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John Joseph Travolta (born February 18, 1954) is an Americanmarker actor, dancer and singer. He first became known in the 1970s, after appearing on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter and starring in the box office successes Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Travolta's career re-surged in the 1990s, with his role in Pulp Fiction, and he has since continued starring in Hollywood films, including Face/Off, Ladder 49 and Wild Hogs.

Travolta has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The first, for his role in Saturday Night Fever and the second for Pulp Fiction. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance in Get Shorty.

Early life

Travolta, the youngest of six children, was born and raised in Englewood, New Jerseymarker, an inner-ring suburb of New York Citymarker. His father, Salvatore Travolta, was a semi-professional football player turned tire salesman and partner in a tire company. His mother, Helen Cecilia (née Burke), who was 42 when Travolta was born, was an actress and singer who had appeared in The Sunshine Sisters, a radio vocal group, and acted and directed before becoming a high school drama and English teacher. His father was a second-generation Italian American and his mother was Irish American; He grew up in an Irish-American neighborhood and has said that his household was predominantly Irish in culture. His family was Roman Catholic.

Early career

After attending Dwight Morrow High Schoolmarker, Travolta moved across the Hudson River to New York Citymarker and landed a role in the touring company of the musical Grease and on Broadwaymarker in Over Here! singing the Sherman Brothers' song "Dream Drummin'". He then moved to Los Angelesmarker to further his career in show business.

Travolta's first California-filmed television role was as a fall victim in, Emergency! (S2E2), in September 1972, but his first significant movie role was as Billy Nolan, a bully who was goaded into playing a prank on Sissy Spacek's character in the horror film, Carrie (1976). Around the same time, he landed his star-making role as Vinnie Barbarino in the TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979), in which his sister, Ellen, also occasionally appeared (as Arnold Horshack's mother).

'70s stardom

Around this time, Travolta had a hit single entitled "Let Her In" peaking at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the next few years, he appeared in some of his most memorable screen roles: Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and as Danny Zuko in Grease (1978). These two films were among the most commercially successful pictures of the decade and catapulted Travolta to international stardom. Saturday Night Fever earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. At age 24, Travolta became one of the youngest performers ever nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. His mother and his sister Ann appeared as extras in Saturday Night Fever and his sister Ellen appeared as a waitress in Grease. Travolta performed several of the songs on the Grease soundtrack album, In 1980, Travolta inspired a nationwide country music craze that followed on the heels of his hit film, Urban Cowboy, in which he starred with Debra Winger.


Travolta in 1983
After Urban Cowboy came a string of flops that sidelined his acting career. Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, Perfect, co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and Two of a Kind, a romantic comedy reteaming him with Olivia Newton-John. During that time he was offered, but turned down, lead roles in what would become box office hits, including American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman, both of which went to Richard Gere. His only hit film was Look Who's Talking with Kirstie Alley and a baby voiced by Bruce Willis.


It was not until he played Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino's hit Pulp Fiction (1994), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, that his career was revived. The movie shifted him back onto the A-list, and he was inundated with offers. Notable roles following Pulp Fiction include a movie-buff loan shark in Get Shorty (1995), an FBI agent and terrorist in Face/Off (1997), a desperate attorney in A Civil Action (1998), a Bill Clinton-esque presidential candidate in Primary Colors (1998) and a military detective in The General's Daughter (1999).

Travolta also starred in Battlefield Earth (2000) based on a work of science fiction by L. Ron Hubbard, in which he played the leader of a group of aliens that enslaves humanity on a bleak future Earth. The film received almost universally negative reviews and did very poorly at the box office. The film won a Razzie Award for Worst Film of the Year at the 2000 awards. Travolta, who became a Scientologist in 1975 and endorses Hubbard's teachings, had hoped that the film would be well received and be the first in a series of Hubbard film adaptations. In 2004, Travolta played Deputy Chief Mike Kennedy in the Ladder 49. This film was notable for being the first post-9/11 film that focused on the life of a crew of firefighters. Travolta starred as a once successful businessman gone broke and divorced who takes to the road on a motorcycle road-trip with his friends in 2007's Wild Hogs. Travolta played Mrs. Edna Turnblad in the remake of Hairspray, his first musical since Grease.

He was the lead voice role of the Disney film Bolt (2008), where he played a lost canine actor trying to get home and also sang "I Thought I Lost You,' the duet for the ending credits of the film with co-star Miley Cyrus. In 2009, he appeared in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a remake of the 1974 film, and Old Dogs, a live-action comedy, co-starring with Robin Williams and Bernie Mac. His next film will be 2010's From Paris with Love.

Personal life

Travolta married actress Kelly Preston in 1991. The couple had two children: Jett, born on April 13, 1992, and Ella Bleu, born on April 3, 2000. Their son, Jett died on January 2, 2009 while the family was on holiday in The Bahamasmarker. A Bahamian death certificate was issued, attributing the cause of death to a seizure. Jett, who had a history of seizures, reportedly suffered from Kawasaki disease in early childhood.

Long a source of speculation, in September 2009, Travolta testified that his son had autism and suffered regular seizures, as part of his testimony in a trial which resulted after an extortion attempt following Jett Travolta's death.

The couple has regularly attended marriage counselling, and Travolta admits that therapy has helped the marriage.

Travolta was previously involved with actress Diana Hyland, whom he met while filming The Boy in the Plastic Bubble; Hyland died of breast cancer in 1977.

Travolta is a certified pilot and owns five aircraft, including an ex-Australian Boeing 707-138 airliner. The plane bears the name Jett Clipper Ella in honor of his children. Pan American World Airways was a large operator of the Boeing 707 and used Clipper in its names. The 707 aircraft bears the marks of Qantas, as Travolta acts as an official goodwill ambassador for the airline wherever he flies. His $4.9 million estate in the Jumbolairmarker subdivision in Ocala, Floridamarker, is situated on Greystone Airportmarker with its own runway and taxiway right to his front door.

Travolta has been a practitioner of Scientology since 1975 when he was given the book Dianetics while filming the movie The Devil's Rain in Durangomarker, Mexicomarker.

Extortion plot

On January 23, 2009, three people were arrested in the Bahamas in connection with a multi-million dollar extortion plot against the Travolta family around the circumstances of Jett's death. It is believed that the plot centered around a "refusal to transport" document allegedly signed by Travolta when paramedics arrived to treat Jett, that a police spokesman noted did not apply in the Travolta case. One of the men, Obie Wilchcombe, a member of the Bahamian Parliament and former Bahamian Minister of Tourism, was described as a "close friend" of the Travolta family. The other two people allegedly involved are EMT Tarino Lightbourne and former senator Pleasant Bridgewater, who was charged with abetment to extort and conspiracy to extort. She resigned from the Senate as a result of the allegations.


Year Film Role Notes
1975 The Tenth Level John TV-Movie
The Devil's Rain Danny
1976 The Boy in the Plastic Bubble Tod Lubitch TV-Movie

Nominated – TV Land Award
Carrie Billy Nolan
1977 Saturday Night Fever Tony Manero National Board of Review Award for Best Actor

Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor

Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1978 Moment by Moment Strip Harrison
Grease Daniel "Danny" Zuko Henrietta Award - World Film Favorite Actor

Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1980 Urban Cowboy Buford 'Bud' Uan Davis
1981 Blow Out Jack Terry
1983 Staying Alive Tony Manero
Two of a Kind Zack Melon
1985 Perfect Adam Lawrence
1987 Basements Ben TV segment "The Dumb Waiter"
1989 Look Who's Talking James Ubriacco
The Experts Travis
1990 Look Who's Talking Too James Ubriacco
1991 Shout Jack Cabe
Eyes Of An Angel Bobby aka The Tender
Chains of Gold Scott Barnes TV-Movie; also writer
1992 Boris and Natasha: The Movie Himself (cameo)
1993 Look Who's Talking Now James Ubriacco
1994 Pulp Fiction Vincent Vega Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor

Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role

Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama

Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
1995 Get Shorty Chili Palmer American Comedy Award

Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
White Man's Burden Louis Pinnock
1996 Michael Michael
Phenomenon George Malley
Orientation: A Scientology Information Film Himself (short subject)
Broken Arrow Maj. Vic 'Deak' Deakins
1997 Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's Himself (documentary)
Mad City Sam Baily
Face/Off Sean Archer/Castor Troy Nomination – Saturn Award for Best Actor
She's So Lovely Joey Giamonti also executive producer
1998 A Civil Action Jan Schlichtmann
The Thin Red Line Brigadier General Quintard Satellite Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Motion Picture Ensemble
Junket Whore Himself (documentary)
Primary Colors Governor Jack Stanton Nomination – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1999 The General's Daughter Warr. Off. Paul Brenner/Sgt. Frank White
Our Friend, Martin Kyle's dad (animated educational film, voice only)
2000 Welcome to Hollywood Himself (mockumentary; cameo)
Lucky Numbers Russ Richards
Battlefield Earth Terl also producer
2001 Domestic Disturbance Frank Morrison
Swordfish Gabriel Shear
2002 Austin Powers in Goldmember "Austinpussy" Johann van der Smut / Goldmember
2003 Basic Tom Hardy
2004 Ladder 49 Captain Mike Kennedy
A Love Song for Bobby Long Bobby Long
The Punisher Howard Saint
2005 Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D James Benson "Jim" Irwin (narrator; documentary)
Be Cool Chili Palmer
2006 Lonely Hearts Elmer C. Robinson
2007 Wild Hogs Woody Stevens
Hairspray Edna Turnblad Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture

Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2008 Bolt Bolt the Dog voice

Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song
2009 The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Benard Ryder
Old Dogs Simon Greer
2010 From Paris with Love Charlie Wax post-production

Television series

Year Title Role Notes
1972 Emergency! Casey Episode: "Kids"
Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law Episode: "A Piece of God"
1973 The Rookies Eddie Halley Episode: " Frozen Smoke"
1974 Medical Center Danny Episode: "Saturday's Child"
1975–1979 Welcome Back, Kotter Vincent "Vinnie" Barbarino



Year Album US
1974 Over Here!
1976 John Travolta 39
1977 Can't Let You Go 66
1978 Travolta Fever 161
1983 Two of a Kind 26
1986 The Road to Freedom
1996 Let Her In: The Best of John Travolta
2003 The Collection
2007 Hairspray


  • "You Set My Dreams To Music" (1969)
  • "Goodnight Mr. Moon" (1969)
  • "Rainbows" (1969)
  • "Settle Down" (1970)
  • "Moonlight Lady" (1971)
  • "Right Time Of The Night" (1972)
  • "Big Trouble" (1972)
  • "What Would They Say" (1973)
  • "Back Doors Crying" (1973)
  • "Dream Drummin (1974)
  • "Easy Evil" (1975)
  • "Can't Let You Go" (1975)
  • "Let Her In" (1976) – #10
  • "Whenever I'm Away From You" (1976) – #38
  • "Slow Dancin'" (1976)
  • "It Had To Be You" (1976)
  • "I Don't Know What I Like About You Baby" (1976)
  • "All Strung Out On You" (1977) – #34
  • "Baby, I Could Be So Good At Lovin' You" (1977)
  • "Razzamatazz" (1977)
  • "You're the One That I Want" – #1 (1978) (w/ Olivia Newton-John)
  • "Sandy" (1978)
  • "Greased Lightnin" (1978) – #47
  • "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" (1980)
  • "Hooker Madness" (1983)
  • "I Thought I Lost You" (2008)

See also


  1. Travolta on becoming a woman, interview with stv/movies, June 2007
  2. Kelly Preston showed a picture of this on the August 29, 2007, episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Further reading

  • Tast, Brigitte (ed.) John Travolta. (Hildesheim/Germany 1978) ISBN 3-88842-103-9.

External links

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