Pulp Fiction Junkie
"June of 1978 in London, when I was promoting Grease, the ceiling of our car was caving in while the fans rocked us back and forth. I thought, `Oh God, I'm gonna die in my limo!'" John Travolta
An actor since the 1970s, John Travolta first received recognition while playing Vinnie Barbarino (1975-1978) on the ABC sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, and for portraying disco floor king Tony Manero in the classic Saturday Night Fever (1977), then Danny Zuko in Grease (1978). The award-winning actor later gained more acclaim after starring in such films as Look Who's Talking, (1989) Urban Cowboy (1980), Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994, costarring Uma Thurman), Get Shorty (1995) and Face/Off (1997). Now one of Hollywood's highest paid actors, Travolta can be seen acting in the recent films The Punisher, A Love Song for Bobby Long, Ladder 49, and Be Cool (2005's sequel to Get Shorty).
6' 2" inch tall Travolta, whose trademark is his cleft chin, was listed as one of Empire (UK) magazine's Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time (October 1997) and TV Guide's TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols (January 23rd 2005 issue). Best friend of actress Kirstie Alley, Travolta has fronted the Rolling Stone magazine four times (1978, 1980, 1983 and 1985), which makes him the most frequent actor ever appearing on the magazine's cover. As for his private life, Travolta is the husband of actress Kelly Preston. His previous relationship was linked to late actress Diana Hyland (born on January 25, 1936; died on March 28, 1977 of cancer), 18 years his senior whom he met while filming The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976, TV).
Childhood and Family:
Englewood, New Jersey native actor and musician John Joseph Travolta was born on February 18, 1954. His father is Salvatore Travolta (born in 1913; died on May 26, 1995), a former semi-professional football player and his mother is Helen Travolta (born on January 18, 1912; died on December 3, 1978 of cancer), an ex-actress and high-school drama teacher. The youngest of six children, John has five older siblings: sisters Ellen (actress; born on October 6, 1940), Ann (actress) and Margaret, and brothers Joey (actor; born on October 14, 1950) and Sam (actor).
John Travolta, whose childhood nickname was Bone, started performing on stage when he was just a boy. After acting in a local theater play, his mother signed him up for a drama school in New York where he worked on his singing, dancing and acting. He also joined a tap dancing class with Fred Kelly (Gene Kelly's brother). John then dropped out of high school at age 16 and headed to New York to pursue his acting career.
In 1991, John became engaged to actress Kelly Preston (born October 13, 1962) and decided to tie the knot on September 5, 1991, in Paris, France by a French Scientologist minister. The marriage was considered illegal so the couple renewed their wedding vows on September 12, 1991, in Daytona Beach, Florida. They currently reside in Ocala, Florida with their children, son Jett Travolta (born on April 13, 1992) and daughter Ella Bleu Travolta (born on April 3, 2000).
"I think communication has helped our marriage. We just negotiate and communicate until we're both happy about whatever subject it is." John Travolta
Off screen, John Travolta, whose favorite movies are Un homme et une femme (1966) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), is a Scientologist and licensed pilot who owns three jets, a Gulfstream jet, Learjet and Boeing 707. Besides his main house in Ocala Florida, he also owns houses in Santa Barbara, California, Florida, Maine and Hawaii.
Initiating his acting in a local production of "Who Will Save the Plowboy?" at age 12, John Travolta then worked in a summer stock production of the musical "Bye Bye Birdie" in New Jersey. At age 16, he left high school to pursue a serious acting career in New York and subsequently landed his first off-Broadway role in a production of "Rain" in 1972. He debuted on Broadway in 1973 working with the Andrews Sisters in the musical "Over Here!" and played a bit part in the original Broadway musical production of Grease. Travolta also appeared on the small screen. He guest starred on several TV series like Emergency, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, The Rookies and Medical Center.
1975 was Travolta's breakaway year. After appearing in the TV movie The Tenth Level, he made his feature film debut playing the tiny role of a devil worshipper with a melting face in Robert Fuest's horror The Devil's Rain (starring Ernest Borgnine). He also nabbed his foremost notable role of silly high school student Lothario Vinnie Barbarino in the long-running comedy series Welcome Back, Kotter. Portraying the character from 1975 to 1978, Travolta collected fans and soon became a household name.
"I wanted to work with De Palma. I knew the film would be interesting and attract a lot of attention." John Travolta
While working for the sitcom, Travolta also costarred in Brian De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's novel, the horror Carrie (1976, alongside Sissy Spacek). He then received praise for starring as a young man with a severe immune deficiency who has to live in a germ-free plastic room, in the true-story based drama film, ABC's The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976, TV, with then companion Diana Hyland).
The portrayal of young Brooklyn native Tony Manero, the king of the dance floor in John Badham's musical drama hit Saturday Night Fever (1977) launched Travolta toward stardom. In the film, inspired by Nik Cohn's magazine article and set to the popular dance music of the Bee Gees, Travolta scored his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Moreover, his white polyester suit instantly became a fashion trend and made him a Hollywood icon of the era.
Another victory followed when he reprised his stage role with Olivia Newton-John in Randal Kleiser's rock 'n' roll celebration movie Grease. Travolta also played young drifter Strip Harrison, who fell in love with an older woman (played by Lily Tomlin), in Jane Wagner's rarely seen movie Moment by Moment (1978). With Debra Winger, he starred in the cowboy version of Saturday Night Fever, James Bridges' Urban Cowboy (1980).
The following years found Travolta in lousy films. He reunited with Brian De Palma in his thriller Blow Out (1981), and with Olivia Newton-John in John Herzfeld's romantic comedy Two of a Kind (1983). He also reprised character Tony Manero, now a struggling dancer working toward being a Broadway star, in the 1983 installment of the previous hit Saturday Night Fever, Sylvester Stallone's Staying Alive. Moreover, playing Rolling Stone reporter Adam Lawrence in James Bridges' romantic drama Perfect (1985) and club singer in Dave Thomas' comedy The Experts (1989), did little to enhance his fame. During the low curve in his career, Travolta returned to television, starring in the screen version of Harold Pinter's play, Robert Altman's comedy Basements (segment The Dumb Waiter).
Travolta rebounded his acting career with the portrayal of cab-driver-turned-baby-sitter James Ubriacco in Amy Heckerling's low-budget comedy Look Who's Talking (1989, opposite best pal Kirstie Alley). The film was warmly received and spawned two sequels, Look Who's Talking Too (1990) and Look Who's Talking Now (1993), in which Travolta reprised his role. During those years, he played roles in several 1991 disappointing films like playing a single father in Robert Harmon's Eyes of an Angel, a music teacher in Jeffrey Hornaday's Shout and an alcoholic-turned-social-worker in Rod Holcomb's TV movie Chains of Gold (he also co-wrote the screenplay).
"There's hardly anything I wouldn't do for Quentin [Tarantino]. But I know... he already feels paid back by my doing a good job. I know Quentin doesn't feel I owe him anything. I don't think there's ever been anyone who's genuinely loved me more than Quentin. He doesn't want anything back other than my well-being, and every time I think about the purity of that, it makes me want to cry or something... and Steven Spielberg... he's the one who called me and told me to do the Nora Ephron movie [Michael]. So with Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg, I think I have the best guardian angels that the planet has to offer." John Travolta
Travolta finally revived his acting career in 1994 when film director Quentin Tarantino handed him the lead role of junkie-killer Vincent Vega in his acclaimed gangster drama Pulp Fiction (costarring Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman). Travolta's bright performance received rave reviews and earned him a second Oscar nomination for Best Actor. After playing a blue-collar man in Desmond Nakano's White Man's Burden (1995, opposite Harry Belafonte), Travolta gained further notice for starring as Miami loan shark Chili Palmer in the gangster comedy film based on Elmore Leonard's 1990 novel, Barry Sonnenfeld's Get Shorty (1995, alongside Rene Russo, Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito). His sparkling acting performance netted him the first Golden Globe award for Best Actor that year.
Another hit film arrived in 1996 when filmmaker John Woo cast Travolta as villainous Air Force pilot Vic Deakins in his action tale Broken Arrow (costarring Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis). He also caught notice while portraying a simple, small-town garage mechanic who has telekinetic powers, in John Turtletaub's Phenomenon, and played the titular role of Michael in Nora Ephron's film with the same name.
In 1997, Travolta rejoined with director John Woo and was widely recognized for trading his face with Nicolas Cage in the blockbuster thriller Face/Off. In that same year he also became Robin Wright Penn's doting husband, Joey, in Nick Cassavetes' She's So Lovely (also with Sean Penn) and teamed with Dustin Hoffman in Costa Gavras' Mad City. In the next year, Travolta could be seen starring in such films as Mike Nichols' political spoof, inspired by Joe Klein's hilarious novel, Primary Colors (as Governor Jack Stanton), in Terrence Malick's adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, The Thin Red Line and Steven Zaillian's version of Jonathan Harr's book A Civil Action (playing tenacious young lawyer Jan Schlichtmann). He also portrayed undercover military investigator Paul Brenner/Sgt. Frank White in the film version of Nelson DeMille's novel, Simon West's thriller The General's Daughter (1999, co-starring Madeline Stowe).
Entering the new millennium, Travolta was slammed at the Razzie Awards for portraying the head of alien invaders in Roger Christian's sci-fi film, adopted from L. Ron Hubbard's novel, Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000. He then costarred with Lisa Kudrow to play a popular TV weatherman who scams a local lottery in Nora Ephron's crime comedy Lucky Numbers and teamed with Hugh Jackman to hack into the government computer system in Dominic Sena's futuristic technology spy movie Swordfish. John then became a divorced father worried about his son's life in Harold Becker's drama thriller Domestic Disturbance (2001, along with Vince Vaughn).
After portraying DEA agent Hardy in John McTiernan's gangster drama Basic (2003, with Samuel L. Jackson), Travolta became Tampa businessman Howard Saint in Jonathan Hensleigh's crime action The Punisher (2004, opposite Thomas Jane). He continued with significant roles like that of former literature professor Bobby Long in Shainee Gabel's adaptation of Ronald Everett Capps' novel, the drama comedy A Love Song for Bobby Long, then became Joaquin Phoenix's fire chief and mentor, Captain Mike Kennedy, in Jay Russell's drama Ladder 49 (both in 2004).
Travolta continues to grace the screen with recent a more film project, F. Gary Gray's crime comedy film based on Elmore Leonard's novel, Be Cool. In the 2005 installment of the 1995 film Get Shorty, he reprised his role of Chili Palmer, now a strong-arm debt collector turned Hollywood movie producer. He will also provide his voice in the upcoming animated film, 2004: A Light Knight's Odyssey, and play Elmer C. Robinson in Todd Robinson's true-story based movie, Lonely Hearts (alongside Salma Hayek and Jared Leto).
Adding to his successful acting career, Travolta branched out in singing and writing. He released several hit singles, notably the 1977 Billboard hit single "Slow Dancing (Feels So Good)" and "Let Her In" (1976) as well as launched a deluxe 2-record set called Travolta Fever in 1978. He also has published two books, John Travolta Staying Fit!, published by Simon and Schuster in 1984, and Propeller One-Way Night Coach (A Fable for All Ages), published by Warner Books in 1997.
John is planning to launch his autobiography and reportedly will reveal information about his close friendship with the late British royal Diana, Princess Of Wales. Recalling his best moment with Diana, Travolta revealed, "I was at the lowest point of my career and yet in that room I felt like a frog who had been turned into a prince. I timidly crept over and said, `Excuse me Princess, would you care to dance?' and she dipped her head and looked up at me and she blushed. Then she said, 'I would love to.' As they started playing songs from my movies they all left the floor. We were dancing alone. I said, 'God, we're in the middle of the floor with the whole world watching!'" He added, "I'm writing my book. If I wait any longer, it'll be two memoirs and I can't do that. I guess for readers in England the most interesting thing is going to be the stuff about Princess Diana. It will include a lot of things I've never discussed with anybody."
- Razzie Awards: Worst Actor, Battlefield Earth: A Saga Of The Year 3000, 2001
- Palm Springs International Film Festival: Desert Palm Achievement Award, 1999
- Blockbuster Entertainment: World Artist Award, 1999
- Broadcast Film Critics Association: Alan J. Pakula Award, 1999
- Golden Apple: Golden Apple - Male Star of the Year, 1998
- MTV Movie Award: Best Onscreen Duo, Face/Off; shared with Nicolas Cage, 1998
- BAFTA: Britannia Award; eighth recipient, 1998
- Blockbuster Entertainment: Favorite Actor - Drama, Phenomenon, 1997
- American Cinematheque Gala Tribute: American Cinematheque Award, 1997
- ShoWest Convention: ShoWest Award - Male Star of the Year, 1996
- MTV Movie Award: Best Dance Sequence, Pulp Fiction; shared with Uma Thurman, 1995
- Golden Globe: Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Get Shorty, 1995
- American Comedy: Funniest Male Performer in Film, Get Shorty, 1995
- Los Angeles Film Critics: Best Actor, Pulp Fiction, 1994
- London Film Critics Circle: Best Actor, Pulp Fiction, 1994
- NATO: Star of the Year, 1983
- Golden Globe: World Film Favorite-Male, 1978
- National Board of Review: Best Actor, Saturday Night Fever, 1977