Still going strong
by Rita Cook
Photo by Eddie Adams/Corbis Outline
John Travolta walks into the room and the first thing he notices is all the palm trees. "I feel like weíre either in Florida or the Caribbean, it's a strange view here," he comments. It's a strange view overall, since I grew up with John Travolta and have always counted him as one of the nicest "Hollywood-types" around.
In fact, the world has known Travolta for years and most people still remembered him even during his "unpopular years," as they are called, in which he was still making movies anyway.
From Vinnie Barbarino to Tony Manero to the Urban Cowboy, Travolta was widely popular in the 70's and 80's, but it took Pulp Fiction in 1994, before he made his comeback. Since that time he has steadily chose to take on more in-depth characters like the one he last portrayed in Ladder 49.
Travolta turned 50 in 2004, but it hasn't seemed to bother him at all. Even in the interview he talks about being "the senior" actor in Ladder 49, it's a role he deserves. Overall, whether it's life, marriage or his career he seems to go with the flow and enjoy being in the moment of a situation.
SOAK: You and Kelly Preston have one of the successful Hollywood marriages; youíve been married for quite some time.
JT: Well, 13 years.
SOAK: Whatís your secret? You guys seem to have a good grip on it.
JT: I think that the kids help alot. I think children are a wonderful and big reason to celebrate being married, because they need stability and they need parents and that helps a lot. You work a little harder at working things out because of them.
SOAK: Between the two of you and your busy careers it must be hard for you. Do you have to carve out a time in your schedule just to be together?
JT: Yeah, you really do. As a matter fact, if you don't, it won't happen. So after work I make sure that I have three hours for the kids and an hour for dinner and prepping for the next day. Weekends are always for the family. You just have to make it standard and even though actors like the idea of an improvised life, if you have a family you can't, and you have to cut out time.
SOAK: Tell us about how hard it can be to train for certain films; any in particular that you remember that was really hard?
JT: Oh God, I wouldn't wish [Ladder 49 training] on anyone, it was just so drastic. The maze was these boxes that are stuck together with holes that kind of connect things together. You have to find your way through while itís pumping smoke and you can't see - and you are in full equipment and you think youíre going to die. Itís horrifying is what it is. All the other training is not horrifying, itís just less horrifying. We got lost in a fire a couple of times, and going off the side of a building on a rope is not the easiest thing. Even during filming, I burned myself pulling Joaquin away from a fire and forgetting that the fire was heating up all the metal on his equipment.
SOAK: Youíre writing your memoirs, after theyíve been after you to do it?
JT: Yes, for years. Finally, I thought if I wait any longer, Iím going to be too old, meaning that Iíll have to write two books because I have more than enough already for one. Iím excited to write about my memories of Princess Diana and my friends that I adore so much, my family, my flying, Scientology. I mean Iím going to write about all of it.
SOAK: You have had your ups and downs.
JT: Either way, it has to be written about. I think it would surprise you what I was thinking during times when there was less heat, you know.
SOAK: Is it in a sense more affirming for you to have such great success in the beginning and then have less success and then come back? Was it more meaningful for you the second time around?
JT: Of course, it would definitely be more meaningful, because you didn't realize what you were missing. Thereís an appreciation for it for sure. But in addition to that, Iíve always felt there was a seat at the table of the art community for me. Iíve never felt ostracized, I just felt that you find different ways of expressing yourself, but the confidence as an artist was always there. Careers are tricky things and you have to be on guard and estimate things that you don't normally consider when you are just reaching out to portray something. Itís tricky that way.
SOAK: Tell me something about yourself that nobody else knows.
JT: I have a clear ice fetish. I love clear ice and if the ice is cloudy, I get just truly upset about it. To me cloudy ice means refrigerator ice and itís smelly and it adds flavor to the drink that you don't want.
SOAK: Thatís chapter one in your book right there.
JT: The clear ice thing, if itís clear you can see ice tea or sparkling soda. Thereís something effervesce and fun about clear ice.
SOAK: When you shot Ladder 49 what was the specter hanging over the production as far as making sure you told the story right about firemen?
JT: Getting it right was number one. It was like, look, they do enough for us and theyíve proven their courageousness, their selflessness, their humbleness, let's get it right for them for God's sake. It was a good pressure, because itís fun to try to put your best foot forward and live up to a standard that should be lived up to. They are a modest group of people and they don't want all the attention. Often the hardest working people who are getting the most done are the ones that don't want to be given credit for it.
SOAK: Whatís the most surprising thing that youíve learned?
JT: I don't know if there was as much a surprising thing as a confirming thing. This bunch of macho guys have humanity coming out of every cell. I love the duality of that. Thereís this really organically American masculinity to them, but at the same time this humanity that was there and they couldn't help but care and they couldn't help but put their life on the line; they have no choice, you see. Thereís something beautiful and itís like the yin yang thing and itís a nice thing that you see. Itís the ideal man in a way.