Kelly Preston's free-spirited nature often made her a magnet for trouble. From her shocking romances to her bizarre lifestyle, the actress dodged scary situations time and time again. But ultimately, fate dealt her the most tragic hand imaginable.
1. She Suffered An Early Loss
Kelly Preston was born with the spirit of “aloha” in October of 1962 in Honolulu, Hawaii. But her childhood wasn’t all sandy beaches and sunny skies. In fact, an unspeakable tragedy struck her family when she was just three years old. Her biological father drowned in an apparent accident.
Fortunately, she wouldn’t be fatherless for long.
2. She Moved To The Desert
As if losing her father wasn’t bad enough, Preston’s childhood took yet another massively unexpected turn. Shortly after her biological father drowned, Preston’s mother remarried and her stepfather legally adopted her. He then uprooted the new family and moved them to a strange new world:
3. She Got A Little Lost
Even though she was still young, the dramatic move from Hawaiian beaches to Middle Eastern deserts left Preston feeling a little lost. Literally. Decades later, she recalled an experience that left her parents speechless with fright and terror while traveling through Beirut, Lebanon.
If things had gone just a little bit differently, Preston would have been famous for having her face splashed across milk cartons instead of film titles.
4. She Went Missing
While walking through the busy streets of Beirut, Preston lost sight of her parents. All alone, she could have ended up in the clutches of some very unsavory characters.
Instead of panicking, however, the well-traveled little wanderer managed to find a woman from the American Embassy, recite the address of her hotel that she had committed to memory, and reunite with her tearful and terrified parents.
But this wasn't her only brush with danger.
5. She Nearly Drove Off A Cliff
Even before she had her driver’s license, Preston was a magnet for trouble. In a misguided teenage thrill-seeking adventure, Preston “borrowed” her grandfather’s car along with one of her friends. Just as the teens were starting to enjoy their thrill ride, they steered straight into a near-death experience.
6. She Was Lucky To Be Alive
As the car hurtled towards a cliff, Preston sprung into action. She pulled the steering wheel hard and slammed on the brakes, making the vehicle roll over several times. Preston was lucky to be alive.
To downplay her own recklessness, she concocted a falsehood about the accident, telling her parents that she'd been trying to avoid crashing into a speeding truck.
Turns out, she wasn't the only one who could keep a secret.
7. Her Mother Pulled A Fast One On Her
After their stint in Iraq, Preston's family moved back to Hawaii—but there was heartbreak on the horizon. Her parent's marriage was on the rocks. When her mother took her and her brother on vacation to Australia, Preston had no idea that her life would never be the same again.
8. She Received Terrible News
While vacationing in Australia, Kelly Preston’s mom broke some unexpected news. She said that she and Preston’s father would be getting a divorce and, worse yet, they wouldn’t even be going back to Hawaii.
The news of her parents’ divorce devastated Preston and, in her own words, she threw a “tantrum”. However, she would quickly learn that mothers always know best.
9. She Blossomed
At first, Preston hated Australia and her new life. In time, however, she warmed up to it—and, from the sounds of it, Australia warmed to her too.
While living in Australia, Preston matured from an awkward tomboy into a beautiful young woman. In fact, she was so attractive that a photographer singled her out and asked her to pose for some pictures.
That chance encounter changed her whole life.
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10. Her Pictures Made The Rounds
After two long years in Australia, Preston and her family returned to Hawaii. And this time, she was a stunning woman with the whole world at her feet. But she had no way of knowing that, as she returned stateside, so too had the photographs that she had taken with the photographer from Australia.
Even Hollywood’s biggest producers would be captivated by her undeniable charms.
11. She Lost To Brooke Shields
Preston was focused on finishing high school in Hawaii—but on the US mainland, Hollywood had other plans for her future. One day, in gym class, Preston got called out to go audition for her first big film.
Studio executives had seen her photographs and were considering her for the lead role in The Blue Lagoon.
Sadly, after a screen test, they opted to give the role to Brooke Shields. But that only convinced Preston that she wanted to be an actress.
12. She Got Into Mischief
After just one small taste of fame, Preston graduated high school and moved to California to pursue her acting career.
Her looks opened all of the right doors and she appeared in hit television shows like Hawaii Five-O.
Just five years later, she had a starring role in Mischief—something she knew all about. Although, it wasn’t exactly the kind of breakout role that her parents could be proud of.
13. She Couldn’t Let Go Of Her Baggage
As she struggled to move up the Hollywood hierarchy, Preston found that audiences had difficulty pronouncing her real last name, Palzis.
Some people even called her Kelly “Pelvis”. So, to help her career, she decided that it was time for a change.
While on set, she asked a room full of people to shout out surnames beginning with “P”, and eventually decided on Preston.
14. She Made Her Father Blush
Even though she was talented, Preston knew that her beauty was what kept landing her roles.
And it would be on full display in 1985’s Mischief. In the film, Preston would be partially exposed during a love scene.
She called her father in advance to warn him but he was still shocked when he sat down to actually watch the film. By then, however, he should have been accustomed to Preston's unabashed free spirit.
15. Her Boyfriend Couldn’t “Gage” Himself
Appearing in racy scenes and crashing cars weren’t the only ways that Preston shocked her father. In 1985, Preston married fellow actor Kevin Gage. But from day one, the relationship was nothing but trouble.
For starters, Gage left a terrible first impression when he met Preston’s parents wearing nothing but a sly grin—and a bath towel. Her father stated plainly, “He was not good enough for my daughter”. And he was right.
16. She Entered A Tumultuous Marriage
Despite her parents' warnings, Preston continued dating Gage and even married him in 1985. Before their nuptials, however, friends had described their relationship as “tumultuous”. And it would only get worse.
Two years of wedded dread, however, had taken its toll on Preston and she arrived on the set of The Experts feeling emotionally drained.
17. She Met The Love Of Her Life
After two years of marriage to Gage, Preston was at her lowest point—but the love of her life was closer than she knew. On the set of 1985’s The Experts, Preston met her future husband and star-crossed lover (not to mention, total heartthrob), John Travolta. When the film was in production, however, she was still tied up in her loveless marriage to Gage.
Still, there was something undeniable about her magnetic connection to Travolta.
18. She Received A Healing Touch
Preston and Travolta had an immediate connection. Day after day, Preston felt distressed over her marriage—she'd be crying and throwing up—and Travolta would be right there with his healing touch. Like, literally, a healing touch.
Both Preston and Travolta were practicing Scientologists so, to help her, Travolta would perform something called “touch assists”. They both swore that there was nothing intimate about the “touching”. At least, not at first.
19. She Let Her Soulmate Get Away
For Preston and Travolta, their time together on the set of The Experts was bliss. Both recalled that they were “inseparable” during those months. But, once filming wrapped, they went their separate ways which, for Preston, meant returning to her loveless marriage with Gage.
However, now that she had tasted real love, she knew she had to escape him.
20. She Had A Sheen About Her
According to her brother, Preston had a tendency to become “very intimate on an intense level very fast”. And that meant that after she divorced Gage, it wasn't long before she was ready to love again.
This time, Preston moved on to dating yet another Hollywood heartthrob, Charlie Sheen.
But this tryst was destined to be just as disastrous as the last.
21. She Lived “Fast And Furious”
Preston’s and Sheen’s relationship was, according to her father, “fast and furious”. And it’s better to take his words literally. Practically before anyone had time to blink, Preston and Sheen became engaged.
To everyone on the outside, it looked like Preston was headed for marriage number two. But there were clearly troubles in the relationship that the couple kept hidden.
22. Her Boyfriend “Fired” Her
In early 1990, Preston and Sheen inexplicably threw out their wedding plans, broke off their relationship, and went their separate ways.
Her spontaneous nature had finally gotten the best of her, and she found herself single once again. But it didn't take Preston long to find her way back to the love of her life.
23. Her Stars Aligned
Given that she was having such bad luck, fate had to intervene in Preston’s love life once again. A few months after breaking things off with Sheen, Preston traveled to Vancouver to make a film.
Her heart must have skipped a beat or two when, by chance alone, she bumped into none other than her star-crossed lover, John Travolta.
24. She Wanted To Settle Down
By the time that she arrived in Vancouver, Preston had had enough of “crazy whirlwind relationships". Instead, she wanted something stable—and Travolta was in the right place at the right time. But they had wasted so many years and they would have to make up for a lost time.
25. She Really Just Wanted To Take Flight
Preston might have said that she wanted a stable relationship but, in actuality, she still craved some adventure. While Travolta certainly wouldn’t be gifting her with farm animals, he was still very much about that “fast and furious” lifestyle. One of the reasons that Preston fell for Travolta was because of his pilot skills.
In fact, his flight experience would one day save her life.
26. She Said Yes At The Stroke Of Midnight
Even though Preston wanted to slow down the pace of her love life, she couldn’t deny that Travolta was the one for her. So, when, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in Switzerland, Travolta proposed. Overwhelmed with happiness, the couple burst into tears.
But planning the wedding turned into a downright nightmare.
27. They Skipped Right To The Honeymoon
Now that she finally had the man of her dreams, Preston wanted to have the wedding of her dreams as well. But, this was one instance where it would have been better to dream smaller. Their wedding plans became so complicated and convoluted that they became overwhelmed and ended up canceling their pending nuptials.
Then they just skipped right to the honeymoon phase.
28. She Only Needed One Shot
Preston and Travolta did everything in reverse. After ditching New York, they went on a preemptive honeymoon to the Caribbean to escape the stress of their wedding plans. Naturally, then, their next step involved diapers and soothers.
The two had always talked about wanting a family so they figured they would give it a go.
On their very first night of raucous lovemaking under the Caribbean sun, Preston became pregnant.
29. She Had To Get Married—And Soon
Once again, it looked to everyone else like Preston had rushed headlong into another whirlwind romance. And this time, there was a bun in the oven. With great concern, Preston’s father pulled Travolta aside and insisted that he marry his daughter before she popped.
Their only option now was to elope so they planned an intimate wedding in Paris, France.
But even that didn’t exactly go according to plan.
30. Her Love Didn’t Translate
Now that Preston and Travolta had gone on their honeymoon and conceived their first child, it was finally time for them to get married. At their impromptu wedding in Paris, however, their love got a little lost in translation.
The minister officiating their wedding had such a thick accent that they couldn’t even make out what he was saying. And neither could US officials.
31. She Married The Same Man—Twice
Preston recalled later that their wedding in Paris was “so great, so perfect and so easy and so romantic”. It was also invalid.
Once the couple returned to the US, they learned that their Scientological marriage wasn’t exactly in keeping with French law and that they were not, in fact, quite yet married.
To finally seal the deal, the couple had one last wedding in Daytona Beach, Florida.
32. She Was Flying Blind
After their marriage, Preston and Travolta were flying high.
Perhaps a little too high. Their wedded bliss almost came to a fiery, midair end on Thanksgiving weekend in 1992. Travolta, an experienced pilot, was flying the couple, along with their seven-month-old son, Jett, to their home in Maine.
All of a sudden, however, the electrical system on his plane went out, plunging it into total darkness.
33. She Nearly Fell Out Of The Sky
At 12,000 feet in the air, Preston and Travolta couldn’t see anything in the sky around them—except, maybe, for their lives flashing before their eyes. When they finally did see something in the sky around them, however, it was a little too close for comfort.
Their plane nearly collided in midair with a commercial airliner that traffic control sent to intercept and guide them down to safety.
34. Her Son Was Ill
Having only narrowly escaped a fiery grave, Preston must have thought that the angels were on her side. But there was one tragedy that she couldn’t avoid. In 2003, she appeared on an episode of The Montel Williams Show to share some sad news.
Her firstborn child, Jett Travolta, had a rare condition called Kawasaki disease.
But she thought she had found the cure.
35. She Believed In Pseudoscience
In the same interview, Preston doubled down on her strong belief in Scientology. She boasted about an unconventional treatment that she claimed had helped alleviate the symptoms of his rare condition. The Purification Rundown, as she called it, consisted of dietary changes, exercises, and, curiously, as much as five hours in a boiling hot sauna.
If it worked, however, it had a minimal impact.
36. Her Vacations Never Ended Well
While vacationing in the Bahamas in 2009, Preston suffered the greatest setback in her life. One from which she would never truly recover. Early one morning, her eldest son, Jett, began experiencing a seizure. In a panic, she and Travolta “ran downstairs” to help their son where a caretaker was already giving him chest compressions.
37. She Lost Her Most Beloved Son
Sadly, by the time Preston and Travolta rushed to Jett’s side, there was nothing that they could do to save him. The couple’s firstborn child passed away on the way to the hospital. Preston and Travolta were overwhelmed with grief.
But their tragic loss was only just the beginning of their many trials and tribulations.
38. She Shunned The Spotlight
The Hollywood couple—who were already notoriously private—retreated from the spotlight even further. Preston was supposed to speak at a women’s conference on “grief and resilience” but found the topic too close to home. She said it was “just too soon”.
Unfortunately for her, closure would take years.
..and some time in a courtroom.
39. She Almost Lost Her Fortune
As if suffering the loss of a child wasn’t enough, Preston and Travolta nearly suffered a loss of $25 million. Three Bahamian nationals—including one politician who claimed to be a close friend and the responding EMT—attempted to extort the couple.
According to Preston and Travolta, the trio had threatened to release private medical records tied to Jett’s untimely demise that could have embarrassed them.
40. Her Grief Lasted For Years
In their grief, Preston and Travolta pressed charges against their alleged extortionists.
But the high-profile celebrity case drummed up so much attention that it was impossible to find impartial jurors.
To many, it must have seemed like Preston and Travolta were taking out their sadness on the whole community. Eventually, the judge had to do the unbearable and call a mistrial, prolonging Preston’s grief.
41. She Managed To Move On
Almost two years after Jett’s passing, Preston found her spirit of aloha once again. She was finally ready to put the past behind her, painful as it might have been.
According to the prosecutor, the whole ordeal had “caused […] unbelievable stress and pain” for the Travolta family.
Sadly for Preston, however, the worst of her “stress and pain” still lay ahead.
42. She Was A Thetan
Preston was a “strict” Scientologist and took her religion seriously—or, as seriously as one can take Scientology. She had completed her Operating Thetan Level Eight, kind of like rites of passage for Scientologists.
Some estimate that the total cost for her “training” would have been as much as $2 million. But she got her money’s worth.
43. Her Faith Held Her Back
Preston’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology was both a help and a hindrance throughout her career. One such example was the 1988 film, Spellbinder. In the film, Preston engaged in witchcraft and appeared in various states of undress—both things that the Church of Scientology frowned upon.
They tried to remove the film altogether, making the film nearly inaccessible.
44. She Had Special Powers
As an Operating Thetan Level Eight, or OT8 for short, Preston had certain abilities. Certain otherworldly abilities. Scientologists believe that OT8s have the “power to leave their bodies, to read minds, and to create matter out of nothingness”. Allegedly, they’re also meant to be immune from all diseases. Clearly not, however.
45. She Wasn’t Immune To Disease After All
In 2018, Preston received news that would have rocked her Scientology beliefs right to their core. A doctor—someone who actually practices science—gave her a devastating, and terminal, diagnosis. The doctor confirmed that, even as an OT8, she could still get sick with terminal breast cancer.
Despite supposedly having all kinds of superhero-like powers, however, there was nothing she could do to cure herself.
46. She Was A Sunshine Warrior
After two heartbreaking years, Preston succumbed to her battle with breast cancer. In the end, she received proper medical attention but it wasn’t enough to beat the disease. Tearfully, her family released a statement saying that they were reeling from her passing and remembered her as “a light” and “a warrior”.
47. She Got A “Clue-ney”
Many people forget that, after her disastrous marriage with Kevin Gage, Kelly Preston bounced back into the romantic ring.
Once her spirits brightened again, her sunny, bubbly personality shone through. Her easy beauty even managed to impress one of the most eligible bachelors at the time: George Clooney.
They quickly struck up a relationship—but it was an odd one from the beginning.
48. She Enjoyed Pigging Out
Preston described her relationship with Clooney as “spontaneous”. We suppose that’s one way of putting it. One of the more spontaneous events from their relationship came when Clooney bought Preston the weirdest gift a girl has ever gotten from a celebrity boyfriend.
A pet pig named “Max”.
Apparently, he was “smarter than a dog” and slept at the foot of their bed. But not even an adorable pig could keep their love afloat.
49. She Cried For Weeks
There was no way that Preston and Clooney could maintain their relationship long-term, and they eventually called it quits.
But Preston's reaction to the break-up was alarming. She was completely devastated and slept on her friends’ floors for three whole weeks, sobbing the whole time.
Luckily, this heartbreak only put her on the right path—the one headed straight for Travolta.
50. She Met The Future President
Kelly Preston’s high school was filled to bursting with future famous people. One of Punahou High School’s most famous alums? Former US president, Barack Obama.
Decades later, the two crossed paths again at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball but Preston didn’t recognize Obama. Nevertheless, the 44th president confessed that he definitely remembered seeing her “around campus”.