Golden Globe-winning actor John Travolta began his career strong with breakout roles in “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever.” After a hiatus from the big screen, his career was revived with “Pulp Fiction.” Since that 1994 role, his career has yet to slow down. Along with film success also came personal success. But along with success also comes struggle and lots of rumors in the tabloids. Here are the true facts of John Travolta’s life in the spotlight.
From Mother To Lover
In 1976, Travolta landed one of his first film roles in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” His mother in the film was played by Diana Hyland. Despite being 18 years younger, the two began a romantic relationship. Sadly, Hyland was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1977. Travolta and Hyland remained together until her death. She was only 41-years-old.
Good Friends With Dakota Fanning, Who Is 40 Years Younger
As John Travolta is a superstar, he can choose to be friends with almost anyone he pleases. However, he chooses his friends wisely. His close friend group includes Dakota Fanning, who is 40 years his junior, as well as famed comedic actor Robin Williams. Williams and Travolta starred together, in the 2009 film “Old Dogs.”
Regrets Turning Down ‘Forrest Gump’
In the early 90s, John Travolta was revamping his career. He had to make decisions at the time he believed was best for him. This included accepting or turning down roles. He was offered the title role of the 1994 film “Forrest Gump.” He turned it down and later admitted that this was a big mistake. However, he landed another important role in a film around the same time – Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction.”
Only Paid $150K For ‘Pulp Fiction’
In 1989, Travolta starred alongside Kirstie Alley in “Look Who’s Talking.” The film grossed close $300 million and laid the foundation for Travolta to enter back into the limelight. However, it was his role as Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Pulp Fiction” that shifted Travolta back onto the A-list. Despite the huge success of the film, John was only paid $150,000 for his performance.
On Princess Diana: “I was her Prince Charming.”
In 1985, both Princess Diana and John Travolta were attending a gala at the White House. The two shared a dance at dinner. The dress Diana wore was designed by Victor Edelstein and consisted of an off-the-shoulder design made of midnight blue velvet. After the evening, this dress became dubbed the “Travolta Dress.” Speaking about that night, Travolta said, “There was something lovely and girlish about her, and I felt that I had taken her back to her childhood when she had probably watched Grease (1978) and for that moment I was her Prince Charming.”
Compares His Fame To The Level Of Marilyn Monroe & Elvis Presley
John Travolta was quoted as saying, “I have fame on the level of a Marilyn Monroe or an Elvis Presley, but part of the reason I didn’t go the way they did was because of my beliefs. People make judgments about Scientology, but often they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Communicated With Teachers “On A More Adult Level”
Although Travolta dropped out of school to pursue his dreams, he has admitted that he also wasn’t a stellar student. He said, “I was only an average student.” However, because he was so mature for his age, he knew how to sweet talk and smile his way into remaining well-liked by all the teachers. He said during an interview “I tried to communicate with them on a more adult level.”
Dropped Out Of High School
When he was 16-years-old, John decided it was time to pursue his dream of becoming an actor professionally. Therefore, he dropped out of high school, moved to New York City and lived with his sister. He landed his first professional gig that same year in the summer stock production of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” Along with musicals, he also appeared in several TV commercials.
Olivia Newton-John: “We both had a crush on each other”
It was clear that John and Olivia had great chemistry on-screen. They also had a great relationship off-screen and were often seen socializing together. Therefore, many believed it was more than just a friendship but rather a love affair. Olivia later said that “We both had a crush on each other,” during an interview in 2012. However, no official romantic relationship came of the two. However, they remain close friends.
Introduced To Scientology At Age 21
In 1975, soon after filming “The Devil’s Rain,” Travolta was given a copy of “Dianetics” – the main scripture used in Scientology. Despite being raised Roman Catholic, Travolta is very happy with his choice to become and raise his family as Scientologists. He has said he turned to the religion when he lost his girlfriend and son. Despite recent bad publicity about Scientology, he remains a faithful follower.
Wanted To Name His Daughter After An Airline
John Travolta was an ambassador for Qantas Airlines for many years. He liked it so much that he wanted to name his daughter after the airlines. However, Kelly did not like the idea. Travolta said, “I called my son Jett, and I wanted to call my daughter Qantas, but my wife wouldn’t let me.” Instead, the couple decided to go with Ella Bleu.
Father Was A Professional Football Player
John Travolta was born in Englewood, New Jersey on February 18, 1954. He was one of the six children of Helen and Samuel Travolta. Helen was an actress and singer who eventually became a drama teacher. Samuel was a semi-professional football player turned tire salesman. From a young age, John and his siblings all had a knack for the arts. Samuel even set up a mini theatre in family’s basement so the family could practice performing.
First Role In “Grease” Was Not Danny
At 18-years-old, Travolta landed a role, as a replacement cast member, in the hit Broadway musical “Grease” as the role of Doody. After his time in “Grease,” he landed a role, as part of the original cast, in another Broadway production “Over Here!”. After appearing in “Over Here!” for ten months, Travolta decided it was time to head to Hollywood.
Beautiful Niece Is Also An Actress
Acting is in the blood of the Travolta family. You can see it with John’s immediate families, with his mother, sister, daughter, and wife, but it also extends a little further. His niece, Nicole, has also begun making her way into the entertainment industry. She has had roles on several TV shows such as “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Cowgirl Up” and “Two and a Half Men.” She also clearly inherited the Travolta good looks.
It wasn’t long after he moved to Hollywood that Travolta began landing roles. Although they were small at first, he quickly rose through the ranks. He had roles in TV series such as “Emergency!”, “The Rookies” and “Medical Center.” He even landed a role in the 1975 film “The Devil’s Rain.” It was after this performance that he got a call that forever changed his life.
“The Devil’s Rain” was shot in New Mexico. The day after shooting wrapped, Travolta returned to Hollywood and got a call to audition for a new TV comedy series produced by ABC. He would be auditioning for the role of Vinnie Barbarino in the new series “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Travolta landed the role, and his performance shot him straight into the center of Hollywood.
“I Was A Dumb Clown” In School
Landing the role of Vinnie helped Travolta become the Hollywood heartthrob he is today. However, good looks aren’t the only thing he had in common with his character. He once said “Vinnie gets into a lot of problems in high school. And so did I. I was a clown at school, but definitely not a leader like Vinnie. I was a dumb clown, not a cool clown. I was the sort of fool who’d do anything for a laugh”.
Youngest Actor To Receive Best Actor Oscar Nomination
In 1997, Travolta took over the dance floor and boogied his way into an Oscar nomination for his performance as Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever.” At the time, Travolta was only 24-years-old, and, therefore, became one of the youngest actors to ever receive the Oscar nomination for Best Actor. To this day, his character is still considered a cultural icon of the disco nightlife and the 1970s.
Siblings & Mother Were Also Actors
Travolta had acting in his blood as his mother was once an actress and singer before she became a drama teacher. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the acting bug was also prevalent in some of his siblings. His sister, Ellen, had mildly successful acting careers. Both his mother and sister actually appeared alongside John in two of his biggest films “Saturday Night Live” and “Grease.”
First Single Hit Number 10 On Charts
1976 was a huge year for Travolta. Riding on the success of “Welcome Back, Kotter,” Travolta released his first single “Let Her In.” The single peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The world now knew that Travolta was not only a force to be reckoned with on-camera but also in the studio. That same year he appeared in the cult horror film “Carrie” as well as in the TV movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.”
‘Grease’ Is The Word
Following the success of “Saturday Night Fever,” Travolta quickly jumped to another one of his most notable roles, Danny Zuko in “Grease.” Travolta sang and danced his way into another Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. The movie grossed $400 million worldwide and became the top live-action movie musical of all time. Despite this success, Travolta sadly saw a downfall in his career.
As he helped popularize disco music with his performance in “Saturday Night Fever,” he also found a way to popularize another genre – country. Travolta appeared as cowboy Bud Davis in 1980’s “Urban Cowboy.” The film also starred Debra Winger, as Sissy – Bud’s love interest. The movie is centered around Bud, who is from the country, and the chaos that ensues when he tries to start a life in Houston.
Turned Down Multiple Box Office Hits
After appearing alongside Debra Winger in “Urban Cowboy,” Travolta made some poor career choices. He appeared in “Perfect,” with Jamie Lee Curtis, and “Two of a Kind,” with his “Grease” co-star Olivia Newton-John. Sadly, neither of these films would do well. He also turned down roles for hit films such as “American Gigolo” and “An Officer and a Gentleman.” (Both roles were given to Richard Gere.) These choices would lead to a decline in his career. However, he would enter the limelight again by the end of the 1980s.
Has His Pilot’s License
Since a very young age, Travolta has had a passion for aviation. By the time he was 22-years-old, he had earned his pilot’s license. Once he began making lots of money from acting, his love for aviation only continued to grow. Today, he owns several different types and sizes of aircrafts, from a small aerobatic plane to a very large Boeing 707.
His Home Is An Airport
Buying airplanes wasn’t enough for John. He decided to take it one step further and bought a home in the “Jumbolair Aviation Estates.” The estates act as an airport and have several runways leading to homes in the estates. Travolta has two private taxiways which are perfect to land even his largest jets. In an interview, Travolta said, “We designed the house for the jets and to have at our access the world at a moment’s notice.”
Took 14 Months To Agree To Role In ‘Hairspray’
Travolta will always be known as a musical actor. Therefore, when producers began casting for “Hairspray,” Travolta was quickly approached for the role of Edna Turnblad. He kept the creators waiting for 14 months before he finally agreed to play the role. Although he had experience in musical films, this would be the first time he would be performing his role in a dress, heels and wearing a 30-pound fat suit. However, he ended up playing the role brilliantly.
Delivered Aid To Haiti
In 2010, when an earthquake devastated Haiti, Travolta quickly jumped into action. He flew tons of supplies, including medication and food, as well as a group of volunteer Scientologists, to the island. He said, “We have the ability to actually help make a difference in the situation in Haiti, and I just can’t see not using this plane to help.”
Passing Of His Son
John was very close with his son Jett. Jett had been diagnosed with Autism and Kawasaki disease in early childhood. The disease causes random seizures. While the family was on vacation in 2010, Jett suffered from a seizure, fell and hit his head on the bathtub. He died from the injuries he sustained. Travolta has said that the passing of his son is “the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life.”
On Jett’s Death: “Life Was No Longer Interesting To Me”
Losing a child is one of the most devastating experiences a person may face in life. John and Kelly both struggled with coping with the loss. Travolta said “The truth is, I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Life was no longer interesting to me, so it took a lot to get me better”. John attributes receiving treatment and consultation from the Church of Scientology as a significant reason as to why he was able to move forward with his life.
Flew Oprah’s Fans To Australia
Oprah has been known for giving away amazing things. However, one of her most famous giveaways was for celebrating the 25th anniversary of her show. She gave away plane tickets and an 8-day vacation to Sydney, Australia. But, wait there’s more! The plane they would be flying in would be piloted by John Travolta! During the giveaway, Travolta was acting as an ambassador for Qantas Airways, which was a great plug for the brand.
Birth Of Benjamin
Travolta’s eldest son Jett passed away in 2009. However, along with counseling, the family was also able to recover due to the birth of their second son, Benjamin, the following year. Kelly and John had been trying to conceive for many years and were excited to have some joy in their lives amongst the tragedy. “Certainly having little Benjamin has been a beautiful kind of glue for us to re-bond after a tremendous loss,” Travolta said.
Began The Jett Travolta Foundation
Another way the family coped with the loss of Jett was by creating a foundation in his honor. The non-profit is called The Jett Travolta Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, “Some of the Foundation’s specific objectives are to use its resources to assist and provide relief to children with vision, hearing, mobility, communication, behavior learning impairments or other special medical, environmental, health or educational needs.”
$170m Net Worth
Since Travolta’s career has expanded decades, it’s no surprise that he has accumulated quite a large net worth. His fortune which is worth approximately $170 million includes his salary from films (which is reportedly around $20 million per film), endorsements, the several properties he owns, as well as his large fleet of airplanes and cars.
Ella Bleu Travolta
Travolta’s only daughter, Ella Bleu, was born on April 3, 2000. She decided to be just like her parents from a young age and made her acting debut at age 9. She appeared alongside her parents in the film “Old Dogs.” When discussing her possible future career in acting, John said “Ella is fabulous, yes, I want her [to pursue acting] because she is so good at it. She is such a good performer.”
Started Filming New Movie In Puerto Rico
Travolta is not slowing down and has recently begun filming a new movie, in Puerto Rico, called “Cigarette” (also known as “Speed Kills”). “Cigarette” is about a speedboat racing champion, played by Travolta, whose double life gets him into trouble with police and criminals. The cast for the film also includes Jennifer Esposito, Kellan Lutz, and Matthew Modine.
Battlefield Earth Was A Flop
In 2000, John Travolta starred in the film “Battlefield Earth,” which was based on the Scientology’s founder’s book “Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000”. Unfortunately, the film was considered a failure. Despite that, Travolta has no regrets doing the film. “If we had to do it over again, I would still do it,” Travolta said. “It was a moment where I could say ‘I had all the power in the world and could do whatever I wanted.’ Not a lot of people get that opportunity, and I did what I wanted to do.”
Would Love To Play A Bond Villain
John Travolta has played a wide array of characters from a cowboy, to alien, to hero, to criminal. However, there is one role he would love to play – the villain in a James Bond film. He told, “The Telegraph” that he would not stop playing the role of the “bad guy” until he reaches the highest level of a villain, in a Bond film. He has spoken to film producers about the idea. However, it has yet to come to fruition.
Duet With Miley Cyrus
John Travolta will always love singing just as much as he loves acting. He voiced the title character in 2008’s “Bolt,” alongside co-star Miley Cyrus. Creators of the film thought it would be a perfect idea to have the two singer-actors create a duet for the film’s soundtrack. They both jumped on the opportunity and created “I thought I Lost You.” At the time, Miley was still signed to the Disney corporation.
Emergency Crash Landed His Plane
John Travolta is a skilled pilot, but even the best sometimes encounter problems. In 1992, on November 24, Travolta was flying his family and some friends from Florida to Maine for Thanksgiving. However, his plane’s electrical system unexpectedly failed. He had to use emergency brakes for a harrowing landing at the National Airport. Although the tires blew out, no one was hurt.
In 2014, John Travolta was asked to introduce a performer at the Oscars. That year, “Frozen” was all the rage. Therefore, Idina Menzel was asked to perform, and Travolta was to introduce her. However, he ended up introducing a woman named “Adele Dazeem.” Everyone was stunned at the mistake he made. Travolta apologized to Menzel after the ceremony was over.
Strong Marriage Despite What Tabloids Say
John Travolta and Kelly Preston have been married since 1991. They had three children together. As a Hollywood couple, tabloids would always feature this couple and would report vicious rumors. Luckily, Kelly, John, and their children remained strong. All of the lies would only make them stronger as a family.
Had 2 Weddings With Kelly Preston
Travolta met Kelly Preston in 1989 on the set of “The Experts.” The connection was immediate. After dating for three years, the couple decided to get married in Paris in a Scientology ceremony. However, the marriage was not considered valid in the United States. Therefore, they had another ceremony, this time in Florida. The couple has remained strong ever since.