About John Joseph Travolta
He first tasted stardom after appearing on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter. Then Saturday Night Fever and Grease made him a 70s icon, but John Travolta’s career suddenly stopped dead until a decade later when Quentin Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction. He has since continued starring in Hollywood films, including Face/Off, Ladder 49 and Wild Hogs.
John Joseph Travolta was born on February 18, 1954, in Englewood, New Jersey to catholic parents. His Irish/American mother, Helen Cecilia Burke, was a singer and actress who went on to become a school drama teacher – she gave birth to Travolta at the age of 42; his father Salvatore Travolta, a second generation Italian/American, was a semi-professional football player before becoming a tire salesman. He was the youngest of six children. Most of the family were performers: not only was his mother, his brothers and sisters, Joey, Sam Ellen, Ann and Margaret all have gone on to work in TV, film and music too. Encouraged by both parents - their dad would set up a mini theatre in their basement as a place for them to perform.
Travolta dropped out of high school at 16 and moved to New York City to pursue acting. His first professional acting role was in a musical comedy: ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ (1970). Acting became hard to come by in New York, so Travolta went to Hollywood but his acting career never took off. So, aged 18, Travolta returned to New York and eventually won a role on Broadway in a musical set in the 1950s ‘Grease’ – playing Doody. Later that year, he played in the Broadway show “Over Here” with The Andrews Sisters and went on to tour with the show. He was then cast in minor roles in the TV shows ‘Kids’ and ‘Emergency’.
In these early years, Travolta spent most of his money on flying lessons – he is now qualified to fly a number of different planes including a Boeing 707 airliner.
In 1975, Travolta shot to stardom for his role as Vinnie Barbarino in the hit TV series Welcome Back Kotter. The following year, he won the lead in the critically acclaimed TV movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. International fame came with two successive box-office hits, Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978). He earned an Oscar nod for his role in the former, becoming an icon for disco nightlife and ‘70s culture.
At the top of his game, it seemed John Travolta could do no wrong in the late 1970s. What he came up with were a series of hits (Urban Cowboy) and misses (Moment by Moment, Staying Alive, Two of a Kind). By the end of the 1980s, despite a brief comeback with the Look Who’s Talking series, Travolta’s poor career choices, missed opportunities and horrendous films landed him in the has-been actor category.
Then, in 1994, Travolta made a career comeback when he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s crime smash Pulp Fiction. He earned his second Academy Award nomination and went on to win a Golden Globe for his performance in the critically acclaimed film Get Shorty. Other notable films include Broken Arrow, Phenomenon, Primary Colors, The General’s Daughter, and Ladder 49.
After a long string of dramatic roles, Travolta returned to his musical roots with the film adaptation of the Broadway smash Hairspray (which in itself was based on the 1988 film by John Waters) in 2007. The film tells the story of a plump young girl who wants to be a performer on a local dance show. Travolta played the girl's mother, Edna Turnblad. With the help of wigs, make-up, costumes, and a fat suit Travolta convincingly transformed himself into a large woman to play the role. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
Most recently Travolta voiced the lead role in the Disney film Bolt (2008). In the movie, he plays a lost dog who believes he is a super hero. He also performed the duet "I Thought I Lost You" with co-star Miley Cyrus for the ending credits of the film. In 2009 he appeared in Old Dogs, co-starring Robin Williams and Bernie Mac, a comedic Disney film about two business partners who are unexpectedly charged with the care of 7-year-old twins. In 2010, Travolta demonstrated his acting range, playing the goateed FBI agent Charlie Wax in the action flick From Paris With Love.
Travolta married actress Kelly Preston in 1991. The couple had two children: son Jett, born on April 13, 1992, and daughter Ella Bleu, born in 2000. Tragedy struck the Travolta family when Jett died on January 2, 2009, during a family vacation in the Bahamas. A coroner's report determined the cause of death to be a seizure. In May 2010, nearly 16 months after their son's death, the couple announced that they were expecting another child.