‘Gotti’ Star John Travolta Needs Serious Help: Career Watch

IndieWire | 6/19/2018 | Staff
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Career Watch is a vocational checkup of top actors and directors, and those who hope to get there.

Thanks to strong recognition overseas, at 64 John Travolta still carries the clout that gets movies made. But this is not always a good thing: Travolta’s passion project, “Gotti,” debuted in Cannes but opened to $1.7 million amid derisive reviews (Tomatometer: 0%).

Bottom - Line - Broadway - Television - Movie

Bottom Line: After strutting out of Broadway and television into ’70s movie stardom (led by musicals “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease,” and “Staying Alive”), the Irish-Italian Travolta languished in the ’80s until Quentin Tarantino gave him his 1994 comeback as hitman Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction.” That movie returned Travolta’s swagger and while he hasn’t topped it, Travolta has surfed many career dips and swells without completely alienating his aging fan base. But “Gotti” may be the tipping point.

Career Peaks: Born in Englewood, New Jersey, Travolta landed a role in the touring company of of “Grease.” After breaking out in 1977 disco musical “Saturday Night Fever” and TV comedy series “Welcome Back, Kotter,” he danced away with the 1978 movie version of “Grease,” and audiences later embraced the return of Tony Manero in “Staying Alive.” He wrangled romantically with Debra Winger in “Urban Cowboy,” earned a rave from Pauline Kael for Brian De Palma thriller “Blow Out,” and then treaded water for nearly a decade until “Pulp Fiction” revived his career.

Travolta - Advice - Roles - Richard - Gere

Travolta is renowned for not heeding the best advice, famously turning down two sexy roles that went to Richard Gere: “American Gigolo” and “An Officer and a Gentleman.” He did score in Elmore Leonard’s hilarious low-life comedy “Get Shorty” as well as two John Woo balletic actioners, “Broken Arrow” and “Face/Off,” in which he and Nic Cage engaged in an entertaining game of competitive scenery chewing. Mike Nichols improbably cast Travolta as a...
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