Feature by: Jack Foley
FOR many movie fans, John Travolta is the epitome of the word
Show-stopping performances in films such as Saturday Night Fever,
Grease, Pulp Fiction and,
of course, Get Shorty, have helped turn the movie star into something
of a living icon.
Yet the star is keen to play down his cool persona in real life,
even though he does confess to possessing a trick or two.
"There’s a lineage to cool," he explained, at
the London press conference for his latest film, Be Cool (a belated
sequel to Get Shorty).
"Cool initially was to keep your cool and was associated
with film icons like Brando and Dean and all that, and then it
derived into being hip, dressing hip and listening to cool music,
and then it developed into being comfortable with yourself.
"Now it’s got many definitions. I’m probably
more the last definition, I don’t know if I’m the
"In the movies, I’m cool because it’s all contrived
but at home… My pet planes are cool, though. Two days ago
I kissed the kids goodbye at the pool and walked 20 steps, got
in my plane and flew to London. Now that’s cool!"
Flying his own planes aside, Travolta admits that he is just
as prone to human frailty as the next person - and, in fact, is
quite a 'silly father'.
"My daughter’s four and a half and she goes, 'Oh,
Dad, stop it', if I do anything like sing or dance, just like
I did with my mom and dad."
Dancing is something Travolta is most famous for, however, given
his background in musicals, and his breakthrough in Grease and
Saturday Night Fever.
Indeed, Be Cool - in which Travolta's former loan shark, Chili
Palmer, swaps the movie business for the music industry - provides
him with the opportunity to take to the dancefloor once again,
reuniting him with Uma Thurman his Pulp Fiction dance partner.
"I actually wanted to dance
in Get Shorty but Barry Sonnenfeld didn’t think it was fitting,
but the second one being about the music industry, it seemed a
natural," he continued, excitedly.
"And I always, always wanted to dance to the Brazilian sounds.
So, at first, F Gary Gray was resisting that sound but when the
Black Eye Peas did their rendition of that song, they decided
it was pretty cool.
"Hip hop was not something I grew up with but, you know.
I had the same issue with Pulp
Fiction. But I told Quentin that there were other dances other
than the twist. Where I grew up there was the Batman, the Swim,
the Hitchhiker, the Cowboy. I said, 'we could mix it up'.
"Basically, I did the same thing here with these traditional
fifties and sixties dances. Samba, foxtrot, cha-cha."
The result is a sequence that rates among the highlights of the
film, which, in turn, presented Travolta with his highest ever
box office opening in America.
Yet the prospect of seeing the actor doing what he does best,
while revisiting one of his most popular characters, is something
that's difficult to resist - particularly as Palmer can count
actors such as Sean Connery among his fanclub.
Adds Travolta: "When Get Shorty came out, I received a call
from Sean, and he said, 'John, Get Shorty, I loved it'. He liked
it so much he was going to the theatre to see it again.
"I said: "Well, Sean, I think you liked it so much
because it reminded you of you."
"I think the character is fearless - he’s cool, he’s
dapper, he’s elegant, he’s fun, he’s romantic.
That’s all the things the Bond character is.
"I thought, if he’s [Chili] got all these attributes,
why not make him the US’s answer to James Bond? A street
version, of course.
"So, that was my own connection with it, in my own mind.
The character loves the movies, loves the arts, loves music and
it was a great way to incorporate that to make an original idea."
Be Cool opens at the Empire Leicester Square on March 25, and
across the country from April 1.