moon.gif (17940 bytes)    "Battlefiled Earth" & more!

 

April 29, 2000 (Montreal, Canada) - I consider myself very lucky to have been able to take part in a round-table interview session with John Travolta, as he whisked through our town on his way to promoting his new sci-fi adventure called "Battlefield Earth". Overall, I was extremely impressed with the man, who appeared to be one of the most down-to-earth people that I'd ever met. Very gracious, attentive and genuinely sincere, John Travolta proved to me today that being a giant in the entertainment biz, does not mean you have to be an A-hole. Of course, I couldn't help but be nervous during most of our 30-minute encounter, but John was very good at making everyone around him feel at ease (he responds by looking directly into your eyes-- sign of a good man!), and even let my sorry fan-boy ass take a picture with him.

But enough about me and my teenage fantasies...let's move on to the interview, which contains minor plot spoilers about "Battlefield Earth".


REPORTER:
One of the things that tickled my fancy about this movie was that your character was a typical company guy. This guy thought that he was on the fast track, he paid his dues, how come heís not getting the promotion thatís due to him, and he reacted in a typical way.

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Yeah, thatís true. Thatís what I loved about the book and what I love about the movie, is that itís very identifiable. Everything in it, even though theyíre aliens and humans, theyíve got these very realistic and identifiable behavior patterns. And I think that youíre spot-on with that analogy there. Also, heís summoned to stay on a planet he hates, for basically the rest of his life, and that motivates all sorts of evil, further evil thinkings, like he wasnít evil enough already. And thatís what people do you know...you rub them the wrong way and suddenly they find a way of getting you.

REPORTER:
Do you believe in aliens?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Oh gosh, well, I have to believe thereís some other life force out there. I donít know in what form. But we canít have all these galaxies and universes without something going on. I just donít know what the deal is. Not that Iím even excited about the possibility, I donít even know if I want to encounter <laughs> what possibly could be out there, but Iíd be na?ve to think that there wasnít some life form.

REPORTER:
Do you think that in the movie, the Psychlos underestimate the "man-animals", as they call them?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
I think they completely underestimate them. I think thatís one of the best parts of the drama. They even thought the human beings chauffeured the dogs, cause the dog was the senior race, and that their favorite food was rat! I mean that is the wildest underestimation of the human species that there could be. And the most fun underestimation.

REPORTER:
I never figured you to be a fan of sci-fi. Have you always been a sci-fi fan?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
No, it was actually this book thatÖI mean, as a kid, I loved "The Time Machine", "Leagues under the Sea", and I remember all the ones that everybody else liked, but I didnít really kick into it until I read this, because it was like a fine wine of the genre. It seemed to be much different than everything that I had witnessed and read hither to that point.

REPORTER:
Youíve played your fair share of villains and heroes? Which one would you rather play?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Thereís definitely a bigger kick you get out of playing a villain, but the operative thing is to play anything well written. Thatís really the ideal thing. Good or bad, is it well written, is the character developed, is the dialogue great and easy to sayÖthings like this.

REPORTER:
Have you been thinking about making this movie since you first read the book in 1982?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Yeah, more or less because when I first got familiar with the book, I wanted to play Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, the part Barry Pepper plays. And then as I cooled off in my career, and I didnít have the clout anymore, I had to re-invent myself, and gain the clout again, but in doing so I became a popular villain. And I thought, well you know Iím too old to play the other guy, but why not segue into the villain, and let someone like Barry Pepper play the hero.

REPORTER:
Now that youíve re-instated your role as one of the worldís biggest superstars, are you afraid that you might be missing out on some of the smaller roles that are also well written?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Fortunately, because I did movies like "She's So Lovely" or "White Man's Burden", Iím not left out of those potential offers. Recently I was offered a small movie like that with Billy Bob Thornton, and I didnít take it, but at least theyíre still offering those possibilities, because I think once in a while, itís fun to do a small art film. Because itís something a little different that may not get done otherwise.

REPORTER:
But you do prefer making the "larger" filmsÖ?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
As long as itís good, I prefer whatís good! Thatís my preference. Not really "large" versus "small" or whatever. Quality is what I prefer.

REPORTER:
John, would you like to direct a movie one day?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
I will direct one day, but I have a feeling that it will be very limited. I wrote a little book called "Propeller One-Way Night Coach", which is a fable, I called it, for all ages. I would direct that, because I think only I have the take on that, that is the right one. Because itís so subjective, so personal to me, and Iíd only want to see it in a certain way.

REPORTER:
John, the new "Summer Movie Preview" of Entertainment Weekly is out, and in a little synopsis about your movie, one of the lines that we got a kick out of reading was "John had to put up with the unbearable heat last summer in Montreal".

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Unbearable heat in Montreal!? <laughs> Howís that happen?

REPORTER:
Can you for a couple of minutes talk to me about a guy who is very underrated as an actor. Forrest Whitaker.

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Oh yeah, sure! Forrest and I did a movie called "Phenomenon" together, about four-five years ago. And of course we were playing a much different relationship, we were best friends there, and here weíre blackmailing, co-workers and intermittent adversaries. Heís a really fine actor, who can basically do anything. Just like Barry Pepper can. And I felt the most fortunate to get these two in the movie, and Kim Coates as well. I mean we had an A+ quality cast, and clearly A+ crew and special effects.

REPORTER:
Is there a chance that you may team up again with a Miss Kelly Preston on another film?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Who happens to be my wife, yes! <laughs> We had planned to do a movie right before "Battlefield Earth" and then we postponed thatÖ


REPORTER:
Was that the "Shipping News"?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
No, "Shipping News", we cancelled that one because they didnít want to do it, not big enough. "Standing Room Only" was the one that we were gonna do. We put that on hold and weíre looking for another one to do. But in the meantime, we had fun doing this scene together.

REPORTER:
It was a nice scene.

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Wasnít it fun?

REPORTER:
What about little Jett, if you donít mind me asking, do you think he might one day get into the movies?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
I hope he does. Because I think this is a great profession, any of the arts, or sports, I think anything that communicates a creative instinct is a great thing for a child, and I would support all of that.

REPORTER:
Would you let him be an airline pilot?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Yup! Iíd let him pretty much do whatever he was excited about doing.

REPORTER:
Is there a career after the movie industry that youíre looking at, or is it that one day youíll say "Thatís it, thatís all, Iím done. Thank you very much"?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
No, I think that Iíll probably do this till the day I die. And if I had a second kind of career, even simultaneously, probably the airline industryÖIím very fond of aviation, and in particular, the airline industry. Although itís going in a direction that I donít always like because itís not comfort oriented and I like the glamour days of aviation, more than the way it is-- sardine cans, put Ďem in. It doesnít appeal to me. Making it fun and comfortable for passengers does. I think that travel is adventurous, and I think that it should be fun. And I think that itís lost its fun.

When I was a kid in the 60s, believe it or not, most of you are younger and donít know that, but it was a blast to fly! You dressed up, you got in your Sunday best, women wore white gloves, you had room to stretch your legs out, you had a very nice meal, the stewardess paid particular attention to you. It was an event. Itís so different today.

REPORTER:
Can we backtrack a little, and if you could describe the movie in general terms, and also, your role more specifically?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Sure. "Battlefield Earth" is considered the saga of the year 3000. So itís a 1000 years from now, and the planet is in the shape of, well, man is an endangered species. And this alien group called the Psychlos have come down, earlier than this point, and conquered the, what they call, "man-animals", in less thanÖwas it 9 minutes or 7 minutes?

REPORTER:
Nine minutes.

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Nine minutes. So you take up where there are very few human beings left. How do they get their planet back? They donít even know what happened to them, most of them. And the ones that do know are enslaved to these alien groups. And you pick up where this one single human being tries to tackle the big honcho of the Psychlos, chief of security Terl, and I play that. And the decent human being is Barry Pepper. Itís quite a romp. Itís a funny movie as dramatic as it sounds, itís also quite funny. I mean one of the English critics called Terl the "best comic villain in literary history". And I kind of agree with that, and thatís kind of the approach I took on it. Youíll see a lot of things that youíll recognize, like peopleís behavior, the criminal mind, people blackmailing and leveraging each other. The decent mind. The fellow that likes to survive for the group, and whatís best for each other matters most. Youíll recognize certain familiar things. And less alien-like things. So thatís kind of it in a nutshell.

The Psychlos do have an intent to get as much valuable sources and resources from the planet to take back to their planet for selfish and greedy reasons. Like gold, for instance. So when my character is found that he will soon be summoned to the rest of his life on this, what he thinks of as a "prison planet", he just goes psychotic, not though that he wasnít psychotic prior to that, and he decides that heís gonna get all the gold for himself, and go back and be a big deal and live the life of luxury on his planet. And thatís where the conflict comes in and the use of one of the human beings, which is Barry Pepper, to try to serve his further goals.

REPORTER:
What are you expecting out of this movie? Are you expecting it to be a summer popcorn kind of fun movie or is there a hidden message that youíd like people to take away? I liked it on the popcorn level, a lot.

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Popcorn level is the level that I am selling this movie on! Like "Pulp fiction", the movie, if you choose to read into it the way you want to, itís your choice. But I only intended it to be a very entertaining popcorn movie. And then if you like other things about it, like in "Pulp Fiction", you know they loved interpreting different things like "what does the light in the suitcase mean?"Ö

REPORTER:
What does it mean actually? Do you know?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
I donít know. Because it was left open for interpretation.

REPORTER:
Whatís your take on foot massages?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
<laughs> Interpretive foot massages! Actually, I think a foot massage can be for anybody, and anyone who wants to do it, it doesnít have to be sensuous or sexual, I think theyíre just healthy to get.

REPORTER:
John, forgive me but was this your first foray starring in a movie which you were also producing?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Uh-huh.

REPORTER:
And that being said, did you find it difficult to focus, were you able to sort of zero in on what you had to do or did they both interlap and some days you were running around like you were crazy?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Both. You do need to take responsibility for every department as fully as you can, plus you have to remember that you are starring in it, and performing, you have a performance to live up to. You have a book to live up to. All these things are going on at once. And believe it or not, you know that saying "give a busy person something to do, and youíll get it done"? I think that was kind of me. When I get really busy, not unlike my wife, the same thing, you could give us a lot to do, weíll get it all done. One of my destinies probably was taking more responsibility than just being an actor, although itís kinda fun to just be an actor.

REPORTER:
Youíre saying that this is essentially a "popcorn" movie, that we view as entertainment. And Iím not trying to read more into it than we should, however the story was written by the founder of Scientology, and because of that very fact, I am assuming that perhaps some of the values that are dear to him, and his "disciples", are perhaps included in this movie. Could you describe some of the values that are dear to Scientologists that we might find in this movie?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Well, the first distinction you should make is that probably Hubbard is more famous for science-fiction than philosophy. And I think that any of the values youíll find in this movie are just values that most good stories and decent people include in their scenarios. Good versus evil and things like that. So I donít think youíre gonna find anything particularly unusual that would reflect necessarily on the philosophy or not, other than the human condition.

REPORTER:
Could you expand on, you mentioned the sequelÖis that confirmed? Is that still in talks?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Sequel will be done, and it will be done here. Probably next year. So weíre looking forward to coming back, having a good time again.

REPORTER:
And there are rumors about GREASE 3 going around, I donít know if youíve heardÖ

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Oh really. Iím wondering what that would be.

REPORTER:
Apparently, Britney Spears and NíSync are rumoredÖ

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Well, that might be fun. Thatís probably a good idea. Itíd be better than "Grease 2" without Olivia and I. We wanted to do that, and then sillily, the company didnít want us to do it. And Iím thinking, well that doesnít make sense.

REPORTER:
If thereís one actor or actress that you would have loved to star with but has passed on, who would that be?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Barbara Stanwyck and Jimmie Cagney.

REPORTER:
And what ever happened to "Quiller Solitaire"?

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
That was scheduled to go and then another movie came up in its place because all the elements didnít quite fall into place, so I went with the one that went quicker. So that may still happen but probably not for a while.

REPORTER:
John, could I ask you one favor? Iím a bit of a fan also, would you mind if I got a picture of me--

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
Yes, of course! Yes.

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And with that we concluded a very cool interview with a very cool, genuinely sincere Hollywood star. And whether or not you actually like his new film, I think itís safe to say that John Travolta is definitely one of the more grounded stars of our day. ĎTwas truly a great day for yours truly as well. With the original "Grease" certified as one of the top films to revisit the inside of my VCR on an annual basis, this meeting with John Travolta was easily one of the greatest highlights of my stint at joblo.com.

Thanks a bunch, John. You da man. "Battlefield Earth" opens wide on May 12, 2000.

 

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