John Travolta: FOR THE LONG RUN

By Barker, Andrew | Variety, August 26, 2013 | Go to article overview

John Travolta: FOR THE LONG RUN


Barker, Andrew, Variety


Thesp, being honored by the Deauville fest, talks about career longevity and losing himself in acting

DEAUVILLE HONOREE: JOHN TRAVOLTA

John Travolta remembers the last time he set foot on the grounds of France's Deauville American Film Festival with great specificity - and well he should, as it was the first time he ever participated in a film festival.

The year was 1978, and Travolta was staying at director Claude Lelouehe's hotel in the tiny resort town in anticipation of the French premiere of "Grease" taking place at the festival. Four months prior he had made his first trip to France on a press tour, where he recalls first spotting the Time magazine cover bearing his face and the headline "Travolta Fever" on a newsstand in the Hotel du Cap gift shop. Needless to say, it was a memorable few months for the 24-year-old.

Thirty-five years and several career resurgences later. Travolta will once again be attending the festival, to collect a lifetime achievement honor as well as to stage a screening of his most recent film. "Killing Season." in which he stars as a Serbian war veteran alongside Robert L)e Niro.

"I've been getting career awards since the mid-'90s." the ">9-year-old Travolta notes, pondering the span of a film career that has run for almost as long as the Deauville t'est itself. "Your average career runs about ,'30 years, so I'm about five years past that. Clark Gable and Cary Grant were all still doing movies at my age and older, but they generally used to stop a lot younger. Now. you've got Fastwood. who's 83 and still doing movies. Things are a little different now."

Retirement ages aren't the only things that have changed since Travolta's last trip to the beaches of Lower Normandy. For one, Lelouehe's old chateau is now an ultra-modern boutique hotel. And while Travolta's previous Deauville appearance came in support of a film that remained in theaters for over a year and grossed more than $180 million domestically, "Killing Season" received a brief theatrical release this summer before hitting VOD. It's doing brisk business there, though Travolta admits he took some convincing to embrace the model.

"I asked some questions about it, to be honest, because it's not something I'm used to," he says. "Maybe I'm not as comfortable with it, but that doesn't mean anything: Sometimes the world changes and you have to go with it.

"Besides, as an actor, it's changed nothing. You're there to do your due diligence and give a good performance. How the industry takes that forward is really up to them, and changing times will change that, but performance is performance."

If Travolta ultimately takes a long view of the industry, it's perhaps because he has served as a firsthand witness to so many seismic changes already. He became an established name during the twilight of the mogul-driven New Hollywood of the 1970s, finding steady work with Paramount just as the reigns of Charles Bluhdorn and Robert Evans were beginning to wane. After a fallow period in the more marketing-driven 1980s, Travolta again found himself at the center of the Zeitgeist when "Pulp Fiction" kickstarted the independent film boom in the 1990s, and he served as a key muse for Hong Kong director John Woo while he was busy establishing a provisional beachhead for Asian filmmakers in Hollywood.

One doesn't manage to maintain such a long, multifaceted career in moviemaking without growing wary of its inevitable paradigm shifts, yet TVavolta is sanguine about Hollywood's ability to continue producing what he calls "people movies" - the human-sized films that deal with actual characters, to which he still gravitates.

"James Bridges could still get a film made today, but it would be in this newer model," he says. For example, " 'Urban Cowboy' was made for $15 million in 1980; you'd probably make that today for $15 million too. But the difference, of course, is that $15 million used to be a lot more money, and in the '90s, you'd probably have made it for $50 or $60 million. …

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