RFF14: John Travolta

The american actor talks cinema, memories and new Hollywood

John Travolta was one of the most anticipated guests at Rome Film Festival: hundreds of people have been gathering along the red carpet for hours just to see him. The american actor, who put together generations of fans thanks to his timeless performances in Grease (1978) and Pulp Fiction (1994), attended the festival to present The Fanatic, the film by rapper-turned-director Fred Durst, in which Travolta plays a rabid movie fan who is obsessed with his favorite celebrity.

The actor also received a special award for his performance in The Fanatic during the Close Encounter with the audience, which took place yesterday at Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome: Travolta was nominated twice at the Academy Awards for his performances in Saturday Night Fever (1978) and Pulp Fiction and he won a Golden Globe for his performance in Get Shorty (1995). In 2016, Travolta received his first Primetime Emmy Award as a producer of the first season of the series American Crime Story (The People v. O.J. Simpson), receiving also additional Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of lawyer Robert Shapiro in the series.

Travolta met the press in the morning to talk his career and his new film.

John Travolta attending the red carpet at Rome Film Festival 2019. Credits/ Silvia Gerbino

You are at Rome Film Festival to present The Fanatic, a film about a man who is pathologically obsessed with his favorite actor. Does this story mirror a personal fear?

«This is maybe the best character I’ve ever played, because he reflects my hidden passions as a fan even if in an extreme way. So, the film is not about a film actor who fears a fan, but it’s more a reflection of me utterly obsessed over someone else. I’ve never had a problem with fans.»

Who are you a fan of?

«Growing up I liked Jimmy Cagney: he could sing and dance, he was so fun to watch. I also like Sofia Loren, Federico Fellini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Marlon Brando, The Beatles.»

You starred in some of the most iconic films of all time. Do you have a fovorite?

«I think I have three films that I will remember forever, because I’m very proud of them: Pulp Fiction, Saturday Night Fever and Grease. To me, those films feel timeless.»

Do you have any beloved memories from those sets?

«I have great memories of Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino was a new filmmaker at the time, he had a vision and he was inspired by great directors. As an actor, it was very interesting to observe his journey. I felt like his advice were correct, sophisitcated and also he allowed me to be very free in my interpretation. He gave me trust and every time he had suggestions they were simple, but powerful.»

Is there something that helped you through the struggles of your life and your career?

«The audience allowing to be so different in every role was the number one freedom that I had: I never imagined to play a woman in Hairspray or a president of the United States in Primary Colors. Moreover, most of my career has been based on me being a “muse” for screenwriters, because I don’t know if I could have thought of those different things. But I’m so happy they were there for me.»

Have you ever said no to a role? Do you regret it?

«I never think about the past, because life is new today and I have no regrets. However, I said no to American Gigolo, Splash, The Green Mile, An Officer and a Gentleman: these are films I didn’t accept for one reason or another, I did different roles instead and I like the ones I chose even more.»

From superhero franchises, to streaming platform, cinema is changing a lot: do you still identify yourself with the new Hollywood?

«First of all I’m happy that I’m still getting roles that are part of the old Hollywood, I mean actors stories. Two, I’ve never been a Marvel company type of audience: my children are, they love it. For me it’s different: I grew up with Bergman and Fellini, so I have a different feeling. There’s no criticism in my words, simply it’s not for me. I like stories, I like characters, I like being moved by cinema. Netflix is giving space to the stories that I like. I think all entertainment is valuable if it creates an affect in a person, if it makes them happy, if it changes them or inspires them.»

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