Interview with Charlton Heston

Politics and religion do mix, at least in Charlton Hestons public persona. Heston's rich voice and face "that belongs to another century, " as he's put it, made him a top box-office draw in the 1950s and '60s in the Biblical roles of Moses and John the Baptist. He won an Academy Award as best actor for 1959's Ben Hur, the pinnacle of a career that now includes more than 50 films.

Though he will be forever identified with epics and biographical roles (The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Story Ever Told), some of Heston s most beguiling work was done in smaller, offbeat films-the Westerns Will Penny and Major Dundee and Orson Welles's Touch of Evil.

Heston is among the most outspoken and politically active figures in Hollywood. He was prominent in the civil rights movement of the early '60s, heading the arts contingent in the fabled March on Washington in August 1963.

He has since gained the reputation as a leader of Hollywood's right, particularly for his battles with Ed Asner, his fellow former Screen Actors Guild president, over the extent of sag's political involvement. Heston is a friend and supporter of Ronald Reagan, a fan of William F. Buckley's National Review, and a fixture in the arts community.

He is also active in numerous nonpolitical charitable activities.

Since the late '60s, Heston has been besieged by politicians of both parties urging him to seek elective office. He has declined each time, his standard disclaimer: "I've played three presidents, three saints, and two geniuses. That should satisfy any man."

Heston is currently starring as the resolute patriarch Jason Colby in ABCTV's The Colbys. His voice has lost none of its magisterial resonance, and at six foot three he still cuts a striking figure. He remains married to the former Lydia Clarke, his girlfriend at Northwestern University.

Charlton Heston was interviewed at his home in Beverly Hills, California, by Assistant Editor Bill Kauffman.

Reason: You seem, from the entries in your diaristic autobiography The Actor s Life, to be quite taken with both Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.

Heston: Yes. I've played both men, and thus, possibly, have a special predilection towards them. But I think they are unarguably among our greatest presidents. Certainly Jefferson, largely defined as the only genius ever to occupy the White House.

Reason: His philosophy that "that government is best which governs least"-are you sympathetic with that?

Heston: Oh, I'll sign that any day. There's no question that one of the most pernicious effects of modern society is the seeming impossibility of reversing the tendency of government to get bigger. It has under every administration, I guess, in the history of the Republic-certainly in this century. And despite all the protestations and brave assertions that if I'm elected we will cut big government, which has been included in the platforms of most men who ran for the presidency in the last 30 or 40 years, it doesn't stop.

Reason: Even Ronald Reagan doesn't seem to have made much headway.

Heston: No. No one has had an appreciable effect, even to slow it a little bit. It just goes on growing. And it is terribly wasteful. It's not just the money it costs. It's the wasted manpower, and it renders government clumsy and unresponsive.

Reason: So you have a fairly gloomy view of the prospects for improvement?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.