Speaking | John Travolta
an emily blunt interview
John Travolta & Emily Blunt on the Red Carpet @ Ladder 49
meet a heck of a lot of celebrities...it's all in a day's shindig.
Some are great conversationalists. Some are great fun. Some are
oddly inspiring. And most of the man-actor species are drool-over
handsome to boot...
Travolta is all these. And every time we've sat and chatted he's
beaming. John's one of those genuinely happy men and truly a warm
individual. Admittedly, I don't always love his films - but as
James Woods once said to me at a fancy soiree (after he read my
bashing of his Vampires film
work faux pas), "They can't all be winners!"
career is a road of lows and highs - like any hard working actor.
I've learned the script they agree to is not always what a director
or studio ultimately releases. Actors are truly pawns of the medium.
But I digress.
and I got together recently to talk about Ladder
49. The handsome fellow came dancing in to the interview
suite - his usual charming self. And folks what a smile this man
has. He lights up a room! Johnny wanted to sit for a minute with
Joaquin Phoenix and myself
my inner Cheshire cat smile was
firmly forming...and after fighting Los Angeles traffic, and the
obligatory half-sleeping scarring from spilling lava-hot coffee
upon myself (thanks to the early "call time"), it seemed
the day was getting much better - here I was sandwiched
'tween two haute hunks...I swear I even heard a bluebird singing
on the patio...
Emily do you mind? Just for a minute. The thing that happens on
these press events is we never get to be together - so for a moment
- could we all steal a together moment?
No John I am afraid not [ laughter - and I am quite proud of
my straight delivery...]. Of course you silly man. Sit and
be merry. Since you are here tell me about these "pranks"
on the set of Ladder 49 that all the buffet table is abuzz about.
[laughter] Oh, he pulled the best prank. 'Cause I don't like practical
jokes. [laughs] You know Ashton what's-his-name? The show 'Punk'd'?
Yeah, I don't like that show. It's just too much okay, but when
filled with art and craftsmanship -- like they did
-- then I like it. And
that's why they did it! 'Cause I'm a button-up professional and
they picked up on it right away like, 'John wants it to be like
this' And I'm a little anal
about how I like it to go. You know, I want to get it right and
in a certain
way. Well Jay [the director] is a good actor in his own right,
and he came with that sentient look on his face filled with that
kind of anger and tears, telling me that Joaquin showed up and
he is off the money. Jay said he's talking to himself, he's imagining
sunsets, he's like doing this weird shit okay, and he doesn't
know what to do about it. He's like, "What are we going to
do? We'll never make the shoot!"
This is his first day mind you! [laughter]
Yes. First day of shooting. So he walks in like this [
John mimics a lethargic zombie-like Jac]. It's the worst thing
you can do to me, and I don't know why they knew this crap. Naturally
I'm THERE and I'm ready to go. He sits down, we start doing the
scene and he looks out the window and goes, "Oh, look at
the sun. Wow -so pretty." I tell you I died! I'm thinking
four months of this? And no one told me he does this? And we're
already ten minutes into it and they go "Ahhh! GOT YOU!"
It was awesome. [laughter]
Joaquin did you work with the director to work out this little
We had a couple of them. That's what we felt was appropriate for
fun. [laughter as Joaquin exits]
That was funny! Thanks. Okay can you talk about your "maze"
experience? I understand you really were un-nerved
Oh Man what an awful terrible thing. It's a real training deal
the firemen have to work. The maze is these boxes, in a kind of
trailer. A series of boxes that were so rough on you. You are
in full equipment. It's a
death of a thing. It's like you can't help but think that you're
though you know it's simulated right. But they pump smoke into
it. You can't
breathe. You can't move and you have to find the next hole to
get to -- you
can't see of course -- and there's seven of them and then finally
it out. But it was the most mind-altering thing i've ever had
in my life as
far as not knowing what to think of it. I thought, "Do I
appreciate my life? Do they give me an insight to how one feels
when they die? What is this" - you know what I mean?-it was
this weird phenomenon that went on with the maze and me.
Wow. Sounds terrifying. Was this a character that you really wanted
to play or was it more a personal tribute to fireman?
It was mostly the tribute to fireman, but I felt like how best
for me to
fit in is to play the Captain or the Chief. That would be -- I
that, because I'm older than the other actors, I've a kind of
anyway. So it would fit in. But the subject matter is very interesting
light of 911 because of these very humble and honest gentlemen
and woman that don't ask for any attention and suddenly are getting
the light that
they deserve. Because truly we are the first movie that's shedding
the firefighter -- not the arsonist -- so we are almost a different
a greater or lesser degree.
Did you assume that kind of relationship with the actors given
paternal onscreen relationship you share with these characters.
manifest itself off screen as well?
It kind of did and it still is because i'm flying the actors around
country to promote the movie. In my plane. I'm the captain of
my plane so
it's carried from screen to off-screen.
you meet with any of the firemen that were in 911?
Yeah, but I met with them before -- when I wasn't doing a movie.
I met with them, I went on the site and that's where they first
got under my skin -- this wonderful group of people--
You went to "Ground Zero"?
Yes. I went to ground zero, then I went on a tour that included
a lot of fire homes around the country and that's where I got
my feeling about them, and when the script came --I don't know
how long ago, it was a year later or something -- I really thought
when I got the script, "Wow this must be kismet of some sort"
because I now felt a kinship to them and I wanted to carry it
through. And what a way to carry it through! What bigger and better
way than to do a movie that
understands them you know?
Right. The chemistry between the cast members is truly remarkable.
Joaquin and you are brand names and all that but the movie allows
everybody to be a singular star. Do you think that has something
to do with the ' fire camp' you all experienced?
I know it does. It one hundred percent affected everything. It's
really Jay Russell's brilliance that --It was his idea. We've
I'm an actor that has to do my research that has to do my due
be in a part. I would have gone to school whether I was asked
to or not but
the idea that he mandated everybody to do it was a stroke of genius,
because I felt John: We could protect ourselves if any real dangers
came in to be we'd be getting a bonding of some sort and we would
accuracy so we could be on film and not make a mistake or a false
note and then you could throw in real firefighters with us and
you couldn't tell the
I understand the actors in Ladder 49 really responded to
some emergency calls. That's wild- I mean there's a fire then
all of a sudden "John Travolta" shows up!
Yeah -right. There was a car fire and there was a small house
fire I responded to with my guys -- everybody I think got at least
fire to "work" on.
So do you think they knew that they showed up?
JOHN: It might have happened after the fact. Sure.
Were there any close calls on the set when you were doing the
JOHN: During the training there were some pretty close calls.
Joaquin and I got lost in the
fire and then during the shooting I burned my hands on his jacket
I forgot the flames were heating up the metal.
Having played of late so many kind of fairly intense characters,
very dramatic characters, a bit of a relief for you to go off
and do the "Shorty" the "Stay Cool" and try
to let yourself loose again?
Yes. They were relief to do. I was playing such bad guys. It was
more of a relief to do this movie to play a good guy, you know
what i mean. it was kind of fun because i've been playing a kind
of villain lately. It was kind of fun to get to do other things.
I did "Basic," the "Punisher," and "Ladder"
came as a relief. The truth is, you know, you've known me for
years -- I like to jockey between the types of roles. This last
year there was four different types of roles. "Basic"
was a questionable character. You've got "Punisher"
which was a villain, you've got "Ladder 49" which was
a decent fella, you've got "Love Song for Bobby Long"
which was a alcoholic professor, and then you've got Chilli Palmer
in the sequel "Be Cool." So they're all different types,
but if you notice they are a relief from each other. You see there's
something new to play each time and if I can orchestrate them
so I remain interested each time I go out - then it's something
fun for me .
must be important for you to try and find different characters
Is it challenging to do the older part?
it's easier to do the older guy. Because believe it or not there
are more diversified characters as one gets older than there is
younger. There's more life to base those people on. I look at
like --when ten years ago when I was acting with Gene Hackman
and Robert Duval-- I'm doing now what they did. I was Joaquin
to their role-- you see what I mean?
Yes. And definitely no Grease 3 Right?
JOHN: Oh God no. [laughter]
That seems to be the perennial rumor - I had to ask [laughter]
[laughter] Sure enough- and don't forget the prequel to Pulp Fiction,
"The Vega Brothers." If there's truth to the "Vega
Brothers" that's only in Quentin's imagination. That's never
been presented to me but a "Grease 3," I just don't
want to do. There's nothing about it that is -- I didn't do two
why would I do a three?
do you do in your spare time when you are not working?
I fly my planes around the world. I have a Boeing 707 that I fly
QANTAS. I am a hired pilot for QANTAS, I fly for them .
Really? So if I head down to Australia you may be my pilot?
No, but you might be one of their executives and find me as your
captain. I'm like their Ambassador of flight sometimes - not really
EMILY: So how do you relax? You are so very busy!
Well, for fun I fly mostly. I study Scientology. And I take my
family on lots of adventures.
What is the most exotic place?
JOHN: Africa. This year we went to safari in Africa. That was
Photography or hunting?
JOHN: Oh Photography. No, no. Hunting is not my style. However,
the surprise was the kids liked it better than a beach vacation.
In other words they were on these open-air Jeeps for 7-9 hours
a day and didn't want to get off. We're talking about a 4-year-old
and a 12-year-old so what I say to people is save their pennies
and go on these safaris because they're captivating. I don't know
what it is about them. I would have though. Oh God. I've been
working so hard you know I need a beach or something and I said,
'No, you really promised the kids we were going to do this - so
lets do it!' It was more relaxing than a beach vacation.
And it's so beautiful there- so I'm told. I didn't see you huntin'
Right! I'm no hunter. And Africa is Spectacular you must go. We
saw all the animals. What intrigues me the most are the cats.
are the most dangerous too. Because other animals, you have time
to get out of their way. The cat they are about sometimes as far
as you are. You are really playing Russian Roulette because if
you catch their eye, or if you
move in anyway they go peripheral - they'll jump onto the truck
get ya, and it's happened. Matter of fact, I heard one famous
John Cusack- maybe him? I don't want to get the actors name wrong.
But he decided to taunt one of them. He was chased outside of
a truck and it was a near life and death situation.
Hmm, he seems smarter than that- maybe it's another fella. Now
are you taking a break now?
Well as you know I did four of these movies in a row so I'm promoting
them and then I'm going to take a break at least till January,
if that's okay [he winks and we are interrupted John's off to
more great adventures]. Okay darlin' gotta run.
Get out and see Ladder 49, it is truly well done. The film
honors firemen (and women) and makes you want to salute everytime
a engine truck roars by.