had that kind of power, and I feel, and I've said this to people, I said, I have blood on my hands from that. I understand it. That was a moment in time when I was out of line and I had to make up so much and I feel that way.

So I'm not going back to that, and today I've come a long way, and I've had a lot of fun, I must say. One of the great joys in my life is my relationship to the military, and patriotism is a very - it brings you many beautiful friends. I'm very close to the first responders of 9/11, and so I'm a person at peace.

So when people come at me from my own area of the world and say those things that maybe I would have said way back. I understand them completely. I feel sorry. I feel sad for them and sad for us and I know that we have to keep focus and keep battling for what is true, and this is a - and things will change because the truth will prevail.

LEVIN: So how did you become an early Trump supporter? What did you see in candidate Trump?

VOIGHT: Well, a couple of things. First of all, there were 17 guys with him, right? They're all great, top fellows. Very bright fellows. Very capable and I don't know if there's ever been such a legion of very, very good, righteous folks, on this one stage together, but I looked at the world and what was left after the past years, and the world was in chaos, terrorism had swept across the world because the cat was away -- the big cat of the United States -- had been sidelined, the rats were at play, and so you had North Korea making these gestures to endanger their neighbors. You had Iran sponsoring terrorism across the globe with Hezbollah and Hamas and others, and we had the situation in Syria where we watched without responding to 500,000 people being murdered in Syria.

So it was this - you needed someone who had tremendous strength and someone who could see clearly. Now what the damage was and what was going on and what had to be addressed, we needed somebody who was a doer, somebody who solved problems, who got up in the morning to solve problems, right? Many of them in that stage were like that. And on the home front, we had terrible joblessness, a failing economy, a Civil War really, too. There's so much going on.

So I'm looking, I'm like a casting director in a film, I'm looking. Who's the guy that could handle this? Right? And as I watched and I saw what Donald Trump was pointing to and the courage, maybe not courage, just clarity, this immigration situation which had to be addressed and it wasn't addressed for years, and by the way, all this tumult they're trying to create, if you listen to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, they said the same things about immigration. He's getting blamed, they're trying to make him a racist for saying the exact same things, right?

But the difference with Donald Trump and those folks, he's going to do something about it. And as I saw him focusing on just the clear common sense of our trade deals, and our dealings with that, he said, "We're going to have politicians sitting down with these people negotiating treaties?" This was an eye-opener for me because yes, of course, they've negotiated nothing.

They've begged for money, but haven't negotiated anything. They're not tough negotiators, they're not card players. They don't see what's going on, on the other side of the table - that kind of thing, right? Yes, that's right. In China, they have these chess players - the very best chess players in the world ready to make deals that would affect a hundred years hence. They have got real big guys up there, you better have the right people at the other side of the table. All these things, they made sense to me.

And the more he talked, the more I saw what was going on. The other thing - there are two other things. One was, he was happy in the battle. Somebody came at him, he was happy to respond in kind. It took no energy from him. And we had seen, you know, we'd seen the attacks against George Bush, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, all of these lies and slanders that covered them and defeated them in the end.

LEVIN: Now, when we come back, I want your second point. You said there's two points.

VOIGHT: Yes, there are two points.

LEVIN: All right, ladies and gentlemen, don't forget, check us out at Levin TV, go to, or give us a call at 844- LEVIN-TV. 844-LEVIN-TV. We'd love to have you join us over there. We'll be right back.

So you supported Donald Trump early, Jon Voight.


LEVIN: You said there's two reasons, one you liked the fact that he had clarity and he fought.

VOIGHT: Right.

LEVIN: He fought back. What was the second one?

VOIGHT: There were several things in there, but one of the things that made him - separated him from all the rest was the fact that he had enough money to run his campaign, and he didn't have to seek huge amounts of funds for his re-election, to keep somebody in his pocket so he could always have that cash to run on. Now, this area is a very tough one for people who are in politics. It should be looked at. It should be prepared because it's gone way beyond what it should - the amount of money that these - that even local politicians have to raise is out of line.

LEVIN: You liked that he was self-funding.

VOIGHT: He was self-funding, and that meant he wouldn't have anybody that he had to - that he had to appeal to in his decisions which would have to be very strong and tough decisions. Somebody had to be - he had a lot of courage. Well, he certainly seemed to have a lot of courage, and he didn't have that other thing. So all of these people. I can see in the decisions, I know some of these people.

Some of these politicians, good guys, who were beholden to some of the people that they connected to, to run their campaigns and they're bending in their supporter, non-supporter, this or, that the decisions are being swayed by this relationship. He didn't have that.

LEVIN: What do you make of the virulence of the attacks against him. Is this the old left that you - the left in the media now ...

VOIGHT: It certainly is the left doing it, and the virulence is because he's effective. That's where the virulence comes from. He's actually doing what said he would do. An amazing thing in itself, isn't it? But he's actually accomplishing returning to our basic principles of government that were given us to by those guys on the wall there, right? He's accomplishing it and they're in disarray. He is one by one picking out the stuff, the weeds, and they are the weeds, and so this is their dying breath. They have to stop him somehow. So you see these very extraordinary things that they come up with, that's what they do. They are conjuring lies and slanders against this man trying to destroy this presidency. It's that simple.

LEVIN: When you talk to me like this, and it's going to be seen all over the country including way back in Hollywood. Do people come up to you and say "Jon, what's going on? Jon, you're going to hurt your career." Or is it, "We expect this from Jon Voight, it's well known that he is - well as an outspoken patriot, conservative."

VOIGHT: Yes, well, you get a little of everything, of course. You also get guys that come up to and you say, "Hey, Johnny, great, keep going, will you?"

LEVIN: Other actors?

VOIGHT: Yes, other actors. People in the business. Yes, I get a lot of support from people I appreciate, who I respect. So it's not all one way. And also, I like my peers, I like them. We're in the same industry. I understand them.

LEVIN: But do they like you?

VOIGHT: Well, it's not so important to me. That's not important to me. Maybe important to me if I require work, but there's enough people around who are of a conservative nature, but Hollywood has been infiltrated, why? Because they're important. That's why the left is focused on Hollywood, that's why they focused on our universities, and if you look at that subculture of the left, they know exactly what they're doing, you know? They've organized and they have been very effective. So we have a big job on our hands because our children are not being raised to appreciate our great - the greatness of our country, the greatness of our founding principles and thank God for Mark Levin, he is the watchman over this treasure, and a person who can explain the beauty of it and knows exactly what - where the attacks have chipped away at it, too. We have to get all that back.

LEVIN: You are very kind. We'll be right back.

So Jon Voight, you're an early supporter of Donald Trump. How's he doing?

VOIGHT: I met someone on the plane flying to make this appointment with you - a friend of mine who's conservative. A woman. Actress. A very good one, and I said so what do you think about our man? And she just did this. That was it. That's me crying. It was her, too.

LEVIN: Why are you crying?

VOIGHT: Because. First of all, the gesture was so beautiful. She couldn't even speak. She was just saying "Thank God," and I said, "Thank God." And one of the reasons I can say "Thank God" is because I know He's there, you know, for us all.


VOIGHT: And that's one of the things that we've lost is this compass of God. We have - what did Karl Marx come up with? He eliminated God from the picture. So we can do it without this. Not these boys. Not our guys. They knew very well. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. That they were endowed by our Creator. We are endowed with certain unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And by the way, one of the things that I know you know the genius of t he architecture of our founding, this constitution, where it came from. The Bill of Rights and the declaration. A little lost in the thought of you being the one that I'm sitting in front of now. You understand this genius of them to say the pursuit of happiness because if you go into a communist country as I did; in 1991, I went to Moscow to make a little film, first time. It was during "Glastnost," Perestroika, the time that they were changing things, of more openness and all this stuff.

So I was there, and what I did see? I see people with their heads down, would not look you in the eye. In the hotel, nothing worked. You go to the desk to ask for something, a light bulb changed, they wouldn't look at you, pretended they didn't speak English, all of this and these people - deep unhappiness. They had no possibility to pursue happiness, and that's the difference.

That's what socialism, communism, progressivism - that's what it means. You don't have the ability to pursue happiness. You can't raise yourself up above anyone else. As soon as you get more than the next guy, slap down. So no matter how hard you work, you can't improve the life for your children. They're unhappy. Their buildings are unhappy. There is nothing happy about their societies, you know what I'm saying? So that's a mark and that's the genius of this happiness, it's is a big thing. Anyway ...

LEVIN: I have never heard it put that way. Truly, beautifully, beautifully put. We'll be right back.

What would you say to Americans?

VOIGHT: Well, I would say have hope. There is wonderful - there are wonderful things happening every day. Thanks, in great part, to the President that we have who is very specifically talented and for this time and all of the dangers that exist in the world and in our country that he is able to face, get up in the morning, fresh, go through a day, 15 hours later just as fresh, having mud sling at him, all these lies and slanders that he deals with, doesn't affect him.

Water off the ducks back and he keeps going. He has around him a legion of very talented people. If you look at the Republican Party and the conservative world and you look at the Democratic Party, there is no comparison. The Democrats - they are bereft of talent. They don't have talent and leadership. There are no statesmen - no statesmen in the Democratic world.

But in the Republican world and the conservative world, there are many brothers that you have, like yourself, who are of stature, who are primed with specific gifts to answer today's challenge, who are giving us information every day and I can give you 50 people, I will bet, that I have met personally, and I can go through a long list and you could give me another 50 and the people on your show. All of these people are of very high stature, so we have hope.

LEVIN: Let me just say this. It's been a great pleasure. I've known you over the years to have this discussion with you, I want to thank you for coming in, Jon Voight.

VOIGHT: Great to be with you.

LEVIN: God bless you. See you next time on "Life, Liberty & Levin."

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