From Saturday Night Fever to Pulp Fiction, John Travolta has been wowing audiences with his stellar movie performances for decades. He’s been a heavy-hitter in Hollywood for a while now, and he has the resume to prove it.
Even though movie-goers might think they know Travolta from his onscreen personas, the fact is that there are plenty of things audiences don’t know about the talented actor. And some of them are quite surprising!
Here are 20 fascinating facts about John Travolta that are sure to to surprise even his biggest fans…
1. John Travolta attended high school at Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, New Jersey, but he admitted that he was far from a stellar student. He preferred to focus his efforts on acting and not so much on grades. In the end, however, his strategy worked out!
2. Despite being raised in a Catholic family, Travolta veered his beliefs to the Church of Scientology around 1975. His interest started after he read through L. Ron Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health while on the set of The Devil’s Rain.
3. Travolta tends to be cast in roles where he plays an Italian-American man; however, his family was actually more involved in their Irish roots. His father was Italian and his mother was Irish, but the area of New Jersey where he grew up was predominately Irish.
4. In 1985, at the Reagan White House, Travolta was able to show off his Saturday Night Fever dance moves with Princess Diana. Not only did he prove he could shake those hips with ease, but he also impressed a member of royalty, as well.
5. Most people know Travolta as a talented actor, but what they don’t know is he can also sing! He first took a stab at it in 1975, and his first single actually made it to number 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. In 2008, he even performed a song alongside Miley Cyrus for the Disney movie Bolt.
6. Before Travolta hit it big in the ’70s, he was just a struggling actor trying to make ends meet. He took on several less-than-ideal jobs to pay his bills, including that of a supermarket check-out boy and an airline luggage porter.
7. Although Travolta has never won an Academy Award for his movie performances, in 1981, he was named Man of the Year at Harvard’s prestigious Hasty Pudding Theatrical Club, which was a group of students known for putting on burlesque shows and musicals.
8. Here’s an interesting bit of information many people probably don’t know: in 2014, a pilot named Douglas Gotterba claimed he had been involved in a a sexual relationship with Travolta for the entirety of his six-year tenure at Travolta’s aircraft company, Alto. However, it was never proven.
9. In 2017, the Church of Scientology apparently tried to blackmail Travolta by threatening to reveal details of his private life, including the truth about what happened between him and Douglas Gotterba.
A former church member said, “I was a witness to the pressure put on Travolta. He was afraid they were going to reveal his sex life… He came to me, desperate and afraid of their threat that everything he ever told them would be revealed publicly if he defected.” The details of this incident are a little hazy, however.
10. Actress Diana Hyland played Travolta’s mother in the 1976 film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, but the two were actually involved in a romantic relationship off-set. Sadly, she died from breast cancer while in Travolta’s arms when she was just 41. Travolta accepted a posthumous Emmy Award for her role shortly thereafter.
11. People all over the world love Travolta, but he’s especially popular in Brazil. The makers of the Brazilian rum Ypióca Cachaça liked him so much that they contacted him to star in one of their television commercials.
12. While Travolta was filming the 1980 romantic drama Urban Cowboy, he refused to let a stunt double act in any of the dangerous scenes. He even had a mechanical bull built in his home so he could practice riding before filming even began!
13. In 2012, two male massage therapists claimed that Travolta had sexually assaulted both of them on different occasions. The judge dismissed both cases because there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him. Although Travolta walked free, it was an incident that caused many people to second guess his morality.
14. In the early ’70s, Travolta had minor roles in television programs and stage shows, but when he landed the character of Vinnie Barbarino in ABC’s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter in 1975, he became a true household name.
15. In 1984, Travolta auditioned for the lead male role in Splash. Unfortunately, his agent at the time convinced him the movie wouldn’t be a hit, so he bowed out. Shortly after, Tom Hanks landed the role, and the movie ended up being a box office sensation.
16. Travolta’s mother Helen was one of the main reasons he decided to pursue a career in show business. She was a dancer and an actress, and she was even the one who enrolled Travolta in his first drama class!
17. Travolta has had an infatuation with flying ever since he was a young boy. By age 22, he obtained his pilot’s license, and today, he owns and flies his own private jets, and he even has an aircraft company.
18. Travolta is a trained pilot, and while on a routine flight in 1992, his plane’s power began to suddenly fade while he was at the controls. Luckily, he was experienced enough to carefully maneuver it back to the runway for a safe emergency landing.
19. Travolta insists that his successful role in Welcome Back, Kotter was all because of the Church of Scientology. While studying at the church, one of his teachers apparently had all 150 of their students point towards the ABC headquarters and telepathically transfer the message, “We want John Travolta for the part.”
20. The movie Grease was an enormous box office hit, and interestingly enough, in 1971, Travolta was in the stage show cast of the musical seven years before he landed the lead role in the movie adaptation. He was meant to play the character of Danny from the very beginning!
Who knew there was so much more to this actor than what we’ve seen on the silver screen?
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