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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Travolta Family Tragedy; Past Interviews With John Travolta
Aired January 9, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, John Travolta's famous friends still stunned now that young Jett is laid to rest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA PRESLEY: This is the hardest time for anyone who's lost a child and anyone who has a child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll have the latest on the Travolta tragedy, plus John in his own words. He lets us in on his private world of family and friends, sharing thoughts on love and loss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN TRAVOLTA: I think what happens is that you always miss that person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And life next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We've got the latest developments in the Travolta family tragedy tonight. And then we'll look back at our interview with John from 2001. It's especially poignant in light of his son's death last week.
With us here in L.A. is Carlos Diaz, correspondent with "Extra," who's done yeoman like work for us.
And in New York, J.D. Heyman. He's senior editor of "People." The cover story for the latest edition of the magazine is the Travolta family tragedy. There you see its cover. It's a very well done piece. And extraordinary photographs, as is usual with "People".
What's -- what's the latest we can report, Carlos?
Where's the family?
Where are they?
What are they doing?
CARLOS DIAZ, CORRESPONDENT, "EXTRA": Well, you know, The family now has got choices to make, whether they want to go up to their house in Maine to get away from everything in Ocala. You know, they just had the memorial yesterday in Ocala, Florida. And as we predicted, it was a very tight memorial, as far as security went, because they can fly right into the community. It's not a situation where you see cars coming and going with tons of stars. The stars that they wanted to could fly right in.
And now it's a time for the family to get away and possibly go up to their house in Maine and just get away from things and cope the best they can.
KING: Did stars come?
DIAZ: Well, that's the thing, too. I mean, you know, we expected -- you know, we had talked about maybe Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey being there. It's tough to report because of the fact that, as you see there, there were tents and, you know, the planes that could come in. You know, it was tough to see if there was any stars coming.
There were reports that Tom Cruise was going to be there. He did tape his episode of "The View" that day. So it's one of those things where the stars wanted to be there and gave their condolences as best they could.
KING: Oprah is in Africa, I believe.
DIAZ: Yes. Also, Oprah did not attend and that's the thing, too, she did send her well wishes to John Travolta.
KING: J.D. what do we know about that home in Maine?
J.D. HEYMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE": Well, you know, this is a very cherished family home up in Isleboro, Maine. The Travoltas have been going there are for years. They have family celebrations there, many family Christmases.
You know, throughout Jett's life, in fact, some wonderful warm photographs were taken of John and Kelly and Jett together up there from his very early life.
So I think it means a lot to the family. And I assume that, at some point, they will go there. It -- it's just a very special place for them. So it's a good place for them to sort of -- you know, regroup. This is an incredible tragedy for them.
KING: Was this a tough issue to do?
HEYMAN: Oh, yes. I mean this is one of the most beloved stars in the world. This is a family that people know about. And this is, you know, I think an especially poignant story. You don't have to be famous to relate to the idea of losing a child -- the idea that, you know, this little boy that John and Kelly truly built their whole lives around and really restructured their Hollywood life around is lost to them, it's just an unbearable tragedy.
KING: Superstar Tom Cruise, a very close friend of the Travoltas, a fellow Scientologist, as well, choked up earlier this week on "The View" talking about the death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE VIEW," COURTESY ABC)
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Oh, he's just terrific. I mean, here's a man who is -- both of them doting parents, you know, just wonderful people. You know, I remember Jett when he was born. And, you know, I saw him when he was, I guess, a few months old. And -- and John just adored him and he -- both of his children and Kelly. So it's something that, you know, I -- I don't have the words for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Carlos, it's been reported that maybe forest Whitaker attended, James Gandolfini, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Kirstie Alley, Cal Ripken.
KING: Any of those confirmed?
DIAZ: Well, that's the thing, too. I mean, John Travolta had so many friends, you know, in the -- in both the Hollywood community and also the sports community. You mentioned Cal Ripken.
I talked to a lot of people on the red carpet at the Critics Choice Awards last night in Santa Monica for "Extra." And it's really interesting -- people are -- they're so behind John Travolta. And they so want to extend themselves to him.
But sometimes when I would ask them if they would like to give their well wishes over the airs at "Extra," they said you know what, I'm going to say no because this is a private matter. There were some people -- you know, like Ron Howard, who said this isn't the time or the place for it.
So it has affected so many stars so profoundly, that sometimes they don't even want to go on camera to talk about it.
KING: What do we know, if anything, about what happened at the service, J.D.?
HEYMAN: Well, it was a -- it was a very simple, very somber service. It was, really, a small gathering of the people that the Travoltas know. The family, you know, is a large extended family. And John and Kelly have large sort of seasonal celebrations with them around Christmas and New Year's. So they had a lot of family members and loved ones with them in the Bahamas when this tragedy occurred. So they were perversely, you know, lucky to have them around to support them.
There were several famous friends there who had flown in, as you've mentioned, some of whom stayed for a couple of days to be near John and Kelly during this time. And, you know, it was simple. They were very, very emotional. They clearly are, you know, sort of dealing with just a horrific loss. And as you would expect, the tone of the entire event was muted and really filled with a lot of pain -- a lot of pain and sympathy for this -- for this couple.
KING: I know Ocala pretty well, Carlos.
KING: And it is horse country in Florida. It's where most of the horse breeding takes place for Florida breeds.
So it wouldn't have been difficult to get there.
DIAZ: Right. But the thing is, though...
KING: How did they keep people out?
DIAZ: Well, that's the thing -- you mean keep them off the grounds?
KING: Yes. Those (INAUDIBLE) you wanted to...
DIAZ: I mean, obviously, you know, there was very tight security. The sheriff's department of Ocala said that they were going to make sure that the Travoltas, you know, had their privacy. The sheriff's department talked to "Extra" about the fact that they were going to work with the Travolta security detail to make sure that people kept out.
They wanted to make sure -- the Ocala community wanted to make sure the Travoltas have the time to grieve properly with this memorial.
keep folks out.
HEYMAN: And Carlos is exactly right, Larry. This is a community that really has rallied around this family. They were, of course -- you know, they're very, very wealthy. But they were a family to this community. They were known at the local restaurants. They were just people from the neighborhood to the people who knew them. They are, in a way, very down to earth people. And the community is very supportive of them.
And as you pointed out, this is sort of a fly in, fly out situation. John Travolta -- one of the reasons that this community has appealed to him is because he is such a pilot, he is able to fly around the world. He was able to fly home to his family when he was on location.
So it was easy for people to fly in and fly out, really, without having to go through any kind of scrum of photographers or people seeking to watch people.
KING: We'll be right back with Carlos Diaz and J.D. Heyman.
And then, an extensive portion of our interview a couple of years back with John Travolta. How will they manage to move on?
We'll try to find out, when we return.
KING: Carlos, you spoke to Clint Eastwood about John.
DIAZ: Yes. I talked to Clint Eastwood last night at the Critics Choice Awards. And you could tell the tone -- you know, his tone was so serious. And he said that he had written a note earlier in the day yesterday to John Travolta, you know, offering his condolences. And you just hear it in the tone of every person you talk to. I talked to the two directors of "Bolt," you know, the last movie that John Travolta did, that was released in November. And he said that -- they said that John was so proud of that movie, because it was a family movie and that Jett could enjoy it and this and that.
So what we do know about John as far as his future goes, he has done -- I talked to Travolta's people and they said that he is done shooting "From Paris with Love." So that...
KING: That's done?
DIAZ: That's done. So we had speculated earlier this week about well, what kind of affect will Jett's passing have on him shooting this movie?
He is done. In this movie, he played a CIA -- an FBI agent named Charlie Wax. So they are done shooting that now. It's in post- production.
So it's -- that's really good news for the Travolta family, because now they can basically just focus on that grieving process.
KING: His career really revived with "Get Shorty" and the one...
DIAZ: With "Pulp Fiction."
KING: And "Pulp Fiction."
DIAZ: Yes, "Pulp Fiction" was the one.
KING: He was at a low ebb then.
DIAZ: He was on his third "Look Who's Talking" movie, you know, and he needed something. And Quentin Tarantino came walking along and Quentin Tarantino offered him "Pulp Fiction" and his life has never been the same since.
KING: Tarantino now directing Brad Pitt in Germany.
KING: Priscilla Presley is another friend of the Travoltas and a member of the Church of Scientology. She talked to me about the tragedy last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESLEY: John and Kelly have been the most doting parents. Twenty-four hours they've -- this child has really been nurtured and loved and cared for. And, again, you know, my heart, along with all of us, you know, is with them this day. It's very difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: J.D. what part does Scientology play in this story?
HEYMAN: Well, I think it plays a part in terms of the public curiosity. I don't think it plays any real part in terms of the tragedy. This could have happened to anybody. This -- this boy had a seizure disorder. He had serious seizures. The Travoltas dealt with those seizures as best they could. And, unfortunately, the worst that any parent could imagine could happen.
You know, there is a public curiosity about -- about their beliefs and, you know, frankly, a lot of judgment, that I think is fairly unfair toward people who may not understand.
I mean these are loving parents. They -- they loved their son, they built their lives around this boy. They were aware that he was a boy with special needs. They talked about him as any parent would talk about a child, with love and, you know, celebration. They didn't focus, in their public discourse, on some of the things that may have held him back. I think that's understandable.
HEYMAN: And, unfortunately, you know, I think with celebrities, sometimes people rush to judgment when, clearly, in this case, we're talking about two people who've suffered a horrible loss.
DIAZ: J.D. Makes a great point, as well, because of the fact that we played a clip from Tom Cruise just moments ago from "The View." He goes on, on "The View," Tom Cruise does, and he says basically in the -- in the religion of Scientology, if somebody is sick, they go to the doctor. They get better. They take their medication. And it is not something where they say no to medication. And that was the big thing earlier in the week, well, you know, Jett Travolta died because he didn't have the proper medication. And I said right off the beginning, that's just insane. And Tom Cruise came out on "The View" yesterday and said the exact same thing. It's just not true.
KING: Lisa Marie...
KING: Yes. Go ahead. I'm sorry, J.D.
HEYMAN: I'/m sorry, Larry. Yes, that's exactly right. I mean there's obviously controversy around Scientology and what Scientologists believe about psychiatry and psychiatric medication that's well-known. They happen to have some opinions about that.
Epilepsy -- and we were told by a spokesman from the Church of Scientology -- autism are not considered psychiatric conditions, in their view. And, you know, that's -- that's a decision, that's a belief that they have. And they're very clear on the idea that a medical condition of any kind is treated, you know, by doctors, as it would be in any other community.
KING: Carlos, the -- let's see, the Golden Globes are this weekend?
DIAZ: Right. The Golden Globes are...
KING: And now -- now his film, "Bolt," has two areas of nomination, right?
DIAZ: Right. It is nominated for...
KING: Do you think they're going to acknowledge him?
DIAZ: They -- I think there's -- I think you're going to see a lot of people on the red carpet talking about John Travolta. Like, as I said, I was at the Critics Choice Awards last night. A lot of people were talking about him there. You're going to have a lot of people on the red carpet.
I think you're going to see something in acceptance speeches -- you know, people recognizing John Travolta. No word yet on whether the Golden Globes are going to do something specifically.
But as you said, "Bolt" is nominated. John Travolta specifically is not nominated, but the film is nominated in two categories, also, for best animated film.
KING: Where are they in the celebrity nomenclature, the Travoltas?
DIAZ: Oh, they're A-listers. I mean they're complete A-listers. They are -- they're the -- this is tough to say, but, I mean, they're the kind of person, when you're interviewing somebody on the red carpet and you see John Travolta coming up over somebody's shoulder, you wrap up that interview because John Travolta is coming. I mean that's just -- that's just down as truth.
KING: Is there any advance buzz, J.D. on the movie?
HEYMAN: You know, not -- not really. I mean, I think, you know, it certainly looks like an interesting film. And John Travolta, you know, in these kinds of roles -- you know, he's such an accomplished actor. And I think, you know, it's probably an incredible film.
I haven't heard, you know, something specific about his performance or anything. It's far too early to say, you know, what this film will ultimately be.
But, you know, as Carlos was saying, I mean he is one of the most respected people in Hollywood. One of the reasons is because he's so supportive of the creative community there. And anybody who's ever been on a red carpet in Hollywood when John and Kelly are on there, these are people who enjoy this, who support the creative community. And it's only natural that they would be supported back when they need it.
You know, he really is one of the most well-known actors of his generation and one of the most respected and, really, one of the nicest people that people in Hollywood deal with. He's incredibly down to earth.
KING: Carlos, we have less than a minute.
When they say one picture would stem his career, would you show "Grease" or "Saturday Night Fever?"
DIAZ: Oh, "Saturday Night Fever." When he was walking down the street with "Saturday Night Fever," where they pan up slowly from his feet up and he's got that strut going -- I mean "Grease" is a great movie. I -- that's one of my favorites.
KING: It's one you could see it a hundred times.
DIAZ: Yes, I think I've seen it a thousand times. It's a great movie. But you -- him strutting down the street -- he defined the '70s with that one strut.
KING: You know, on the -- in the play, "Grease," he played the other part. He played...
DIAZ: Yes, he played Kenickie.
KING: Kenickie. Right.
DIAZ: Yes. Yes (INAUDIBLE).
KING: In other words, he was not a star then.
DIAZ: Yes. And he's got...
KING: And then he got "Welcome Back, Kotter" and -- and the world changed.
KING: Yes. He'll go on with his career, don't you think?
DIAZ: I'm hoping.
DIAZ: I'm hoping. He's too talented and I just -- and I think now what we need to respect with this is we've had this week of focusing on them. Let's let the Travolta family grieve and let them come out when they want to come out.
As always, thank you.
Carlos Diaz, correspondent for "Extra," and J.D. Heyman, the senior editor of "People".
Congratulations on that cover story in the late -- the new edition, "The John Travolta Tragedy."
HEYMAN: Thanks, Larry.
KING: John Travolta will be here in an encore of our interview from some years ago. He didn't hold back about love, loss or his family.
We'll see you in 60 seconds.
KING: I've known John Travolta for a long time. He's a class act.
I sat down with him right here in 2001, for what turned out to be an incredibly frank -- even intimate -- look at his life. He was generous in so many ways, sharing his private and very personal thoughts about the people dear to him who are no longer with us.
TRAVOLTA: I lost my girlfriend. I lost my mother, my father, my manager.
KING: Nearly lost your son.
TRAVOLTA: Nearly lost my son. I...
KING: What happened?
TRAVOLTA: With my son, it was, again, it was about seven years ago. And I was obsessive about cleaning -- his space being clean. So we constantly had the carpets cleaned.
And I think, between him -- the fumes and walking around, maybe picking up pieces or something -- he got what is rarely a thing to deal with. But it's called Kawasaki Syndrome.
And it's very easily handled, if you identify it.
And we did. And it was handled within 48 hours. But that 48 hours was...
KING: What happens to him?
TRAVOLTA: ... Not to be believed.
KING: Did he -- was he knocked out?
TRAVOLTA: No, he wasn't knocked out. It was that the immune system overreacts because they have almost the equivalent of metallic chemical in their -- that the body is responding to...
KING: You knew that right away?
TRAVOLTA: No, no. The doctor knew that right away.
TRAVOLTA: We didn't know what was wrong.
KING: You got -- you got him around.
And he was what, how old?
TRAVOLTA: He was -- he's nine now, so he was probably two or two- and-a-half. And boy, was that -- it was like your little one I met today. I mean, imagine, you know, if...
KING: If something happened, I just...
TRAVOLTA: And I thought I was tough. I thought I was -- with all the loss I'd been through, that I -- that I would have, you know, been...
KING: And you lost your girlfriend at a very early age.
TRAVOLTA: Did you know Diana Hyland?
KING: I met her twice.
KING: She was extraordinary.
TRAVOLTA: An extraordinary woman.
KING: What did she die of?
TRAVOLTA: She died of cancer.
KING: How old was she?
TRAVOLTA: She was 41. And it was not an easy time for me.
KING: Were you -- are you able to deal well with loss?
TRAVOLTA: I don't know, really, how to answer that, because I think you never...
KING: Paul McCartney said you just -- he cried. You just...
TRAVOLTA: Of course you do.
TRAVOLTA: I think what happens is that you always miss that person.
KING: They're always around you.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. The crying you have to do. I mean, just -- don't bypass that.
KING: Don't be strong.
TRAVOLTA: Forget that. I just meant that I was tough in getting used to the fact that people die, but not tough to -- to the idea that loss wasn't significant to me, because it is and it always will be. And -- but the magnitude of that is very, you know, big. And you do feel it deeply. And you do -- I think one must.
I was watching your show with Jackie Kennedy's...
TRAVOLTA: ...sister. And I wanted her to say, at one point, I bawled, I cried, you know?
KING: She never did say that.
TRAVOLTA: And she never did.
TRAVOLTA: And I said oh, my God, if we could just get you to, like, you know, get through that, it would be...
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KING: Well, let's switch to a lighter side of Travolta now. We're going to show you a scene of John Travolta going on "American Bandstand."
You had -- what -- what was the hit record?
TRAVOLTA: I don't know what you're showing.
KING: What was the name of the record?
TRAVOLTA: Well, the first one was "Let Her In." I had a few hits back there, but that was "Let Her In."
KING: Let's watch young John here.
LYRICS: If ever I'm away from you, baby. There's nothing that you're going to do, oh baby. You could only see what I've been going through, without you, babe.
KING: Oh, wow!
How old were you?
TRAVOLTA: Probably 21.
KING: That was a hit, though.
TRAVOLTA: Well, that was the second song. The first one was a very big hit. The second one was like the top five or something. But the first one was number three and...
KING: Why didn't people encourage you to just stay with a recording career?
You were a rock star.
TRAVOLTA: Oh, they did. But I -- I was much more attracted to acting by nature, because that was what I grew up doing. But I didn't mind every once in a while, you know, doing that as well -- singing.
KING: Did you always have a lot of hair?
KING: But you were into that...
TRAVOLTA: Well, I think that was -- in those days, it was very popular to have a lot of hair.
KING: No, but I mean you were always -- you were part of the group, right? I mean...
KING: ... You were into the times?
TRAVOLTA: I probably defined the times.
KING: How'd you meet Kelly?
TRAVOLTA: I met Kelly on a movie, a comedy called "The Experts." And she was married to somebody else. And she was having some issues and trouble. And I kind of helped her through that. And then a few years later, we got together.
KING: You didn't break up the marriage? TRAVOLTA: No, I did not. And I don't -- I have pretty strong feelings about that. So I said, you know...
KING: You would not have done?
TRAVOLTA: No, no, no. I don't believe in that. So, I thought, well, you know, when -- whatever you do, whether you get divorced or stay together, you know, clean the slate and then see what happens, you know. But -- not that I didn't want to be with her. It's just that I felt strongly about that.
KING: How do you like fatherhood?
TRAVOLTA: I love being a father. Outstanding.
KING: And your boy, he gets to see your movies, right?
TRAVOLTA: Well, he's only seen "Michael," "Grease," and "Look Who's Talking." Now, as he gets older, he may be able to see the others.
KING: "Swordfish" would be a little tough for him.
TRAVOLTA: Probably right now, yes.
KING: What's it like to be -- to have a little 1-year-old daughter?
TRAVOLTA: Well she is -- already has me around her...
KING: Owns you.
TRAVOLTA: Owns me. Absolutely.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KING: John will talk about his religion, Scientology, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.
Stay with us.
KING: John Travolta, A-lister been written about Scientology. A lot of the times it's critical. But you couldn't have grown up in it.
KING: Was Mr. Travolta a Scientologist?
TRAVOLTA: I think what -- what one of the biggest misunderstood concepts is that, you know, Scientology is non-denominational. You can be any religion and be a Scientologist -- Jewish, Catholic, Christian.
KING: But is it a religion? TRAVOLTA: It is. But it's a religion on technical concepts, you know. It addresses you spiritually. And it leaves God as a -- up for your religion, you know -- for you as a Christian or you as a Jewish person would interpret what you wanted from that aspect of your religion.
KING: So I'd bring my Jewishness to it?
KING: So I don't lose my Jewishness in it?
TRAVOLTA: No, you don't.
TRAVOLTA: No, you don't.
KING: Then how did it get all bum-rapped?
TRAVOLTA: Well, that's probably a long story and a story -- and it could have happened back in 1950, when "Dianetics" was first written. And I think there was an attack on the book because it really attempted to help in a mental health way.
KING: And knocked psychiatry.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. And I think that could have been the initial -- the initial issue, you know.
KING: It makes the...
TRAVOLTA: And it wasn't (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: ... Demands of its membership, though, does it not?
For example, is it true that your wife had to give birth without yelling?
TRAVOLTA: No, no, no. That was a choice.
KING: That's not true?
TRAVOLTA: No, no. We chose not to.
TRAVOLTA: Because if you read the book "Dianetics," it would explain why. And I'm not going to get into too much detail now. But these are -- these may enable you -- these choices enable you to be more effective and more...
KING: There's no rule, then?
TRAVOLTA: No, there's no rules on any of this. You do it because you want to. KING: What led to FBI investigations -- German authorities trying to stamp it out?
TRAVOLTA: Well, you know, you mean in Germany versus the U.S.?
KING: You know and the whole -- the whole thing about...
KING: ... Scientology. People hear Scientology and they say -- and this even has an image of some -- like something bizarre.
TRAVOLTA: Well, you know, as you know, you're in a profession that it's interpretive how press will re -- kind of release ideas on things. And, you know, I look at the members that I know -- the members -- the person I am. And it's only done fantastic things for my life.
KING: All accounts.
TRAVOLTA: And everyone I know, you know?
We're very strong on trying to rehabilitate people on drugs. We have a 90 -- a 95 percent success rate in taking people off of drugs. We're immersed in so many positive aspects of society, you know, as a group. So, I don't know, the group's motto, "a world without war -- insanity or criminality."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KING: Travolta's start in movies, "Grease" and his marriage to Kelly Preston -- that's next.
KING: You've had -- I guess, nobody's had a career like you, right?
TRAVOLTA: Well, I...
KING: Up, down, up, down, around.
KING: How do you explain this?
TRAVOLTA: I've always thought of, of a relationship with an actor to an audience as a marriage, you know. And a story, you know. And there are ups and downs, and you work through them, and you work with them.
And I've always viewed it that way, so the several come-backs, and the 14 number one hits, and the 17 hits are all part of -- the positive part. And then, any dips are part of what you work through in a good relationship.
KING: Ah, so it's like a marriage.
TRAVOLTA: I think it's like a marriage.
KING: But when you -- how do you handle the dip day?
TRAVOLTA: Well, you get used to it. And you just trust that you'll get through it. And then on weeks like this, you know that you'll get through it.
KING: Now, usually, when something opens and it doesn't do well and you get wrapped, that's it, and then it goes down, you're usually working on something else already, right?
KING: So that's a plus.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. It -- there's a three series -- a three theory on this. You know, you're doing a movie, you have one in the can, and you have booked one after that. That's kind of your protection, because then the odds are in your favor.
And normally, or theoretically, you wouldn't have to actually lean on something like that, but in the movie industry in Hollywood, you tend to.
KING: How did you break in?
TRAVOLTA: Well, --
KING: What do you do? Do you go to New York and knock on doors?
TRAVOLTA: Well, basically -- well, you start at a local level, and I did. I did --
KING: Did plays in Englewood?
TRAVOLTA: -- I did plays and musicals in Englewood. And Mom was in the theater there. And my sisters were in the theater, so, it was -- doors were kind of opened, or at least opportunity.
And I auditioned and would get -- I had a very good success rate at scoring jobs. And then --
KING: You did?
TRAVOLTA: -- by the time I got to Manhattan, I continued that. And I did TV commercials, and radio commercials, and Broadway, and off-Broadway, and, I understand that you said you saw me -- KING: I saw you in "Grease."
TRAVOLTA: In "Grease."
KING: Not in the lead.
TRAVOLTA: No, that's right. I was a supporting part. It --
KING: You were like --
TRAVOLTA: Doody is what they called the --
TRAVOLTA: -- character, yeah. I had two songs, and --
KING: Wasn't it kind of weird, though, to be sort of listed sixth on the bill in Broadway, --
KING: -- and lead in the movie?
TRAVOLTA: It was. But, you see, the timing was perfect, because I was the youngest member of the cast, ever. I was 18 when I did the show.
So by the time the movie was cast, I was the right age -- to play, because all the people playing in "Grease" were in their 20s, playing 18.
KING: So when you were on stage in "Grease" --
TRAVOLTA: I had dreams.
KING: Did you?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, absolutely. And I had hopes.
KING: No kidding. Did you really say, --
TRAVOLTA: Oh, it was --
KING: -- "I could play this lead someday?"
TRAVOLTA: My biggest dream was to play Danny Zuko in "Grease." Was my biggest dream.
KING: No kidding.
TRAVOLTA: And I never let go of that postulate. Ever. And until it happened.
KING: So, your dreams came true.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. I mean, I've attained and achieved things that I'm proud of, you know. My Academy Award nominations, I'm very proud of.
My children, getting -- having a successful marriage. These are all things that I wanted and dreamed about, and have achieved.
KING: Having a successful marriage, difficult? In the atmosphere you're in?
TRAVOLTA: I think it's difficult in any atmosphere, is my --
KING: You don't think it's more difficult here?
TRAVOLTA: It would be subjective or interpretive, I'd imagine, how difficult it could be. But I would never compete, and say my marriage is more difficult than someone that's not in show business.
KING: Well, having a marriage that's looked at a lot, isn't that more --
TRAVOLTA: Well --
KING: -- because, you think more difficult.
TRAVOLTA: Yes --
KING: You know, tabloid fodder and all the crap that goes with it.
TRAVOLTA: Well, there might be a level of antagonism that could go along with it, that others may have, but they may have their Aunt Sally, that's equally as antagonistic as --
KING: -- name in the paper.
KING: But you think the problem is the same if you have the Aunt Sally?
KING: Even if it's not in a tabloid.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. Honestly I do. I don't think, I mean, I think the benefits of being famous balance certain deficits of not. And I think, at the end of the day it all balances out. And people are people, and human beings are human beings. And honestly, they really do.
KING: Do you tell yourself, it goes with the territory? I mean, can you accept that when you read things about -- I mean, you've read --
KING: -- rumors about you, and all those kind of stupid --
TRAVOLTA: Oh, yeah. I don't --
KING: How do you deal with that?
TRAVOLTA: You don't pay much attention to it, because what mostly matters is that you're living the life that you want to live. And you have the integrity and the honesty that you have, and that's really what matters, you know.
KING: When we come back, fame and dancing with Princess Diana. More with John Travolta after this.
KING: You're watching an encore of our 2001 interview with John Travolta. He was so open and gracious about his personal life, his public life too. Being world famous didn't take him too long to get used to it. Take a look.
KING: How did you deal initially with fame? Because Kotter would have been the first thing where people -- "I know that guy."
KING: Right? How'd you deal with that?
TRAVOLTA: I dealt with it fine. Because my father and my uncle owned a tire shop called Travolta Tire Exchange. And it was in big letters, so --
KING: You always heard your name.
TRAVOLTA: -- New Jersey.
KING: And they were well-known.
TRAVOLTA: And they were very well-known. So, by the time I got on Broadway, and once in a while I'd be recognized for something I did, and out the side door or something, and --
KING: Did your parents live to see your fame?
TRAVOLTA: They did, and I was, I was so happy --
(CROSSTALK) TRAVOLTA: -- happy about that, I can't tell you, that they got to live through seeing, you know, most of my highlights.
KING: With "Saturday Night Fever" came --
TRAVOLTA: Came everything, you know.
KING: First thing.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. That was the blueprint for the filming career, kind of --
KING: And then, of course, we got to see Travolta the dancer, and so we're going to show you some of that now. Just some clips, of John Travolta, as they might say in the trade, hoofing. Watch.
KING: That was --
TRAVOLTA: "Michael" is one of people's favorite movies.
KING: "Michael" was a great movie.
TRAVOLTA: Oh, I get letters from --
KING: We're you a natural dancer, by the way? Did you take lessons?
TRAVOLTA: I did take lessons, but innately I had rhythm, and kind of --
KING: So when you were a kid in Englewood, you danced --
KING: -- at the hop?
TRAVOLTA: You had to do it. In New York you did all three -- you act, you sing, you dance. And you just --
KING: You did the Lindy good, right?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. So that was all part of it, you know.
KING: And then the most famous dance. Let's see a picture of this.
KING: I guess this was your most famous dance.
TRAVOLTA: Yes, it was my most famous dance.
KING: She asked you, or you asked her? TRAVOLTA: She -- well, this is how it went down.
KING: Princess Di.
TRAVOLTA: I was invited to the White House to just be part of this very grand evening. And Nancy Reagan came, whispered in my ear, you know, "The biggest dream that the Princess has is to dance with you."
And of course, my heart stopped. My universe stopped. Everything said, it was, oh, no. And, I said in, at the appropriate time, "Would you find it in your heart to ask her to dance?" I said, "Sure. I'll do that."
So, at the stroke of midnight, or whatever it was, I was told that it was "time," quote unquote. So, my heart pounding, I went up to the Princess and I said, "Would you care to dance?" And she said, "I would love to."
And we off and for, it seems like 20 minutes. And everyone cleared the floor, and we danced this marvelous dance for three songs, or four songs. And it was a complete fairy tale.
KING: Society orchestra playing, --
TRAVOLTA: Oh, my God!
KING: Yes. Was she a little taller than you?
TRAVOLTA: Not --
KING: Close? She was pretty tall.
TRAVOLTA: -- about the same height. I'm six, a little over six, and I think she was, too.
KING: Good dancer?
TRAVOLTA: Good dancer. I had to stronghold it a little bit, because she was used to leading. And I said, you know, give her a little message that, you know, I'm --
KING: You --
TRAVOLTA: -- in control here. It's OK. Let's take our, take our trip.
KING: How did you react on her death, then?
TRAVOLTA: Pretty upset by it, because it was unnecessary. And I remember Diane Sawyer called me and asked me to be kind of the spokesman for the United States on how we all felt about her, her departure.
And I was honored to be that person. But I would have, you know, traded anything not to be that person, if it hadn't happened. KING: Still like dancing?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, sure. Sure. Pleasurable, yeah.
KING: So, it's always fun for you, and if the right role came again, you'd dance again in a movie?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, absolutely. You know, it's been 50/50, you know. Fifty percent of the movies I do, and 50 I don't. But it's always fun to do it, you know.
KING: When we come back, we'll talk about a John Travolta classic, "Saturday Night Fever," because there's only one Tony Manerro (ph). That's next.
KING: Would you say that, if we had to just jump in through all of them, "Pulp Fiction" jumps right out?
TRAVOLTA: Well, I think, for sure, "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction" were kind of bookends for -- or the pillars of my career.
KING: Opposites, too, of --
TRAVOLTA: Yes. Opposite --
KING: -- the roles were completely, I mean --
TRAVOLTA: One's a good guy who wants to make the best of life, and one is just heading for hell.
KING: Now, "Saturday Night Fever" led to super stardom.
KING: And that's a different kind of existence. How did you handle that? That ain't Travolta Tires.
TRAVOLTA: No. I was overwhelmed for a few years, maybe even more. Kind of, not in shock, but just a kind of a, in a still state, observing it all, trying to notice how -- how to deal with it, and learn how to deal with it. It's a, it's a very --
KING: Make some mistakes?
TRAVOLTA: Don't know.
TRAVOLTA: I -- KING: Don't know.
TRAVOLTA: I don't know if I did or not. I just --
KING: What did you follow "Saturday Night Fever" with?
KING: Were you always a singer?
KING: That came from Broadway, too, as well, right?
TRAVOLTA: Yes. And --
KING: And you could sing as a kid? And you took lessons, as well.
TRAVOLTA: Yes, I did all that. You know, again, in New York you, you had to really be prepared for three jobs -- actor, singer, dancer.
And just like a Jimmy Cagney would have. You know, he was a vaudevillian, you know. And --
KING: Who you got to know, right?
TRAVOLTA: I was friends with -- the greatest asset in show business is getting to know these great people -- Jimmy Cagney and Marlon Brando, your old buddy.
I mean, I'm telling you, these people have something to say. There's no accident --
KING: I mean, but you knew, you knew Stanwyck, right?
TRAVOLTA: I knew Barbara Stanwyck. I knew --
KING: Cary Grant you knew.
TRAVOLTA: -- Cary Grant. These people, there's no, it's not an accident why they're who they are.
KING: What was Cagney like?
TRAVOLTA: Ah! He was just, well, there's no --
TRAVOLTA: No. The first time I saw him, he cried. He was a Irish soft heart, you know. And I knelt down, and I held his hand, and I said, "Now look. When I was five years old, I watched you over and over again in 'Yankee Doodle Dandy,' and you meant the world to me and I absolutely love you." Well he just bawled, you know.
TRAVOLTA: And -- tough guy had, was there, because he had the sentient ability to be all things, you know.
KING: There's only one Cagney.
KING: Next, Travolta as Brando, and another guy you just might recognize too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
TRAVOLTA (as Marlon Brando): This was an oil from -- the Native Americans made. It's a siliconia (ph) plant. And they claim that the oils are very healing.
KEVIN NEALON (as Larry King): Actually have the ability to heal?
TRAVOLTA: Yes, it does.
NEALON: All right.
TRAVOLTA: Why don't you rub a little bit on my feet, and I'll show you --
NEALON: Come on, Marlon!
TRAVOLTA: No, go ahead, Larry. I'll talk to you about acting.
NEALON: All right, Marlon. Anything for the great Marlon. All right. If you're just tuning in, the book, an autobiography, the subject: acting, the oil-laden foot: Marlon Brando's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So you just told me that Brando got to know you when you and Kevin Nealon were on "Saturday Night Live," and he was doing me.
KING: Nealon was doing me and you were doing Brando.
TRAVOLTA: We did this skit. I was a full --
KING: I never saw this.
TRAVOLTA: Oh, you have to see it. I mean, and he, when saw them, and Brando says, he said, "I died when I saw you riding Larry King and hitting his back side." At the end of the skit, he said, I -- could I do that? I don't know if I could do that. It was so funny. KING: I have been privileged to have been in two movies with you -- "Mad City," which was not a hit, which I thought should have been --
TRAVOLTA: What a great movie.
KING: That was a great movie. And then we were together in "Primary Colors."
TRAVOLTA: Oh, well. That's a classic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PRIMARY COLORS")
TRAVOLTA: So Tuesday, when you go to cast your vote, you think about that. You think about what you're really interested in. And then pick your candidate.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Yeah!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRAVOLTA: I loved playing that part so much, I can't tell you.
KING: Did you get to see Clinton after the movie?
TRAVOLTA: I did.
KING: Had he seen the movie?
TRAVOLTA: He, you know, I -- from his brother and from him, they were very supportive, and I love this man. And he -- I believe that he loved the performance, and loved the movie. So, I mean, I just think he's in a league all of his own, this guy, you know.
But I did have a blast on that film. I just really loved every second --
KING: Mike Nichols.
TRAVOLTA: -- of it. Mike Nichols, a genius, you know. A --
KING: I had that great scene of interviewing the girl who has the tape of me, and you're watching. But where -- how did you -- when you get to play someone, I mean, you had a different name, but we all knew you were playing Clinton. Did you study him? What did you do?
TRAVOLTA: I did, but I had an innate, I don't know, ability to duplicate his essence, his style, everything. Even my nephew had said to me several years before, you know, "Uncle Johnny, you remind me of Clinton a little bit."
And I didn't know how to take it at first, but then I realized that I saw what he meant. And there were certain mannerisms or certain vocal qualities, or something that seemed to make it a little easier for me to grasp this character than --
KING: Was he fun to do?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, completely fun. Because to -- the actor, an actor gets to go everywhere, you know. And --
TRAVOLTA: -- they get to own the being-ness of the character. And to own what it would even be like for a minute to be that man, was a, just something, you know, something great.
KING: Do you have to like everybody you play?
TRAVOLTA: No. I don't have to like them any. I mean, I did like that character very much, but --
KING: Did you like the guy in "Swordfish"?
TRAVOLTA: Not particularly. I loved playing him, but I don't, you know, --
KING: Not a sympathetic character, --
KING: -- ever in the movie, --
KING: -- do we, do we like him, really him, do we?
TRAVOLTA: Well, I --
KING: But we sort of --
TRAVOLTA: You love watching him.
KING: Oh, boy, do we love --
TRAVOLTA: There's a difference.
KING: Yes, we love watching.
TRAVOLTA: I'll tell you what. There's a difference between loving the character and loving to watch a character.
The character in "Broken Arrow" or "Face-Off," you don't love him. You love to watch him. And that's what matters the most, is if you love to watch.
KING: Remember "Face Off?" Whew. Some closing moments with John Travolta right after this.
KING: All right, a character like you play in "Swordfish," which you know is a wild, action kind of movie that's also has to build development.
Did you like that right away? Is that where -- do you ever think sometimes that the effects take effect over you?
TRAVOLTA: Never worried about that. I never worried about effects or working with children -- or upstaging me.
KING: You just worry about them, is it a good film?
TRAVOLTA: I worry about the, is it a good story? Is it a good film? And then you take care of your own part of it.
KING: Do you think about what it's costing? I mean, you're a hired hand, here, right? I mean you're not putting up some money.
TRAVOLTA: Well, I think you always think about what it's costing, because it's important that that stay within a certain range so you can --
KING: You know budgets, right? I mean you get --
TRAVOLTA: Of course. Yes.
KING: Because a lot of actors don't care about that. Or --
TRAVOLTA: Well I do, because --
KING: -- if they have a lot of money, they don't really think about it.
TRAVOLTA: Well, I think I'm at a -- I've always thought about it, because I've always --
KING: Do you budget your life, too?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, yes.
KING: You do?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, completely. You must. If you want to keep any money, you have to budget. I mean, it's a primary concern.
KING: Even with the money you make.
KING: Do you have fear you could lose what you make?
TRAVOLTA: Anybody could lose what they make if they don't budget.
KING: Do you like playing offbeat people? TRAVOLTA: Yes.
KING: People not in the curve.
TRAVOLTA: I actually do like playing off-beat people. I think it's more fun. It's -- it takes you on a journey of some, something you don't know. Terra incognita. You know, if --
KING: People who do bad things. That's fun to play, too?
TRAVOLTA: Only if it's cleverly written, you know. People who do good things are fun to play, too, as long as they're well written. It's all about the writing.
KING: Are you always searching for a script?
TRAVOLTA: Yes. More-or-less. You develop some, and you search from you, and you re-write some and, you know, you're in a constant --
KING: Ever turn down anything you regretted?
TRAVOLTA: I've turned down a lot of movies, but not anything I actually regret. I can't say, I don't make a big practice of regretting. But --
KING: Have you turned down something that became a hit, where you sort and said, maybe --
TRAVOLTA: Oh, --
KING: It's not regretting, maybe I should have taken that.
TRAVOLTA: I've turned down "Green Mile." I turned down "As Good As It Gets," "Goodwill Hunting," you know --
KING: Wait a minute. You turned down "Green Mile." You turned down "Good As It Gets."
TRAVOLTA: And "Goodwill Hunting." But I did "Primary Colors," "Civil Action," "Face-Off" instead. So, I mean, they're trade offs to me.
KING: Oh, so that you wouldn't have done those if you did those.
TRAVOLTA: Yes, well exactly. You know, and --
KING: And then when you watch "Green Mile," can you watch it and say, "Boy that Hanks. He got it."
TRAVOLTA: Well I adore Tom, so, I, you know, I think he definitely got it. Yet in other parts, I can't even imagine me as well in "As Good As It Gets" or "Goodwill Hunting," because I think they were righter for it.
KING: Would you accept a lesser role if you loved the script?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, I already have.
TRAVOLTA: I did a small part in a film called "She's So Lovely," and "The Thin Red Line." And so --
KING: So you were in "Thin Red Line."
TRAVOLTA: Yes. I have a pretty good history of going through what I like, you know, versus having to star in it, or something like that.
KING: You're a super guy, John.
TRAVOLTA: You are, too.
KING: Great having you finally with us.
TRAVOLTA: Thank you.
KING: John Travolta's made millions of people all over the world happy with his films. Hang in there, my friend. It's time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?