Voight and Others Tout Ashby at ‘Lookin’ to Get Out’ Screening30 Jun, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey
LOS ANGELES — Jon Voight nearly broke into tears while talking about a father-daughter relationship June 29.
The 70-year-old actor wasn’t talking about himself and estranged daughter Angelina Jolie — not exactly — but rather the nonexistent relationship between Leigh MacManus and her deceased father, director Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There).
“I think he walked to Leigh’s door many times. I just think he couldn’t cross that threshold,” Voight said following a screening of Ashby’s Lookin’ to Get Out at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater. Warner Home Video released the newly discovered version of the 1982 film starring Voight on DVD June 30. “I hope all of us here tonight have given her something of her father.”
MacManus, who never knew her father, only had his films. “Whenever I went to see his movies I felt like there were messages for me,” the 61-year-old said. “At the end of [Lookin’ to Get Out], I knew he gave me that recognition. It didn’t make life easier. It made it harder in a lot of ways. I still really want to know him.”
At the end of Lookin’ to Get Out, Voight’s fun-loving, risk-taking, irresponsible character walks out of a Las Vegas casino, as broke as when he walked in. Outside, he meets his young daughter for the very first time. That part was played by a 7-year-old Jolie, in her film debut.
Beneath the hilarious script and bumbling Vegas adventures of Voight’s character Alex and that of co-star Burt Young (Rocky), Lookin’ to Get Out has a serious message, Voight said.
“People shouldn’t have kids if they’re not responsible,’ and that’s the death knell for Alex. It was a very key [point of the film],” he said. “This portrait of fatherhood that somehow was in [Ashby] created tremendous doubts every time it was touched.”
Jeff Baker, WHV EVP and GM of theatrical catalog, said the studio was proud to release the film for the first time on DVD.
“It’s an interesting film, a little gold nugget,” he said. “Its time had come. We’re very selective about what we bring out of the vault.”
Voight said he “cheered” when he found out Warner owned the rights to the film.
On Ashby, Lookin’ actress Ann-Margret said the director was “gentle” with those he worked with. “He didn’t say a lot, but you sensed [what he wanted],” she said.
“He backed up from you. You really could feel like you could dance when he was around,” Young said.
“He had an incredible talent for understanding people … and capturing the zeitgeist,” said Nick Dawson, author of Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel. “We’re very lucky to have his films to look back on.”