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CNN Larry King Live
John Travolta Discusses His Career
Aired June 15, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: We've been waiting a long time to have John Travolta as a special guest. He's with us tonight for the full hour. It's an honor to have him.
He stars in "Swordfish" -- the No. 1 movie in America. Are you surprised at that?
JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: Well, I'm not actually surprised, but I think the industry was surprised, that it was...
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? TRAVOLTA: Yes.
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: Well, I will tell the audience that we'll be talking more about it later. I saw "Swordfish." I loved it. I think it's a terrific thriller with some shots in there, there's a bus -- how you did the bus and helicopter, I don't want to give it away, but, it's a wonderful twisting, good thriller movie, with a great script idea,...
KING: ... that throws you.
KING: And has surprises. Did you like it right away, by the way?
TRAVOLTA: I did,...
TRAVOLTA: ... I did.
KING: Do you often think back to where you grew up? I mean, do you think back to little John Travolta in Jersey?
TRAVOLTA: I do, because all my dreams and my hopes were formed in New Jersey. And I lived in Englewood, New Jersey, which is a suburb of Manhattan. But...
KING: What part of it is that? Over the bridge.
TRAVOLTA: ... over the bridge. But it was like, kind of living in Connecticut, and even though it was a lower middle-class neighborhood, it was very green and very, you know, beautiful, and the schools were very highly touted as top-notch, and this kind of thing.
So, it was a dichotomy, of sorts, you know.
KING: Because it was still Jersey.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. And the rumors on New Jersey are in Newark, basically, and...
KING: Yes. Jersey City. TRAVOLTA: ... smog, there's smog and fog, you know, whatever.
But I thought it was a grand place to live and grow up, and I would do it all over again, if I had...
KING: Did little John Travolta want to be an actor early?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, did he ever!
KING: Yes? Was he a cut-up...
TRAVOLTA: The most...
KING: ... in school?
TRAVOLTA: ... precocious child that -- and I would perform for anybody at a drop of a hat. I just -- Mom asked me to sing for someone, and I sang -- dance. Do you see him? Didn't matter. I...
KING: So, it's a very natural transition.
KING: How did you break in?
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. Several of my dreams came true.
KING: Is your real name Travolta?
TRAVOLTA: Yes, it is.
KING: Was there any question about you keeping it?
TRAVOLTA: A moment. And then, my manager at the time was a very clever guy. He said, well, there's De Niro. And there is Pacino. He said, what's wrong with Travolta? KING: So it worked.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. So...
KING: John Travolta's our guest. He stars in "Swordfish." We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GREASE")
TRAVOLTA AND OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN (singing): You're the one that I want! Ooh-ooh-ooh! Honey.
The one that I want! Ooh-ooh-ooh! Honey.
The one that I want! Ooh-ooh-ooh!
The one I need -- oh yes, indeed!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SWORDFISH")
TRAVOLTA: In the early '80s the DEA set up a network of dummy corporations as a government front to launder drug money and gather evidence. The problem was that these companies started to make money. A lot of money. In 1986, when Operation Swordfish was terminated, there was almost $400 million in these DEA accounts.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Money that just sort of disappeared.
TRAVOLTA: Thank you. It didn't disappear. It sat there, earning interest. That was 15 years ago. Do you have any idea of how much money that is today?
Nine and a half billion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to our interview with John Travolta. He's on the front cover this week of "Redbook" and "In Style." They're both monthly magazines. And, of course, all that around "Swordfish," the number one movie in America, going into its second weekend this weekend.
We're tracing the career of John Travolta, and how he -- you attained everything you ever wanted, like, you probably, you like -- you have nice properties, you have big cars, right? You live the life.
TRAVOLTA: Well, I enjoy my life. You know, I think life is an art, and that one has to live it as an art. That's your choice.
Of course, I'd choose to view it as an art, so, 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...
KING: ... because, you think more difficult.
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: And your faith helps you with that, right?
TRAVOLTA: Well, I mean, Scientology has helped me for 25 years. I've adored being part of that.
KING: We'll get to that later. You're able, though, to take an instance of something -- I told you I met L. Ron Hubbard, and...
KING: ... interviewed him years ago. You're able to take something negative. You pass by this newsstand and see something about you that's a bold-faced lie, or something,...
KING: ... and look beyond it.
TRAVOLTA: Yes, because...
KING: Through your faith.
TRAVOLTA: ... to me there, it's like a, like a -- nipping dogs at your ankles, or something. It's not, it's not to be taken too seriously. I've never taken any of that very seriously.
KING: So you don't...
TRAVOLTA: I take bigger issues seriously.
KING: ... you don't take it to sleep with you.
TRAVOLTA: No, I don't. I don't even take a movie that doesn't do well too seriously, because I think you must look at the bigger picture.
KING: Then, do you also balance well? Do you keep in concept when it does well? Do you say, "This too can pass"?
TRAVOLTA: Oh, absolutely. You see, absolutely. It's all in the balance of everything.
KING: Yeah. Back with more of John Travolta, the star of a terrific film "Swordfish," with a great supporting cast by the way and a wild director. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE BARBARA WALTERS SPECIAL")
TRAVOLTA: All right, what should I sing for you, guys?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something of Carly, what you sing...
TRAVOLTA (singing): My heart is sad and lonely. I cry for you, for you, dear, only. Why haven't you seen it? I am all for you, body and soul.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WELCOME BACK, KOTTER")
TRAVOLTA: All right. You've got the blonde, right? You tell her to meet you at Coney Island on the boardwalk, right? Then you tell the brunette to meet you at Coney Island under the boardwalk, right? And then you spend the whole night going up and down, up and down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with John Travolta. 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?
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...
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: The career and times of John Travolta. He stars in "Swordfish." A pretty good title. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PULP FICTION")
TRAVOLTA: In Paris, you can buy a beer at McDonald's. And do you know what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in Paris?
SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: They don't call it a quarter pounder with cheese?
TRAVOLTA: No, they got the metric system, they wouldn't know what the (expletive deleted) a quarter pounder is.
JACKSON: Then what do they call it?
TRAVOLTA: They call it the royal with cheese.
JACKSON: Royal with cheese?
TRAVOLTA: That's right.
JACKSON: What do the call a Big Mac?
TRAVOLTA: Big Mac is a Big Mac, but they call it le Big Mac.
JACKSON: Le Big Mac.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with John Travolta, who has had an extraordinary career. 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.
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: Want to work with Brando?
TRAVOLTA: I tried to work with Brando in "A Civil Action," and we didn't -- couldn't quite work it out.
KING: Oh, he was going to be in that?
TRAVOLTA: Yes, he, there was attempts for him to be. It was -- I'll tell you, Marlon is a revelation to me. He is a, you can learn so many lessons from Marlon...
TRAVOLTA: Brilliant mind, and brilliant human being and very huge heart and...
KING: You also do him well.
TRAVOLTA: Well, you know,...
KING: Make that -- do a quick example, folks. Marlon, why do you, why do you, why do you not promote your own movies?
TRAVOLTA (as Marlon Brando): Because, you know, if you promote one day, it's like, you know -- pimples. And the next day is polka dot ties. Who, who cares about that? It's either a good movie, and they want to see it, or they don't.
KING: You got a point, you know. You sold me.
We'll be back with John Travolta. He stars in "Swordfish." Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GET SHORTY")
DELROY LINDO, ACTOR: I'd like you to meet my associate, Bear. Movie stuntman, champion weight lifter, as you might have noticed. Throws things out I don't want.
JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: I think you ought to turn around and go back to Miami.
TRAVOLTA: You're a stuntman?
TRAVOLTA: You any good?
GANDOLFINI: Am I any good? Jeez.
TRAVOLTA: That's not bad for a guy his size.
(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.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. 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.
KING: We have a scene from "Primary Colors." We'll watch it, and then ask about playing a president we all know. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PRIMARY COLORS")
TRAVOLTA: I will make you this deal. I will work hard for you. I will wake up every morning thinking about you. I will fight and sweat and bleed to get the money to make education a lifetime thing in this country, to give you the support you need to move up.
But you have got to do the heavy lifting your own selves. Now you know I've taken a lot of hits in this campaign. But you know what that means? It means that someone thinks that you're only interested in the kind of garbage that they've been throwing at me.
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)
KING: You had him down.
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,...
TRAVOLTA: No. 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: "Face-Off" had to be wild.
TRAVOLTA: Ah, fantastic. I mean, we...
KING: Nicolas Cage and you.
TRAVOLTA: Nick and I were...
KING: Two Italians running wild.
TRAVOLTA: ... probably the bravest thing that two actors ever tried to pull off, because we were on a high-wire the whole time. And I said, that, you know, do you think this is working? And, you know, do you think you were going to find...
KING: Why did we buy that, that you take faces? And put one face on one guy and one face on another?
TRAVOLTA: Well, I think Nick and I had a tremendous commitment to pulling it off, because we do have big egos, and are prideful in our work.
KING: And Italian. That's...
TRAVOLTA: Yes, and that drive helped. And I think that we knew we had to pull it off. Otherwise it'd be the most embarrassing thing ever, you know.
KING: John Travolta's our guest. He stars in "Swordfish." We'll talk about his faith right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "FACE/OFF")
(RELIGIOUS CHANTING) TRAVOLTA: Isn't this religious? Ah, yes, the eternal battle between good and evil, saint and sinner. But you're still not having any fun!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: John Travolta, much has 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 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. 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: And I don't lose my Jewishness...
TRAVOLTA: No, you don't.
KING: ... in it.
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, initial issue, you know.
KING: It makes... TRAVOLTA: And it wasn't...
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 because you want to.
KING: What led to FBI investigations? German authorities trying to stamp it out? What? What?
TRAVOLTA: Well, you know, you mean in Germany versus U.S.?
KING: You know, and 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 kind of release ideas on things. And, you know, I look at a -- the members that I know, the members, the person I am. It has only done fantastic things for my life.
KING: On all accounts.
TRAVOLTA: And everyone I know, you know. We're very strong on trying to rehabilitate people on drugs. We have a 90, 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."
KING: Terrible! Did you ever, were you ever tempted in the drug area?
TRAVOLTA: No. I...
KING: Was this Scientology that prevented you from...
TRAVOLTA: No, I just was innately wasn't attracted to it, but that doesn't mean that aren't a lot of people that were, that got a lot of help and turned around, you know. But that wasn't part of...
KING: What do you make of the Robert Downey, Jr. story? As a fellow actor. He's a great talent.
TRAVOLTA: I wished I could help him. But, you know, I reached out a couple of times, but...
KING: Did you?
TRAVOLTA: Yes. And, a person needs to want to be helped, and I have a very specific way of helping a person off drugs. So, you have to want that.
KING: Can you describe it?
TRAVOLTA: Well, there's vitamin programs and detoxification, sweat programs that a person goes on, and Scientology calls it a purification program.
But it's not -- you can even do it outside the church. You don't have to do it there. You can do it with different organizations. You know, there's a whole wonderful organization called Narcanon, that is just, it just helps...
KING: Oh, yeah.
TRAVOLTA: ... prison members.
KING: And he didn't want to do it?
TRAVOLTA: Well, I never could get to him. There was a person that kind of...
KING: You couldn't reach him?
TRAVOLTA: Well, no. It was a...
KING: You're kidding.
TRAVOLTA: ... it was difficult to get to him at a certain point where I was offering some help. And, you know, it's still there, if he wants it.
KING: Do you understand how people get into the need of...
KING: ... needing something?
TRAVOLTA: Life is overwhelming. Life is not easy. Life is tough. And you need something that really works and helps you actually, not promises to help you, then fail. And that's why I've always loved Scientology, because it offers help, and it works.
KING: Do you have an escape valve of any kind from...
TRAVOLTA: Well, other than flying, you know, I...
KING: Ah. The next thing. You fly.
TRAVOLTA: I fly.
KING: You nearly died.
TRAVOLTA: Well, I don't think of those in the same thought. But I have seven...
KING: You crashed, right?
TRAVOLTA: No, I have never...
KING: What happened to you? Or you had an incident, though.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. Eight years ago, I lost all my electric over Washington. But because of all my good schooling, we came through it with flying colors.
KING: OK. Meaning, it was a prop plane?
TRAVOLTA: No, no. It was a jet.
TRAVOLTA: It was a Gulfstream jet.
KING: You're flying, you're the pilot.
TRAVOLTA: I'm the pilot.
KING: And you're over Washington, D.C..
TRAVOLTA: ... D.C., and we lost...
KING: You lose all electricity.
KING: That means...
TRAVOLTA: You have your engine.
KING: You have your engines, but you can't talk to anyone.
TRAVOLTA: Nothing else.
KING: Where were you? Near Dulles? Near Reagan? Near...
TRAVOLTA: Well, finally, we found Washington National, but that was through a hole in the sky, and hovering below the clouds, and...
KING: Now, you couldn't tell anyone, "I'm here."
KING: OK. Who -- was someone in the plane with you?
TRAVOLTA: My wife and my son, and the flight attendant, and...
KING: Now tell me you didn't panic.
TRAVOLTA: You know, policemen will offer, often tell you this. When your training kicks in, and there's no time to panic. You might be a little pissed off. But there's no time to kick into that.
Because, you know, I've been flying for 30 years, you see. And I've been flying jets for 20 years. So, you're prepared. You know, that's the whole idea of a professional pilot, is you're...
KING: So what do you?
TRAVOLTA: ... prepared for emergencies.
KING: You looked around, obviously, to see if there's any planes in your way. The tower doesn't know you're coming in.
KING: They pick you up on radar.
TRAVOLTA: No, because...
KING: They don't...
TRAVOLTA: ... you've lost the...
KING: Oh, if they can't get you.
TRAVOLTA: Yes, that's right.
KING: You're a stealth.
TRAVOLTA: Yes, you're kind of a stealth. So they clear the area, and you, what you learned in your first days is, find a hole in the clouds, make circles through it, find an airport.
And I was familiar with Washington, fortunately. And I saw the monument. And I said, you know what? There is Washington National Airport. Take a hike over there, land. So...
KING: How was your wife?
TRAVOLTA: She was, you know, concerned. But we got right in another plane and went back to Maine, and you know, had a good holiday. So...
You know, it's different. There's difference -- an incident is different than tragedy. And, you know, I've been very fortunate that 30 years of flying I've had one incident. In 30 years, it's pretty -- pretty good.
KING: We'll be right back with more on John Travolta. Not a very dull story, folks. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LOOK WHO'S TALKING")
KIRSTIE ALLEY, ACTOR: Are you sure your wing's not smoking?
TRAVOLTA: No. Oh, my God!
ALLEY: What? No!
TRAVOLTA: I was just kidding. It was just a joke to relax you.
ALLEY: I'm just -- I'm so nervous. I feel so out of control.
TRAVOLTA: All right, this is what we're going to do.
I'm an instructor and I'm giving you your first lesson. Give me your hand. Put it on my stick.
ALLEY: I don't want to put it on your stick.
TRAVOLTA: Just put it on my stick.
ALLEY: I'm not going to put it on your stick.
TRAVOLTA: This is not a sexual thing. Just put it on my stick.
ALLEY: All right...
TRAVOLTA: Oh, that feels good, baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PHENOMENON")
TRAVOLTA: That's OK, it's nothing. Static electricity, that's all. That's all it is.
OK. All right, OK. Oh, God. Oh, God! Oh, man. Is somebody trying to tell me something? Huh?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: John Travolta, you've known sadness, though, right? You lost... 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 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? Is he...
TRAVOLTA: No, he wasn't knocked out. It was that the immune system overreacts, because they have almost the equivalent of metallic chemical. And their body's responding...
KING: And you knew that right away?
TRAVOLTA: No, no. The doctor knew that right away. We didn't know what was wrong.
KING: You got, you got him around. 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 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: 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."
TRAVOLTA: Of course you do.
KING: You just cry, yeah.
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 the idea that loss wasn't significant to me, because it is and it always will be.
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 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, and I said, "Oh, my God. If we could just get you to, like, you know, get through that, it would be..."
KING: By the way, should John Kennedy, Jr. not have flown?
TRAVOLTA: Probably not, that day. You know, that's a judgment thing.
KING: Time of day, and the like.
TRAVOLTA: And also his, the hours that he had on this plane. I mean, as a pilot, rather, you know.
But I know that. It's about the 300-hour range, and you get a little confident, and...
KING: "I can do it."
TRAVOLTA: "I can do it." And you want to impress your passengers and things...
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 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," and 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. Nothing that you're going to do, oh baby. You could only see what I've been going through, without you.
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 was, like, top five or something.
The first one was No. 3.
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 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...
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: 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, yeah.
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.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with John Travolta, the star of "Swordfish." Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "A CIVIL ACTION")
TRAVOLTA: What do you exactly intend to say to me, Mr. Riley, by pouring a glass of water on my table?
DAN HEDAYA, ACTOR: This is how silicone is put on leather to waterproof it. I'm asking you a question.
TRAVOLTA: It's poured on like you poured water on my table.
HEDAYA: Yeah, correct.
TRAVOLTA: So then some of it must spill off the leather, like the water spilling off my table and onto my rug. That's the part I'm interested in. The spilled silicone and trichlorethylene, sir, how you disposed if that?
HEDAYA: We Never once used TCE.
TRAVOLTA: TCE -- did I say TCE? I didn't say TCE. I said trichlorethylene.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "SWORDFISH")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What's going on?
TRAVOLTA: We've got a tail. Hold on.
We'll have to improvise. Take the wheel.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What?
TRAVOLTA: Take the wheel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with John Travolta.
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: So, all right. So you bring it with you. Therefore, you're making a movie like "Swordfish," and you're saying that this must be budgeted at $60 million.
TRAVOLTA: Or whatever it is, it probably...
KING: "We could go over on this scene."
TRAVOLTA: Yes. And, you know, you have to be somewhat responsible for everyone, so that -- as long as it's within your sphere of influence. I mean, some things you can't control. But you try to do your best and respect the studio, and...
KING: Do you want to direct?
TRAVOLTA: Not particularly. My mother was a director. But I don't have great aspirations to...
KING: That's kind of a control.
TRAVOLTA: Yes. But I don't have an obsession in that.
KING: Was it your idea to have the little goatee?
TRAVOLTA: Yes, it was my idea for that, and the kind of international playboy haircut.
KING: Well, you look -- that, they allow you to bring to it, or is it...
TRAVOLTA: Oh, yes.
KING: ... or is it, the director says, "How do you feel this guy would look?"
TRAVOLTA: If they're smart, they let the actor design that.
TRAVOLTA: Because the actor probably knows the character better than anyone, I think. So I think it's always smart to let the actor contribute as much as they can, the way they -- the illusion of the character, and how they'll come off.
KING: Do you like playing offbeat people?
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...
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 tradeoffs to me.
KING: Oh, so that you wouldn't have done those if you did both.
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: Say good night, Marlon.
TRAVOLTA: Good night. It was an absolute pleasure to -- what is this? This is very interesting. A piece of fine glass.
KING: He stars in "Swordfish." You won't get off, you won't get out of your seat. Guaranteed, you don't go for popcorn while it's on. Trust me. Thanks for joining us.
John Travolta our guest. Stay tuned for CNN Tonight. And good night.
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