In the pantheon of great actors passing advice onto the younger generation, not every story ends with a polite and deep connection. Sometimes, you get a story like that time where Sir Lawrence Olivier told Dustin Hoffman to “try acting, my dear boy” after going full method during Marathon Man. However, in the best of times, when mentor and mentee share a profound moment of tutelage, you get something like when James Van Der Beek and Jon Voight bonded during the production of Varsity Blues. That advice was basically to embrace your fans as they have embraced you.
James Van Der Beek was a recent guest on IMDb’s That Scene with Dan Patrick, and during their conversation, the Dawson’s Creek star shared an incredible story that encapsulated that advice. Though it wasn’t freely given, as a random encounter on the set of Varsity Blues inspired the moment that saw Jon Voight interacting with one of his own fans in one of the sweetest ways. James Van Der Beek recalled the story as follows:
Voight came to play, I mean, he would mess with me off camera, just up to the point where I might take it personally, but I never did. And at one point I felt comfortable enough to ask him, 'How do you deal with this? How do you deal with fame?' 'Cause I remember I was shooting a scene at night, and some kid comes up to Jon Voight, who's been nominated for two Oscars, has won one. And this kid comes up to Voight and goes, 'Hey, I know you! You're that guy from Anaconda!' Which I'm sure is at the top of anybody's pride that that's on their resume, you know, not, not Coming Home, not Deliverance - You're that guy from Anaconda! And Jon goes, "That's right.' And the kid goes, 'Yeah, you got eaten by the snake!' Jon's like, 'Yeah, that was a bad guy.' And the kid goes, 'Remember that scene where that guy says-' And he starts playing the scene with Jon and Jon starts playing the scene with him. No ego, just completely at play.
It does seem a bit weird if you’re looking back at Anaconda today and thinking about the fact that Jon Voight was being called out for that particular project at the moment. But after the film’s release in 1997 saw a pretty impressive run that hauled in three times the production budget, and more than likely won over tons of fans on home video, it’s not hard to see why Voight would indulge a young fan in his want to go back to some of his favorite scenes. It's something that even James Van Der Beek would inevitably encounter himself.
As he would not only have Dawson’s Creek making an imprint on anyone who grew up in the ‘90s, but also Varsity Blues as a Van Der Beek calling card, he obviously knew that he’d have to deal with his adoring crowd somehow. So when you have an acting legend like Jon Voight on set, there’s an opportunity to become a student and learn a valuable lesson. Engaging Voight on that very quest, James Van Der Beek received this advice:
And that's when I asked him, how do you deal with being recognized like that? And he said, 'It's very simple.' He said, 'You're not going to take ego from it. It's not who you are. You have such a gift, and that is the gift of being able to make somebody very happy by doing something very simple. All you have to do is sign that paper, give them a little bit of time, look at them, talk to them, and you'll make them happy. What a gift that is.' And that made it click for me.
Fame can be hard on an actor, whether you’re someone who’s had a long and storied career, or if you’re the latest overnight sensation looking to keep it fresh. Varsity Blues was certainly the type of movie to act as a crossroads for such talents, with James Van Der Beek and Jon Voight making a movie about the expectations of your elders, and choosing whether you do or don’t want their life. If it wasn’t for the infamous whipped cream bikini scene, you could practically watch this movie with your parents.
Thankfully, James Van Der Beek and Jon Voight didn’t clash as harshly as Mox and Coach Kilmer did on screen, with that advice really coming in handy. While there’s been some moments that Van Der Beek has found himself in a bit of a tight spot when dealing with the Dawson’s Creek legacy, he seems to have a pretty easy tapping into the love that his career has earned him. With Varsity Blues apparently undergoing a reboot for a new age of fans to fall in love with its charms, maybe James Van Der Beek should look into jumping on board, as a tribute to his acting mentor. Of course, that’s provided that someone bought the project from its previous home, Quibi. If that fails, there’s always that Anaconda reboot in the works!