“Dancing’s part of my soul. I enjoy it, it makes people happy, and it makes me happy.”— John Travolta
“I don’t believe in regrets; I believe your future is in your tomorrows.”— John Travolta
His wife finds everything about him sexy—especially his lips—and I can’t blame her. He’s a devil on the disco dancefloor. He’s gorgeous and charming even as a woman. He’s greased lightning, baby! John Travolta has played a wide variety of parts in his lifetime and his career has had its ups and downs, but all told this T-bird is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. I’ve seen Grease at least 20 times and I’m just dying to see Gotti, but in the meantime, I’ll settle for these 42 sexy, funny, and sometimes tragic facts about John Travolta’s stardom.
42. Beauty School Dropout
Stay in school, kids—or else you might become a world-famous actor. That’s what happened to John Travolta, anyway. He dropped out of Dwight Morrow High School as a junior to pursue his career in acting and is doing pretty well by that decision. Who knows where the movie industry would be now if he had stayed in school.
The star we now all know and love was born John Joseph Travolta to Helen and Salvatore Travolta in Englewood, New Jersey. He was one of six children and had a mostly Irish upbringing as per his mother’s background. His father was of Italian descent.
40. Coasting Through the Heat Lap Trials
I think I’ve figured out Travolta’s inspiration for his performance in “Greased Lightning”—his dear ol’ dad owned a shop in Hillsdale, NJ that fixed up tires called “Travolta Tires.”
Travolta was never just an actor. He has also released many of his own songs, including one titled “Let Her In.” He was good enough at his musical pursuits that this song made it to the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1976.
38. And the Academy Award Goes to…
Travolta has experienced considerable success throughout his acting career, most notably a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his role in Saturday Night Fever. At the time he was only 24 and one of the youngest actors to receive this honor.
37. All in the Family
John wasn’t the only Hollywood darling in the Travolta family. His mother and sister were also given minor roles in Saturday Night Fever, and another one of his sisters played a waitress in Grease. The Travolta women representing!
36. Young Love
One of Travolta’s first loves was his co-star in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Travolta was only 22 at the time and Diana Hyland was 18 years his senior. Unfortunately, the love couldn’t last long: Hyland passed away while Travolta was filming Saturday Night Live. Filming stopped at the time to accommodate him while he attended his beloved’s funeral.
35. Little Miracles
Travolta eventually found new love and married his wife Kelly Preston. The couple have had three children, although their oldest, Jett, has since passed away. Their middle child, Ella Bleu, was born in 2000. Their youngest child is Benjamin and was born in 2010.
34. Troubles in Paradise
Travolta and Preston have had problems in their marriage, no different than the rest of us. Unlike many, though, this famous couple has managed to attend marriage counseling and the therapy has had a great positive effect on their relationship.
33. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
Travolta and Preston loved marriage so much, they did it twice! Just kidding. They were married twice, but only because the first marriage with a Scientologist minister was deemed illegal. So they did it all over again.
32. Who Let the Dogs Out?
Travolta landed the title role of John Gotti in his recent film Gotti because the family requested him themselves. Then, Pitbull was so wowed by Travolta’s transformation into the crime boss that he offered to help with the film’s musical score.
31. Love Can’t Be Bought
Travolta was not the first man to propose to Preston. No, in 1989 it was Charlie Sheen who fell in love with her and offered her a pink 2.5 karat diamond ring. They never got married, but they did live together.
30. Killer Coincidence
This is just scary coincidence. Scary movie coincidence, that is. Both Preston and Travolta have starred in movies based on the works of Stephen King. Even weirder, both movies are titled after a girl whose name starts with a “C.” Travolta was in the movie Carrie and his partner played a role in Christine. Crazy.
29. Tragedy Strikes
One of the worst tragedies of Travolta’s life occurred when his oldest son was 16. Jett Travolta suffered from seizures brought on by Kawasaki disease, and the young boy died of a seizure during a Christmas vacation to the Bahamas in 2009.
28. When Life Gives You Lemons
The legacy of Travolta’s son can be found in the Jett Travolta Foundation, which his parents founded after his death. The not-for-profit sets out to help children with special needs and has assisted other famous organizations in their pursuits, like the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy.
27. Shoot for the Stars
It’s not only Travolta’s acting career that is soaring at great heights—he is also a skilled private pilot and owns four planes.
26. Getting High With Travolta
Travolta treats his friends very well, including his good pal Oprah Winfrey. With Travolta’s help, Winfrey surprised her studio audience on her talk show with an all-expenses paid vacation to Australia. The trip had been in the planning stages for about a year. And the best part? Their flight pilot to get to the destination was the one and only John Travolta.
25. In Sickness and in Religion
Although he was raised as a Roman Catholic, Travolta converted to Scientology in the 1970s. His wife is also a part of the Church of Scientology.
24. Alpha Male
Travolta is best known for his live action acting roles, but you can also find him playing a cartoon dog in the animated Disney picture Bolt. Travolta played the part of the lead dog in the movie, which was nominated for multiple awards.
23. Party in the USA
Travolta did not leave his music career entirely in 70s. He more recently recorded a duet with one of the biggest pop names of the 21st century—Miley Cyrus, of course. They recorded the song for the movie Bolt, and it’s titled “I Thought I Lost You.” Clearly Travolta’s still got it, because it received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Song.
22. Real-Life Superhero
Travolta uses his gift of flight for good. After the hurricane disaster in New Orleans, the movie star flew his personal Boeing 707 to the site with food and medical supplies. Five years later, he provided similar support to the survivors of the Haiti earthquake.
21. Addict or “Enthusiast”?
Let’s admit it—we’re all a little addicted to coffee. You don’t have to feel bad about it, though, because there’s always someone worse off than you and, in this case, that person is John Travolta. Travolta admitted to using “half a pound” of Starbucks’ Sumatra blend in his morning cup.
20. A Regular Prince Charming
One magical night, both Travolta and Princess Diana were invited to an event at the White House. The Princess arrived with a dream to dance with Travolta and, at midnight, Travolta made her wish come true. Princess Diana was so excited about that moment that she even named the dress she had been wearing after him: “the Travolta Dress.”
19. Dance Like the Whole World’s Watching
Besides acting, what is Travolta best known for? According to his IMDb page, his trademarks are his cleft chin and “razor-sharp” cheekbones. He’s also understandably known for working a dance sequence into all of his roles—he dances in nearly ALL of his films.
18. Here’s to Gere!
Considering Travolta’s fame and huge number of acting credits, it makes sense that he’s had to turn down a few roles in his career. Included in the gigs he’s declined are Chicago, An Officer and a Gentlemen, American Gigolo, and Days of Heaven. What do all of these films have in common? The lead parts ultimately went to Richard Gere. That’s right, while Travolta was picking and choosing parts to make his career, he also single-handedly made a career for Gere!
17. In the Cage With Cage
Travolta spent two full weeks with Nicolas Cage before they went into filming for Face/Off so that they could master each other’s characters. To do this, they decided on specific ways of speaking and moving for each character that would be easy to mimic.
16. Pick a Home, Any Home
For Travolta, a house would never be complete without a take-off and landing strip for his airplanes. And that’s exactly what his home in Ocala, Florida has. But it doesn’t stop there, because Travolta also owns three other homes in California, Maine, and Hawaii.
15. The Acting Diet
Travolta’s weight has gone up and down like a yoyo throughout his acting career. In 1977 he lost 9kg (20lbs) for Saturday Night Fever. He gained it all back and then some for his role in Primary Colors in the 90s. Then he cut the weight again in 2001 (by doing boxing and yoga) for Swordfish.
14. Parlez-vous français?
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir), John? I’m just kidding. But I do love a thick French accent, and Travolta speaks the language fluently.
13. Hair, Makeup, and Fat Suit
Travolta didn’t have to gain any weight when he played Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, but what actually happened might be even more difficult. He had to wear a heavy fat suit and five different face prosthetics to transform into the necessary look. It took him four hours to get into the get up each time.
12. An On-set Serenade
Hairspray was the second movie titled after a hair product that Travolta starred in. The first, of course, was Grease. One day he started singing the Grease tune “Summer Nights” on the set of Hairspray, and apparently Zac Efron and Amanda Bynes were around to hear it. They freaked out and contacted everyone they knew via text to tell them about it!
11. If You’ve got It, Flaunt It
Don’t mess with a John Travolta dance sequence. After working extremely hard on his fancy footwork for the Saturday Night Fever “You Should be Dancing” scene, the studio recommended it be shot as a close-up. Travolta was so upset that he insisted it be done as a full body shot to show off his moves—or he would quit.
10. Friends 4ever
Now this is the definition of a true friend: Anson Downes, Travolta’s co-star in the movie Carrie, still runs lines with him 40 years later.
9. Fever Over Travolta
It’s hard to film on-site with Travolta because his many adoring fans will almost definitely find him. So, filming for Saturday Night Fever had to be cleverly planned. The film crew would try to shoot scenes as early in the morning as possible to avoid the crowds and would even publish pretend call sheets to throw off the hordes. These sneaky maneuvers tended to be successful, and they usually finished filming before Travolta fans gathered too heavily.
8. Dancing Dirty
Travolta has had some famous dance teachers in his time, including Patrick Swayze’s mom Patsy, who taught him the two-step for Urban Cowboy.
7. Do Not Try This at Home
Travolta does his own stunts. Or at least, he did for the bull riding scene in Urban Cowboy. Travolta was so committed to the bit that he had a mechanical bull installed in his home to practise. He got so good at this random feat that the stunt double was no longer necessary!
6. Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Saturday Night Fever was an all around epic dance movie for Travolta. His climactic dance piece was so intense that he frequently soaked through his dancing suit with sweat. This meant that he used two suits for the scene so that one could dry while he was dancing in the other.
5. Brows on Fleek
Okay, okay, Travolta is great and all, but we want the juicy deets. What are his flaws? According to his wife, it’s the length of his eyebrows. Apparently she goes nuts if they get too long.
4. Step Into Someone Else’s Shoes
Travolta donated a number of his personal vehicles to the movie Gotti. To make his portrayal as real as possible, he also wore some of John Gotti’s actual clothing for the film, including his ties. Talk about getting into character.
3. Stop and Smell the Gangster
For Travolta, the weirdest part about playing the crime boss John Gotti was getting to wear the man’s real-life suit—because it still smelled faintly like his cologne. I’m sure that would help get into character, but thinking about all that the man did in those clothes? It must have been hard to concentrate.
2. Close to Catastrophe
Travolta may be an extremely skilled and professional flyer, but even he is not immune to disaster. Once, while flying through a busy air thoroughfare with his wife and son on board, his plane’s electrical system completely failed. His radios and lights died, so with nothing to go on, he positioned himself for the distant lights of Washington, DC. Using only a tiny manual compass and a literal flashlight, Travolta and his co-pilot executed an emergency landing in Washington that blew out four of their tires and closed the airport for a full four hours. Peoples’ flights would have been delayed, but I’m sure they got a great story out of it!
1. It Takes a Village
At the time of Travolta’s near plane crash, everyone came to his rescue. Four large airports in and around Washington halted all flights and even rerouted a plane to direct Travolta to safety. The two planes nearly collided, so it’s a miracle Travolta and everyone he had on board survived the ultimate, spectacular landing.