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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 16:31 GMT
How Voight took on Ali
The BBC's Sarah Montague met Jon Voight
The BBC's Sarah Montague met Jon Voight
Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight has told the BBC's HARDtalk programme why he was reluctant to play TV interviewer Howard Cosell in Ali.

Voight told the BBC's HARDtalk programme that he was persuaded to take on the role, which has earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor at this year's awards, by his daughter, Angelina Jolie.

Will Smith took the title role in the film Ali
Will Smith took the title role in the film Ali
"When I was asked if I would think about doing this part I was flattered. I was questioning it a little bit and then I read the piece and looked at it and had to make a decision," he said.

But his daughter eventually talked him into accepting the role.

"She said, 'You knew Muhammad and you were friends... you deserve to be in this picture," he said.

Riding high

Jon Voight made his name in 1969 epic Midnight Cowboy, which tells of the unlikely companionship of two homeless drifters played by Voight and Dustin Hoffman.

The role helped to define 'sensitive' male roles for American movie audiences in the 1970s and 1980s.

It makes me feel very good that Angie has this instinct to help when she sees people hurting.

Jon Voight
Voight went on to star in a string of award winning films including Deliverance (1972) and Runaway Train (1985).

He has been nominated for an Academy award four times, but won an Oscar for his portrayal of a quadraplegic Vietnam war veteran in the 1978 film, Coming Home, opposite Jane Fonda.

Voight went on to speak of his pride in becoming a grandfather, following Jolie's decision to adopt a baby boy from Cambodia with her husband Billy Bob Thornton.

"I know that Angie has been interested in adopting a Cambodian child and worked very, very hard to accomplish that," he said.

"It makes me feel very good that Angie has this instinct to help when she sees people hurting or she sees people at risk. She wants to do a little something and it wasn't a very big thing to do."


He also commented on his daughter's wild reputation in the press.
Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie is famous for playing the hard hitting heroine Lara Croft

"I think she's had a journey, she's a young person, she's going to have her excesses," he said.

Voight, who turned down the lead role in the 1970 film Love Story, also spoke about his spiritual awakening in the mid-1980s, which changed the way he looked at life.

"I think I had an awakening that there was right and wrong and things I had to make amends for, and things that were important," he said.

"There is this idea that we have a purpose here and I feel that very strongly and I am trying to pursue that purpose."

Winner takes all

Voight also described what it felt like to be at the Academy Awards.

"It's like being in a gameshow," he said.

"You are put in a kind of situation where you are made to compete with other people, and there's a little silly aspect to that, but you don't know what you are going to be called on to do that night."

You can see the HARDtalk interview in full at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT)
20 March 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
20 March 0430, repeated 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030

Jon Voight
"I've had difficulty accepting certain things at different times of my life"
See also:

12 Feb 02 | Reviews
The triumph of Ali
18 Feb 02 | Reviews
Ali: Your views
18 Feb 02 | Reviews
Ali: Press views
25 Dec 01 | Film
Will Smith peaks as Ali
23 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Ali film 'gets green light'
18 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Ali film 'on the ropes'
01 Jul 01 | Entertainment
Lara's date with 'dad'
13 Mar 02 | Showbiz
Jolie 'grateful' for adopted son
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