Why nobody likes John Travolta
After 44 years in the business, you'd think Travolta would have earned some appreciation.
On paper he has done it all. He's a fantastic actor with a diverse career, and despite a few flops, he has enough Face/Offs and Greases, Saturday Night Fevers, Get Shortys and Pulp Fictions to deserve some respect.
But for a man who should be enjoying titanship of laudation, accolades and standing ovations like one Leonardo "the Humanitarian" Dicaprio, Travolta has really received the short end of the stick in the court of public opinion.
On a good day he is mocked and derided, accused of feuding with other famous Scientologist friends.
On a bad day rumours circulate of dangerous sexual escapades; decades of concealing his sexuality and allegations he sexually assaulted two masseuses in late night spas (which he denied and were investigated but later closed by police): behaviour that is more Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction than it is Danny from Grease.
GAY RUMOURS, ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE
In 2017, a police report surfaced of a harassment charge filed against Travolta by a 21-year-old male spa employee in February 2000. Travolta had booked a deep tissue massage after midnight at the LaQuinta Hotel in Palm Springs in California.
The spa employee accused Travolta of repeatedly removing his towel and exposing his buttocks, inviting him into the steam room so he wouldn't be alone, telling the masseuse he was attractive and he was "excited" and dropping his own towel while standing.
He also accused Travolta of reaching out while laying face down and touching the masseuse intimately. The report also alleged Travolta said a number of sexually explicit things to the masseuse.
The report concluded the complaint did not meet the requirements for sexual battery and the case was dropped without further investigation by police.
Around the same time a second allegation emerged when another unnamed spa employee claimed Travolta assaulted him late at night in similar circumstances, but the case fell apart after Travolta provided a strong alibi that proved he was in another city at the time.
The accuser claimed they had got the dates wrong and changed lawyers, claiming to have "substantial documentation and numerous witnesses regarding the substance of Travolta's actions," but the case was not picked back up.
CO-PILOT ALLEGES SIX YEAR AFFAIR
In 2014 John Travolta's co-pilot Doug Gotterba came forward to claim that he and the actor, who has always professed his undying love for the skies, conducted a six-year affair when he worked for him in the 1980s.
Gotterba stopped working for Travolta in 1987 and signed a "termination agreement" that included a "confidentiality clause", which the co-pilot disputed the validity of when he expressed his intentions to tell the story of his affair in a tell-all book.
Travolta responded by saying he was out to extort money, calling the claims ridiculous.
But Gotterba was recalcitrant, saying, "Our dispute is purely about declaratory relief and will be a non-monetary judgment.
"This is about the truth and my right for a court to decide who is telling the truth, not for Mr Travolta to make a judgment," He did, however, offer not to tell the story if Travolta gave him $US10 million.
'RISKY SEXUAL ADVENTURES'
A former Scientology devotee and friend of Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston, Mike Rinder, offered speculation on the Church of Scientology's attitude towards homosexuality.
"I cannot say if he (Travolta) is gay or not. I'm not going to speculate." Rinder said. "All I know is it would be a catastrophe if he or anyone else in Scientology came out as gay. You can't. The church is anti-gay even if they don't publicise it."
Rinder also said that Preston is much more dedicated to the religion than Travolta.
She was described as a "true believer" by an ex executive of the religion, Karen de la Carriere who said Preston was "either deluded or more likely just deaf" to her husband's extramarital behaviour.
Ms de la Carriere said Travolta was "a bad boy who likes risky sexual adventures," a comment that falls in line with a number of the scandalous allegations that have befallen the star.
Gawker obtained documents which detailed costs to the tune of $AU116,167 ($US84,500) by Travolta's insurer from apparent demand letters received by Travolta from parties alleging "sexual assault". These payments allegedly took place in 2012.
Speaking to a New York Times journalist in 1983 ahead of the release of Staying Alive, the sequel to his breakout movie Saturday Night Fever, Travolta managed to get hypersexual when asked about his acting and grab and kiss a confused female fan.
In a somewhat unusual encounter during an interview, a journalist describes the fan approaching him during the interview to compliment his work. Travolta then kisses her, the journalist describing her as "startled".
The journalist then asks Travolta about the response to his body and the training he did to get in shape for the film: "I like sex, and I feel sexual so if that's coming across, then I don't want to deny people's perception." He told the interviewer "I think it's a compliment if people see me that way, and I don't find it limiting."
The sexually charged turn of the interview seemed unrelated to the consequence of the subject matter, Travolta being asked about his ability to be taken seriously as an actor. Travolta had needed to get back into dancer's form after six years had elapsed since playing the night time dancer Tony Manero.
In a recent press appearance at this years' Cannes, Travolta was asked about his opinions on the #MeToo movement, largely focused on his former collaborative partner Harvey Weinstein with whom he made the film Pulp Fiction.
Travolta responded "the truth is I don't know a lot about it," going on to explain that he doesn't think about gender or race.
TRAVOLTA'S SCIENTOLOGY: FAITH OR FEAR?
Allegations of concealed homosexuality have persistently dogged John Travolta, who has been married to Kelly Preston for 27 years.
In the same year they wed, before the battery allegations surfaced, a 1991 Time magazinecover story alleged that Travolta engaged in "promiscuous homosexual behaviour" and would be outed if he were to defect from the church.
The article alleged scandalous relationships with male porn stars that had resulted in the actor being extorted and intimidated. They characterised a situation where Travolta, currently disillusioned with many operational elements of the church, now found himself in too deep to expunge himself without being exposed by other church members who knew of his secret proclivities.
Travolta's enthusiasm for Scientology, even in the nineties as he pushed for the production of megaflop Battlefield Earth, was not new. He converted to the controversial religion in 1975, while in Mexico filming horror film The Devil's Rain, which is credited as Travolta's first film.
Born to a second generation Italian father and an Irish Catholic mother, Travolta was raised a Roman Catholic in Jersey, in a household he described as being mostly Irish Catholic. He and his father built barbecue pits and their own pools, decks and "aeroplanes" to save money. Travolta was the youngest of six children.
"Scientology has given me stability. (It's) given me the tools to handle life's issues, stresses and problems."
SCIENTOLOGY: NOT A BANKABLE SUCCESS FOR TRAVOLTA
When it comes to mixing business and religion, Scientology has not proved to be a bankable success for Travolta.
L. Ron Hubbard had sent Travolta a copy of his book Battlefield Earth in 1982, but Travolta's career was in a state of floundering after a number of flops after his early success in the late seventies. This included his second film with Olivia Newton John, Two of a Kind.
But in 1995, Travolta starred as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction and saw his career and fame undergo a Lazarus-type resurrection, garnering him enormous commercial success and an academy award nomination for Best Actor.
Hubbard, having eyed Travolta for the film years earlier as the young star had become an ardent and prominent supporter of the religion, saw his ability to push the film into production as an important lynch pin for marrying his faith with his wealth.
But Hubbard died in 1986 before being able to see the film produced. Travolta took the reins following his Pulp Fiction success shopping a screenplay to MGM and Fox, but both passed due to numerous issues, as one studio executive put it, "On any film there are ten variables that can kill you. On this film there was an eleventh: Scientology. It just wasn't something anyone really wanted to get involved with."
But Travolta had blind faith when it came to the film. "Battlefield Earth is the pinnacle of using my power for something," he said at the time, "I told my manager, 'If we can't do the things now that we want to do, what good is the power?'"
The film was eventually brought to life by a newly founded company Franchise Pictures, which was headed by a nightclub owner and former dry cleaning mogul named Elie Samaha. He built a career on rescuing big movie stars' pet projects that had floundered under the nervousness of studio executives, unable or unwilling to realise their dreams.
Acknowledging that he faced some criticism when securing financial backing and general support for making Travolta's film, Samaha detailed his method for drowning out the negativity: ''I would yell at everyone, 'This is a science-fiction film starring John Travolta!' again and again.''
Travolta played many roles in the production of the film, including becoming a location scout: he reportedly flew his own private jet around to various possible shoot locations.
He also was instrumental in the hiring of on set staff, including choosing a director (he initially approached Quentin Tarantino, who declined), the cinematographer, screenwriter and most of the lead actors.
Travolta said in a promotional interview that he saw Battlefield Earth as being "like Pulp Fiction for the year 3000. Because I thought that Pulp Fiction was entertaining, but it was very evil in a lot of ways."
After it's production was hounded by bad press and allegations of the religion funding the production against studio executives advisement that the film was doomed for failure, critics were scathing.
Despite all accounts that The Church of Scientology had little involvement in the film, the release date happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the release of Hubbard's Scientology book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.
Roger Ebert gave the film half a star. "Some movies run off the rails. This one is like the train crash in The Fugitive." He wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, "I watched it in mounting gloom, realising I was witnessing something historic, a film that for decades to come will be the punch line of jokes about bad movies."
The film grossed $AU15,875,578 ($US11,548,898) on its opening weekend then flattened to $AU1,374,721 ($US1 million) by it's third week in cinemas.
Its eventual gross was $AU40,864,495 ($US29,725,663) falling short of it's $AU127,855,269 ($US93 million) dollar costs.
Travolta recently said about Battlefield Earth, "Picasso had sketches he didn't sell and weren't as popular as other things," which is indeed very true.
In this same interview, the reporter said she found it impossible to be called upon to ask a question, and somebody in the crowd of journalists referred to Travolta as "Master".