What the Hell Happened to John Travolta?

john travolta

John Travolta is the King of the Comeback.  Where most careers involve a rise and a fall, Travolta’s career is a roller coaster or peaks and valleys.  In the 70’s, he was a pop culture icon, in the 80’s he was a has-been and in the 90’s, he reinvented himself as an Oscar-nominated tough guy.  Today, you’re more likely to see him on tabloid covers than headlining a movie.  What the hell happened?

travolta - boy in the plastic bubble

Travolta started off on the stage in New York in the touring production of Grease.  Eventually, he moved to California where he started making TV appearances like The Boy in The Plastic Bubble.

travolta - welcome back kotter

We’ve got a lot to cover here, so we’re just going to skip to 1975 when Travolta was cast in Welcome Back Kotter.  Kotter was a sitcom developed around stand-up comedian, Gabe Kaplan.  Kaplan played a teacher at an inner-city school and Travolta played one of his delinquent students known as the “Sweathogs”.

Kotter was a big hit during its first couple of seasons.  This lead to lots of merchandising opportunities including a board game based around Travolta’s catch phrase, “Up your nose with a rubber hose.”

Interestingly enough (for me anyway), the actor standing-in for Travolta in that commercial was a young Steve Guttenberg.

travolta - carrie

While still appearing on Welcome Back Kotter, Travolta made the leap to film with Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Carrie.

By now, there have been umpteen adaptations of King’s novels.  Some have been adapted more than once.  A remake of Carrie is currently underway.  But De Palma’s Carrie was the first and it set the bar too high for most of the adaptations that would follow.

Travolta’s role was relatively small.  He played the boyfriend of Carrie’s primary tormentor, Chris, who was played by Nancy Allen.  But Travolta was involved in some of the movie’s more memorable scenes.  He was the one who slaughtered the pig for the bloody climax.  And when a blood-soaked Carrie left the flame-engulfed prom, Travolta’s character tried to run her over.

travolta - saturday night fever

The following year, Travolta entered pop culture history with Saturday Night Fever.  The image of Travolta in the white leisure suit dancing to the Bee Gees is bigger than any movie.  It has come to symbolize an entire decade.

But Saturday Night Fever is nothing like its image.  The soundtrack may make you want to dance, but the movie is actually a depressing melodrama about a guy who feels trapped in a meaningless existence he can only escape on the dance floor.

The movie was based on an article in New York magazine about the budding disco culture, Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.  Ironically, the writer of the article later admitted that he had made it all up.  As an Englishman, he was baffled by the American dance craze.  So he based his story on a “Mod” friend instead.

Saturday Night Fever got mostly positive reviews.  It was nominated for several awards including Best Actor for Travolta.  Film critic, Gene Siskel claimed Fever as a personal favorite.  He even went so far as to buy Travolta’s leisure suit at an auction.

saturday night fever soundtrack

Fever wasn’t just a hit.  It was a smash that dominated the pop culture landscape.  It ushered in the Disco Era.  The soundtrack was the best-selling soundtrack album of all times.  Eventually, the popularity of disco eclipsed the movie.  So when the disco backlash started, Saturday Night Fever was marginalized along with it.

Next: Grease and Urban Cowboy

Posted on September 2, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 210 Comments.

  1. it hasnt been that long since he made a good movie 2012 silver linings his best movie in a while hes good iam not sure if he offered raging bull type films in his latter his career i think he at the point where he has accomplished alot and whether pick films he enjoys rather ones that will help his career sure hes made stinkers bullwinkle but he is still top notch in them hes still made hard hitting pieces likes everybodys fine and being flynn because from 70s to 2000s hes had at least a few good movies every decade because of his iconic status he can make 10 flops still be considered great years from now people will remember him for taxi driver not showtime his career is fine. Fans except every movie actor makes to oscar winning master pieces well iam sure actor s want loosen up and have fun daniel day lewis although good actor sometimes he can be hammy hes done comedy nine falls flat in it . he should do more fun popcorn films it would show his range. example cruise is considered one of greatest actors of all time yet hes not afraid to do popcorn films and hes held same regard as lewis. Although as good as lewis is cruise tops him


  2. meet the parents triloghy was funny silver linnings was good


  3. not many great parts wirtten for deniros age but hes like hanks ,ford and pacino no matter how many flops they have they got there iconic status so they will still consider legends its not like deniro will ever be on this actors slow down at certain age hes 70 at his age he needs to choose roles they likes he can have fun with not ones that help his career


  4. John Travolta defends Battlefield Earth:

    John Travolta admits he has no regrets over Battlefield Earth, and would do it all again…


  5. hanks feels that over terminal costner over postman matt damon bagger vance just because audience didnt like dosent they dont people have different taste in movies we dont know those actors experience in film set maybe travolta expereince making it was good


  6. Look Who’s Still Talking – The Strange Hollywood History Of John Travolta:

    John Travolta is as fascinating and complex a member of the Hollywood fraternity as you could wish for. Iconic performer, experienced pilot, vocal Scientologist and mangler of pronunciation of Idina Menzel.

    He has managed to appear in not just some of the best known, but also some of the best-full-stop films of the past forty years – Saturday Night Fever, Carrie, Grease, Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, Face/Off, The Thin Red Line, Hairspray and the upcoming Gummy Bear The Movie – whatever one might think of the consistency of his output (and there have been some horrendous misfires), it is hard to imagine too many actors playing Danny Zuko, Vincent Vega, Castor Troy, Sean Archer, Chili Palmer and Edna Turnblad with equal conviction.

    After the temporary resuscitation of Look Who’s Talking turned out to be a false dawn, Tarantino did Travolta a favour of inestimable proportions by casting him in Pulp Fiction, »

    • Dave Roper


  7. he turned down as good as it gets i could actually see him in it that would done wonder for his career but he made face off instead that year which made a lot of money so no lost


  8. Heard Travolta is set to star in FX’s American Crime Story,playing Robert Shapiro alongside
    Gooding’s OJ Simpson………..



  9. I gotta say, I think Lucky Numbers may be a bit of an underrated comedy. I just finished watching it tonight and even after having seen it a few times over the years I still get some good laughs out of it. Travolta is terrific as the smug idiot local weatherman, but one of the film’s strengths is its fine supporting cast, all in top form: Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed O’Neill, Bill Pullman, Michael Rapaport, and Michael Moore, all terrific here. Travolta, playing the local small town tv weatherman that is used to the finer things in life like his reserved parking spot and table at the finest bistro in town (the local Denny’s) decides to rig the local lottery when he gets into serious financial trouble. Kudrow’s vapid tv lotto-ball girl readily joins in, giddy at the prospect of being rich.

    It’s a shame that Lucky Numbers released just a couple months after Battlefield Earth, the film couldn’t shake the awful stink that Travolta had on him so soon after that colossal bomb (his career never did really recover fully from that bomb), Lucky Numbers is actually pretty funny and I think the film deserved to do better than it did.


  10. a dark cohen brother comedy i can see him in it


  11. WHITE MAN’S BURDEN (1995):

    The story takes place in alternative America where the blacks are members of social elite, and whites are inhabitants of inner city ghettos. Louis Pinnock is a white worker in a chocolate factory, loving husband and father of two children. While delivering a package for black CEO Thaddeus Thomas, he is mistaken for a voyeur and, as a result, loses his job, gets beaten by black cops and his family gets evicted from their home. Desperate Pinnock takes a gun and kidnaps Thomas, demanding justice.

    Other then supposed role reversal of races in the world there is no story. I understand this was supposed to be a small slice of life on race relations, but there is no history given as to why or how the races have switched places and class.

    Quite honestly the film could have been made without the role reversal and just been about a resentful, White man who is wrongly fired and takes out his anger on his Black boss and complains that the black world is infiltrating his world.

    That could have been an interesting dynamic, but probably afraid the film would be deemed racist. Though could have opened up a discussion of race. Which this film seems to seek. Instead it goes with this rear reversal. Which feels more like a stunt and takes away from the film. So much so that the film feels more racist the way it is.

    Some scenes would plaintive same way. Like when the black son brings home his white girlfriend and his parents try to stay polite despite their disappointment. Or when Travolta’s son wants a black doll over a white one. According to this picture that only works with role reversal?

    It is also disturbing that John Travolta’s performance as a lower income member of society. He speaks with a dialect that is stereotypically associated for African American characters. Almost like a 1950’s melodrama in other films. So it comes off as a bad impression of what he thinks is Ebonics. Her also make his character seem a bit slow. I don’t believe it was malicious, but it is disturbing and sad. Travolta could have played the role just as normal and let the situations do all the talking.

    John Travolta took the role at Quentin Tarantino’s urging.

    Quentin Tarantino also urged Kelly Lynch to do the film. Tarantino’s company, A Band Apart, produced it.

    These films on race relations are fascinating to me because they always seem to leave out other races other then black and white. You wonder where are the Asians, Hispanics and middle easterners? Where do they stand? Especially considering the film is written and directed by an Asian-American.

    This was one of John Travolta’s first films after his comeback from PULP FICTION. I can see he probably thought it was challenging, cutting edge plus returning a favor to the producer Lawrence Bender who also produced PULP FICTION. It did him no favors.

    If the film explored this world more vividly and set-up more situations maybe it could at least make a point. As It stands now it is role reversal. Just to do a pulp-ish story. It feels like an afterthought used as a gimmick to get an audience. A short story idea stretched on for too long.

    This film bombed and it is obvious why. It seems more the type of film John Travolta would take before his comeback when his resume at the time was more straight to home video films. He is a talented actor who has made many bad to questionable film choices who is constantly saved by comebacks.

    This was just a grand disappointment on so many levels.

    It’s a shame Harry Belafonte’s return to the big screen was a DVD. Considering this was written and directed by the screenwriter of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. I would have expected something more challenging, truthful and controversial. Not to mention better

    Grade: F


  12. John Travolta: 5 Awesome Performances And 5 That Sucked:

    From the man who brought you both Pulp Fiction and Battlefield Earth…


  13. BE COOL (2005):

    Directed By: F. Gary Grey
    Written By: Peter Steinfeld
    Based on the novel by: Elmore Leonard
    Cinematography By: Jeffrey L. Kimball
    Editor: Sheldon Kahn

    Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Kietel, Christina Milian, Kimberly J. Brown, James Woods, Cedric The Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Vince Vaughn, Steven Tyler, Danny DeVito, Robert Pastorelli, Dwayne Johnson, Arielle Kebbel, Scott Adsit, Gregory Alan Williams, Paul Adelstein, Debi Mazar

    Streetwise mobster-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer is back, but this time Chili has abandoned the fickle movie industry and veered into the music business, tangling with Russian mobsters and gangsta rappers and taking a talented, feisty young singer named Linda Moon under his wing. From the recording studio to an Aerosmith concert to the MTV Music Awards, he manipulates events to watch them play out the Chili way, using his signature blend of wiseguy skills and negotiation tactics. It’s a dangerous business, and everyone’s looking for their next big hit.

    I don’t know if the reason I don’t like this film is because it is bad alone or because it is a bad sequel compared to GET SHORTY. The film tries to satirize the music business as much as it did the movie business with GET SHORTY. only this film feel majorly defanged and seems more interested in getting an all star cast then quality and story.

    Barry Sonnenfeld originally intended to return as director to this follow-up to his Get Shorty but production delays and scheduling issues precluded that. Brett Ratner was originally set to direct the project, but pulled out.

    Now normally I could blame the problems with this film on the incompetence of some screenwriter trying to make a plot similar to the first film, with just as many colorful and quirky characters while trying to be a sequel. The sad part is I believe they follow the novel of Which this film is based pretty closely.

    It doesn’t stop the film from seeming more like a circus rather than a film in which the whole order of the day seems more like stunt casting. The first film is guilty of it also but at least the characters were fun and somewhat believable not just a joke in of themselves where it is In this film. Look at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson play flamboyant and gay. Yes that’s right the major symbol of masculinity. Watch Vince Vaughn do his white guy trying to be black. Watch Harvey Keitel play a hip gangster turned record exec. Who seems like a menacing charmless hippie pimp monster, like an update I his Character Sport from the film TAXI DRIVER only without any emotions.

    How such a great cast got pulled into this? I don’t know because it wasn’t the script. If only they all could have come together for a good project.

    In the beginning of the film, Chili mentions how a film needs to only use the “F” word more than once in order to get an R rating. He then uses the “F” word – the only use of it in the film – and thus, it gets a PG-13 rating.

    Jennifer Connelly, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts and Halle Berry were considered for the role of Edie Athens.

    None of this is at all Interesting and casting Uma Thurman who doesn’t have much to do here. She looks lost as there isn’t really a character to play. She seems to be more of a plot point. Reeks more of a gimmick of reuniting her with John Travolta from PULP FICTION and have them even have a gratuitous dance scene. John Travolta suggested Uma Thurman for the role of Edie, wanting to re-create their chemistry from Pulp Fiction all over again.

    Vince Vaughn’s role seems to be a one man minstrel show act; that is just missing the blackface. It’s good for a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit, but stretched out it becomes annoying very fast.

    Joe Pesci was part of the cast before filming began. But, for reasons unknown, he left the project shortly before production started.

    Dwayne Johnson in this film feels more of a stroke of Stunt casting that luckily works out more then anything else.

    As always the lead character played by John Travolta is always a step ahead of all the other characters. So that you know he will prevail by the end. Now in most films you know this but they at least build up some suspense so that you can be interested in how they will get out of the situation. Here they don’t even try it seems more like his character reacting to the ridiculous characters around him. In GET SHORTY he created a comedic character with heart, soul and charisma. Here his character is as vapid, fake and plastic as the people he is dealing with.

    It also doesn’t help that the ingénue played by Christina Milian, that the film hangs onto as her talent is so immaculate, comes up short. She is an o.k. singer nothing to write home about. Which hurts as so much is said about how golden her singing is and when you finally hear it, it’s a letdown, also she is supposed I be so innocent though the way the role is played it seems like she isn’t as naive or innocent as she let’s on and would have been a great conniving character to be revealed in the third act. No they keep her whole act going throughout the film. Her character isn’t as deep and looking for others to so he work for her. That she was too lazy to do herself, but she is hot.

    Now I saw this film when it was in theaters as I was a big fan of GET SHORTY. That film is actually one of the films I believe I have seen the most in theater even before I worked in one. I believe I Saw it 5 – 6 times. So when the sequel was announced I was really looking forward to it, even when I saw the trailer which was weak. I didn’t read the warning signs and still thought it could be worthwhile. I was appalled by what I watched as the audience around me hooted and hollered at the watered down humor and stereotypical jokes. What was supposed to pass for satire. I was not amused and felt embarrassed quite honestly for some of the actors. They heavily feature Steven Tyler playing himself and making jokes about how he never appears in films as it is tacky. Like that is a brilliant joke only of ironic which it is not here.

    It just feels like a film that is coasting more on it’s laurels or more the franchises instead of actually putting in some work and attempting to be a good film. It follows the rules of a sequel by being bigger and more of the same. It’s just majorly disappointing all around.

    Even though the film clearly deviates from the novel, there were some moments in the film which serves as a nod to the source novel: 1) The burn-out photo that Tiffany has (later picked up by Chili) is a nod to the fact that in the novel, the Russians operate a one-hour photo shop instead of the pawn shop. 2) The confrontation between DubMDs and the Russians in Nick’s office is a nod to the intended shoot-out between the two. In the novel, neither parties appear in the second half. 3) When Raji tries to setup Sin LaSalle against Nick, Raji deliberately spell Carr’s last name as CAR. In the novel, Nick’s full last name is Carcaterra.

    The only thing I found kind of funny the whole film was Cedric the Entertainer’s rap manager being Harvard educated and trying to teach his rappers etiquette. Though that bit wore out it’s welcome after it started It becomes over the top and overplayed. Though he seemed to be the only Real interesting character. Though most of his scenes are with Andre Benjamin whose role could have been played by anyone.

    This whole film is a waste, like a studio wrote off to justify expenses and they throw something together and release it to be proof of the spent money. Why not since the first one was successful. It’s a shame it had most of the elements to be a good film, or at least entertaining as the first film. Maybe the great quality of the first film set us up, since it was so good that this one caught is off guard as it offers diminished returns.

    The film just feels like you know what’s going to happen as soon as it is introduced and then feels stale and old.

    Grade: F


  14. All The Famous Tom Hanks Roles John Travolta Passed On And Other Movies He Was Nearly In:


  15. he said he was jealous of hanks career he turned down splash gump apollo 13 green mile gump and apoll 13 were not a loss turing down cause get shorty pulp ficton hits so no big loss. however he made gerneals daughter instead of green mile it did ok not great and he made crap in 1984 instead of splash


  16. 10 Incredible Against-All-Odds Hollywood Comebacks:

    John Travolta

    Travolta shot to fame in the 1970s with two iconic roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease, as well as a supporting role in Carrie.

    The Downfall: After inspiring a nationwide country music craze with Urban Cowboy, Travolta starred in a series of flops. The Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive was compared unfavourably to the original. Two Of A Kind, which reunited him with Grease co-star Olivia Newton John, was slated by the press and made next-to-nothing at the box-office.

    Barring an underrated performances in the Brian De Palma thriller Blow Out, the ’80s were a bit of a washout for Travolta. He also famously turned down lead roles in American Gigolo and An Officer And A Gentleman, both of which went to Richard Gere (and were huge hits).

    What Brought Him Back: Quentin Tarantino, basically. Although Travolta found success in the Look Who’s Talking series, his resurgence as an actor really began with Pulp Fiction. His performance as Vincent Vega was heralded as an amazing return to form and he received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his effect.

    Tarantino, a huge fan of Travolta’s performance in Blow Out, fought to keep Travolta in the film against the studio’s wishes. The move paid off. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Vega, isn’t it?

    Did It Last?: After Pulp Fiction Travolta found himself back on the A-list and flooded with offers. He followed it up with Get Shorty, Broken Arrow and Face/Off. Unfortunately, it was all ruined with Battlefield Earth.


  17. How John Travolta Hijacked the Oscars:

    After last year’s Adele Dazeem flub, the actor screws up—and seizes the spotlight—again at the 2015 Oscars with his Idina Menzel chin grab, Scarlett Johansson smooch, and other gaffes.

    John Travolta had one job to do at the Oscars—the very same job he royally screwed up during last year’s trophy show.

    Redemption for the 2014 Adele Dazeem brain fart was within his grasp. It would take just one brief moment of cutesy patter to repay Frozen star Idina Menzel for the flub heard “round the world,” set up by the un-bombable Neil Patrick Harris.

    But Travolta wasn’t going out like that.

    His assault on the Academy Awards began hours earlier.

    The 61-year-old actor arrived to present at the 87th Academy Awards and saw his old Love Song for Bobby Long co-star Scarlett Johansson on the pre-Oscars red carpet. He wasn’t the only one; everyone spotted ScarJo as she and her plunging neckline posed for photos rocking a pompadour undercut, all but poured into a stunning forest-green Versace gown.

    Travolta, who’s on the early promo trail for his April opener The Forger, moseyed on over. He approached the unwitting Johansson from behind and planted an unsolicited smooch on her cheek, sliding a hand upon her tiny, unprepared waist.

    Johansson, consummate red-carpet pro that she is, never flinched. She barely registered the intrusion, although paparazzi lenses would capture a brief grimace in her smile in those few unforeseen seconds.

    Travolta almost made it through the telecast being upstaged by NPH’s downward-hosting spiral. Then Menzel took to the stage to introduce their bit with a line of sweet, sterile revenge for Adele Dazeem that, like much of the Oscars show, landed with a gentle thud: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage my very dear friend, Galom Gazingo.”

    In swept Travolta from the blind spot, with an embrace that lingered a beat too long, a foot too close. He grabbed her chin and spoke intimately. “I deserved that, but you, my darling, my beautiful, my wickedly talented Idina Menzel….” He pawed at her cheek, then resumed his grasp on that chin. “Let her goooo!” Twitterers sing-screamed. Menzel squirmed politely. Memes were crafted. Gifs were made.
    Video screenshot

    NPH referenced the awkward face-fondling in his closing “what’s in the box” Oscar predictions gag. Not that anyone could have guessed how thoroughly Travolta would have dominated the Oscars: He even managed to go viral when cameras caught him stealth-gazing at unsuspecting Imitation Game nominee Benedict Cumberbatch from the next row back.

    But as Travolta explained after the night finally brought a merciful end to 2015’s Awkward Oscars, the Adele Dazeem curse that sparked his campaign as Oscar’s #1 Weirdo was really the fault of someone else altogether.

    Gliding breathlessly into Jimmy Kimmel’s studio after the Oscars, a heavily made-up Travolta teased plans to start late-night dance circles at Madonna’s party and addressed “The Incident.”

    “Do you guys think that Jimmy and I look alike?” Travolta asked Kimmel’s audience, leaning in close and grabbing the host’s chin. He acknowledged this year’s Menzel manhandling and its instant Internet critics. “[It’s] what I did with Idina—apparently I played with her chin too much.”

    He blamed last year’s infamous flub on backstage Oscars chaos and the irresistible amazingness of one Goldie Hawn.

    “It was getting close to the time I was supposed to go on—suddenly a page grabbed me and said, ‘You’re on in a minute.’

    Unfortunately for him, Goldie Hawn had sashayed into his eye line “and I was star-struck, hugging and loving her up, forgetting I had to go and do this bit.”

    Pulled onstage, Travolta was horrified to find the Oscars producers had set the Teleprompter to phonetic pronunciation without warning. He saw the unfamiliar words flash on screen: “In my mind I thought, what is that name? I don’t know this name!”

    He said it anyway, and the rest is history.


    • How did John Travolta get so creepy? Yet another weird Oscars moment.


      It started as a moment of glory for John Travolta. Then things got weird.

      But that often seems to be the case, doesn’t it? We all remember last year when Travolta got up on the Oscars stage in front of the world and proudly introduced Idina Menzel as the “wickedly talented Adele Dazeem.”

      You can’t plan for a meme like that. Producers tried to strike gold again on Sunday night as they invited Travolta and Menzel to reunite to present best original song. Menzel appeared first. “Please welcome to the stage my very dear friend, Glom Gazingo,” she announced. Wild applause as an appropriately bashful Travolta walked out and wrapped Menzel in a big hug.

      “I deserve that,” Travolta said, arm still tightly around her waist. Then he grabbed her chin with his hand and pulled her face close, cooing. “But you, you, my darling, my beautiful, my wickedly talented Idina Menzel,” he cooed, stroking her chin.

      “You got it, yayyy,” Menzel trailed off uncomfortably as Travolta’s hand still lingered on the chin.

      Naturally, Twitter blew up as viewers were suddenly really weirded out. And just like that, Travolta became the joke of the Oscars. Also not helping? His touchy-feely picture with an unamused Scarlett Johansson (his former “Love Song for Bobby Long” co-star) on the red carpet.

      Really, who thought this was a good idea? (Mike Nelson/European Pressphoto Agency)

      This screenshot didn’t help, either:

      So John Travolta — what’s going on? How did you become the “creepy uncle” of the award show circuit?

      Part of the reason may be his utter cluelessness that what he’s doing is bizarre. Take his explanation of the face-touching incident after the ceremony on Jimmy Kimmel’s Oscar post-mortem.

      “Apparently, I played with her chin too much,” Travolta joked with Jimmy Kimmel of the incident, in apparent disbelief that there could be too much chin-playing.

      In the same appearance, he tried to explain how the “Adele Dazeem” flub happened in the first place — he was distracted by the “sexy, beautiful” Goldie Hawn.

      “As I get backstage I run into Goldie Hawn,” Travolta said, explaining his flustered behavior. “Now Goldie Hawn is charismatic, sexy, beautiful — got the amazing thing — and I was starstruck. I’m starstruck, hugging and loving her up, and forgetting I have to go and do this bit.”

      Note: When everyone already thinks you’re too handsy, probably don’t talk about “hugging and loving her up.” But again, Travolta doesn’t seem to get it, which makes him seem even more out of touch. He also took credit for Menzel’s dynamite 2014.

      “She’s had one of the best years of her life, and she gives me credit,” he said. That was probably meant as a joke on Menzel’s part . . . unless she really thinks he’s responsible for “Frozen.”

      That leads to the other problem. Travolta, who shot to fame in 1970s with “Welcome Back Kotter” and “Saturday Night Fever” and continued with 90s hits like “Pulp Fiction,” has been out of the spotlight for a while. His last big movie was “Hairspray” in 2007. Though faded A-listers do elicit excitement and nostalgia, Travolta hasn’t been gone quite long enough to really make us miss him. He hasn’t earned his “wacky celebrity” stripes yet, though his goofy attitude suggests that he thinks he has.

      Either way, his misguided attempts to be kooky aren’t exactly working out — and by next year, he should really have some self-awareness of how his goofiness comes across on-screen. Because even if Johansson really was excited to see him, as other pictures suggest:


  18. A 1996 double feature looks at the year of John Travolta:

    As a culture, we can’t quit John Travolta. It doesn’t matter how many terrible films he makes, or how many times he humiliates himself in public: We can’t seem to shake our fascination with him and his ridiculous choices, even if his films now come and go with little notice. Recent Travolta vehicles like From Paris With Love (one of those Eurotrash thrillers Liam Neeson didn’t star in, but might as well have) and Killing Season have made far less of an impression on audiences than the cavalcade of humiliations that constitute Travolta’s personal and professional life. He keeps finding new reasons for people to make fun of him: There’s his hair, which now appears to have come from inside a can of jet-black spraypaint. And there’s a 2012 Christmas album he recorded with Olivia Newton-John that spawned a music video as embarrassing in its own right as Battlefield Earth.

    But before last year, no one was mocking him for his ability to say names. That changed when, in the most magical Oscar fuck-up since the streaker onstage in 1974, Travolta inexplicably pronounced “Idina Menzel” as “Adele Dazeem.” Society rejoiced. While bordering on the fourth decade of its passionate love affair with Travolta—a love affair now largely rooted in ironic appreciation—it had found a new reason to find him ridiculous. The jokes, parodies, and homages were abundant. Consequently, Travolta was invited back to the Oscars this year to redeem himself. And Travolta being Travolta, he kept finding new ways to embarrass himself. This time, his pronunciation was just fine, but he couldn’t stop grabbing women (most notably Menzel and his former Love Song For Bobby Long co-star Scarlett Johansson) and grinning madly.

    These days, Travolta’s personal and professional career, not to mention his religious and sexual lives, emit an enduring trainwreck fascination. But in the aftermath of his career-resurrecting performance in 1994’s Pulp Fiction, and the success of 1995’s Get Shorty, Travolta was so popular, he starred in no fewer than three of the 20 top-grossing films of 1996: Michael, Phenomenon, and Broken Arrow. Yes, there was a time when Travolta’s name in the credits actually encouraged audiences to see a film, when they assumed any film with him in a starring role must be worth seeing. It’s a testament to how popular he was in the mid-1990s that audiences paid good money to see, in Phenomenon and Michael, variations on the same sub-mediocre movie.

    In both, Travolta plays a figure blessed with supernatural gifts. In Michael, he’s the titular angel who invades the lives of a trio of tabloid snoops and teaches them inevitable life lessons. In the Flowers For Algernon rip-off Phenomenon, he plays a humble mechanic who sees a flash in the sky one night and becomes the world’s smartest man. In both films, the outward appearance of Travolta’s characters belies their inner lives and ultimate importance. In Michael, he plays a beer-bellied, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing kook who is actually an honest-to-God angel straight out of heaven, complete with a pair of real wings. In Phenomenon, Travolta looks like a grease monkey who don’t have much book-learning or stuff-knowing until he becomes a super-genius with crazy telekinetic powers.

    Michael is most compelling as an allegory about fame. Michael is the quintessential celebrity. He has an impish twinkle in his eyes and a spring in his step. He’s irresistible to women. He’s a giant baby who eats scoops of sugar and devotes his time to mindless distractions like visiting many of the world’s most banal tourist traps. But he’s separated from the rest of humanity by an inner light, a special magnetism, and in this case at least, an actual pair of wings. Like a movie star, all Michael has to do is flash his million-dollar smile to get out of whatever trouble he finds himself in.

    Directed and co-written by Nora Ephron, Michael lopes into action when disgraced former Chicago Tribune journalist Frank Quinlan (William Hurt) and his photographer sidekick Huey (Robert Pastorelli), who work for a National Enquirer-like tabloid, get a letter from Pansy (Jean Stapleton), a small-town woman who claims to be harboring an angel. The tabloid’s mercurial editor, Vartan Malt (a perpetually apoplectic Bob Hoskins), dispatches Frank and Huey to track down the angel, along with Dorothy Winters (Andie MacDowell), who is presented to Frank and Huey as an expert in angels, and consequently the perfect companion for an angel-hunting expedition. Early on, the film reveals that Dorothy isn’t actually an angel expert, yet the story makes viewers wait 76 minutes for the climactic reveal as to why someone would pretend to be such a thing.

    But I’m not cruel enough to pointlessly withhold banal information in an attempt to generate suspense. Huey, you see, is of value to the paper almost exclusively because he is the owner and caretaker of Sparky The Wonder Dog, the paper’s mascot, and apparently one of the most famous dogs in the world. While Vartan does not think much of Huey, he harbors a love for the dog that borders on creepy. So he bets Frank and Huey that if they don’t come back with conclusive proof that angels are real, he gets to keep the dog. Dorothy isn’t actually an angel expert, but she is a dog expert who has been promised Huey’s job once the hapless trio returns from their trip with no real proof that angels are real beings, who hang out in the Midwest consuming mass quantities of sugar.

    But Dorothy is so much more and less than a dog trainer nefariously pretending to be an angel expert for furtive reasons. She’s also a comically hapless country singer-songwriter with three ex-husbands she references constantly, both in her country songs and outside them. Dorothy isn’t a human being so much as a series of quirks Ephron finds adorable, but she’s hardly alone in that respect. Travolta is also essentially playing a series of quirks. He smells like cookies. He’s a lust object for the entire female population. (Why not men as well? The film doesn’t say.) As previously mentioned, he’s a tourist-trap-loving sugar junkie. Like Mel Brooks’ 2,000 Year Old Man, Michael played a big role at many crucial junctures of human history.

    And because this is a John Travolta vehicle, Michael loves to sing and dance. Travolta plays him as perpetually on the verge of breaking into an elaborate dance routine. In the film’s most shameless and effective sequence, he acts as an angelic pied piper at a road stop when he hypnotizes the entire female contingent into dancing with him to “Chain Of Fools.” The film offers only the flimsiest narrative pretext for the boogieing, but John Travolta dancing is anywhere between two to four minutes of quality entertainment, regardless of the context.

    Where MacDowell doesn’t have the magnetism to make her simultaneously flimsily conceived and overwritten character seem like anything but a screenwriter’s fumbling contrivance, Travolta has the movie-star magnetism to sell Michael as a figure who is irresistible not despite his decadent eccentricities, but because of them. There’s a lightness to his performance the rest of the film would have been wise to emulate, a sense of weightlessness befitting a character with wings. Travolta is a lot of fun in Michael; he’s also the only reason this ramshackle trifle of a road comedy exists, even though there’s something appealingly old-fashioned about the film’s premise. It’d be a lot easier to embrace as half of a double bill in 1941, with Cary Grant as the angel, Dana Andrews as the cynical newsman, and Barbara Stanwyck as the wacky dog trainer.

    Without Travolta, there is no movie. With him, Michael is such a slight wisp of a movie that it barely exists. Yet the public had such a strong emotional attachment to Travolta that it flocked to see the film anyway, even though there’d already been a Travolta crowd-pleaser with a suspiciously similar premise released earlier that year.

    Where Michael benefits from the lightness of Travolta’s twinkling, charming star turn, Phenomenon is lumbering and endless, a dumb person’s fantasy of what super-intelligence might be like. A late-period Bonnie Raitt song of a movie directed by Jon Turteltaub, Phenomenon casts Travolta as George Malley, a mechanic whose greatest joys in life are palling around with Diana Ross-obsessed best friend Nate Pope (Forest Whitaker) and grabbing a brewski down at the local bar.

    Then one day, George sees a burst of light in the night sky, and suddenly discovers that his pokey old average brain has switched into overdrive, and that he can read books and learn languages in the time it takes others to boil an egg. Unlike that asshole Michael, however, George uses his powers to try to help his community. As a mechanic, George fixed cars. As the world’s greatest super-genius, he sets about fixing the world’s agricultural problems.

    But it isn’t just his brain that has made an incredible leap from zero to hero: He finds that by collaborating with the energy in seemingly inanimate objects, he can also control them with willpower. He’s like a cross between Uri Geller, Albert Einstein, the world’s most advanced Scientologist, and Jesus. Finally, there’s someone ready, willing, and able to do something about all the problems plaguing mankind. But George’s powers do not go unnoticed.

    Like a human version of the protagonist of Mac & Me, only less prone to elaborate production numbers at fast-food restaurants and being brought back to life by Coca-Cola, George attracts unwanted attention from the FBI and busybody scientists who’d love to either slice up his super-brain to see what makes it tick, or use it to make Russia spontaneously explode. The FBI nabs George and tries to understand his staggering transformation, but it’s a testament to the film’s poor plotting that after scooping him up and interrogating him, the FBI just lets George go (albeit with the caveat that they will be watching him like a hawk) so that the film can devote itself more fully to its primary focus: George’s romance with Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick), a single mother scarred by her experiences with men, and gun-shy about new relationships.

    All Michael has to do is be in the same zip code as a women to attract her, but George could literally levitate Lace’s house a thousand feet up in the air, then read her a love poem in every language, and she’d still equivocate about dating him. There are infinite directions the filmmakers could have taken the premise of a simple man who becomes superhuman, and Phenomenon decides to go the route of using this man to teach a bland middle-aged divorcée to open her heart and learn to love again, despite having been hurt in the past.

    Just as Michael is of interest primarily as an allegory for the perennial “Get Out Of Jail Free” card given to celebrities at Travolta’s level, Phenomenon is most compelling as a metaphorical take on Scientology. Because if you were to believe the honeyed promises of L. Ron Hubbard and the central tenets of Scientology, then reaching the highest apexes of the religion gives the devout not just the sense of peace or perspective associated with conventional religious faith, but something approximating genuine superpowers. When George is telling the scientific establishment that he thinks he was blessed with incredible powers to serve as an inspiration for man’s potential, it’s hard not to think of Hubbard and his ideas about the bottomless nature of human potential, and Scientology’s unique ability to realize that potential.

    Travolta and Whitaker reunited just four years later for another science-fiction film revolving around a simple man who becomes a super-genius: Battlefield Earth, a notable debacle that conclusively ended Travolta’s remarkable comeback, though he did go on to have occasional hits, some merited (Hairspray), some less so (Wild Hogs). It was the success of sappy little nothings like Michael and Phenomenon that gave Travolta the leverage over the puny man-animals who run film studios and let him finally make Battlefield Earth. And it seems strangely appropriate that the success of Phenomenon and Michael helped give Travolta the opportunity to realize his dreams—and in the process, to humiliate himself more spectacularly than ever before.


  19. 7 Former Mega Stars Who Lost Their Box Office Appeal:

    John Travolta

    John Travolta was a pretty big deal in the ‘70s; however, during the ‘80s, his career was in decline. In the ‘90s, he was able to make a comeback thanks to his role in the hit movie “Pulp Fiction.” He was nominated for an Academy Award and was inundated with movie offers. He found himself on Hollywood’s A-list as a result, but it didn’t last. By the year 2000, he was no longer considered a box office draw. There were no more Oscar nominations. Instead, he won a Razzie Award for his lackluster performance in the critically reviled flick, “Battlefield Earth.”

    For years now, Travolta has been anything but bankable. He doesn’t do much film work and the sordid details from her personal life are now news. The last successful film he headlined was “Hairspray;” however, there were countless other stars in the film, which may be why it was such a success. His last starring was “Old Dogs.” It was panned by the critics and earned him another Razzie nomination.


  20. How “Going Clear” Outs John Travolta:

    In the new documentary about Scientology, based on the book, Travolta is used as an example of how the church allegedly uses its members’ secrets against them.


  21. Travolta in “Battlefield Earth” mentioned in WatchMojo’s Another Top 10 Career Ruining Movies


  22. “Going Clear” filmmakers say Church of Scientology thinks Tom Cruise is “useless”; uses John Travolta’s plane:

    Though most of the public automatically associates Scientology with its big-name supporters like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, the filmmakers of the documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief say that some in the church do otherwise.

    “Sea Org [a wing of the church] members in particular think of celebrities as useless — they don’t have a lot of respect for them,” said journalist Tony Ortega, who is interviewed in the doc, at a press luncheon on Wednesday at HBO’s New York headquarters. “In fact, when Cruise got that medal and [church leader David] Miscavige stood up and called him ‘the best Scientologist I know,’ I’ve talked to several former Sea Org members that were in that audience that night who said it was like a slap in the face. Because these people work 17 hours a day, they completely give up any relationship with outside family — they are hard-core. And they think of the celebrities as ornaments. They don’t take them very seriously. So when Miscavige started taking celebrities more seriously, that was actually controversial inside the church.”

    Director Alex Gibney clarified the film’s intention of zooming in on the organization’s Hollywood supporters, who have made the public pay more attention to Scientology altogether. “One of the reasons we’re trying to turn the spotlight on them is not to victimize them, but to really say, ‘You have a responsibility. You’re given an enormous amount of wealth as a movie star, and with that comes a certain amount of responsibility, particularly when people are joining an organization because of you. And I think if the popular opinion begins to swing in that way, I think you could see a change with them.”

    Gibney told reporters that, like his other docs We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, he was again interested in the idea of “noble cause corruption,” coupled with Going Clear author Lawrence Wright’s empathetic take on the topic. “When people are convinced of the nobility of a belief system, they can do the most appalling things,” he said. “But the people [interviewed] weren’t victims, they found a way to speak out and fight back.”

    One of Gibney’s struggles in making the film about the religious organization created by L. Ron Hubbard was that “when we went to license footage from all the major networks, they all declined to license to us for legal reasons. Now, we put it in anyway via fair use, but I found that really interesting. That means that they felt, as opposed to images about Abu Ghraib or other inflammatory material, this somehow was too perilous to touch. That’s because the church beats its breast and goes, ‘If you show that material, we’re gonna sue.’ ” Still, several notable media interviews were left on the cutting-room floor to include more footage of Miscavige speaking directly to the congregation.

    The doc also highlights how, of the three levels of church membership — Public, Staff and Sea Organization — the latter is the most difficult to leave. “No child should be allowed to sign away his life like that, throw away his education and be impoverished by his service, and then, at some point later in life, … decide, ‘I made a mistake,'” noted Wright. “By that time, you have no job résumé, no education, you’re poor, if you go through the regular channels and say, ‘I want to leave,’ they’ll give you a freeloader tab for all the services they provided you while you were working for fifty dollars a week, year after year, and it mounts up into hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s why you see so many people escaping. … There are a lot of people whose lives have just been shattered, and they live in the shadows.

    “There were other people who escaped and were dragged back,” he added. “In one case, Marty [Rathbun] went to fetch this one woman, and they send John Travolta’s plane to pick her up and be put into this re-education camp. And one guy, they knew he was a baseball fan — they caught him in the parking lot at the Giants’ stadium and took him back. It’s not easy for people to leave that organization.”

    Former church spokesman Mike Rinder, also interviewed in the doc, told reporters that the goal is not to take down Scientology for good — many of its fundamental beliefs are appealing, he admitted, and “if it were just really all bullshit and all abuse, then people like Paul Haggis wouldn’t stick around for 35 years” — but to end its dangerous practices. “I hope it will change how much coverage there is about what really goes on in Scientology,” he explained, adding that he knows at least some current supporters will watch.

    “I think it will at least give them something to think about — they have been told, in a campaign that the church has been running since they knew this film was gonna go forward and they were unable to stop it, that everybody involved in this film is a liar,” he noted. “This campaign will prevent a fairly large percentage of the out-in-the-world Scientologists from seeing it, but it won’t prevent all of them.”

    What’s at the root of the problem? Miscavige, said Rinder. “He takes a lot of things that might otherwise be innocuous or might otherwise be, in the hands of someone else, there’d be no problem at all, and uses those as tools or weapons to abuse people with.”

    However, Ortega noted, “I think the problem Hubbard got into is, if you read Dianetics, it makes the promise that it should only take 20 hours to become clear, and once you become clear, you’ll be impervious to illness, you’ll have perfect recall, basically you’ll become superhuman. People bought this book like crazy in the summer of 1950, he realized it was a gold mine and … he ran into this problem where people would do all the steps and not become superhumans. So he’d add another level and another level. I think it kind of got away from him at a certain point, and he needed to keep people on that hamster wheel.”

    “From the beginning, you have this constant: How you keep people happy if they never attain what you promised them to begin with? How do you keep them from breaking away?” he continued. “And he was always paranoid about outside influences, so by the mid-’60s, I personally believe all of the toxic stuff that’s still harming Scientology today was in place: disconnection, fair game, ethics, security checking, security checking of children. … There are people who come out today who want to blame everything on David Miscavige and they still like L. Ron Hubbard, but Hubbard baked all this stuff in early on.”

    As for what’s next, “Public opinion will have an effect on the government doing something or not,” Ortega predicted. “Scientology is also going through an internal crisis, and it continues to, and I think this film will exacerbate that as well. I have my own personal theory: I think the IRS is biding its time till when it sees the church is weak enough, and it’s gonna step in and do something. I think there are people at the IRS that are embarrassed by what happened in the ’90s [when the IRS granted the church tax-exempt status after years of court battles].”

    The Church of Scientology sent THR a statement regarding Going Clear:

    This bigoted propaganda by Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright is built on falsehoods invented by admitted liars. All remain bitter after having been removed in disgrace and expelled more than a decade ago from the Church, after they secretly conspired to suborn perjury and destroy evidence. They cannot be trusted, and no statements they make can be believed.

    Mr. Gibney refused to answer over a dozen letters from the Church asking for an opportunity to address any allegations; he never even sent one fact to check and he shunned 25 people who traveled to New York to meet with him with relevant answers to every single allegation that is in the film. These individuals included the children, former spouses, superiors and colleagues who worked for years alongside his sources.

    Because Mr. Gibney has remained anything but objective, the Church has compiled the unvarnished truth in the form of video footage, court documents, publicly available records and testimonials by pertinent individuals and parishioners worldwide who do represent Scientology, and were intentionally ignored by Mr. Gibney and HBO. See http://www.freedommag.org/hbo/

    Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief hits limited theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on March 13, and premieres March 29 on HBO.


  23. 10 Most Polarizing Actors Of All-Time:

    John Travolta

    Make no mistake: John Travolta used to be the King of Cool. With roles in movies such as Grease and Saturday Night Fever, there was a time when everybody wanted a piece. Then his career floundered in the late ’80s, and it wasn’t until Tarantino cast him as gangster Vincent Vega in 1994’s Pulp Fiction that he had something of a career resurgence.

    Soon enough, though, through a series of ill-judged movie choices, his career was back on the backburner. And then there was all that stuff with Scientology, and the persistent rumors that he was gay. It was too much, and Travolta found himself suddenly poised as one of Hollywood’s weirdo actors – a position he still pretty much occupies today.

    That would all be enough to create a sense of the polarization, of course, but people have often questioned the merits of Travolta: The Actor. He’s very much somebody who – paired with the right script – can produce great work, and – as a result – he has his fans. But it’s hard to know where on the talent scale to place a man who has been nominated for countless Razzies, and continually makes what are arguably the worst filmic decisions in Hollywood.

    Battlefield Earth? No, John – that was an unforgivable move.


  24. The CineFiles Podcast: Episode 11:

    Eric Cohen

    May 8, 2015

    Podcasts, The CineFiles Podcast

    After having completed ten episodes of The CineFiles podcast, we enter a new phase with our eleventh and it’s a good one! We discuss films we’ve recently seen or revisited like the Mark Wahlberg remake THE GAMBLER, ABSENCE OF MALICE, Louis Malle’s LACOMBE, LUCIEN, the recent Nick Broomfield documentary TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and the Leos Carax directed LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE. We also give our two cents on the latest, breaking Industry news. And finally we devote the rest of our programming to AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. We have a lot say on this, people.

    But wait! There’s more! We also examine the upcoming Summer releases and flag the titles we are most looking forward to seeing. FURY ROAD all the way, raggedy fans! Ahem. Anyhoo, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. Pull up a chair. We’d love to read your comments after you’ve listened to The CineFiles Podcast: Episode 11.


  25. John Travolta and his assorted career comebacks:

    John Travolta’s acting career rose and fell, rose and fell, and rose and fell again. We chart his assorted career comebacks…

    It’s hard to think of too many modern movie stars who enjoyed so many bites at box office stardom. In three, arguably four, different phases of his career, John Travolta shot to the top of the box office, stayed atop of the Hollywood tree for a bit, and tumbled.

    Here, then, are the various career peaks and troughs that he’s been through…

    The Initial Breakthrough

    Few stars broke through so quickly and so memorably as John Travolta in the 1970s. Following roles in a few TV movies and TV shows, he got his first big breakthrough with a pivotal part in Brian De Palma’s Carrie, his successful adaptation of Stephen King’s book. That was in 1976.

    But the first of two massive hits would follow in 1977, and it’s fair to say that Saturday Night Fever – and the character of Tony Manero – catapulted Travolta onto the world stage. His breakthrough performance, accompanied by his now-legendary dancing, was a phenomenon, earning him an Oscar nomination and pretty much instant fame. And an even bigger role followed. 1978’s Grease, opposite Olivia Newton-John, would make him arguably the biggest movie star in the world.

    The numbers don’t lie. We’re used to films almost casually cruising past the $100m mark at the US box office today, but it was almost unheard of back in the 70s. Likewise, American films earning just as much, if not more, overseas was the exception rather than the norm.

    Saturday Night Fever coined $237m worldwide, with $94m of that business in the US. One word of note on that: it made $85.2m of that on its original release, and then Paramount re-released it with a PG cut in 1979, which added nearly $9m in America. The film’s US gross is over $300m if you take inflation into account.

    The re-release of Saturday Night Fever was no doubt inspired by the success of Grease, and over the course of its lifetime, that much loved musical has picked up just shy of $400m at the worldwide box office. $188m of that is from US cinemas. There’s been one big re-release to contribute to that total, but even so: Grease was and is a major movie musical, and a major box office performer. Travolta, who wisely skipped Grease 2, was on top of the world.

    Where did it go wrong?

    The bubble lasted for a little while for Travolta first time around, although he wouldn’t see Grease-sized numbers again for a very long time.

    That’s because Travolta’s film choices throughout the 1980s were, for the most part, not some of his best. After the huge success he enjoyed in the late 70s, he did kick off the 1980s in style, with Urban Cowboy, itself a box office hit. Brian De Palma’s Blow Out was, at worst, an interesting box office disappointment meanwhile, and Staying Alive – with Travolta back dancing – reached $64m in the US back in 1983. That’s some way off the take of Grease and Saturday Night Fever, but still impressive. His star was still bright.

    After that? He made fewer films, and his choices weren’t as strong. Two Of A Kind, reuniting him with Olivia Newton-John, saw the pair in a strange romantic comedy centred around the idea that God is fed up of human beings. Only Travolta and Newton-John can save the world. Which they do, but not many people were watching. Save for documentary That’s Dancing!, that was it until Perfect, opposite Jamie Lee Curtis, in 1985.

    Perfect may have dulled in the mind now, but it was a notable flop in the mid-80s. A drama that centred on the world of aerobics, it was hit by critics, and generally avoided by audiences. Travola’s performance in particular was singled out for special, er, ‘words’.

    Travolta would be off the big screen for four years subsequently, and would reappear in 1989’s forgettable The Experts. It’s a film most notable for being the one where Travolta met his wife, Kelly Preston. That said, he hadn’t been not working for four years. The Experts was shot in 1987, yet Paramount didn’t release it until two years later, presumably fearing it had a financial disappointment on its hands. Which it did.

    The First Big Comeback

    Just when it looked as if Travolta’s career had come and gone, he picked a plum project. Again, it’s easy to overlook just what a big deal Amy Heckerling’s Look Who’s Talking was back in 1989, but it was a massive hit out of nowhere, and suddenly, Travolta was back – temporarily – in fashion.

    That said, it would probably be fair to say it was more the concept than the star names that did the selling here. The main drive of Look Who’s Talking was centered around the idea of giving a couple’s new baby inner thoughts voiced by Bruce Willis. It made for a decent enough hour and a half at the movies, but it’s just as easily forgotten, in truth.

    Still, Travolta’s star was back on the rise. Look Who’s Talking banked just shy of $300 million worldwide. His success would hinge on what films he chose to make next.

    What went wrong?

    Look Who’s Talking Too and Look Who’s Talking Now. They may have completed a box set, but they almost have you yearning for Rush Hour sequels, they’re that weak.

    Look Who’s Talking Too (1989) introduced a baby daughter for Travolta and Kirsty Alley’s characters, and then pretty much told the same jokes, not as well, in less time. It felt a cheap and rushed sequel, and it did just over a third of the business of the first film. That, remarkably, didn’t discourage people though, and thus in 1990, along came Look Who’s Talking Now, which predated the never-ending Beethoven franchise by adding a talking dog. To be fair, Look Who’s Talking Now is arguably the funniest of a generally quite weak comedy boxset. But it took just over $10m in the US, one 14th of the original’s take, and it was decided to leave the whole Look Who’s Talking thing there. Travolta’s career was back where it had been prior to Look Who’s Talking.

    If only a major new force in cinema could come along and give it a proper resurrection this time…

    The Really, Really, Really Big Comeback

    Travolta himself admitted that he wasn’t expecting to be back on top of Hollywood again prior to Quentin Tarantino calling with an offer to do Pulp Fiction. It took a bit of wrangling all round to get him the part, but Travolta’s most memorable role since Grease was now in the works.

    Every now and then I read a piece that takes potshots at Travolta’s acting. Pulp Fiction is one film with no shortage of evidence to demonstrate just how good he is on his day. Travolta was rewarded with being front and centre of the most talked about movie of the year. At the heart of a $200m+ box office hit. He was nominated for an Oscar. And in the role of Vincent Vega, he redefined expectations of him on screen.

    What’s more, this time he capitalised on it. It was Tarantino that advised him to take the lead role in Barry Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty, and once more, acclaim was showered onto Travolta. The film garnered strong reviews, and good box office ($72m in the US). And this time, the hits mainly kept on coming. In the years following 1994’s Pulp Fiction, Travolta would score box office successes of varying degrees with Broken Arrow ($70m US), Phenomenon ($104m US), Michael ($95m US), and the one-of-a-kind Face/Off ($112m US).

    It was Travolta’s best ever box office run, and even box office disappointments such as the ambitious White Man’s Burden ($3m US), She’s So Lovely ($7m US), and Mad City ($10m US) were swiftly overlooked, given that another big hit was around the corner.

    Even some of those disappointments still earned Travolta respect, such as his leading role as pretend Bill Clinton in Primary Colors. And he would round the 1990s off with another hit, as The General’s Daughter brought home $102m at the US box office alone. The second half of the 90s had few better, consistent box office draws.

    What went wrong?

    After a run where Travolta’s hit rate of interesting projects had been strong, his instincts started to falter again. He put plenty on the line in 2000 for the big screen take on L Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth, and the film would – as you more than likely know – become one of the most notable flops of the 2000s, sweeping the Golden Raspberry Awards and taking a kicking from critics the world over. It should be noted that Battlefield Earth has some advocates, but released in the middle of summer, its $21m US take was a big disappointment. The same year, Lucky Numbers fell hard too, grossing just $10m in America.

    That said, it’d be wrong to say that Travolta’s career was irreparably damaged by Battlefield Earth. He continued to land leading roles in relatively big movies for most of the decade, but the hard truth is the films weren’t as good, or as interesting. Ladder 49, for instance, may have taken $74m in America, but few fish it out to watch time and time again. Middling hits such as the hilarious Swordfish ($69m, US), Domestic Disturbance ($45m US), Basic ($26m US), The Punisher ($33m), and the not very well received Get Shorty sequel, Be Cool ($56m US) kept the bills paid.

    Few were forming a line for his movies, though.

    The Smaller Bounceback

    That said, there was another Travolta career bounce to come.

    Come the end of the 2000s, and Travolta found himself part of a trio of big hit movies again. 2007’s Wild Hogs was the big surprise. Opening in March, the film scored a massive $39m opening weekend, against not particularly impressive reviews. Travolta was second billed behind Tim Allen, and above Martin Lawrence and Ray Liotta. And whilst the film didn’t travel as well outside of America, adding another $85m, it took a huge $168m in America. It was the 13th highest grossing film at the US box office in 2007, outperforming Die Hard 4, Rush Hour 3, Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, and Ocean’s Thirteen.

    It also outgrossed a second $100m+ hit that Travolta was attached to in 2007: Hairspray. Again, he was part of a broader ensemble here, but still, the film picked up a cool $200m worldwide ($118m in the US). 2008, meanwhile, would see him get top billing on the poster for Disney’s Bolt, which attracted $309m of business across the globe. That said, the fact that it was a Disney animated movie, and that it featured Miley Cyrus at a point when she was Disney’s ideal family-friendly star probably helped too.

    What went wrong?

    A couple of other solid performances followed, but the hard truth was that by the end of the 2000s, Travolta had gone the way of many movie stars, and his name couldn’t open a film any more. So far in the 2010s, we’ve seen him in Oliver Stone’s disappointing Savages, and in heist thriller The Forger. The latter has enjoyed limited theatrical exposure, and got a video on demand release in the US.


    It’s easy to forget that John Travolta is now 61 years old, and in that time, it feels as if he’s had two or three very different movie careers. Inevitably, the big meaty leading roles tend to land for actors between the ages of 20 and 50 (although those rules do feel like they’ve been changing), and there are times when – sitting through a movie – I’ve wondered quite what Travolta ever saw in it.

    He didn’t always help himself with his peers either, reporting being overlooked for an Oscar nomination after insisting on a paycheck of $20,000,001 for appearing in Michael. That was so he could be Hollywood’s highest paid actor, overtaking the $20,000,000 that Jim Carrey had received for The Cable Guy. Other actors didn’t seem quite so keen on the move.

    Still: Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, Face/Off, even Swordfish on a rainy day. Travolta’s back catalog has thrown up – across his three or four careers – plenty of films to enjoy. Surely he’s just waiting for HBO to offer him a meaty TV role next…


  26. Fox finds its Urban Cowboy:

    Mexican actor/singer Alfonso Herrera will take on the role played by John Travolta in the 1980 film of the same name. According to Deadline, he’ll play “an extremely popular rodeo circuit rider who is a puppet for the drug cartel, forced to flee Mexico after ticking off the wrong people. Now, with a price on his head, he and his sister make their way to Houston, given sanctuary by his Uncle Al, also an illegal immigrant who has made a life for himself in the United States.”


  27. I guess it makes sense to put it here given all of the rumors surrounding John Travolta:
    Matt Damon Suggests Gay Actors Should Stay in the Closet http://thr.cm/ahgzJM


  28. Matt does have a point actors should not indulge too much about their personal life. Let work speak for its self


  29. 10 Actors You Hate Because Of One Movie Role:

    John Travolta – Battlefield Earth

    Is John Travolta that hate-able in Battlefield Earth that you forget about Pulp Fiction? Probably not. Is John Travolta still pretty hate-able in Battlefield Earth? Yes. Did Battlefield Earth kick-start an awful fifteen year spell of films that make it really difficult to remember how good JT was in Pulp Fiction, especially when you consider that that film (PF) was over twenty years ago and maybe Quentin Tarantino fluked one out of Danny Zuko and Tony Manero? Yes. (As a side-note, is John Travolta also one of the weirdest men alive? I digress.)

    These questions are vital to the John Travolta conundrum, and, if you go the route I have in posing them, it becomes acceptable to hate John Travolta, even if your best instincts tell you otherwise.

    Alas, though, Battlefield Earth, a disastrous production in every sense possible, is a more prominent John Travolta performance than his Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, not for the role per se, but in what it stands for, and what it brought on. A couple more truly great Travolta performances on his CV might’ve saved him from this fate, but it’s time to stop forgiving actors for decades of awfulness because they were fleetingly good in the past.


  30. John Travolta (I) : When did he go bald?


    He started to noticeably bald in the early 90’s. He still wore his real hair for the most part in movies until the late 90’s, but with a little bit of help.

    If you watch something like Broken Arrow for example, with the harsh lighting you can tell that they painted his hairline on his scalp, the hair that’s left is pretty sparse and not that thick.

    In Pulp Fiction that long hair was mostly either hair extensions or a weave.

    He still could get away with putting a bunch of concealers in his hair in public until a few years ago, but he had lost so much hair by that point that it literally looked like his head was painted, which in essence it was.

    For many years whenever you saw him in short hair it was his own but “painted on” and whenever you saw him with long hair it was a toupee. But recently even the short hair is a piece, and I mean the entire thing, the top, sides, back, everything is one hairpiece. William Shatner wears a similar one, but I must say his is much better. With John you can see the lace clearly, it’s not fooling anyone.

    It’s pretty bizarre considering that he seemingly has no problems going out and about without his piece and even photographed with fans without it, and he has done many roles with his natural hair like Taking of Pelham and Savages, but he still wears the bad piece to every red carpet event and interview.


  31. Watch a glimpse of John Travolta on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson:

    The FX event series released its first clip, of Travolta as Simpson defense attorney Robert Shapiro.


  32. Top 10 Actors and Actresses that Aged Badly

    Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but some eyes are less forgiving. Join http://www.WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Actors and Actresses that Aged Badly. For this list, we’re looking at Hollywood actors and actresses whose appearances changed drastically over the course of their careers.


  33. What do you think of John Travolta’s film choices after Pulp Fiction?



  34. Lebeu off topic but any chance you think Michael Cera will be added to the list. He had a lot of hype after Superbad he was working a lot. However most of his post Juno flicks flopped. The failure of the interesting Scott Vs the world destroyed any chance of studio ever putting big gamble on him. Hes done cameos and direct to dvd flicks since. Hes one of those actors who can only play one type of role awkward guy and audiences quickly grew tired of it . Hes still young but most likely due to his kid like features and range he will probably not mature into adult roles. It would look weird having Michael playing awkward guy in his 40s. After Superbad if you told me back in 2007 that Johnah Hill would have bigger career I would haVE LAUGHED. Michael was expected to be huge.


  35. 15 Most Critically Hated Films From 2015


    The Forger

    Rotten Tomatoes Score: 8% (4.2/10)

    Why Critics Hated It: Here’s a movie that just doesn’t know what it wants to be: it aspires to be a slick art heist, a family drama and a cancer-driven tear-jerker all at the same time, and unsurprisingly succeeds at being none.

    John Travolta gives a somnambulant performance in the lead role, though some light relief does emerge whenever the camera focuses on his blatantly fake hair. Great actors like Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Ehle and Tye Sheridan are meanwhile pretty much hung out to dry here without a scrap of good material to work from.

    It never feels especially authentic or like anyone involved is trying much, and so aside from Travolta’s hilarious hairdo, you won’t remember much of it a week later.


  36. 11 Actors Who Survived Career Suicide Twice


    John Travolta

    Travolta is pretty much the comeback king, having gone up and down the A-list ladder faster than a demented window cleaner. He first made it big in the seventies, with Grease and Saturday Night Fever giving him a place in the heart of audiences. A string of poor choices (Staying Alive, Two Of A Kind, Perfect) sank his career in the mid-eighties, and putting on a bit of weight didn’t help either.

    It wasn’t until Tarantino gave him another shot with Pulp Fiction that he regained his crown, and he again made a batch of hits like Face/Off and Get Shorty. His next fall from grace was pouring the goodwill he’d earned into making Battlefield Earth, based on the book by the founder of Scientology. The movie left such a stink it practically killed his career overnight, with most of his follow-up movies bombing.

    While he’s mostly known these days for his weird hairline and creeping behind Scarlet Johansson, he’s evolved into a great character actor, which can be seen in Savages and American Crime Story.


  37. 10 Actors Who Stupidly Turned Down Iconic Roles


    John Travolta – Forrest Gump
    Paramount Pictures

    The Role: Forrest Gump

    These days it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Tom Hanks in the role of the lovable and slow-witted hero of Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Winston Groom’s book, but it was almost a lot different as Grease star John Travolta turned the role down.

    He has since admitted that the decision was a mistake, but the same year, he did make Pulp Fiction for Tarantino, and re-announced his cool in a way that Forrest Gump would probably never have managed. But then, when the role you turned down ends up landing its eventual star an Oscar for Best Actor ahead of your own nominated performance, as happened to Travolta in 1994, it’s probably a lot easier to just accept that it was a mistake.

    You would have thought John might have learned from his experience during the 80s – a decade of waste for the actor, who couldn’t seem to catch a break, and managed to turn down both An Officer and A Gentleman and American Gigolo during his so-called downturn. But no.


  38. Actors whose careers were killed by one terrible movie

    Battlefield Earth was so bad no one even acknowledges it, but I guess maybe it’s a candidate for this list.

    I think Pulp Fiction set high expectations for him for a new generation, and he followed that up with a lot of mediocrity(Swordfish, Face/Off, Phenomenon). Personally I think he’s doing fine as Shapiro, and a lot of his perceived creepiness has been created by the whole “Travolta is gay” scandal and his Scientology ties.


  39. I just thought about something: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starring “Grease” together (also “Two of a Kind”, but let’s forget about that one). Olivia Newton-John’s music video of her song “Physical” focuses on working out (in that totally 1980’s way), and later Travolta stars in “(Im)Perfect”, which is about health clubs. I don’t know, I just found that interesting.


  40. I meant “starred in” and also, no John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John post should go without mentioning their Christmas album!


  41. John Travolta would be open to doing more TV — as long as it’s a limited series with the right people


    “I wouldn’t say arbitrarily that I’m ready to go do any TV, but I’m ready to do their TV,” The People v. O.J. Simpson star says of working with Ryan Murphy’s people. But only if it’s a limited series. “I couldn’t do a full-time series, that would take too much of my time and I still enjoy doing movies which, for one thing, are shorter,” says Travolta.


  42. Deanna Smith-Fagin

    “The People VS OJ” is an excellent ministries with extremely good actors,including Travolta, who plays Shapiro to a T. Impressive too is the make up. Most of the actors really look like their real life counterparts


    • Yeah, hats off to the makeup artist(s), especially with John Travolta, who in that look is fit to shoot a commercial for LegalZoom.


  43. Warner Bros.’ First Choice For Prince’s Role In ‘Purple Rain’? John Travolta!



  44. Nostalgia Critic Real Thoughts On: Face/Off (1997)

    Two hams for the price of one? Sounds like Doug and Rob’s kind of movie! Here are their real thoughts on the Cage and Travolta movie Face/Off.


    • 15 Actors Who Desperately Need A Hit


      John Travolta

      John Travolta has had one of the more unpredictable careers of just about any actor out there: he started out strong with hits like Saturday Night Fever and Grease, then got relegated to the Look Who’s Talking franchise until Quentin Tarantino bailed him out with Pulp Fiction.

      Travolta was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his work on the film, and the move is largely credited with reviving his career…at least until 2000’s calamitous Battlefield Earth came along.

      His last significant hit was 2009’s Old Dogs, and in the years prior to that successes had been fairly sporadic. He’s mostly relegated to straight-to-VOD thrillers these days, and he’s clearly just waiting for Tarantino to come a-calling and rescue his career once again.


  45. Was Look Who’s Talking Now the low point of John Travolta’s career?


    Considering the movie flopped and everyone hated it the movie was not only the low point in the series but considering he was upstaged by 2 dogs couldn’t have been good for his ego.
    —Anonymous (43 views)

    5 replies 22 hours ago

    You’re forgetting his first career slump in the mid-80s. Two of a Kind, Perfect, The Experts. He’s no stranger to everyone hating his movies.


    reply 1 2 hours ago

    On balance he’s had more lows than highs. Remarkably resilient, though, but his reputation is tarnished by Scientology and the worst glass closet imaginable.


    reply 2 2 hours ago

    No, his low point was releasing two straight-to-video movies,”Chains of Gold”, “Eyes Of An Angel”, as well as the theatrical bomb, “Shout”. He was all but over after that–then Tarantino showed mercy and gave him a role in “Pulp Fiction”.


    reply 44 1 minutes ago


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