It’s colossal, it’s stupendous. In exactly five days, Jon Voight will become the ghost of George Washington, leading a forward attack on those who would sully America.
“An American Carol,” a frantic satire that takes on filmmaker Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell and a host of liberals, opens Oct. 3. And Mr. Voight, indeed, plays the first president of the United States in white wig and sleek Colonial uniform, taking the Moore-inspired character to task for his lack of patriotism, his paucity of Yankee vim. It is a very Scrooge-ian exchange.
Mr. Voight does not need to channel John Wayne or even Uncle Sam for the part. The Academy Award-winning actor is hard-wired with love of country, a silver screen conservative who pines for a Hollywood filled with stars who also are star-spangled. Celebrities and patriotism do mix in the Voight world; appreciation of the U.S. of A. is no sin. He is downright annoyed with his thespian peers.
“I’m very angry about our community, about anti-American films. I have to say that. I have to say, look guys, I know you think this and that. But we should have a dialogue, especially before you take a slap at America,” Mr. Voight said recently.
“We’re a force for good in the world, and we’re a necessary force for good in the world. The world depends on us. Whenever there’s a problem, who do people come to? They come to America. And does America respond? Every time,” he continued.
He’s not done yet.
“So stop slapping America and start understanding we have to be strong and united to be safe and sane,” Mr. Voight said, adding, “You’d think Republicans were the enemy of the country. This is completely nuts.”
He provides ample evidence that, yes, 70 is the new 50.
At 69, Jon Voight can stroll down the red carpet in elegant tuxedo with white satin scarf, somewhere between Errol Flynn and Van Johnson, with some Ronald Reagan-the-actor mixed in. He can take an ideological stand, charm the ladies, dance a spirited hora, fend off countless inane inquiries about his beautiful daughter Angelina Jolie and be brought to tears when he considers Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her very real family matters.
But wait, there’s more.
“Getting to know Jon over numerous lunches and dinners, he often discussed his special affinity for George Washington and his desire to play our first president,” said David Zucker, director of “An American Carol,” along with “The Naked Gun,” “Airplane” and other high-powered parodies.
“Fortuitously during the writing of ‘An American Carol,’ we created a scene in which Washington appears and speaks to the main character, Michael Malone. I knew Jon had to be our Washington.”
But amid parody, there’s history.
“George Washington of course is renowned for starting the American tradition of having no kings, quite revolutionary at the time. King George III, when informed of Washington’s refusal of a crown was quoted as saying ‘if this is true, he will be the greatest man in the history of the world.’ I agree with Jon Voight that this is one of the many debts we owe George Washington and one of our greatest American traditions,” Mr. Zucker said.
Mr. Voight’s performance in the film will follow his high-profile appearance at the Republican National Convention earlier this month, plus his multiple guest shots on Fox News, talk radio and other news outlets, talking up America, Sen. John McCain and Republican causes in general.
He is a stalwart friend of “Friends of Abe,” a group of Hollywood conservatives whose membership includes Gary Sinise and Pat Boone. As a public figure, Mr. Voight is fearless, suggesting that the Democratic Party made a “godlike” character out of Sen. Barack Obama - and that the lawmaker should drop out of politics altogether and become an actor.
But audiences are fickle, particularly in politics.
“I admire any public figure who sticks his or her neck out. I don’t agree with Mr. Voight, but I will be consistent: I loved when the Dixie Chicks spoke out, I love when Barbra Streisand speaks out, and so I applaud Mr. Voight for having the courage of his convictions. Now, my right-wing friends who hammer artists on the left for speaking out are praising Mr. Voight. There’s a word for that in politics: hypocrisy,” said CNN analyst Paul Begala, a longtime Democratic strategist.
The timing is right for Mr. Voight, however. He has just completed his 60th film, has two more in the works and will appear this fall as a guest star on “24,” Fox Entertainment’s popular prime-time espionage show. But duty calls. He spent the last week campaigning in California for local Republican candidates.
“He’s at a stage at his career where he has made such an impact in the industry that Hollywood won’t excommunicate him for being a Republican. To have him as a Republican lends credibility to the campaign,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.
“We rarely have anyone with this kind of star power. We’ve been able to use the celebrity theme against Senator Obama, because he’s got so many stars to support him. The fact that the GOP has few celebrities makes them highly visible. They stand out more when they’re outspoken,” Mr. Bonjean added.
And when did Mr. Voight become outspoken? He is open about the fact that he was once a vigorous anti-war protester in the late 1960s, but soured on the experience after realizing that peaceful organizers had little staying power in the aftermath.
“The radicals of that era were successful in giving the communists power to bring forth the killing fields and slaughter 2.5 million people in Cambodia and South Vietnam. Did they stop the war, or did they bring the war to those innocent people?” Mr. Voight asked in a July 28 editorial in The Washington Times.
In addition, the New York native became a staunch supporter of Rudolph W. Giuliani during his bid for the White House earlier this year, inspired by the former Manhattan mayor’s resolve and dignity in his city after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Perhaps Mr. Voight will write a book about his beliefs. Or run for office or become a statesman and address the United Nations. Chances are excellent that the movies will keep coming. Perhaps one day he will assure persistent journalists that, yes, all is well between his daughter and himself, and that he has dandled the six grandkids on his knee.
But he still had a line or two for the press, said in sonorous tones and with impeccable delivery.
“What would happen if America won a great war and no one reported it? That’s what’s happening right now,” he told a group of reporters at the convention.
“What’s going on here?” Mr. Voight demanded, his eyes traveling from face to face. “Let’s get our priorities straight.”