Jon Voigt — From Midnight Cowboy to National Treasure

Jon Voigt has been a big name in Hollywood since his breakout movie ‘Midnight Cowboy’ in 1969. He starred in the blockbuster alongside Hollywood legend Dustin Hoffman. 

Voigt’s acting career started in the early 1960s when he found work in television, appearing in several episodes of the western series Gunsmoke from 1963 to 1968. He also appeared in episodes of ‘Naked City’, ‘The Defenders’, and ‘Twelve O’Clock High’. 

In 1965 he was offered the part of ‘Rodolpho’ in the hit radio show ‘A View from the Bridge.’ His first movie roles followed in 1967 when he played a role in ‘Fearless Frank’ and ‘Hour of the Gun’. Then in 1968 he was offered a part in the movie ‘Out of It.’ 

His acting career went from strength to strength in the 1970’s with the survival thriller ‘Deliverance’, the boxing film ‘The Champ’ and ‘The Odessa File’. 

The Odessa File is a major thriller by English writer Frederick Forsyth. It is a story that has really stood the test of time exceptionally well. First published in 1972, it is the story of a young German reporter who attempts to discover where a former SS concentration-camp commander is hiding. 

An Academy Award

Following this success, Jon won an Academy Award for ‘best actor’ when he played a Vietnam veteran in ‘Coming Home’. His many films since the 1980’s include ‘Runaway Train’, ‘Heat,’ ‘Enemy of the State’, ‘Rainbow Warrior’, ‘National Treasure’, ‘Pearl Harbour’ and ‘Mission Impossible’. 

Jon is also the father of actress Angelina Jolie and played the part of her father Lord Richard Croft when she played Lara Croft in her 2001 movie ‘Tomb Raider. 

But despite his enormous success as an actor, Jon Voigt the man was still in a state of emptiness and desperation after divorce and a fluctuating career path. On one occasion when he was interviewed on national television, Jon opened up about his Christian faith. He said that on one particular day when he was at a very low ebb, he fell to his knees and cried out to God, “It’s so difficult!” In reply, Jon heard a “kind and clear voice” saying back to him, “It’s supposed to be difficult.” From that moment on, he knew that God was with him. 

A pivotal decision

Hearing the voice of God changed Jon so completely that he could not go back to his old ways of thinking. 

At that moment in time, I knew I’m not alone. Everything is known. I am known!

This was a defining moment in his life. Jon says that “the fear of the Lord” is what now keeps him on a straight path. 

The esteemed actor was raised a devout Catholic by his parents, but his faith was never strong in his younger days. He never really trusted that there was a God on the receiving end of a prayer. Fame and success as an actor filled his life for many years and did not sense a particular need for God when things were going well. However, after a period of trouble and despair, hearing God’s voice shook him to the core and opened his heart to the compassionate, fatherly God of the Bible. 

Following this deep divine encounter, Jon was motivated to pursue his newfound Christian faith. He tangibly felt “a burst of energy” followed by a sense that he was truly loved and supported by God the Father, the Creator, the maker of all things. He felt strongly that God did not want him to give up in the face of difficult circumstances, but to accept that suffering is part of the faith journey and that he should live his life with God at the centre. He adds, 

Now, I know we’re covered. Everything we think, everything we say, everything! It’s known. They say God knows every bird that falls. We all are known. We’re being observed and helped and loved… and we are expected to get up and do what’s right. There’s a purpose here. And the purpose here is to learn our lessons and grow. And what’s the big deal? To give to each other and to be here and be of help.

Divine appointments with a new boss

The morning after this life-changing revelation, Jon asked God aloud, “What do you got for me today?

He then turned on the radio and the song “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” was playing. The lyrics “I’ll build a stairway to paradise with a new step every day” really stood out to him. Over the next few days, “peculiar occurrences” kept happening and Jon was to have many more divine appointments. He knew that he had received a revelation that God is real, that God cares, and that God was there to help him throughout his whole life. He says, 

I was drawn to certain things from that point on, and I’ve had many, many experiences. But that was the beginning… I had to straighten out. If I’m going to be a vessel for God, I better be cleaner than I was. I’ve got to be a righteous fellow. I have a fear of the Lord. I got it. I am afraid of offending God, because God is everything. God is love, God is all these beautiful things, beauty, everything. And how can I live up to that? I need a lot of help. I think that is the fear of the Lord. It keeps you on track.”

A new direction

From that point in his life, Jon says that his desire is to live a Godly life and encourage others to live according to God’s will.

Family is so important, and family is being attacked by people who are really trying to tear down the fabric of our society, it’s true. I don’t want to get into any kind of conspiracy stuff, but it’s really happening. So we have to protect the values of our country and the values of family and guide the focused lives; we have to protect that aspect.

Jon realised that fame and success are temporary things. They may make you feel good about yourself for a while, but they do not last. Jon’s faith journey is one that showed him that, 

no matter how far gone you think you are, God is always right there with you and loves you.


Story by Ralph Burden

Photo attribution: cropped from an original photo taken by Alan Light in 1988. 

License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. 

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